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June 14, 2014 / Jett

Ultra Street Fighter IV Review

Almost six years ago, Capcom ushered in the silver age of fighting games with Street Fighter IV. Along the way, Capcom has kept the game fresh with a steady flow of free balance patches and paid updates. Currently sold as a $15 update the existing game and later as a standalone disc, Ultra Street Fighter IV is latest – and quite possibly last – of the major updates planned for this modern classic. Adding in 5 new characters, new modes, new gameplay systems and another round of character balancing, Capcom is hoping to end the IV era with the definitive version of the game.

Not wanting to mess with a good thing, Ultra Street Fighter IV is very iterative in nature. If you have played any version of Street Fighter IV before, you already know what to expect here in terms of gameplay. For hardcore fans of the series, the little things Ultra brings to the table will mean the world to them. For casual players, none of the updates here will mean very little outside of the additional characters. If you haven’t played Street Fighter IV yet, then certainly start here. However, if you’ve already had your fill, odds are this is not the version of the game that will draw you back into the fray.

Speaking of those new characters, there are five additions in total, which bring the roster size up to 44. For a game that started with only 17, the roster has expanded significantly. Four of these characters were last seen in Street Fighter X Tekken: Elena, Hugo, Rolento and Poison. Rolento was my favourite character in that game, so having him here is a real treat. The others were also popular characters trapped in a game that fell by the wayside, so they too are welcome additions.

If you’re looking for some fresh blood, the only “new” character here is Decapre. As one of M. Bison’s “dolls”, she’s basically a charge-based version of Cammy with some different moves. Ever since Super Street Fighter IV, Capcom has kind of cheapened out with their character inclusions, and Ultra only solidifies that notion. Four of these characters are mostly just ports from another game, while Decapre is largely just a double dip on Cammy. To Decapre’s credit, she does end up playing quite differently from her precursor, but the stench of rehash is hard to shake from a game that already has Evil Ryu and Oni Akuma. At least one truly new character to the IV fold would have been nice.

Through a new round of balance changes and the introduction of three new system-level mechanics, everyone else from the last game should feel at least a little bit different as well. It’s too early to say if they got the balance right, but so far there isn’t anything that is clearly out of whack, unlike Arcade Edition where Yun and Yang were clearly overpowered. The system level changes are a bit more dramatic in nature. By holding light punch, medium punch and medium kick, you’ll trigger the new Red Focus attack. This maneuver absorbs multiple hits and causes a crumple state in level 1, but it costs two bars to execute and suffers from the same weaknesses as regular focus attacks. For high-level players, delayed wake-up is now an option you’ll have at your disposal. Lying on the ground a bit longer after a hard knockdown sort of helps minimize the probability of getting hit with an unblockable attack as you rise, though your opponent may still reap the benefits if they correctly anticipate your wake-up timing. Early on in the game’s life, these techniques aren’t being used all that much, though they could prove beneficial in time.

The most immediately game-changing update is the Double Ultra option. Instead of being forced to choose between one of two Ultras, players can now have both in their arsenal in exchange for a 40% decrease in Ultra damage output. The damage reduction is significant, but having access to both Ultras can make you very scary. For instance, when Zangief plays with Double Ultra, he now has devastating ground and aerial maneuvers available to him, making him very scary to get anywhere near. I think the pros and cons of going either way are nicely balanced and give players more choice in the way they approach each battle.

In terms of modes, there are a few new additions added to the mix of varying usefulness. Online training mode allows for you and another warrior to practice together without having to be in the same room. The King of Fighters-style Team Battle mode is great in concept, but no one is playing it online, which makes it basically unplayable. Edition Select allows local battlers to use any version of any character in a fight, which means that vanilla Sagat and Arcade Edition Yun can finally battle it out for who is the most overpowered character in the series. This mode isn’t meant for serious competitive play, though it would have been nice to have this available in non-ranked online matches. The best addition by far though is the ability to upload matches directly to YouTube. The process for uploading matches is a bit weird, but it’s easy enough to follow and a feature that’s been long overdue.

If you’ve already jumped off the Street Fighter IV bandwagon, Ultra Street Fighter IV isn’t going to be the update to reel you back in. For those world warriors that are still heavily invested in this battleground, this is a worthy update to a well-loved series. More fighters will come, but with Ultra out now, it may continue to hold onto the crown until the inevitable release of a true sequel.

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