Unless you've had your head in the closet for the past 25 years, you've atleast heard of Street Fighter. You know, that game with men who are fighting. In the streets. And occassionally indoors when circumstances permit. However, incase you've been locked inside a bunker with Brendan Frasier waiting the apocalypse for the last quarter century, clutching your copy of Red Dawn as if it were some sort of survival guide for the Commie infested future let me sum up the gameplay of a fighting game - you punch and kick guys who are trying to punch and kick you until someone falls over, twice. Believe it or not, this formula hasn't really changed at all since then, and with good reason. It's fun. If I could make punching people my occupation, I'd give up my life of excess over at Gamestop with gusto and spend all my money on lotto tickets and cocaine for the rest of my existance.
So, it's 2009 and we see the anticipated release, or atleast anticipated release by me as I went all out in making sure I had the best Street Fighter experience, of the newest iteration of Street Fighter: Street Fighter IV! Really...we're just on IV? And yet...there's 14 official games in the series, and that's not even counting crazy stuff like Street Fighter 2 Pinball, and suprise the game is getting glowing reviews from everyone who has claimed to like Street Fighter since Reagan was taking out permits to demolish architecture in the name of freedom and apple pie. I wouldn't be suprised to find out tommorow that not only has Street Fighter IV rejuvanated the genre of fighting according to your mom, but was so good that it made a statue of Jesus cry thus allowing mankind to cure cancer.
The worst part? I agree with a majority of these reviews. This game is really good if you're a fighting fan and worth checking out even if you're not really into fighting games but enjoy playing them once in awhile. I'm having a blast and it's a shame other games are coming out that I'm gonna buy, because I can honestly just see me spending months at a time playing this game. The game however is not without some serious faults.
As I started playing through this game, I started to notice something. The game's cast of 25 for the home version are very familar. Deathly Familar... Aside from four immediately new faces, the entire cast is from Street Fighter 2 and you won't see anymore faces until you start beating the game, which leads to another fault in the game I'll get to shortly. You like E. Honda? Great. You like Dhalism? Awesome, he's in the game. You like anyone from any other Street Fighter game? Tough shit, you better enjoy playing some Ken. As you start beating the game, you unlock more characters, but unfortunetly you mostly get...suprise! More Street Fighter 2 characters! Cammy, Fei Long, and Akuma make up a third of the unlockable characters list with a majority of the other unlockables being from the alpha series and by majority, I mean 4. The list leads to an overwhelming sense of deja vu, and makes the game seem more like another iteration of Street Fighter II than a truely new chapter in the series and the worst part is? I think most people could have really gone without alot of these characters and replaced them with new characters.
Let's be honest, no one really uses E. Honda or Dhalism and I think their slots could have been better spent on more new characters as 4, well actually 6 with the unlockable characters, don't really feel like a step forward as much as an add-on. If it wasn't for the super new 3-d graphics, I'd honestly say that this was just Capcom trying to milk the franchise more than Paris Hilton milked the fame of that sex tape.
So what about the new characters? Well half of them are great. I love Abel and C. Viper is a good, if really SNK reminiscent design. The other two of the immediate characters, on the other hand are fairly bad to downright terrible. El Feurte is not only a bad character playwise, landing in 2nd to last in the arcade tiers, but his design just feels very uninspired. Woo. Another Luchadore. Staged wrestling...so exciting....I can hardly...wait. It's like every fighting game developer watched El Nacho Libre while doing peyote and in unison announced "We shall waste a slot on a Lucha Dore that no one will play cause it's AWESOME!" Or it's Japan logic. They do that sometimes to spite me.
Ofcourse no matter how terrible El Feurte (The Fort...?) is, Rufus presents an even worse and oddly unique problem. Let's just put it out in the open. Rufus is the worst designed character I can think of in recent history. According to Gamestop's propoganda TV I have to keep listening to nonstop for the rest of my life and then some, he was designed as a tribute to American Street Fighter fans who have, in all honestly, helped keep the series popular. Wow, really guys? Thanks. Aside from that official by-line, I have no possible clue what the character creators were thinking. Rufus is a massively overweight character whose ingame character model's stomach has more jiggle than all of the Dead Or Alive's cast's bust lines combined and wears a yellow jumpsuit with the zipper open and his massively thick happy trail hanging out till thankfully the suit ends at his crotch and not a moment lower. I'm afraid to imagine what would have happened if the zipper went lower, but I imagine it's the same result as dividing by zero. Seriousily, could this
shit get any worse? It can and represents the unique problem with Rufus in that he's a strong character, placing well in tournaments and tiers, but I wouldn't be caught dead playing him because his design is just so terrible that I'd rather play as Dan and get my ass kicked than him.
Ofcourse none of those characters are as bad as the final boss, Seth. If I could write a letter to Seth, I imagine it would go along the lines of, "Dear Seth. You suck dicks. Signed, Walter." Seth is a combination of what is possibly the worst of everything in a fighting game as both a character and a boss. His design is very reminiscent to the previous boss, Gill, in that he's a naked adonis that has more muscles than we could ever hope to have, except he doesn't even have the dignity to wear a loin cloth and instead has a giant ying yang for a crotch that he won't hesitate to rub against you. Seth as a boss is incredibly cheap, able to pull you out otherwise normally untouchable moves and use a spinning pile driver that cannot be interupted or dodged in any way. The only way for most people to beat him on even medium difficulty with any degree of non-dumb luck success is exploit his AI in various ways as if you don't, you better be prepared for a long haul. So when you finally get him, he's an AWESOME character, right? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. You'd be better off abusing Akuma and probably less likely to have your sexuality questioned.
The last cast complaint actually has to do with the characters that Capcom DIDN'T put in. Street Fighter IV takes place between Street Fighter III and II and as such Capcom used it as reasoning why certain characters from Alpha and III couldn't appear in the title. Great in theory until some of these characters I'd RATHER be playing as appear in other characters intros and outros! Street Fighter III and Alpha introduced A LOT of characters that had great designs, great gameplay mechanics, and would have further enriched the story of Street Fighter with their inclusion. Instead, they're left out for the aforementioned characters from Street Fighter 2 who are of little importance and play rather poorly or worse: teased at by showing them in the anime intros and outros but never in sight for the game. I honestly respected Capcom more in III when they threw out all their old characters to introduce an entirely new cast aside from Ken and Ryu than giving us the same characters, which while tried and true, add very little to the game.
The other problem with the characters lends throughout the whole game itself. There are no unlockables for the characters. As oppossed to Dead Or Alive 4, this game has little incentive to try and unlock things once you have all the characters as there are no additional costumes, character content, etc without buying it via DLC. Well, it's downloadable content in theory. See, all the outfits are ALREADY on the disc, so you're not really downloading any real pieces of data as much as downloading the right to use data on a disc that you already own. I pray that I'm not the only one who see's why this is not only dumb, but a waste of time when developers could be making ACTUAL downloadable content, like new characters.
"So that's all well and good, but how is the actual game?" you say. Well, it's solid. The game is a lot more simplistic than Street Fighter 3 in many ways introducing a few new gimmicks in the mix to spruce things up. One thing I will say is that the game is remarkably balanced as even the worst character has about a 50-60% chance of winning against even the best provided that the players are on the same level and that's remarkably balanced gameplay considering that in Street Fighter 3, the worst character had about a 6% chance, I believe, of winning against the best character. So the game is quite approachable for anyone wanting a decent experience, especially for parties, this makes a great game. Unfortunetly, there are always problem with gameplay and I think part of the problem has to do with the graphics.
So, if you haven't ever seen a preview of Street Fighter IV or heard anything about it, you'll know that Street Fighter IV uses new fangled cel shaded 3-d graphics to create some rather nice looking character models and some mediocre backgrounds. It unfortunetly seems to have changed the gameplay slightly in that the hit detection isn't always there as it was in the older games. For instance, using Abel's special throw, there are times when you'll use it and watch as your hands dissapear through your opponents chest. Another time I tried using a crouching kick on an opponent and watched as my foot slid through their forward leg with no affect. For the most part it doesn't affect anything, but there will be times when you'll lose a match online or to the computer because the computer decided that your hand didn't connect despite it phasing through someone's chest as if you were in the unofficial sequel to Ghost, rated PG 13 for nonstop martial arts action. So while I feel that the new 3-d graphics are nice and a diversion to get new people into street fighter, I can't help but feel that the game would run smoother and look better if it was done in HD like King of Fighters XII.
Speaking of online play, that's a major draw to the game and I will say that in my experience it works well. Street Fighter II: HD Remix was a great game, however the online always seemed to give me trouble with lag. Street Fighter IV, on the other hand, has run virtually lag free from my experience and I don't know if this is because Capcom spent more money on better servers or they just don't like me winning on HD. Whatever the case I'm thankful as it gives me the opportunity to play online and playing online I shall....against Ken.
There seems to be a serious problem when I play Street Fighter IV online as it keeps matching me up against Ken and only Ken. And he ussually wears that damn white gi to which we have to thank a player named Daigo for as now everyone thinks they're him and can make some SUPER AMAZING COMBACK. I imagine Ken is the Street Fighter equavilent to Through the Fires and Flame on Guitar Hero. Everyone selects him, but no one has a clue as to how to properly play him and if they do, they're the hugest dicks you'll ever meet in your life. Except Seth. No one is a bigger dick than Seth.
Overall, I'm happy to see Street Fighter return as a gaming force, especially since Mortal Kombat vs. DC failed so hard to not only make sales, but to make any sense outside of Ed Boon's crazed mind. The game is not without it's flaws and I hold the opinion that I could have probably designed a better and more sensical Street Fighter with a better cast and although my version would have had 2d HD graphics and probably limited my market, I'd atleast made sure that the game felt like a real step forward than just a remake with bonus characters and a new engine. My only hope is that now that Capcom has the engine down pat and have earned good and, well deserved sales numbers, they'll add better and newer characters and further fine tune the minor blemishes to an otherwise perfect fighting game.
...Or they'll just flip me the finger and make Ken the only selectable character.