Street Fighter IV Collector’s Edition
Genre: 2-D Fighter
Release Date: 2/17/2009
Well, it’s finally here. After all the hype and all anticipation, Street Fighter IV has hit stateside. I have to admit, as a long time consumer of each and every fighting game to come out since Street Fighter II, I was probably less excited for SFIV than the average mainstream gamer. No, it’s not because I have overindulged in amazing games like King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match or Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves. It’s because I spent a few hours in 2008 with the Arcade cabinet of SFIV and I was pretty underwhelmed. In fact, nearly all of us who played the arcade version were unhappy with the product because it was very buggy and unbalanced. I wish I could have said I was surprised, but Capcom had really let the ball drop after the SF Alpha games and SNK surpassed them as the predominant 2-D fighting game company in terms of gameplay, if not graphics. Really, compare KoF 2002 and Capcom Fighting Evolution and it’s apparent how far Capcom had fallen in terms of fighting quality.
Thankfully though that was a very early version of the game, and I’m happy to say that the console version has fixed nearly all of the laundry list of issues many of those early gamers had with the game. Is Street Fighter IV the greatest fighting game ever? No, I’m going to tell you that right here at the beginning of the review. To be honest, I wouldn’t even put it in my top ten fighting games of all time. However, SFIV still remains a good game that’s definitely worth playing and I’ll be using this review not only as review of the game, but also to throw in some tips and strategies for those of you haven’t spent the last seventeen years counting frames, writing strategy guides for fighting games or competing in (and winning) fighting game tournaments. Hopefully this review can highlight why SFIV is a worthy playthrough, but also why it falls short of a lot of the hype.
What I really like is that Capcom has finally stepped up and fully fleshed out stories for each playable character. When you choose your fighter in Arcade mode you get a wonderfully animated opening, some of which feature cameos from SF characters of old, you’ll get a rival battle as your second to last match and then finally, if you can beat Seth, another nicely done animated ending. I’ll admit many of the endings are a bit underwhelming and they feel incomplete as they don’t give any sense of closure, but this is the best the SF games have been plot wise since Street Fighter Alpha 3 and it blows that title out of the water in that regard (although not in any other way).
At first glance this looks great! You can play online against friends, You can choose from Time Attack, Survival or Trial modes to enhance your gaming skills and master combos. You can unlock medals and titles and pieces of artwork, or even palette swaps and new taunts. The problem is even though all of these are fun and well done, these options have been done in SNK fighters for YEARS and they generally give you better unlockables and even more options to choose from. King of Fighters: The Orochi Saga offered many more styles of challenges than SFIV and things like Time Attack can be found as far back as KoF 2002/2003, which also had endless (Early survival mode) and internet play via Xbox Live. Even SVC Chaos offered Survival Mode and the aforementioned SFA3 has the unparalleled “World Tour” mode.
In truth SFIV offers us nothing new compared to games I have for the Xbox, PS2, or even my Dreamcast. That doesn’t mean these modes aren’t fun. It just means you’re paying $60 for a title that offers the exact same options as games that cost 20-30 dollars , albeit with worse graphics and better controls. So in this sense, SFIV is asking you to pay double the cost of the average fighter released these days simple for name value and graphics. I have a problem with that, as I’m sure several of you do after coming to this realization.
As such, I can only be slightly positive about this section. The stories are the best Capcom has ever put into a fighter, but there’s actually less than in say Midway’s recent Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe and the different modes are all a lot of fun, but they are neither new nor innovative. In many cases there is actually less in SFIV than in fighting games five years older or more. In the end I can’t call it good, and I’m tempted to call it mediocre, but instead we’ll call it what it is – enjoyable.
Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable
I have to admit I have issues with the graphics. For one thing, the game is not actually 720i as the cover and Capcom indicates. It’s about 650i. I bring this up not be anal, but just to make sure you realize Capcom fudged on this a bit. You’ll notice some severe jaggies on the PS3 version with closeups, especially during Ultra Moves.
I can’t deny that the SF characters have never looked better, at least in a video game. The character models do jar a bit with the graphics and you’ll notice they don’t quite matchup with each other. It’s as if they were developed separately from each other and then put together. It’s quite jarring at first, but after a couple of matches you’ll get used to it and hardly ever notice it.
Frame rates aren’t an issue, and neither is slowdown, which has been known to plague many a Capcom fighter. This is a welcome improvement.
Most noticeable, of course, is the use of 3-D graphics with 2-D gameplay. There are only certain times when you forget it only looks and feels like a 2-D fighter. These times are mainly Ultra Moves due to the camera angle change or Seth’s annoying uppercut into a spinning piledriver. That dick. It’s really nice to see how diehard fans of the classic 2-D Street Fighter visuals and those clamoring for a more modern approach can both be satisfied with this end result. Good job here.
Graphics Rating: Good
The music to SFIV is quite good and it really provides some great background tracks. For those of you like me, who have the Collector’s Edition, you get a lot of stage background tracks on a bonus CD. Oddly enough, the game’s opening track is missing. I have to admit the first time I heard that cheesy early 90’s Johnny Gil esque R&B track I rolled my eyes and mocked it pretty severely. However, it’s grown on me and I actually have caught myself singing it at work, while driving, or even in the shower.
Voice acting is great, and I love that you can unlock the option to choose between US and Japanese voices. For me, it really depends on the character. They actually matched up Bison’s new voice actor to sound almost exactly like the comical SF cartoon that used to run on USA Network. So of course I set it to English when I play as him. With Sakura though…..ugh. Japanese actress all the way. The American makes me want to stab my eyes.
There is something timeless about “Hadoken!” that just makes you smile. There’s something about hearing, “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” that makes me laugh, especially when you’re doing it purposely to annoy a friend you are playing against.
I enjoyed the aural aspects of SFIV a lot. No, it’s not as good at the music to say, Street Fighter III or a lot of SNK titles, but music has always set a mood for SF games, and the mood set for SFIV is FUN.
Sound Rating: Good
4. Control and Gameplay
Okay, here’s what I did. I played this game with three different controllers. The first is my PS3 normal controller. The second is my MadCatz Akuma Sega Saturn style controller. The third? My whomp ass Hori arcade stick of doom that is akin to a scarlet letter with my friends when they come over. “I don’t think we should play Street Fighter Alpha after all…” If you are a long time fighting game fan, you already know what I’m about to say: Sony makes the worst controllers in the history of gaming for playing fighting games. They have noticeable lag (to frame counters), moves are sometimes mixed up (How did I do a Tiger Knee when I went for a Low Tiger shot EX?) and are just incompatible with this genre of gaming as a whole. This is of course, why Capcom fighters were always superior on Sega systems like the Saturn or Dreamcast – not just because Capcom used Sega’s Naomi boards in the cabinet versions of their games, but because the controllers were far superior to the Dual Shock for THIS genre of gaming.
The Madcatz controller is actually a huge jump in quality, not only compared to using the dual shock, but compared to what Madcatz usually puts out. Generally I look upon their products with disdain, but these are just as good as my SF 15th anniversary controllers for the PS2 and XBX. This is a must buy for anyone playing SFIV as the pads are laid out to be exactly like the Sega Saturn controllers, which are easily the best ever controller ever designed, but MadCatz is currently sold out. PLEASE don’t buy these things for inflated prices on Ebay though – they are being re-released and will be the same quality. You’ll just have to wait two-three weeks to maximize your ability in this game.
Finally, there is the HORI stick. Hori makes the best fighting game controllers around right now, but they are a bit pricey. My arcade stick is amazing, although oddly enough it’s not as good as my imported Neo*Geo controller for the Wii. That plus Castlevania Judgment give me a severe advantage over the others still playing that online. If you’re seriously about SF IV mastery, you’ll probably want to invest in a Hori controller from a gaming website like Play-Asia. It is as close as you can get to playing this game with arcade level precision…or in the case of SFIV’s arcade cabinet issues, BETTER than arcade gameplay. Whoo.
So let’s talk the game itself. The first thing you will notice is that loading times are abnormally long for a fighter unless you install the game. My friend Vlad decided to watch me play as he sucks at fighters and knows it’s one of my best genres. After watching me kill some time trials and Arcade Mode with Ken, he remarked that the load times were faster than my actual matches. He was right. I think it’s awful that a game that lacks a lot of the power and graphics that most other PS3 games should have loading times this severe. You’re going to want to install this on your PS3 as it cuts the wait time down severely.
Actual gameplay is basically that of Street Fighter II Championship Edition. Almost all of the original 12 character still have the exact same movesets as they did when I wasn’t legally old enough to drive. I realize this is partly for nostalgia purposes, but at the same time, how long are you going to force Guile to only have a Flash Kick and a Sonic Boom. Poor guy! Even Chun-Li eventually got a fireball!
It’s funny because 15 or so years ago, Capcom came out with SF2 and many other companies followed suit with the best emulator being all the different lines of fighters put out by SNK. Somewhere along the line though, SNK became the innovator and Capcom started emulating their products. SNK did tag fighting first with KoF, and Capcom followed suit with Street Fighter Vs. X-Men and later all the MVC games. SNK gave us a power gauge and Super Special Moves, and Capcom followed suit with the same thin in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. SNK gave us taunts, and then Capcom gave us Dan. We can see this pattern continuing with the two”new” combat aspects given to Capcom characters here in SFIV.
The first is focus attacks, which works similar to the charging of your power meter in the KoF games. In fact when you are charging your focus attacks, it looks almost all too similar to the old school charging in say KoF ’94. However, that’s really where the similarities end. A Focus attack can absorb a single enemy attack, let you regenerate some damage AND it can crumple an opponent, which is similar (but not the same thing as) dizzying your opponents.
The second is the all new Ultra Combo. Each character has one of these and I need to warn you now that these moves are insanely powerful and can utterly turn the tide of a match. In this respect they are basically SNK’s “Desperation Moves” as you can only use an Ultra Combo based off the revenge gauge, which fills when you are hit by your opponent’s moves. As such, if you’re really good at the game normally, you won’t be seeing much use out of ultra moves, but your opponents sure will use them as often as they can, especially on higher difficulty settings.
Online play does have some issues. At times the game will come down to “Fastest connection wins” and that’s a bit unfair. Here in Washington D.C., I have what is called FIOS which is substantially faster than say, DSL. It’s like a 56K modem compared to a T-1. So there have been matches where my opponent is basically standing still and unless Capcom’s matching service is that broken, I am supposedly playing against people at my skill level. I’m pretty sure people at my skill level can press a button or move their character. Just a head’s up on this.
Finally, there is one big bug I discover. If you don’t go online with SFIV immediately, you might as well never do it unless you want to lose all of your data. When you turn on the game you’ll be asked if you want to download the latest update. If you don’t do it right away, you will regret it when you finally do. Any data saved before that download will be LOST FOREVER. I found this out to my chagrin after beating the game, time attack and trial mode with Sagat. Then I decided to go online and test him out. I downloaded the required file and BAM – everything was lost. My trophies, titles, unlocked characters, and more. I was so pissed I couldn’t concentrate on my game and I actually lost my first online game. This was a bit of humility for me as I am still undefeated at MK vs DCU and CV:J. Still, a big middle finger to Capcom for this kind of oversight. I have a lot of backtracking to do because of it.
As you can see, SFIV is almost completely unchanged from the days of SFII. This makes the game exceptionally accessible to people who really haven’t played a lot of fighting games, but it also gives the SNK fanboys a distinct advantage over other gamers, due to how Capcom is pushing SFIV to emulate more and more of the KoF brand of games. Hell, Seth, the end boss here in SFIV, is basically a wannabe Cyber Rugal in terms of computer AI and how to beat him. More on that under balance though…
In all the control quality for SFIV varies wildly based on the controller you choose to use. The Dual Shock and Sixxaxis are complete crap for this game and you might as well set them aside if you have any other option available to you. They really drag the quality down and if you try a Hori or Madcatz Saturn layout controller before and after using a Dual Shock, you will be amazed in the difference in responsiveness and quality. SFIV also has some very long loading times, especially for a fighter -even a current gen fighter, and there are still some game killing bugs that remain in this final version of the game. Because your internet service provider and your controller can either screw you over, or your opponent, in such a way that skill is almost an afterthought, I can’t in good conscience give this a truly positive score for either controls or gameplay. The fighting genre has really come a long way since SFII, as we can see with games like Neo*Geo Battle Coliseum and even Capcom’s own Vampire Chronicles for Matching Service. SFIV however is stuck firmly in the later 1990’s, and for long time fighting fans, this is really apparent, especially with those who have talked to me frequently about their issues with this game.
SFIV is playable to be sure, especially compared to the early arcade cabinet releases, but it’s still got some strong issues that can’t be ignored which pulls the overall quality of the product down.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Decent
Although the roster for SFIV is small compared to a lot of other fighters (25 characters), the characters are a lot of fun and there are more than enough matchups to satisfy the average gamer.
There are a horde of titles, characters, personal actions, artwork pieces, movies and icons to unlock, medals to win via online battles, challenges to win, combos to master. SFIV offers a lot of options that are guaranteed to satisfy any fan of the series, if not the fighting genre in general. You’ll have to spend a lot of time with SFIV to get good at it, and even longer to have it mastered.
Replayability Rating: Enjoyable
Here’s where things fall apart. For most of the game, things are easy. Almost laughably so. The AI is pretty bad with only Crimson Viper showing any challenge (Yes, more than M. Bison.) due to her being the overly pushed Mary Sue of this generation that will be going the way of SFIII’s main character, Alex, come SFIV Turbo or even SFV. Honestly, you shouldn’t have to use a continue on any of these characters unless they hit you with an Ultra Combo which will take more than half your life away.
Then there is Seth. Unlike previous Street Fighter end bosses like M. Bison, Seth is actually designed like an SNK boss. Yet another attempt to emulate the company that once emulated Capcom, but I digress. Seth is a perfect example of SNK End Boss Syndrome, which not only throws off the balance of the game entirely, but will no doubt confuse, anger and stymie Street Fighter and casual fighting fans alike who aren’t familiar with names like Geese Howard, Magaki, or King Leo and the tears they can induce.
1. Seth is VERY susceptible to the fierce jump kick/fierce sweep combination on all difficulty levels.
2. Seth is weak to non charge projectiles, especially EX projectiles. Remember, it’s not cheese if it’s against the computer so don’t feel bad about spam fireballing his ass. ESPECIALLY with Sagat.
3. Seth has real problems with weak attacks, especially if you get him in the corner. I can generally get him down to half life with weak hits. Even with Balrog. BALROG.
4. When Seth uses his gravity well to suck you into him, THROW HIM. This works exceptionally well with the above mentioned move.
5. Seth is very weak with jump in attacks. A great combo is Jump fierce king, fierce sweep, back up until he gravity wells you, throw, lots of weak hits and then and EX move like a flash kick or dragon uppercut.
6. USE FOCUS ATTACKS.
7. In the end, Seth is only hard if you let him take the offense. The more offensive you are, the less the AI will know how to react and will eventually drop its guard and let you clean house.
Give these tips a try and you’ll find beating him to be a lot easier. Then maybe you’re ready for someone like Orochi and his damn desperation move of ultimate profanity inducement.
Really, the game is still poorly balanced and broken. Abel is awful, Rufus is a bigger joke than Dan, and El Fuerte could have been a nice addition if he had been tweaked a bit more. Crimson Viper is unbalanced in the exact opposite way making her almost as annoying as her, “I wanna be Morrigan!” character design.
Yes, SFIV is poorly balanced and could have really used some AI tweaks. Still, for a casual or mainstream gamer, it’s better to be a bit too easy than a bit too hard. You can definitely see that Seth is an attempt to pacify the SNK zealots who will no doubt trash talk SFIV due to how easy the game is for them.
SFIV could have used a better difficulty curve instead of going from several brain dead matches into something quite frustrating until you figure out the end boss’ weak points.
Balance Rating: Poor
This is easily Street Fighter IV‘s weakest area. For the most part, Capcom has regressed the series back to SFII, which from a business perspective is a smart move as it was Capcom’s golden game in its golden age, but to any seasoned fighting game fan, SFIV really pales compared to other fighting games save in graphical quality. This includes games that are five+ years old by the way.
Instead of choosing to update the characters even slightly, as they have with their other franchises like Darkstalkers, everyone plays exactly the same to a fault, albeit it with dumber AI. There are less modes than in other fighters and even the options presented here are merely imitations of those other games’ bonus features. There are less playable characters, less unlockables, and less to do if you are one of those gamers that buys every fighting game under the sun.
Hell, Street Fighter Alpha 3 offers more options than this, and that’s nearly a decade over ten years old. As much as I enjoy this game, the truth needs to be said: Capcom phoned this one in, knowing full well name recognition + updated graphics = millions of copies sold, regardless of quality. They’ve made better and more innovative titles, SNK has made better and more innovative titles, hell MIDWAY has made better and more innovative titles.
The only thing original about this game are a few new crappy character designs and a graphical overhaul. Even the recent PSN/XBL download of SSF2T HD Remix offered more innovation and new options than this. That’s just sad.
Originality Rating: Dreadful
Okay, now that my little rant is over, let me just say that I had a night impossible time putting this down, even after the unlockable erasing bug I encountered. I had so much fun with this game. It was a combination of nostalgia and my need to see all the characters’ stories and unlockables. In fact, the only reason I put this down was to watch the SFIV movie that came with the Collector’s Edition of this game. Then I played some more.
Even with the apparent flaws in the game, SFIV is a really fun game. Everything old is new again. Even on the occasions I got curb stomped by Seth at the beginning, I was swearing while smiling. The only reason I’m not playing it now is because I have a review to write.
Classic characters with a graphical overhaul with familiar gameplay is a sure fire way to keep you glued to a game. In spite of the other areas where Capcom messed up with this title, I can’t deny that this is the most fun I’ve had with a non re-released fighter since Neo*Geo Battle Coliseum nearly a year and a half ago.
Addictiveness Rating: Classic
9. Appeal Factor
It’s funny. Reviewers that haven’t touched a fighter in years are giving this thing 9/10, A+’s and calling it the best fighter ever or the eventual GOTY winner for 2009. I can’t agree with any of those statements, but then they are also made out of ignorance where I’m pretty cynical after playing every fighter under the sun while having to listen to hardcore SNK fans cry about blood being taken out of a US release or two and declaring the game not worth buying because of that. Meanwhile people who haven’t played a fighter in 15 years will be picking this up and loving it because hell, it’s STREET FIGHTER and it plays like STREET FIGHTER and looks like STREET FIGHTER and it makes them feel like a kid again. In this end this is why SNK grows more and more niche and why Capcom can bust this out and know it will be one of the best selling games of the year. SNK caters to the hardcore zealous fighting game crowd who looks for anything and everything to bitch about. Capcom gives us a fighting game anyone can play, even if it is a bit outdated in the scheme of things. SNK fans have pushed the level of difficulty to the point where only THEY can play it, killing SNK’s market share and thus their room to grow. Capcom has made SFIV pretty damn easy save for Seth, who isn’t that hard after some time spent against him. This makes the average game really feel like they have accomplished something (If they didn’t give up in frustration) and makes them loyal to the brand and the memories of the triumph that they will carry with them.
In short, while SFIV offers less options and characters than say, King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match, it’s a game anyone can play and enjoy. Even if you can’t do an air hurricane kick, you can still beat SFIV with practice and provide your friends with a degree of competition. This is more accessible to the average gamer and thus, more fun for them. SNK games are ones that you have to be somewhat obsessed with the fighting genre to get the most out of (or beat). Street Fighter IV is a game that, regardless of its flaws, anyone can pick up, have fun with, and fall in love with.
Appeal Factor Rating: Unparalleled
One on hand, I’m disturbed by the price tag for this game compared to a lot of other fighters on the market. Really, is there any difference between KoF ’98 UM and SFIV? Both games are basically graphical updates of the best both franchises have to offer coupled with unlockables and extra modes. KoF ’98 is uglier to be sure, but it has more of everything else and tighter controls for a fraction of the price.
On the other, SFIV is a more accessible game, and is for a current-gen system (The KoF remake is a release for the PS2), I can play it online against anyone, anywhere, and as much as I love Terry Bogard, Mai, Geese, and Shingo, I prefer the overall roster for SFIV, new four starter characters notwithstanding (As I hate them all, character model wise. Ho ho ho. Rufus is far and stupid. Oy vey.).
I also have to give a big thumbs down to the cost of the DLC for this game. Are new costumes REALLY that expensive? What the heck? At the same time I have to give a thumb’s up for the Collector’s Edition. The Ryu figure is well done, although I wish he had a hadoken, and the soundtrack is a nice add in. A blu-ray movie is gravy on the plate and they even throw in a code for a free brawler costume pack, even if it’s for characters I could care less about overall. I know I’ll end up buying the costume for Chun-Li if only because it’s a tribute to Mai from KoF, but hey, I’m stupid that way.
I’m also not a fan of bringing Gouken back to life as it kind of destroys the entire foundation of the Street Fighter mythos. At the same time Gen and Rose are in here, which is awesome beyond awesome, so they balance each other out. The only thing missing really is a Darkstalkers character cameo. Alas
In the end, I like SF IV. It’s by no means the best fighting game ever, or even the best game in the SF series, but it’s fun, highly addictive, and well worth devoting time and money to it. If you have even a casual interest in the game, it’s worth playing and remembering why at one point, the fighting genre was the king of gaming, and Street Fighter 2 was the yard stick by which all others were measured.
Miscellaneous Rating: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Appeal Factor: Unparalleled
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Street Fighter IV fails to live up to all the hype it has generated, but what game could? In the end, all that matters is that SFIV is a fun game featuring classic gameplay (with a few new bugs) and the best characterization any of the SF franchise have received in a video game so far. Yes the new characters are bit of a letdown compared to new additions found in the Alpha series or SFIII, and you really need to install the game in order to keep the loading times from reaching ridiculous levels, but there is something that warms my heart to know I can play as Sagat again and knock Ryu, Ken, and even Akuma on their hadoken flinging asses. If you’ve ever been a fan of the franchise, Street Fighter IV is worth playing through to rekindle the love and memories you once had for this sorely neglected genre. Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Shingo KICK! Wait, how’d that one get in there?