Street Fighter has long been one of the most popular fighting games in the genre, with title releases on just about every platform since 1987. The most recent Street Fighter IV demonstrates Capcom’s commitment to keeping the series alive, with a staggering five iterations on the original build making Ultra Street Fighter IV one of the most balanced and refined titles in the series.
As far as complexity, in order to master this behemoth of a brawler, you’ll need precise timing, fast reflexes, and a lot of spare time. There are now a whopping 44 characters to choose from, and this edition includes five additions to the roster: Elena, Hugo, Poison, Rolento, and Decapre. With such a large suite of warriors, even masters of the basic mechanics will need to adjust to the unique styles of each combatant.
Veterans will find plenty to sink their teeth into here, as each and every personality has been tweaked and updated since Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, and it really shows. While it may take professionals a little while to truly put these minor manipulations through their paces, our tests have uncovered a much fairer game. Wave goodbye to the irritatingly overpowered Sagat – unless, of course, you don’t want to, as this version of the release allows you to toggle between the various iterations of the core cast on the fly.
Indeed, to give completionists even more content, you can now select which specific build of a particular character that you want to play as. This means that if you’ve already mastered a fighter in, say, the vanilla Street Fighter IV, you can pick up where you left off instead of re-learning the adjusted builds included in Ultra Street Fighter IV.
Outside of this appreciated addition, other new features include an offline fight recorder, the ability to hone your skills in Training mode while you wait for online matchmaking, and a slew of other under-the-hood adjustments. Unlike previous entries, for example, each character now has access to both of their ultra abilities, providing further contextual combat options.
Take, for instance, Vega’s ultra moves: Bloody High Claw was almost always employed by the majority of players due to its savage damage and large hitbox. However, this attack is not especially effective against opponents versed in low, close-quarters attacks. Having access to the masked marionette’s second ultra, Splendid Claw, provides access to a low sliding attack which balances out the weaknesses of the aforementioned option.
The improvements extend beyond the ultras as well. With the new delayed knockdown recovery, veterans will no longer be able to ‘abuse’ the knockdown window to queue up further combos. It seems like a minor change at first, but this helps to eliminate the frustrating combo locks that characters such as Chun Li were famous for.
To further the tweaks, the red focus attacks offer far greater counter mechanics. You’ll now be able to ‘absorb’ a couple of hits and strike back with a response that will stun your opponent if properly landed. This technique applies to most attacks in the game, but can be broken with heavy strikes, so timing and a good understanding of your opponent’s characteristics is pivotal.
With such complexity on display, it’s a big shame that the title’s tutorials are still very much a case of a swing and a miss. Some of the newer features can be difficult to learn, and the only help provided is via some in-game images taken from the title’s user manual. Considering the depth that’s on display here, new challengers are likely to feel alienated if you’re not already familiar with the fighting engine. This also means that you’re going to come unstuck against more knowledgeable players online, which makes sense, but can be uninviting.
Still, practice and you’ll find one of the most rewarding packages on the market. When you finally master your character and start winning matches, the feeling of satisfaction is unbeatable. There’s a reason that this game has become so popular on streaming websites around the web, because it’s quite simply one of the very best titles in a crowded and high-quality field. Mastering it is not easy, but it’s one of the few releases available that’s actually worth perfecting your performance in.
While undeniably punishing for more casual players, there’s absolutely no doubt that Ultra Street Fighter IV is one of the very best fighting titles for enthusiasts. The subtle refinements and content additions over the last five years have enabled Capcom to transform a bonafide classic into a distinguished masterpiece. It will make your blood boil at times, but even if you’ve never played a version of Street Fighter IV before, you owe it to yourself to give this definitive edition a go.