This year of 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of Street Fighter, and no one cares but me. Even Capcom is quite content to all but forget about the original game which planted the seeds for an arcade revolution that would redefine the fighting game genre to this very day.
No, the attention all goes to Street Fighter II, which was originally released to arcades in 1991. Not that Street Fighter II isn’t deserving; if there were a school course about video game history (some colleges might offer that, even), Street Fighter II is one of those titles that simply must be mentioned as a part of the lesson plan. Heck, you might even say that in one sense, there are two eras of video gaming: Before Street Fighter II and after Street Fighter II.
Still, no matter the celebration, poor old original Street Fighter is left out of the party, alone and forgotten by its parent company — the same one that seems to unfailingly remember Street Fighter‘s console sibling of that year, Mega Man, even though Mega Man 2 is the one everyone loves.
I digress, however (and in record time, no less). While Street Fighter could certainly use a makeover such as this (to paraphrase Linus: “I never thought it was such a bad little game. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”), Capcom has decided to ring in three decades of Hadokens with a new version of a game which already has some seven other versions, Street Fighter II. If nothing else, it should be a sure thing, right?
As I said, Street Fighter II is a game whose reputation precedes it, so I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty about it. Rather, I’m going to focus on what this version is, what it brings, and what sets it apart from the other half-dozen or so versions before it.
First and foremost, it’s worth noting that this release is an update of an update, a revision of Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix with a more manageable name and more features added. Every frame of animation and background has been painstakingly recreated by the fine folks at Canadian comic creator and common Capcom collaborator, UDON Entertainment (who, oddly enough, seem to go uncredited in this release, which they weren’t directly involved with), and there’s a new soundtrack to accompany it as you duke it out in wide-screen, as you can see above at left.
On the other hand, a new feature is there for those who prefer the sight of pixels, the sound of chiptunes, and the feeling two walls closing in around you as you can set things to operate with an oldschool vibe like the original arcade games, as seen above at right. Better still, you can toggle the sights and sounds independently of one-another. You can have any combination of peanut butter, chocolate, nuts, and gum that you like — it’s all here, it’s all good, and if anyone has a problem, they can always fight you for the right to choose.
As long as I’ve directed your attention to the screens above, you might have noticed that the leading duo of Ryu and Ken are looking a bit more tan than usual. The “Final Challengers” referred to in the game’s title are the evil alter-egos of our OGs in gis, Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. The former has been a longtime secret character in the franchise, while the latter has only appeared in 2003’s SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos as his sparring partner’s dastardly brainwashed counterpart. Both incarnations pack a bit of extra punch, along with some teleportation-styled moves in their arsenal.
In addition to your regular assortment of Arcade and Versus modes, a new cooperative “Buddy Battle” mode (inspired by the “Dramatic Battle” re-enactment of the Street Fighter II anime movie’s climax from Street Fighter Alpha) is available. You and a partner — either player or computer-controlled — can choose a character before working together to fight a short sequence of foes including Violent Ken, Evil Ryu, M. Bison, and Akuma. There is no friendly fire, so you can spam projectiles to your heart’s content without worrying about decreasing the single life meter the two of you share.
The only (arguable) issues are that while you and your partner have to win twice to advance, your foe only has to win once before it’s game over. What’s more, there isn’t really anything to be had by winning — no ending or anything of the sort, just the satisfaction of knowing that you and your partner can punk anyone out when the odds are in your favor.
Local versus is available for you to fight friends, or if you’re in more of a spectator mood, you can pit two computer opponents against each other for your pleasure. You can take the fight online as well, and while I didn’t notice any technical problems, I became a bloody smear on the pavement pretty darn quick, so I’m not sure how much insight I can offer there.
Before touching on the final new mode and extras, I just want to talk about the controls here. Right out of the box, the Nintendo Switch can support 2-players by way of the two included Joy-Con units. At best, I feel like one can call these functional; I’d never want to play a game like this using an analog stick if given the choice, but they worked surprisingly well when my wife and I tried them. I don’t think you’re going to get any high-level competitive play out of the individual Joy-Cons, of course, but I was still able to pull off my special moves, though the shoulder buttons were a touch iffy to reach.
Using the Joy-Cons together with or without the Joy-Con grip is a bit better, as you’re given access to the four directional buttons and the shoulder buttons are a bit easier to reach, to say nothing of the added triggers as well. Again, this is probably not what you want to use to try winning a tournament, but if you just want to casually enjoy some Street Fighter II with some friends or against the computer, this should do the job well enough.
The best way to play the game that I’ve experienced, however, would have to be the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. This solidly-built peripheral will probably give fans of the series dating back to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System the kind of feel they’re looking for. That said, the Dpad might be a little iffy as well; unlike others, including most of Nintendo’s own, the Switch Pro Controller’s Dpad seems to lack the central pivot point which generally prevents pressing opposing directions (i.e. up and down, or left and right) at the same time. While I could still put up a good fight, I did find that diagonals — specifically jumping forward or back — to be a little hindered, as I’d often wind up jumping straight up instead. Or it could just be me.
In short, most will probably find Pro as the way to go, while the Joy-Cons are good for a quick game in a pinch. Anything more serious, though, and you’re probably going to want to look into something like HORI’s fight stick.
The final mode in Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is unlike anything else in the game. “Way of the Hado” is a first-person experience which puts you in the, uh, “shoes” of Ryu and Ryu alone (sorry, Ken and Akuma fans) as he battles wave after wave of Shadaloo soldiers (and occasionally M. Bison himself) inside one of their compounds. Three different levels of difficulty are available, as well as an Endless mode, where you Hado until you Hadon’t.
As I suspected upon first hearing about the mode, it utilizes the Switch’s Joy-Cons, and more specifically, their motion sensors to perform moves. You’ll jut both Joy-Con-equipped hands out forward with them horizontally to through the eponymous fireball, perform an uppercut motion for the Shoryuken, and sweep them both horizontally to perform the spinning Tatsumaki Senpukyaku kick. Holding both straight up with the shoulder buttons depressed blocks, and holding them while performing the Hadoken motion with your Super Meter filled will unleash the might of the Shinku Hadoken.
To be honest, I didn’t enjoy this mode quite as much as I had hoped, even if it feels like a holdover from a Wii Street Fighter that never happened. While I did just fine in the practice segment of this mode, I found that the actual levels didn’t seem to register my moves nearly as accurately, with most attempts resulting in Hadokens. For full disclosure, I do seem to be suffering from some arthritis in my left shoulder, but the degree of movement required by the game didn’t seem to be enough that either should adversely affect the other.
Some other neat additions to the game include a color editor. Besides the ten options per character you can choose more easily than ever before playing, you can go nuts and design your own color schemes by toying around with three key color areas. Want Zangief to look as though he can smash like the Hulk? Go for it!
There is also a pretty sweet gallery comprised over over 1,400 images taken from the art book SF20: The Art of Street Fighter. For whatever reason, Capcom opted to go with the Japanese release of the book instead of UDON’s English release, so unless you can read Japanese, then pretty pictures are about all you’re going to get from this. Well, that, and music — you can listen to each characters classic or modern stage music while you browse.
In the end, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is a tricky proposition, at least as far as recommendations go. It is without a doubt the most comprehensive, polished, and robust version of the 26 year old game you’re likely going to find for quite some time.
Unfortunately, the snag comes in just how serious you and your friends are about Street Fighter. As of this writing, the price is $49.99, and while that’s steep for a game of this vintage (particularly when the core of it is available on other platforms for $14.99), it becomes compounded by how you’re willing to play. If you don’t find the Joy-Cons sufficient for your needs, then you’ll want to go with the Pro controller, which adds at least $89.99 to your cost of admission — and twice that if your friends want to use one, too.
On the other hand, this is not only the most complete Street Fighter II experience to date, but it’s also the most complete portable Street Fighter II experience to date as well, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. If shooting the breeze and playing a few quick rounds while in a hotel or on a plane or what have you is what you’re looking for, then this may very well be the value proposition you want.
And that’s pretty much the key: As long as you know what you want and what you’re getting, then this package should not fail you.
Oh, and one other thing: If you like what you’re seeing of Violent Ken here, you should make sure to check out UDON Entertainment’s Street Fighter vs. Darkstalkers, where he emerges not from a brainwashing, but a zombie bite! High jinks, as you would expect, ensue.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers was released for the Nintendo Switch on Friday, May 26th, 2017 at a price of $49.99.
A review code was provided by Nintendo of Canada.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.