Street Fighter IV

NB! Before starting off, I’d like to note that I am a Tekken-gamer, not an SF player, so my opinions might be “tainted” by that. I will however try to give the game a fair review in spite of this.

Street Fighter IV was released roughly a month ago (mid-February 2009) for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 and is the newest in a long series of Street Fighter games. Having only had limited exposure to the Street Fighter series due to my dislike of “projectile fighting-games”, my first impression of the game was that it was just Street Fighter II with a visual upgrade and maybe a system-tweak or two that I wouldn’t be aware of anyway, so I went into it with a rather bleak perspective. The only real reason I bought the game, seeing how I dislike fighting-games where you can inflict damage from across the screen, was because I figured it would be perfect practice for getting used to playing on an arcade stick, so that I’ll be ready for the time Tekken 6 comes out for the Xbox 360.

Anywho, like already mentioned, the graphics are pretty awesome when you keep in mind what kind of feel they (Capcom) were going for (less realistic and more cartoony/”hand-drawn”). All characters are rendered full, cel-shaded 3D while everything else is 2.5D, and while it has a cartoony feel to it, like already said, it looks pretty awesome. They even gone into various details such as how the Hadouken disperses when it hits the opponent and whatnot. There are however still issues with polygons overlapping eachother on grabs, e.g. arms going through the opponents body parts, but you only ever really notice it when gameplay slows down during a KO. The graphics for the game intro (seen on the left) and for the official artwork feature various “inkblots”, a style inspired by sumie (墨絵 ink paintings), which I personally think looks fucking awesome. It’s probably the best intro I have seen for a game, ever.

The music is a bit… I dunno… The songs/character themes are good and can almost be considered modernized video game classics, but truthfully, you don’t even notice them when you’re playing. This is because the stages are two dimensional, which severely hampers dodging opportunities to anything other than jumping, and because of the rather small number of moves available to each character, which leaves no real opportunity for a player to get a feel for his/her opponent by sidestepping/back dashing and making quick jabs. Instead, you have characters screaming special attacks all the friggin’ time, plus the sound effects of the effects themselves, plus the sound effects when a character is hit or blocks, which essentially drowns out the background music. This is a crying shame because the music is actually pretty good.

Gameplay-wise, everything appears to be more or less the same, though I’ve heard that it is the most balanced (in terms of character strengths and weaknesses) Street Fighter game made thus far (though despite that, the online character demographic looks somewhat like this). You start of with 16 characters and have 9 more that can be unlocked via Arcade Mode (one boss character, two “hidden” characters, and six characters that were added to the console version of the game by popular request from fans). The game also introduces six entirely new characters, Abel, Crimson Viper, Rufus, El Fuerte, the boss character Seth, and the “hidden” character Gouken (Ryu’s and Ken’s teacher and the brother of Akuma/Gouki), as well as two new features: Ultra Combos and Force Attacks.

Ultra Combos are like the diametric opposite of Super Combos because the gauge for it fills every time the player takes damage (instead of inflicting it). It becomes active once roughly 60-65% of it has been filled, but as the gauge increases, so does the damage it can do once unleashed. As for Power Attacks, explaining what they are and how they work would make this section much too long, so I’m leaving that to Wikipedia. I will however say that it is mostly worthless since most combos in SF starts with two attacks in quick succession, meaning the first would cancel the armor and the second would interrupt the attack which means you’re setting yourself up to take an ass-whooping if you use it. I’ve only ever seen one person use it skillfully (he absorbed Hadoukens to get health and then dashed backwards to cancel the attack animation) in the +200 online matches I’ve had, since most special moves that aren’t projectile in nature either have Hyper Armour breaking properties or simply do multiple hits (or even both) which means that most people simply won’t use it.

Quickly moving on; the game has all the modes a fighting game needs in this day and age. An Arcade Mode, a Versus Mode, Xbox LIVE Battle (online versus), a Challenge Mode (the Trials in Challenge Mode are actually an excellent way of learning how to effectively use a character), and finally a Training Mode. It also has a Gallery mode where one can see all the videos and artwork one has unlocked and Player Data, for those interesting in their leaderboard standings and other stats. Anywho, as for online play, it works fine for the most part, but some battles will have an input delay (probably due to lag) which can annoy you to no end. The servers are cross-continental, meaning that it is possible for someone in Europe to play someone in the Americas or in Asia, and the lag is minimal to non-existant if both parties have a decent connection. In fact, all three matches in the video to the left was against people living in Japan (I live in Europe myself), and as you can see, there was no lag. But while fights online work great, actually getting to play can be a hassle since 2/3 of the time you’ll get an error message (as seen in the video), i.e. it may take several tries (up to several minutes worth, if you’re unlucky) before you successfully join a session.

The 1000 Achievement Points are spread over 48 achievements (technically 47, since one of them is worth 0 points and unlocks automatically when you get the other 47 achievements) of which 27 of them, worth 540 AP, can be gained through offline play and 20 through online play. I estimate that about 650-ish points can be gained with online very basic skills and spamming Zangief’s Double Lariat like a bastard, another 250-ish which actually require a somewhat decent degree of skill, and the last 100-ish, you have to be freaking insane to get. The time it would take to get the 900-ish managable achievement points depends heavily on how skilled you are/get, but I would say it would take about 18-24 hours if you are totally freaking insane at the game, 30-40 hours if you are about my skill level (mediocre), and for the 650-ish AP if you just plain suck would probably be around 50-70 hours.

And now for the conclusion! Street Fighter IV is a fun game and all, but like I already said in the very beginning, the Street Fighter series has never appealed to me and I can’t be bothered to learn its input buffing and negative edge system well enough to use it flawlessly, and I believe newcomers to the series will be to annoyed enough by it that they’ll put SFIV aside completely (as in “never get back to it“) as soon as they buy a new game. The graphics are decent and the music is good, but you don’t have the time to actually enjoy them during the battles, which is a shame. A vast majority of the achievements can be achieved and they all aim at different skill level, however, must can be achieve with only basic skills, time, and Zangief’s Double Lariat attack, so if you just want to boost your gamer score, there are 650 easy points to get here. However, it still deserves a decent score because if you can get used to the system, playing it online can be pretty fun, so I gave it 7 ♥ out of 10. However, I am sure most fans of the series would give it 9 or 9½ ♥, but my score for it is lower since it isn’t exactly rookie-friendly. Because to this, I recommend people who are considering buying the game, but have never played SF before, to rent the game or borrow it from a friend for a test-playtrough first.

Score
IS that crappy!
Achivement points gotten # of Achivements gotten Game “status”
800 Points 42 out of 48 Playing now and again

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