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June 2, 2017 / Jett

Ultra Street Fighter II Review

Street Fighter II is back! Again! For the last time! Yeah, probably not the last time, but whatever.

After a countless number of iterations over the last few decades (!), Capcom rolls out the latest version of its signature fighting game franchise with Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers on the Nintendo Switch. Is this a worthwhile addition to the franchise and to your collection?

At first glance, you may mistake this with Super Street Fighter II: HD Remix. Wouldn’t blame you, as Ultra Street Fighter II uses the same HD Remix graphics as its foundation. Personally, I’ve always loved the look of the former, so my feelings haven’t changed on that matter. However, many others have noted their distaste for the redrawn visuals while taking issue with how they look when paired with the game’s original animations.

If you’re not a fan of the modern look, you can simply toggle it off and switch to the classic visuals for a more authentic experience. Unlike HD Remix, which kept the HD backgrounds intact while swapping in classic sprites, Ultra uses both classic sprites and backgrounds in retro mode. Personally, I would prefer to play with the modern graphics, as they look phenomenal to me, but having the choice to toggle between the two is great.

When the fight begins, the action will feel like classic Street Fighter II. Under the hood though, the game has received its own unique set of balance changes. Can’t speak to how the adjustments to frame data and hitboxes impact things, but the addition of modern throw teching does impact the metagame. This is a welcome addition to the game, as the Super Turbo style throw escape doesn’t prevent the defender from negating throws entirely like this does.

Two “new” fighters enter the fray in Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. Their inclusion is almost as lazy as it gets, as they’re essentially palette swaps of their regular counterparts with minor adjustments to their moves. They don’t take anyway from the package, but they don’t really add anything to it either.

One of my big concerns going into this were how it would control in absence of a fightstick. Using the Pro Controller was the best, as the game benefited greatly from having access to a large d-pad and large buttons. Playing in portable mode felt surprisingly good, albeit with a major caveat. I tried using the buttons under the analog stick for movement, but it felt awful and my hand strayed too far from the left shoulder buttons. Pulling off fireball and uppercut motions with the analog stick was great, but finding the diagonal sweet spot to block low is a nightmare.

To the surprise of no one, using the Joy-Con halves was terrible. No d-pad, combined with a cramped layout, squishy shoulder buttons, as well as a strap getting in the way make it one of the worst ways to play any Street Fighter. The game advertises the ability to play with touch controls, but I never actually figured out how to activate them.

There are a handful of modes to keep you busy. Unlike Street Fighter V, the game does feature a standard arcade mode. Local versus mode is here, as well as a new Buddy Battle, where two players can double-team against a CPU opponent. It’s silly, but one that I could see being enjoyed by parents introducing their kids to the franchise. By far the worst mode is Way of the Hado, which puts players in a first-person Ryu simulator, where players will execute his signature special moves with motion controls. Conceptually, it’s not bad, but the motion controls are laughably unresponsive.

Where the game is going to get you the most value is in its online play. The suite of options is as bare-bones as it gets, but you can easily get into ranked and casual matches. The overall setup and the way the game feels online is akin to the way Street Fighter IV performs. It’s aged, and you will run into your fair share of laggy matches, but against those with good connections, it’s serviceable.

Ultra Street Fighter II is a fun title built on one of the greatest games of all-time, but there are a number of glaring flaws with the package. This is essentially HD Remix, at a much higher price, with updates that are either largely inconsequential to most players or are flat-out awful. I’m gonna play the heck out of this one because I’m a huge fan of the series and love the proposition of being able to play this on the Nintendo Switch. Would gladly recommend this when it goes on sale, but certainly not at its launch price.

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