Many of the classic video game franchises that have kept gamers entertained over the years make their next-generation console debuts in 2009, and the first of these is Capcom’s stylish reincarnation of beat ‘em up favorite Street Fighter. Street Fighter IV features a refreshing art style, a few new characters, and brings back the gameplay mechanics that made Street Fighter II the pinnacle of this genre.
The most striking feature of Street Fighter IV is its stylized 3D art direction. Environments and characters are created in a uniquely arty, comic book style, which somehow comes across as both simplistic and intricately detailed. Coupled with a resplendent color palate and presented in high definition, Street Fighter IV is a visual treat that almost justifies the price of admission all by itself.
But the game has a lot more going for it than simply its eye-candy graphics. Most importantly, Street Fighter IV is a thoroughly absorbing fighting game, particularly when played against a human offline opponent. The classic characters — Ryu, Ken and co — return and the game also adds four new fighters to the roster — Crimson Viper, Abel, El Fuerte, and Rufus.
The classic characters bring with them their old arsenal of moves and combos and all the characters possess their individual strengths and weakness. Learning them, mastering them and overcoming them in your opponents is indeed a thrill and this is the high point of the game. There are no two characters in Street Fighter IV that can be considered a mismatch; every fighter has within his/her arsenal the moves and combos required to beat every other fighter and the key again lies in learning the strengths and weakness, and of course, in memorizing the various combos. Unfortunately, blind button mashing is also quite effective in this game, but like every other fighting game, will only work against an AI opponents, while a skilled human opponent will break you down effortlessly.
One interesting aspect of Street Fighter IV is that it still employs the traditional 2D camera, while other recent beat ‘em ups such as Soulcalibur IV and Virtua Fighter 5 allow side-stepping whereby the player can switch the camera to a different angle. This is absent in Street Fighter IV. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is subjective, but you will never miss being able to side-step in this game, and that is a testament to Capcom’s ability to deliver an immersive fighting experience even in a 2D arena. If nothing else, it will certainly please the old school purists.
In terms of game modes, you have an Arcade Mode, a flimsy story mode that essentially entails you running through the entire roster one after another. This mode can be played against the CPU and a second human player can jump in at any time. You can also invite friends over Xbox LIVE and PSN and compete with them. You also have two one-on-one modes; one for offline, and one for online. Unfortunately, we were unable to test out the game’s online capabilities so early before the game’s release. If you’re new to the series or feeling a little rusty, the Training Mode will let you hone your skills and practice your combos against either a dummy or a skilled AI opponent.
There’s not that much to be done in Street Fighter IV, but then again, beat ‘em ups are all about one-on-one battles with your friends and button mashing duels till your fingers bleed, and there is plenty of potential for all of that here. As you play along, you will also unlock artwork and videos which can be viewed via the Gallery in the main menu. Then of course, you have the cheesy one-liners, over-the-top voice acting, and music that will make you look forward to an NSync reunion; but that’s the fun of it.
Bringing an old classic to a next-generation format is a tricky situation for developers. They’re expected to stay true to the series’ roots, and yet push the boundaries and make use of the powerful hardware at their disposal. Capcom have managed to tread this fine line tremendously well. The new arty visual style is breathtakingly realized in vivid high definition, while the tight gameplay mechanics, the classic characters, and traditional 2D camera perspective will surely satisfy fans of the older games. While there’s nothing truly revolutionary here, Street Fighter IV is a fitting debut for this much loved franchise on the PS3 and Xbox 360, and is sure to give the competition a run for their money.
Score : 4/5
Platforms supported: Arcade, Playstation 3, X-Box 360
Web site: www.streetfighter.com