Joystiq Review: Street Fighter IV

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Joystiq Review: Street Fighter IV

Nearly two decades have passed since Street Fighter II flooded arcades. Having grown up with the franchise, like other children of the '90s, my heart holds a special place for Capcom's premier fighting franchise.

When Street Fighter IV was first announced, an immediate excitement washed over me, which then quickly turned into panic. Melding the perfected 2D gameplay with ... 3D!? Blasphemy! I've never been the petitioning sort, but the laundry list of changes coming to the franchise nearly had me storming the Capcom (and co-developer DIMPS) offices.

Fortunately, my laziness -- and inability to secure fake passports -- paid off and an invasion was not required. After sinking time into both console versions of Street Fighter IV, it is clear and easy to admit: Capcom has delivered.
Street Fighter IV is the closest thing gamers will find to a time machine. Loyal fans of the franchise will immediately be able to jump into the game and feel at home. The nostalgia is so thick, you may find yourself reaching for a quarter after a failed round.

The success of this 2D/3D reboot can be tied directly to the return of multiple original characters in the series. All 12 fan favorites from Street Fighter II are included, with 25 playable warriors in all. Four new characters are available (Crimson Viper, El Fuerte, Rufus and Abel), and while they all fit in nicely in a gameplay sense, the story sometimes forces them on you.

In Arcade Mode, each character is paired with a rival; someone they must defeat before fighting end-boss Seth, a fine idea even though some of the rivalries don't make sense in the context of the Street Fighter backstory (shouldn't Chun-Li's rival be the dude who killed her dad?). Arcade Mode isn't the biggest draw to the series but it's worth noting. As for the story, it's told through hand-drawn cut scenes, which are bland at best compared to the rest of the game's style.

"The nostalgia is so thick, you may find yourself reaching for a quarter after a failed round."

And there's a lot of style to Street Fighter IV. Bringing the art to life in a 3D world immediately shines through with incredible character animations, beautiful environments and fine details (like the ink trails during Focus Attacks, as seen in the announcement trailer). Instead of sacrificing the 2D gameplay to create a fully 3D fighter, Capcom has modeled Street Fighter IV around Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It's very old school, meaning players will still notice the "frames" in the animation, making this new 3D fighter feel like it's battling a 2D war.

The difference between Street Fighter IV and other fighters is a sense of weight. In some cases with 3D fighters, players will perform moves and give up control to the computer as an animation finishes, whereas Street Fighter IV never feels like it's taking control from you. As a game that plays like a 2D title, there's a fluidity that other games lack.

The game offers a Challenge Mode -- made up of Trial, Time Trial and Survival modes -- to familiarize players with basic attacks and complex combos. Unfortunately, the modes (Trial, specifically) don't actually teach gamers how to play the game in any real-life scenario, nor does it offer any kind of guidance to help new players build effective strategies (Such as, stop jumping toward me!). It's a good study aid but not much of a tutor, which is a disappointment.

The biggest draw for the fighting game genre is real life competition. Street Fighter IV includes the online basics: Ranked and unranked matches. We haven't been able to test the online functions to their full capacity yet, considering the game was just released, but what we have seen are some very hit-and-miss connections. Expect your experience to vary as with any online game, based on your connection speed and session time. The differences between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game is negligible, other than the Xbox 360's stiff d-pad, but fighting fans should probably look into adding an arcade stick to their collection, anyway.

With the release of Street Fighter IV, Capcom has managed to revitalize adoration for a franchise that raised a generation of gamers. Street Fighter IV isn't perfect, but it's our favorite fighting game this generation.
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