Something that Capcom likes to do all of the time is to release several iterations of the same game, especially when it comes to Street Fighter. Street Fighter II had what eventually became Super Street Fighter II Turbo (known to fans as Super Turbo). While it’s frustrating for some who wish that Capcom would just release a whole new sequel altogether instead of recycling the same game, it must be said that the Street Fighter IV series is perhaps the most balanced fighting game to have ever been played, and they are working to keep it that way.
NOTE: This review is for the digital upgrade version of the game. As of posting this review, the retail versions have yet to be released.
Ultra Street Fighter IV is the follow-up to Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition Version 2012, perhaps the fifth iteration of 2009′s Street Fighter IV. At face value, it added five new characters, four of which had previously been in Street Fighter X Tekken, and the fifth one looking like a clone of an old character, so it seems like it’s nothing really new to be noteworthy. However, this game is totally different from the previous versions of Street Fighter IV, from how it plays to the number of features it has.
Most of the changes to the game are little adjustments to each character, some buffs and some nerfs for game balance. While a myriad of characters have been used to win majors throughout Arcade Edition’s tenure, which means anyone in the roster has a chance of being the best as long as the player is good enough, there were still some characters who lagged a bit behind. The likes of Ken, Chun Li, DeeJay (who may still be low tier anyway), Yun (a top tier character that got nerfed in ver. 2012), and so on have gained some changes that now make them different from their previous versions.
But if you still want to relive the glory days of a vanilla Sagat, a pre-Arcade Edition Yun, or 2012 Cammy, then you may choose which version you wish to play through the new Edition Select in the character select screen. Unfortunately, this is not really available in online play, but you can still use the new feature in local multiplayer in casuals and maybe even tournaments if it’s allowed. There are also other new features like Online Training mode to hone your skills, more fight request options, offline replays, and so on for those who want to hunker down in the lab and train up.
There’s also the Ultra Combo Double, which is being able to pull off both Ultra Combos when the Ultra gauge is halfway or completely full from taking damage in order to either gain a greater advantage or potentially reverse a deficit with either one of the two Ultras according to the situation while sacrificing damage. The second Ultra for each character had been added in Super Street Fighter IV, and it made for more compelling play as being able to select one of two Ultras let players have another viable option to counter their opponents’ strategies and tendencies. Let’s say you’re playing Zangief; you can pull off Ultra 1 if your opponent sticks to the ground or Ultra 2 for anti-air if he jumps at you. With Ultra Combo Double (also known as Double Ultra or W-Ultra), you have the threat of doing either of those Ultras against him, as opposed to having just one Ultra.
The first four new characters have already appeared in Street Fighter X Tekken, and they’ve translated fairly well into Ultra. Hugo is a big grappler with SPDs and lots of HP like Zangief; Poison and Rolento have some similarities with their movesets while having their own unique moves and setups; Elena is a capoeira fighter with good range and a healing ultra. The fifth character didn’t get a warm reception, but proves to be a good addition to the roster that is mostly composed of shoto characters. Decapre is a charge-based mixup-heavy character with a teleport, so she demands good movement and precise execution.
Along with new characters are new storylines and other additions, which is something that’s good for those who are mostly into the singleplayer arcade mode. Those storylines may seem arbitrary to most people, it does add more content and thematic flavor to the game. However, there are no completely new stages as the additions are from Street Fighter X Tekken. Also, the trials for the new characters have yet to be added, so those who wish to practice doing combos with them will have to do so manually in training mode for now. But when the retail version comes out later, it should get even better, especially with the PC version having been fully transferred from Games for Windows Live (which was really bad) to Steamworks. The netcode may not have improved that much across the board, having it in Steamworks means that it’ll be easier for PC users to find opponents in online multiplayer.
This major update to Street Fighter IV was released just a month or so prior to the annual EVO tournament, which is the biggest fighting tournament in the world. Participants, especially known professional players, are expected to pick up this new version and train for the event. Street Fighter IV has been the main event in EVO for 6 years now, as prior titles like Street Fighter III Third Strike had been (which included the infamous Daigo full parry from EVO 2004). It does show that Capcom is really being serious now in supporting the competitive scene, which is a major source of longevity for various games. (Super Smash Bros. Melee is a big example, despite what casual fans may think of the competitive scene.)
If you are a fighting game aficionado, or just someone who is getting into the game or genre, then this is an absolute must-play. Detractors and cynics may think that it’s a waste of time and money to get what is essentially a $15 expansion pack when they could have come out with a Street Fighter V. But if you do care even a bit about fighting games, then you know that this is the best title in the genre right now, and has been since 2009.
Tested in PS3. Final Score: 8.5/10