Forget Resident Evil 5, Fallout 3 or Gears of War 2, the sequel I was most excited about Street Fighter IV. I know it seems crazy, especially with all of these bigger and more impressive games monopolizing everybody's time, but it's been more than a decade since we've had a real Street Fighter sequel and I couldn't wait to check it out. Well I've finally had a chance to check out Capcom's newest fighter and feel that I can accurately judge it. Is it the next big revolution in the fighting genre, or is it too little too late?
Going into Street Fighter IV it's important to understand that this game could never do as much for the industry as Street Fighter II did. Without batting an eye, Street Fighter II singlehandedly created a genre and gave the arcade industry a much-needed breath of life. With the possible exception of Doom and Tetris, there are very few games that have been more cloned than Street Fighter II. Street Fighter IV cannot live up to that expectation, so don't go into this thing hoping that it will completely change the way you look at fighting games.
That's not to say this is a bad fighting game, on the contrary. Street Fighter IV manages to offer some of the best fighting action I've seen all year (especially when put up against Soul Calibur IV and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe). The fighting is fast, the graphics are ultra-detailed and the game feels exactly like a traditional fighting game. Don't be worried by the change in the graphics, the game plays exactly like Street Fighter II, down to the way you throw fireballs and teleport across screen.
Street Fighter IV also features all of the original World Warriors, including fan favorites such as Ryu, Ken, Blanka, M. Bison, Vega and Chun Li. There are also a few other new fighters, but they have all been regulated to the bottom of the list of characters. It's not that they are bad (though at least one of them is so silly that I almost wish Capcom would have simply removed the character from the game), it's just that they don't feel as well thought out as the original World Warriors. Perhaps that has more to do with the fact that I've known these World Warriors for a good 15 years. It's always hard to meet new players, and even harder to select them over, say, Guile or Sagat.
As you've seen from the videos and screenshots, Street Fighter IV uses 3D polygonal graphics to represent both the characters and the world. But don't be confused, the game is not 3D. This is still 100% 2D, you'll never have to dive in or out of the screen to avoid attacks. You control the game exactly the same as you did the other three titles (back to block, three punch buttons and three kick buttons). On top of that, the original characters have all of their old movies ... and a bunch of new deadly moves for you to figure out. There's also a few extra moves that everybody can do, such as a dodge and an art attack. Both of these moves take some getting used to, but I suspect they'll add a lot once players understand how to use them.
The version of the game I was playing was from a Japanese arcade unit. As the this writing the Japanese Street Fighter IV arcade cabinet is just now starting to ship, so lucky Japanese gamers will have a chance to plug as many tokens in as they want. Unfortunately I was limited to only a few rounds, so I wasn't able to try out each and every player. Hopefully Capcom will have an arcade-perfect port lined up for us this winter (early 2009). Street Fighter IV may not bring a lot of new gamers to the Street Fighter universe, but it does do a good job of giving long time fans exactly what they have been waiting for. If you consider yourself a Street Fighter fan then this should be at the very top of your 2009 list. With Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil 5, it looks like next year Capcom is going to have the best year ever!