Street Fighter IV
I know what you’re thinking. When am I going to ask whether you remember the days spent pumping pennies, quarters or whatever monetary value relevant into your local arcade emporium just to prove to yourself that you can beat the sweaty Ryu-loving freak that seemingly hogs the cabinet? Well, I’m not, because I’m willing to bet that most of you actually don’t. That instead of lugging yourself down to the arcade every evening you were instead sat in a room full of rowdy Chun Li ogling friends, competing in makeshift tournaments on a 14” portable with a d-pad that actually functioned properly, unlike the ridiculously unresponsive 360 d-pad I’ve been lumbered with for the purpose of this review. But that’s another argument entirely.
Of course, at the time (and arguably to this very day), Street Fighter II was the pinnacle of fighting games. It offered sheer accessibility on the grandest of scales, inviting both newcomers and pros alike to brawl – and to brawl together. It struck the perfect balancing act between being easy to play but a challenge to master, filled as it was with a memorable move list and an unforgettable character roster. You all knew how to pull off Ryu’s iconic Hadouken, right? The on-screen visualisation synched perfectly to the controls as a down, down-right, right, Y produced a deadly fireball after a clenched sweep from the hip. It’s been eighteen long years, but you haven’t forgotten.
It’s this blissful sense of nostalgia that makes Street Fighter IV the runaway success that it undoubtedly is. Street Fighter hasn’t changed per se – at heart, it’s still the very same game you played all those years ago – but it’s been tweaked and enhanced to within an inch of perfection. It’s The Ultimate Street Fighter, Street Fighter: The Greatest Hits, Street Fighter Essentials; whatever you’d rather call it, they’re all applicable.
Thankfully, Street Fighter’s new-generation launch is much more restoration than reinvention, doing away with everything that put Street Fighter into hardcore-only territory over recent years and streamlining the franchise’s accessibility. The Ultra gauge that fills as you take damage, for example, means that regardless of proficiency, you can turn the tide of battle in the blink of an eye – provided you can pull off the required move of course. This is nothing new to Street Fighter (Street Fighter III’s parry system made matches tense affairs that could go either way at any moment), but it will be new to the more casual player; those that didn’t have the time (or indeed, capability) to perfect the system, those that found Street Fighter III and its variants a little too hardcore.
But, perhaps astonishingly, you never get the impression that Street Fighter IV has been dumbed down to accommodate everyone. Input windows are now more generous allowing newcomers to quickly learn how to perform moves and combos previously reserved for the elite, but in return, focus moves and technicals bulk up the required depth for those looking for it; the line between amateurism and mastery still distinct without necessarily feeling so.
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