2009-03-20 - SFIV“Street Fighter II” is without a doubt, an arcade classic in the fighting genre. However, by the time Capcom came back with its follow-up, “Street Fighter III” didn’t quite match up with the excitement of its predecessor. With a brand new stable of characters in place, and years between development, most gamers just didn’t get into the third installment as much as part two.

But, in 2008, the developers finally came back with “Street Fighter IV,” and now, it’s come to consoles like the PS3 and XBOX 360. This time around, though, they learned from their mistakes. The original cast of fighters are kept intact, alongside some new faces. Also, they added a few tweaks to the fighting style, but the feel of the arcade classic is still intact, breathing new life into a cult classic that gamers went crazy for at arcades. Calling the game’s return “long overdue” is an understatement, but the wait was definitely worth it.

As most of you are already aware, “SFIV” is the epitome of a competitive arcade style game. Everything in the game boils down to one-on-one fighting. In the console version, you choose a single character and pit him against single opponent after single opponent, until you defeat the game’s boss.

But, if you need to work out a little ring rust since you last stepped into a “Street Fighter” battle, you can opt to hone your skills in the game’s new practice mode, and/or trial mode as it’s called. In the practice mode, you can try out all your moves on a training dummy who doesn’t offer much of a fight. You’re also given a full list of moves for every character, so you won’t be left in the dark about how to perform certain attacks. But, there’s nothing there to show you how to really use your arsenal of moves. Once you’re re-introduced yourself, you’ll have to learn as you go, and try them out on a live opponent.

2009-03-20 - SFIV

During the game, you’ll use your skills to take on a line-up of computer opponents in Arcade Mode, fight through time trials, or survival mode. But, that is when you’re playing in single player mode. “Street Fighter” is made to play against another human being, and you’ll have the most fun when doing just that.

“SFIV” gives you the option to freely configure controls, time limit, number of rounds, difficulty of your computer opponent, and even set a handicap for either player in versus mode.

As far as characters, Capcom chose through a who’s who from every “SFII” iteration of the 90s. All of the core characters are there, as well as playable bosses, and six entirely new characters have been added. But, some “Street Fighter” fanatics will notice that some of their faves may have not made the cut. There’s 25 playable characters to choose from.

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The game isn’t bursting at the seams with options, but “SF” never offered this. There’s no mini-games or anything other than one-on-one fighting, but one-on-one fighting is the heart of the “SF” franchise.

Fights take place on a flat 2D plane. There’s no “z” access or side stepping, but that doesn’t mean there’s no depth here. The key to winning in “SF” is a matter of strategic timing and range attacks, punishing your opponent with punches, kicks and special moves. There’s six buttons dedicated to basic punches and kicks, just like the game’s predecessor. But, the wide range of attacks performed are based on whether you’re standing, jumping, crouching, or using a combination of buttons and directional pad movements in certain directions to perform specials. Each character has their own array of special moves, all of which require special controller inputs. There’s also a super meter that fills up while playing, that allows you to trade small chunks of energy for powered up version of your special moves, or you can useg the entire meter and your character can perform a massive super combo (ultra combo). A new addition to “SFIV” is a new Revenge gage that fills up as your character takes damage. So, if you are losing a match, this can easily turn the tide when you unleash an even more powerful version of their super combo. Capcom has also added a “focus attack,” a technique that can be used for both offense and defense depending on when you use and how long you charge it up.

All in all, the game has a very good balance of depth and complexity. Each of the 25 players has a distinct fighting style — some may have some obvious advantages, but if mastered, any character is dangerous.

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While “SFIV” is definitely a throwback style game, its revamped, colorized 3D graphics is a modern take on its predecessor. The flashy ultra combos and characters’ facial expressions let gamers see past its 2D gameplay. But, playing “Street Fighter” any other way, wouldn’t do its simplistic, but complex style any more justice.

There’s also short cut scenes that tell each character’s minimal story, but it’s the dazzling fights are this game’s main attraction.

With over 20 years until its belt, the “Street Fighter” franchise refuses to go away quietly. While fighting games have taken the backseat to popular first person shooters, “SFIV” carries the genre into the future, proving itself worthy of gamer’s attention. With the ease and playable online, “SFIV” is definitely a game that will give competitive gamers hours, and hours of fun.

Our Rating: 4 out of 5