There’s this new game that came out a week ago. It’s been getting some pretty good reviews. Like 10 out of 10 good. With all the hype surrounding the game, I bought it and played for about two to three hours each day since release. So, is it a 10 out of 10? Not really. 10 out of 10 would imply that there’s nothing wrong with the game or at least nothing major that would leave a sour experience with certain key areas. Anyways, let me break it down:
I really like the graphics. The animation is smooth and flawless. The facial expressions of each of the characters are hilariously exaggerated. The stages are very vivid and eventful. The art style is refreshing and, for lack of a better term, stylish. Unfortunately, while Capcom was too busy trying to get everything I just mentioned above right, they forgot to don their creativity and originality hat while designing the characters themselves. El Fuerte? It’s like they kidnapped El Blaze from Virtual Fighter 5, put him in a sauna for 72 hours and hypnotized him so he’s convinced that he’s El Fuerte, the wacky cook. Hey, you know who else was a wacky cook? That’s right, Chef Brian! Bet you didn’t see that one coming did you? I don’t think I need to get into Rufus much. Honestly, I would be fine if he was just a joke character, despite the fact that the only joke character Street Fighter 4 needs is Dan (well, two if you count Vega ho ho ho), but he’s not a joke character. He’s a fast moving motherfucker who apparently is worthy of fighting alongside top tier characters such as Bison and Balrog. That is fucking depressing is all I have to say.
So, moving right along, next up, we have Crimson Viper. I hate to sound like a giant homo but I love picking the female characters most of the time. I’m not going to write a huge article on why I like picking female characters and I’m sure I’m not the only one who does so. I’ll just say that I pick them because they’re either hot or cute. C. Viper is neither of these. Of course, that’s only 35% of the reason why I don’t play as her; the other 65% is her character mechanics and playstyle. That’s all I have to say about her. Abel on the other hand is alright. Alright if you ignore the fact that he’s French and generic. The only reason why he gets off easy is because he’s my main right now and I don’t want to feel depressed every time I play as him. Then there’s the rest of the cast. They’re all characters that have appeared in the past Street Fighter games and really, what’s there to say? Nothing has really changed my opinions on the standard Street Fighter cast. There are certain character that I do like (e.g. Guile, Zangief, Bison, Chun-Li) and then there’s are certain characters that I don’t like (e.g. Dhalism, Honda, Akuma, Vega). Of course, I can’t play any of the characters that I like because I really hate charge characters. Now, it may seem rather noobish not play a perfectly good character just because that character design doesn’t suit my taste but let me just say this: if I’m going to practice hours and hours to get good at a game, what’s even the point if I really hate playing as that character? It’s like driving a super fast car on the race track except the car is made out of cardboard boxes and the word “faggot” is spray painted on both sides of the vehicle. Sure, you may win some races but at what cost?
There’s nothing really noteworthy to say about the audio track. A hadoken sounds like a hadoken and a shoryuken sounds like a shoryuken. The soundtrack is pretty much the standard music we hear in most fighters. It gets the job done and doesn’t distract from the actual gameplay. If I have to compare it to other fighters, I would put it right above Soul Calibur 4’s soundtrack but below 3rd Strike.
Single Player Mode:
The single player mode is pretty mediocre. The AI can either be an extreme pussy or an absolutely unfair asshole. I expected this though since most, if not all, fighters uses the same god damn single player setup. Come on guys, can you at least put in some damn effort? For the uninformed, the setup usually starts out with your first fight all the way to your second to last fight (where you fight your rival/destined encounter) being incredibly easy. When you get to your rival, the difficulty usually varies between fighting games. Sometimes the difficulty doesn’t change at all and you fight your rival like normal (e.g. Street Fighter 4, Soul Calibur 4, etc). And sometimes, the difficulty shoots straight up through the ceiling and if you’re using the Xbox 360 or Dreamcast controller, then you’re all kinds of fucked up (e.g. Guilty Gear X, KoF series, etc). Now we’re on the final boss. His difficulty is usually pretty high because he is, after all, the final boss. I understand the boss fights have to be more challenging but seriously, this is a fighting game. Isn’t giving him an arsenal of cheapass moves too much? Couldn’t you just raise the difficulty bar by 2 points or something and just be done with it? Not only does it require little effort but now you have another character that you can actually use in a versus match without feeling guilty. How can you argue against that? But nope, gotta give these bosses instant teleports, life regeneration/resurrection (fuck you, Gill), instant and safe projectiles, unblockable attacks that cover the entire screen, etc. So, yeah, that’s pretty much Street Fighter 4’s single player mode in a nutshell. As for the actual story and cut scenes, it’s at least better than Soul Calibur 4. I know that doesn’t say much since Soul Calibur 4’s single player mode is god awful but oh well. Also, you have to unlock characters in single player mode, which is bullshit but not surprising since we all saw it coming.
Other than character designs, everything else that I’ve said about the game just now is pretty insignificant when compared to the most important aspect of the game, the multiplayer mode. Fighting games generally aren’t very good when you play them alone. But I’ve been buying them for years despite the fact that there was practically zero competition for me to play against, which doesn’t make any sense. Maybe I just loved the potential fun each fighting games held and hoped that one day, I’ll find somebody competent to play against. Fortunately, I’m now living in a era of fast online games and good local competition. So, after playing the game for about a week with friends online and offline, is the game good enough to redeem its failing qualities in character designs and single player play? The answer is a resounding yes. Now, the multiplayer is far from perfect. The lobby and match making system is complete and utter trash. Come on Capcom, how is it possible for a game like Dead or Alive 4, which was released within a month of the 360 launch, has a better lobby and match making system then Street Fighter 4? Hell, Soul Calibur 4 has a better lobby system even though the game is lagged to all hell online. I mean, I know Street Fighter 4 will be getting a “Championship” downloadable pack which will address all these issues but still. For the uninformed, Street Fighter 4 can only put you and one other person in a lobby at a time. So, you can’t invite your other bros and homies to spectate and queue up for the next battle. Despite all this, there’s one thing Capcom got right in multiplayer and that’s the latency. Moves come out as if you’re fighting the person offline. Although there may be some occasional hiccups and slowdowns, it doesn’t happen nearly enough for it to affect the outcome of the game much. And if it does happens, it’s only there for 2 seconds or so.
Okay, so we got the multiplayer component down but what about the actual gameplay/combat mechanics? Obviously, Street Fighter 4 needs more than great netcode in order to considered “good”. For those who are new to the fighting genre, the game is very easy to get into. There are three ways to punch and three ways to kick. You can also throw by pushing both jab and short, focus attack by pushing both straight and forward, and taunt by pushing both fierce and roundhouse. And then there are special moves (which is usually limited to 4-6 per character), super moves, and ultra moves. Now, remember when I said that this game was easy to get into? Well, by easy, I really meant that anybody can just pick up a controller and start duking it out with their friends in less than a minute. I didn’t say that this game was easy to play because deep down, this game is highly complex. Some may even argue that the game is way to complicated for its own good. I can understand why to some extent, too. Like for instance, making ultras take three punches/kicks is a very poor design decision in my opinion. A friend of mine was complaining how the focus attack system is a good mechanic but falls short of greatness due to how awkward it is to focus attack dash cancel out of special moves into another combo. Minor griping aside, this is a fantastic competitive game to play against live opponents. Every battle, you learn something new and gradually become better. And as you get better, the matches become more intense which in turn makes the game better. It’s a little hard to explain what is it that makes this game good to most newcomers but if you have ever tried playing a fighting game seriously against other like-minded folks who wants to win at all costs, then I’m sure it’ll be easy to understand. Having six different types of normal attacks instead of the usual four buttons other fighting games utilize definitely opens up a wider variety of tactics you can use to defeat your opponents. And then there’s focus attacks, which I covered a little bit of. A move that can be utilized both offensively and defensively, it can absorb one hit and one hit only. Depending on the level of focus attack you used and what your opponent used, if you release the focus attack, it can send your opponent into a crumple state. You can then use this opportunity to unleash a punishing combo/ultra as long as you correctly time your moves. Not only that, but you can dash cancel out of a move that would have been otherwise unsafe if the move had been blocked. Not surprisingly, this opens up a giant floodgate on the types of mind games you can play with your opponent.
What attacks are can be canceled into a special move? What’s a good move you can use to jump in and get close to your opponent? What’s a good ground anti-air move that you can use to punish an opponent foolishly jumping in without warning? What EX moves can you use that has armor properties and when is it a good idea to use them? These were all questions that was going through my head as I played online. Now, when I played online, I usually only played with Bob since playing with my other friend, who is a beast when it comes to Capcom fighters, would only be suicide. Still, my win:lose ratio was about 1:9 when I first started but by the end of the week, it started looking more like 2:3. Bob started out by spamming dragon punch whenever possible, whether it was halfway across or on wake up, and by the end of the week, it was probably one of the moves he used the least unless he was sure that he’d be able to hit me with it or he was trying to play mind games. There was one game where we both were at 10% health on the final round. One mistake would cost us the game and for the next ten seconds in the round, we both did nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m sure Bob was waiting for me roll so that he can throw me out of it and I was waiting for Bob to jump in so that I can tornado throw him as soon as he landed. Or if he threw in a fireball, I could just jump in over it and land a kick on him. So, we just stood there, staring at each other. Finally, I got impatient and jumped towards him in order to land the final kick on him. He blocked and I ate his dragon punch shortly after and lost the match. I lost the battle but I was having fun. And really, if you’re having fun, who cares about everything else (excluding character designs god damn it Capcom).
I didn’t expect this “first impression” to be so long but hey, it happens. If you managed to read the entire article, then you already know what I think of the game. If you’ve just skipped the entire article and you’re only reading this section, then let me bottom line it for you. The game probably has some of the worst character designs since Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter: The Movie, and the single player mode is nothing worth writing home about. But if you can get past the lackluster multiplayer lobby and matchmaking system, then you’ll find a game with a lot of depth and replay value. If you don’t like fighters, then this game will not change your mind. If you do like fighters but will only play a fighter “casually” (and I use the term loosely as it’s very possible to play a game seriously and still be casual like me) and will only play by whatever fucked up rules you have, then go back to Super Smash Brothers Brawl and stay there. If you’re like me, then this game is for you and it’ll keep you hooked until the next big fighting game comes out. With all that in mind, I give this game my stamp of approval.