“Here Comes A Barely New Challenger”
Before Street Fighter II, there was the series’ origins “Street Fighter” which made its first appearance in arcades in 1987. The game was renowned for ‘coining’ an unseen 6-button setup for fighters and specific input commands for pulling off special moves which has undoubtedly served as the base recipe for the way other games in the same genre have played since then. Just 4 years later, it would be its sequel which would garner a great deal of popularity due to being improved in every aspect.
Street Fighter II is no stranger to receiving enhancements in the form of updated version releases spanning multiple hardware generations on various platforms. One of those improved iterations during the initial years of Street Fighter II is ‘Super Street Fighter II: Turbo’, which Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers gameplay is based on, while with a small amount of tweaks, one can be seen as a complete game changer, but more on that later. Becoming familiar with the controls is something that can happen quickly if you’ve never played any game in the series. You have three sets of punches and three sets of kicks; Light, Medium, Heavy for each respectively. Light attacks have a faster outing but do less damage, while Heavy attacks inflict more damage at the cost of being somewhat slower. Medium is, as one would guess, in-between. However, any attacks damage, speed & counter all vary between all 19 available warriors. Blocking attacks require your directional input to be pressed backwards (away from your opponent while standing to block high/jump attacks and crouching to block low/sweep attacks). Reading your opponent is especially critical.
In all of the iterations of Street Fighter II, none of them have seen a feature called “grab breaks” (introduced in later numbered series) until now with Ultra Street Fighter II. Originally, anytime someone connected with you for a throw or a grab, the animations would play out and you would take damage. With grab breaks, any time you and your opponent try to go for a throw at a same time, you cancel out each others’ action. This can be seen as valued addition that keeps the flow of the matches going and the tactics interesting. There’s a lot less frustration for the players who were aggravated by throw abusers. Subtle, but appreciated in ways that veterans will permanently want to keep this feature. The other new additions come in the form of two variations of the characters Ryu & Ken, those being Evil Ryu & Violent Ken, who originally debuted in later titles. While they play very similar to their normal counterparts, they do play different enough, but not in a good way. These two are completely broken and overpowered. While the option to play as either of these two are fine for offline play, it’s a completely unbalanced decision for online play, especially in Ranked mode. These are the types of fighters a faithful part of the Street Fighter community knows should be banned. Casual online matches? Fine. However, in Ranked, prepare to feel unfair outcomes to be a frequent occurrence. Arcade Mode makes its return and it’s just the same as you’d expect; set of 10 matches played on any of the seven difficulties you so choose. It’s a good way to kill time and become better if you’re new to the series, but returning players won’t find anything special here, unless you feel like watching the endings of all the different fighters again. There is the plus of obtaining titles to give yourself when playing online.
Speaking of online, even under 4 months of its release, it’s still bare bones. There’s only just you and one other person in any lobby at any given time. No spectating other matches while being in lobby larger than 2. The classic feeling of quarter matches are just not present. Let’s hope Capcom thinks about an update given that it’s been toted as a “smash hit”. Ranked mode does have one good feature. After the outcome of the first match, both players still have the choice to keep playing if both agree to proceed. A total of 3 matches can be played before disconnecting. It’s a nice way of trying for a comeback.
Buddy Mode is an offline-only, 2-on-1 style set of matches that you can play either with a CPU or a friend. You always fight the same selected characters (4) on the same stage, and you’re done. It’s fun for a moment, but passes by quickly. You don’t get greeted with any special ending. While it’s a nice addition to toss into the mix, I feel as it would be better if it acted like a survival mode and keep throwing enemies at you until you lose. The aspect of obtaining a high score is just absent here. A missed opportunity. Another small addition, is Color Editor. In this mode, you able to change the colors of certain clothing and skin on all of your favorite fighters. You have the full spectrum of a color grid and you are also able to change the brightness. The speed at which the cursor moves in this mode is certainly not for the impatient, but if it’s not a mode you’ll be coming back to frequently, it’s worth the time to get your character just right if customization and standing out is your thing.
The nicest addition that would make any collector or fan is the Gallery Mode which features a high-definition digital version of the out-of-print art book done by UDON Entertainment, “SF20: The Art of Street Fighter” containing over 1400 pieces of art with the option to zoom in while it retains its crispness. You can even listen to the game’s soundtrack if you desire. There are 2 pages of art displayed at a time. I just wish Capcom had put a little more effort into displaying multiple pages in sections so you can choose which page you would like to go to; sort of like thumbnails of pages within a page. Unfortunately, it’s flip-by-flip without being able to skip pages. A workaround would have been to change the format by showing thumbnails of the actual pages into one actual page in order to get a somewhat overall view of the artwork while giving you the option to choose that page’s thumbnail instead of unfortunately going through every individual page just to see your particular favorites. Ultimately not a huge gripe since you may not browse this feature more than a handful of times – It’s still a bonus to have.
This isn’t the first time UDON made it into a Street Fighter game. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is still all about style and it gives the players the option to play with “Classic” graphics or the “New Generation” graphics that was created by UDON for the 2008 downloadable title “Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix”. Instead of the resolution 720p as it was back then, it has now been updated to be 1080p when the Switch is docked. Players also have the choice to choose the “Classic” sound effects & music or the “New Generation” (which uses sound effect and voices from Street Fighter IV) as well. Unfortunately, while you can mix & match graphics & sound, you can’t choose which sound you want. Sound effects are tied with the music. It would have been nice to try different varieties, such as old voices with new music. The newly created soundtrack is a hit or miss. It can grow on you, but it’s nothing special when all the different remixes from past games sound stronger than it does here. Luckily, the classic soundtrack remains strong and good as it ever was.
The one other mode that’s a complete change of play style is the new first-person Way of the Hado which uses the Street Fighter IV’s artstyle and rips some of the 3D models straight from the game. In this mode, while playing as Ryu, only motion controls are used with a Joy-Con in each hand. While you do have the choice to practice each set of Ryu’s special moves, you remain stationary and can only perform actions while enemies walk toward you. The Switch is capable of performing precise 1:1 movement when it comes to motion controls, but in Way of the Hado, they are often imprecise, gesture based and feel very tacked on like something you’d expect to see in the early Wii era. A time killer at best, but with the core fighting game already there, you won’t want to bother.
The game makes use of Switch’s HD rumble, but it’s not implemented very cleverly. You’ll have to go out of your way to notice it and even when you do, it often feels like it doesn’t match your actions. A lot of this might be attributed to the frame-based 2D action making not a ton of room for variety, but I feel Capcom could’ve put more effort into making it feel great as other 2D games have done.