Street Fighter 4 in early running for game of the year

Let’s start this review off with a brief history lesson: the Street Fighter series began 22 years ago and to be quite honest, it wasn’t that good. Its inevitable sequel, Street Fighter II, was not only a better game, but it was hailed as the game that saved the arcade in the United States.

It spawned multiple updates, each expanding on the tried and true formula that won over legions of fans in 1991. A prequel appeared in the form of the Street Fighter Alpha series, and the series even went 3D with the Street Fighter EX series. What didn’t happen though, was a true sequel; at least until Capcom unveiled Street Fighter III in 1997. The world screamed for a sequel, and after several more spin offs, an official sequel has been released.

Street Fighter IV brings the tried and true Street Fighter formula to life in beautiful HD with a slew of classic characters and a few new ones. In actuality, the game features all twelve members of the original SFII roster, along with other series favorites like Sakura, Rose, and Akuma. Along with veteran fighters, the game features a number of new characters, including an all-new final boss character. The total fighter count is an impressive 25.

I don’t really have anything to say about the PS3 version, since I reviewed the XBOX 360 build of the game, but I can say that even on a standard definition screen, this game is absolutely beautiful. A lot of fanboys raised a huge fuss about Capcom butchering the game they so loved, but their complaints were quite empty.

Each character animation feels fluid and like they actually belong there. The backgrounds are lush and full of life and color. This iteration of Street Fighter easily “out pretty’s” its competition, with its almost comic book level of color.

While many will be wowed by the graphics, good looks will only get you so far, so the big question is this: how does the thing handle? I’m happy to report that it controls as good as it looks. I’m not a big fan of fighting games on the XBOX or Playstation mainly because of the controllers. The things really don’t feel good when playing a fighter, but after a few matches, I had Sagat mauling opponents with uppercuts and knee strikes.

The controller is cool, but in all honesty, the only way to really appreciate a Street Fighter game is using an arcade stick. The current system generation has been marketed to folks with few bills and a lot of disposable income however, since the Arcade sticks created for Street Fighter IV will run upwards of 150 bucks. I’ll stick with the default controller thank you very much.

The lone gameplay issue I have with this game is the potential cheapness that can occur when playing against the computer-controlled opponents. Some characters can simply bypass projectiles or other attacks to inflict massive damage.

Besides that, the game is pretty much what you’d expect from a Street Fighter game. The new characters are a mixed bag, with luchadore El Fuerte being quicker than a hiccup, and Crimson Viper being a balanced fighter.

Street Fighter IV is a strong early contender for game of the year, but with several top tier games coming in the next few months including a possible US release of a new Capcom VS game, Street Fighter IV is going to have a lot of competition for the average gamer’s dollar.