[E3 2008] Street Fighter IV

The king of 2D fighters returns, and boy are we ready for it.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: July 26, 2008
There's really nothing that needs to be said about the Street Fighter franchise beyond the fact that we've been waiting for a proper sequel to Street Fighter II for what seems like decades. We're not trying to short-change 3rd Strike by any means, but Street Fighter II was, for us and many our age, the game that kept us going back to arcades to spend every last little quarter we had. We've been given the chance to see Street Fighter IV for a while now (the last time was a semi-private peek at the game during the Game Developers Conference), but what truly amazes us is that every time we see it, it keeps getting better.

The Street Fighter II comparisons aren't just a byproduct of nostalgia tugging at our memories; Street Fighter IV, in almost every way, plays like an updated version of that classic. The speed, the moves, and the overall feel of the game is just like its 2D predecessor, but the update to 3D models and backgrounds has only given the game more of a modern look. If its roots are planted firmly in the rock-solid gameplay of years past, the actual underlying tech in place is on the bleeding edge of what not just fighters, but all 3D games are capable of, and though the home console release of the game isn't yet available (every time we've played it, it's been in a Japanese sit-down arcade cabinet with a PC tucked inside), we're absolutely positive that when it finally does arrive, it'll be worth the wait.

The tweaks to the classic formula are subtle, but significant. By pressing the Medium Punch and Kick buttons as an attack comes in, a Focus Attack is unleashed. You'll take damage (which comes back if pulled off properly), but immediately return with a powerful strike, but in an interesting little bit of strategy, the longer the button is held, the more powerful the counter-attack, first changing to a stun/knockdown hit, then an unblockable attack if allowed enough time to build. The Focus Attack can be cancelled into a dash, or can be used to cancel special attacks (though it'll eat up a considerable amount of the Super Meter). Used strategically, the Focus Attacks may well be even more powerful than parries, which have been taken out.

Both Supers and Ultras are possible, but they each have their own meters, one that fills with attacks (Supers) and the other as damage is taken (Ultras). Super/Ultra Combos are character-specific, and the Ultra version is unleashed by using three buttons rather than the one. In the only real show of complete 3D, Ultra Combos will actually let the camera break out of the side-view to zoom up close and around characters for dramatic effect. To say that the characters look impressive up close would be seriously selling the work Capcom's art team has done short. Street Fighter IV looks absolutely incredible (something you can see for yourself in screens and the few movies we have).

Actually playing the game is an absolute blast. We spent some time (almost exclusively, in fact) with the new revealed characters, which include luchador El Fuerte, meaty brawler Abel and Angelina Jolie look-alike Crimson Viper. All three play completely different, with El Fuerte issuing a ton of lightning-quick (and possibly even overpowered) moves that pull heavily from lucha libre standards, meaning plenty of sick throws where he twists around, under and on top of the other character before tossing them. Abel, at least as we played him, was a fairly straightforward but incredibly strong punch-thrower with plenty of charged up moves and a Super Combo that would completely decimate his opponents with a flurry of hits. C. Viper was probably the most interesting of the lot -- if only because her move sets made her feel very much like an SNK fighter, with plenty of half-circles and air attacks.

It's been years since any of us really sat down (or, uh, stood up) to play an arcade Street Fighter game, and as such we were all a little rusty, but if there's one thing we can be sure of, it's that Street Fighter IV will all but instantly pull us out of our self-inflicted retirement to spend hours and hours and hours perfecting our technique -- especially now that there are no quarters but plenty of online play to be had. We soooo can't wait.