Ultra Street Fighter IV Review

Yet another update of the Street Fighter IV series is released, but is it really worth the extra coat of paint?

Release Date: August 8, 2014Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360(reviewed), PCDeveloper: CapcomPublisher: CapcomGenre: Fighting 

Ultra Street Fighter IV feels like Capcom’s return to form and I don’t fully mean that in a good way. The company put together three iterations of Street Fighter IV (the original, Super Street Fighter IV, and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition) and then released the crossover fighter Street Fighter X Tekken. While Capcom had to recreate the entire Tekken half of the roster in the Street Fighter IV style, they also introduced a few of their own characters who hadn’t been in the Street Fighter IV games. Now they’ve released Ultra Street Fighter IV, which adds those characters, some of the stages from Street Fighter X Tekken (minus any Tekken-related background imagery), and a couple extras.

It’s 1990’s Capcom all over again. All we need is a 2D Morrigan sprite from the first Darkstalkers and it feels like home.

Ultra Street Fighter IV is available in two ways. For the past couple months, anyone who owns Super Street Fighter IV or Arcade Edition has been able to download Ultra as a DLC update for $15. As of today, the physical copy is available for $40. So what’s the update all about?

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As mentioned, the game includes four of the characters introduced in Street Fighter X Tekken. You have the hulking gang member Hugo, the sultry wrestling promoter Poison, the delusional military mastermind Rolento, and the joyous and underwear-clad African girl Elena. Joining them is Decapre, a Cammy-like figure who has appeared in cutscenes in older Street Fighter games, but has never been an actual fighter until now. That brings the final cast to a whopping 44 characters.

Other than the quasi-new faces (and Decapre’s lack of face), the main draw here is the balancing. Taking feedback from the fans, Capcom has meddled with the veteran characters in an attempt to make the weak ones stronger and the overpowered ones weaker. Time will tell if they succeeded on that front, but considering Evo 2014’s Top 8 for the Ultra Street Fighter IV tournament from last month had only one character being used by two players, it’s promising. We’ll see if that magic remains next year or if the brackets will be overflowing with, say, Evil Ryu players. Meanwhile, you are able to choose previous versions of characters, such as playing as Ken from Street Fighter IV or Ken from the patched version of Arcade Edition.

The gameplay is the same classic Street Fighter stuff we’re all used to with a couple minor editions that will appeal to the hardcore players. The Focus Attack – where you absorb blows while setting up for an unblockable attack – can now be upgraded into a Red Focus Attack, where you can take in more hits before the character gets knocked out of the attack. Players can control the timing of wake-up attacks, making it harder for their opponents to predict when they’re going to recover from attacks.

The stuff I talked about in the last paragraph probably isn’t going to grab most people and is the video game version of explaining the difference between two similar shades of blue to someone who just doesn’t care. At least there’s one more understandable engine change with the ability to do two Ultra attacks. Ever since multiple Ultras were introduced in Super Street Fighter IV, the games only gave you a chance to pick one and go with it. Now you have the option to use both, but at a cost. While you might have more opportunities to hurt and punish at your disposal, the attacks won’t do as much damage as they would if you only had one Ultra in your repertoire.

There are a couple bells and whistles added for the online play, such as Elimination, a mode that lets you play 3-on-3, one at a time, similar to King of Fighters. Then there’s the ability to upload fights to YouTube, though that just gets a shrug from me. It’s a neat option, but I have no use for it.

The game does have its own little story mode for when you want to fiddle around against the computer. Due to the ever-confusing Street Fighter timeline, the game’s story acts as a bridge between Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter III: Second Impact. Yes, I realize I said that a game with “Street Fighter IV” in it takes place before the second version of a game with “Street Fighter III” in it. Just go with it.

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Each character has an animated prologue and epilogue, while everyone from the first two iterations of the game have special cutscenes against their rivals before tackling the big end boss Seth. They decided not to make these rival scenes for the characters from Arcade Edition and Ultra for whatever reason. I know that it’s not important in the least. All I’m saying is that it’s weird to have the announcer loudly tell Evil Ryu, “Now! Fight your rival!” only to have Gouken acting completely chill that his adopted son is now a mindless murder machine.

The animated cutscenes from Super Street Fighter IV and Arcade Edition remain the same, but most of the ones for the new fighters are worth checking out. Decapre’s is especially dark and depressing while the ones for Poison and Hugo are completely ridiculous. Seriously, Hugo’s story is about how he went from muscle for Final Fight‘s Mad Gear Gang to being a world famous professional wrestler and it somehow revolves around potatoes. Dude is crazy emotional over potatoes and it’s a sight to see.

Otherwise, the game is the same thing we’ve been getting for the past five years. The controls are as tight and responsive as you’d expect, even though I personally can’t do charge-based attacks to save my life. That’s why I never use Vega or Guile. The music, sound effects, voices, etc. are still top notch. If you dug the messy paintbrush art direction the first time around, you’ll still like it here.

It’s hard to rate this game because of its recycled nature. On its own, it’s a brilliant final chapter (or at least, I hope it is) for the series that put Street Fighter back on the map after years in the abyss. If you never got around to playing Street Fighter IV, it’s a definite must-buy and a fantastic final package. If you only have Street Fighter IV, still give it a shot. If you have Super Street Fighter IV or Arcade Edition, your mileage may vary. $15 isn’t the worst price for what is really a glorified DLC bundle, but it’s really the best to get if you’re really serious about keeping it competitive with online challengers.

Now bring on Street Fighter V. And bring back Rainbow Mika, already!

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4 out of 5