Jim says: Growing up in the early 90’s, a lot of things that have been long forgotten are still near and dear to my heart. Hammer pants, people shaving things into the back of their heads, the Reebok Pump — the early 90’s will likely be looked back on as the golden age of western culture. Hell — that was when Paula Abdul had videos with Keanu Reeves AND an animated cat. But nothing reminds me more of my awkward tween years than pumping quarters into Street Fighter II. Now, nearly 20 years later, the series has finally entered into it’s renaissance stage. The long-awaited Street Fighter IV is on store shelves. So how does it hold up to our childhood memories?
A little too well. Despite the gorgeous visual makeover, the online play, and the challenge mode, Street Fighter IV is Street Fighter II. Capcom has made a lot of changes over the years to the fighter formula it created with SFII, but very few of those exist here. We’re talking the classic SFII experience with a beautiful new coat of paint. And while that means you’ll likely enjoy the same addictively awesome experience that you did when you were 12, you’re also going to wonder why you’ve spent $60 on what is essentially a visual makeover and a few new characters.
It should also be noted that SFIV is NOT an attempt to bring the Street Fighter franchise into the third dimension. At first glance (and first read if you’ve seen a number of the reviews and previews floating around out there) you might think that the Street Fighter formula has been overhauled to somehow magically retain everything you love and turn the series into a 3D fighter. The only thing 3D about this game are the visuals. Gameplay is still straight 2D classic SF. Again — it’s great for those of us that grew up loving the series, and again — it’s not introducing anything new that you might have expected from a new entry in 2009.
As I write this I can’t help but feel that it sounds like I’m dumping on the game, and nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the sameness of it’s base gameplay, SFIV offers some great little twists that make this the best version of Street Fighter II yet. The more hardcore amongst the SF clan will love the addition of ultra combos and focus attacks. The online play is lag free (so long as you pick an opponent with a good connection) — something that few online fighters have been able to pull off. The medals and unlockables give you that carrot at the end of a stick to keep you coming back for more. All in all, it’s a great package for any Street Fighter fan. It’s just not the revolution so many were expecting it to be.
Also of note is the system that allows you to be open to online challenges during the single player arcade mode. This means you could be in mid-match when all of a sudden someone plunks in that virtual quarter, and you’re ready to go. It can be switched on and off (thank god), and it does a great job of recreating that same feeling from the arcades of yesteryear.
I loved Street Fighter II as a kid, and I love Street Fighter IV as an adult. A lot of the reason for that is because of how alike the two games really are. If you’re waxing nostalgic and would love to go back to the days of 2D ass-kicking, you’re not going to find a better title than this. But if you were looking for something truly new and fresh? Once you remove all the bells and whistles, you’re left with a game you’ve already been playing for 20 years.