The most detailed Street Fighter IV review in the world – the rest of it, verdict included

By Patrick Garratt, Friday, 3 April 2009 09:38 GMT

sfivdahlsima

The last 11,059 words of Dan Boutros’s Street Fighter IV review lie can be found after the break, including his score.

Sorry. We planned doing this in three parts two weeks ago, but only did one. We failed because of GDC. We watched the finger. Not the moon.

Dan was the first ever US SFIV champion. He is also a general life-hero.

Hit the link to see why. There’s a score at the bottom.

Part one of this review is here.

Character guides

Picking a character you used to use in earlier Street Fighters might not work out well for you. For example, Guile’s move-set properties are said to work best for conservative play, which may bore former Guile users. The priorities on Gen’s pokes are toned down and Dhalsim is much more punishable when his varied yoga spears are blocked. How you feel will all depend on the styles and strategies you favoured. I’ve found I have to change how I used to play Dhalsim, but I love how he plays now, so it works for me, but I know a lot of Guile and Vega players I’ve met are disappointed.

To get the most fun from SFIV, I suggest you first go through trial mode with every character. See what basics they have to offer, then road-test your favourites in Normal Timed Mode before going into the online wilderness of cheesy play and homophobic/racist/anti-semetic abuse.

It’s been said – can’t remember where – that all characters in SFIV were being designed with the focus of allowing you to encompass a large mix of strategies so things would feel unique from character to character and battle to battle. To some extent, I feel Capcom has succeeded, as playing different characters really does make the game feel slightly different from character to character. Even Ryu and Ken feel subtly different to play, despite them both being equally boring to face online.

However, the key differences between each character are rooted in how well they can be used to exploit the mistakes of other players. As it stands, it’s much easier to exploit the mistakes of others as instant command characters such as Ryu, Ken, Akuma and Sagat, as they can generate chain combos from more of their standard attacks than most and don’t have to ‘charge’ their inputs like Blanka, Honda, Guile, etc. They can typically string more specials and EXes into a Super or Ultra.

It’s also easier for instant command players to get the most potential follow-up damage after a successful Focus attack, as their moves aren’t reliant on charging back, so dashing in won’t lose them the ability to throw a special move into a combo. You can throw in dash commands in between charge input Supers and Ultra commands, though I’m yet to successfully achieve this with special moves.

Additionally, if motion input characters are crossed-up, they can respond with a counter immediately to break a badly-timed combo, whereas charge input characters lose their charge after they’re crossed up and can only rely on standard attacks or their vertical charge input moves.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that charge input characters are worthless – far from it. It simply means mastery of those characters will be tougher than mastery of a motion input character and you’ll have to learn more of their standard move-set properties to start getting wins. At the end of the day, it’s all about how you relate to them and their move-sets.

Below are breakdowns of each character and their repertoires. Hopefully, these will give you enough of a primer to get winning online sooner rather than later. Hopefully, you won’t pick Ryu or Ken.

CHARACTERS:

Ryu

Has his classic fireball, a multi-hit flaming fireball, the dragon punch and the hurricane kick which can also be executed mid-air. His Super and Ultra are Super-powered fireballs. His focus attack is strong and has decent enough range for combo exploitation. He is swift and powerful, with strong and useful sweeps, as well as plenty other standard high priority moves, like his standing roundhouse kick and crouching fierce uppercut.

His EX fireballs cuts through other standard fireballs and his EX hurricane kick hovers in place and works as a great anti-air and punishing combo-finisher. EX dragon has higher priority than standard, so use it when you really need it.

Ryu is great beginner character. His moves typically knock you down on first hit unless they connect in close. Expect to play against him a lot in online matches.

Here’s a Ryu vs Ryu vid, starring the famous Daigo of that ridiculous SF3 parry vid fame: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdc4x3GJubE

Ken

Has the same moves as Ryu save for the multi-hit fireball. Ken’s repertoire has more emphasis on moves that hit multiple times. His Super is a multi-hit Super-flaming dragon punch and his Ultra is a close-up combo that leads into a Super flaming dragon. His moves typically juggle you a bit before a knock-down and he’s slightly weaker than Ryu but only in the sense that his special moves deliver multi-hits, so missing a few hits effectively counts for less damage off the move.

He’s a lot more vulnerable after a hurricane kick – particularly to the whims of Zangief and Abel, but if you get used to jumping away immediately, you can almost always escape their energy-sapping special throws. Against non-grabbers, following up with an anticipatory dragon punch tends to work well against non-experienced players, though you’ll meet less of those as your online Battle Points increase.

As for ‘safe’ dragon-punching, the short dragon is virtually worthless now – get used to the medium dragon – and overall, he definitely feels toned down in comparison to his rival Ryu. Though he still has his cheesy jump-kick sweep combo if you’re playing someone crap. His EX hurricane is great for combos and his EX dragon punch is a great high priority wake-up attack,

Another great beginner character, though his combo potential is easier to tap than Ryu’s for beginner players. Again, another one to watch for as a regular online.

Here’s a compilation of combos to inspire would be Ryu and Ken players:

Sagat

Has his low and high horizontally traveling fireballs, a multi-hit tiger uppercut that has great range and priority, a Tiger knee that leaps half the screen and has high priority over many moves, and finally a Super attack that blends his tiger knee into an uppercut, with an Ultra that’s effectively the same thing with more priority, hits and damage behind it.

Sagat is presently a controversial character as he is currently regarded the most over-powered in the game. This is owed to his size giving him incredible range on top of his power, allowing him to effectively and easily punish almost every mistake you make in the game. His focus attack is powerful and a great anti-air tool as well.

He has a small but strong collection of high priority moves – particularly his standing roundhouse kick which juggles – and his specials, Supers and Ultras can be strung together in combos, effortlessly. When given EX power, his special moves are near unstoppable. His range allows him to punish pretty much every blocked ‘traveling’ special move in the game and he can combo from almost every standard move he has. If you only play to win, Sagat is the way to go, but also, shame on you. To say he is a beast is an understatement. Expect him to be tuned down in forthcoming updates if Capcom is paying attention and indeed intent on keeping the game relevant.

Here’s a Sagat combo video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elH9An4vQew

And here’s a nasty Sagat crushing the famous Daigo as Ryu:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sh-1opTn00

Zangief

He has his Spinning Lariat that works as a great anti-everything, he can cover horizontal space quickly and aggressively with his Banish Flat, and of course, he still has his Spinning Pile Driver – do it with jab for greater throw range – and distance-closing Flying Powerbomb grab. His Super and Ultra are special grabs that are as painful as they are amazing to watch. His EX moves have probably the highest priority of all moves I’ve seen in the game. I say probably because I’m guessing after being grabbed out of almost everything, including Ultras at points you definitely wouldn’t expect. Based on that, it’s a guess I’m confident with. Additionally, his EX Banishing Flat kills dragon punches dead in their tracks. If you master use of this one move, the odds of your survival will increase dramatically.

Zangief is absolutely ridiculous but not unbeatable. As well as high-priorty special moves, he has a range of standard attacks like his low sweep, his jumping chest splash and easily chainable low jabs that are useful tools. His Spinning Pile Driver can be used to punish any and every character whenever close. Especially following blocked close-hitting special moves, inbetween certain hits in Super or Ultra moves and even after fly kicks. It’s obscene. Imagine if you could input a command and take off a 5th of someone’s energy at almost anytime next to someone, even when they’re launching a special move, and you get how potentially frustrating fighting Zangief players can be to play against.

Here is a video of Zangief behaving antisocially:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1mUTOzqOVw

Dan

Has a fireball, dragon punch and a three-hit traveling hop-kick combo, which can be done from the air as well as on the ground.

His character is still considered the unloved cousin of Ryu / Ken, but in SF4 he plays pretty well. This thanks mostly to his strong set of standard attacks and strong EX versions of his special moves. For comedy and perhaps even psychological play purposes, his Super Taunt can be cancelled in an Ultra. If you want more challenge in online matches, get the hang of Dan.

He also has the best idle animation and run in the game. Meanwhile, here’s a solid video of how a good player can use Dan to his advantage…

Sakura

Her specials include a fireball that can be charged to three levels of power and distance, a multi-hit dragon punch that travels across the floor for a bit before shooting upward, a hurricane kick that travels in a curve and can be done in mid-air, and finally, a swift projectile-avoiding high hop that ends in an upward-knocking 3-time juggle-able hammerfist attack.

Her Super and Ultra are pretty much the same, save for the to-be-expected addition of power, priority and hits to the Ultra version. As it stands, her combo potential is among the best the game has to offer. Vastly improved from her Alpha 2 days and still retaining her accessible nature, she’s fun to use, swift and versatile. Definitely a character for those who are into creative combo stringing.

Her EX dragon punch, fireball and kicks go through projectiles if timed correctly and she can juggle off her EX hurricane kick with her vertical hop or Ultra. She also has a useful overhead medium kick to punish those who crouch a lot – charge-input characters for example.

Her combo potential is awesome and evidenced in this video:

Honda

Powerful, with good range on his standard attacks, Honda is pretty solid at covering distances quickly with his moves. He still has his horizontally traveling Sumo Hedabutt, the famous Hundred-hand Slap that works great as a counter when cornered, his vertically rising, then dropping Sumo Smash and his Ochio Throw which is great for punishing blockers expecting more 100 hand slaps.

Unlike Blanka, he can’t use his EX torpedo to go through boring fireball spammers, and he’s weak on anti-airs unless he uses EX versions of his Sumo Headbutt or Sumo Smash to counter. His EX Ochio throw has ridiculous range and priority as do most EX command grabs in the game, and he can do it on ‘wake up’ which means if someone is next to your body as you lie flat on your back, you’ll have relative priority over their move if you perform it as you get back up. His EX Sumo Smash works well against fireball spammers too, provided you time it right, otherwise you’ll have to rely on his jumping fierce punch to try and hit them at the edge of its range.

His Super is a twice-repeated Sumo Torpedo which still works as a great anti-air and has minor juggle potential, while his Ultra is a Sumo Torpedo that pins you to a wall before Honda hundred hand slaps the protein shakes out of you.

If you want to see what a good Honda player looks like, direct you eyes here:

Dhalsim

Strong with the best ranged attacks in the game, but also incredibly vulnerable to attack due to lack of speed when opponents are in close. Not for beginners. He has his Yoga Fire projectile which fades out after a screen’s-worth of travel, his horizontal and vertical Yoga Flames and his Yoga Spears of varying angles, which are now very high risk, easily punishable attacks. The Yoga Teleport returns, complete with the essential ability to perform it in mid-air and he has a new move which has him stand on one leg to avoid low and mid-range projectiles which he cancel out into other attacks.

Dhalsim’s Super is a multi-hit, bigger Yoga Flame that works great as a cancel from a Yoga Fire or horizontal Yoga Flame, and his Yoga Destruction Ultra works as a great counter for those landing from the air. The Yoga Destruction is a multi-hit, slowly traveling ball of fiery death with built-in retard-safe combo potential, and a strong and welcome new addition to Dhalsim’s arsenal.

Dhalsim’s ability to damage at long range has been improved, but in turn he lacks any consistently reliable close-up high priority attacks, save for his standing back + medium kick which has the added bonus of pushing close-up attackers backward slightly upon connecting. Landing a Yoga Spear often gets you rewarded with… a throw. From the opponent. So use it sparringly and at very carefully considered ranges / distances. I find it best against airborne attacks if we’re both in the air or to mix between air fierce punches and confuse the opponent.

Mastering Dhalsim will require you getting your arse handed to you, on a plate, regularly, until you can muscle-memory which of his attacks you use at what specific ranges, and how to use the air teleport to come in close with combos just a few pixels high in air. Dhalsim games can fall apart pretty easily against players who can combo easily from close-up jabs.

Here’s a Dhalsim player taking on Sagat in a Japanese tournament:

Vega (Claw)

Despite a lot of players relegating him to low tier, Vega feels like an untapped mine of cheese right now, at least to my fresh eyes. He’s fast, has great range and a good selection of high priority, damaging standard attacks. Some of these are very well-kitted for those who favour a poking strategy, such as his crouching medium punch or standing medium kick. His special moves return though with slightly different attributes than before. This could throw past players off, and it means putting in the time to re-learn him. Early playing impressions suggest his character is built around a strongly focused bait and counter-based tactical game. If you like combo-heavy characters who are good at turning on the pressure, Vega is not for you.

His Bracelona Dive wall-leap attack / throw mix-up, works well against fireball spammers as a cross-up, but is pretty slow and easy to hit if you see it coming. Use it with care. He has his Crystal Flash multi-hit floor roll which two-in-ones well enough and his Scarlet Terror claw dive which if executed with medium or jab, is great for traveling behind long distance fireball spammers quickly, and even more useful in EX mode, as it goes through projectiles and straight into their bodies. He still his life-saving backflips, and air throw. He still has his forward rising Flip Kick which juggles opponents, but this needs to be timed carefully to be used as anti-air. I’ve found it best when the air attack is close.

Vega can also remove his claw, launching it up in the air flamboyantly, which seems a little daft as it also reduces his defense. On the plus side, re-picking it up resets the amount of hits it’ll take for the opponent to knock your claw off. If you do this again he’ll remove his mask and this grants Vega additional attack power, though each time the move is input you lose two EX bars, so it’s probably a waste of time unless you’re shit-hot with him.

Another notable is his juggle-granting down/toward + Roundhouse Kick hop-kick with varied follow-up possibilities that works great for closing distance. Get familiar with it.

His EX moves are pretty useful – the EX Crystal Flash goes through fireballs and can do decent damage within the right range. As mentioned before, his EX Scarlet Terror goes through fireballs – including Sagats high tigers – and should be key in your strategy against fireball spammers. If you are a fireball spammer, don’t throw one against a seasoned Vega with some charges in his Super bar. His EX Barcelona Dive is Super-fast and can be strung into combo by aiming the wall-jump portion – which hits in EX mode – through the opponent by pointing the upward diagonal direction toward them. As they dangle helplessly in mid-air, you can then stab them or drop them. Consider Vega’s EX moves to be a more central part of his match success than most.

Hi Super is a powered-up version of the Barcelona Dive where upon grabing you, he slams you multiple times on your head. His Ultra is much more useful and works very well as a counter when someone is launching a projectile, but timing needs to be tight. Upon execution, he’ll leap onto the nearest wall, then dive down Super fast and hack the opponent to pieces all the way to the top of the screen. A fun one to watch.

If you want to play Vega, here’s a great primer video that covers most of the above and more:

Cammy

She’s a quick-moving, agile, aggressive character who would suit counter-tactic and combo-pressure favouring players. Central to her moveset are the low horizontally traveling Cannon Drill, her dragon punch-like Cannon Spike and a fireball-passing Spinning Backfist attacks.

The Spinning Backfist is great for passing through close range fireballs and tricking wake-up defenders, but it’s risky against the experienced due to the pre-strike animation frames being punishable, particularly via command grabs. Her Cannon Spike and Cannon Drill now have more juggle potential, particularly in corners. She can juggle off her Cannon Drill, or Backfist into a Cannon Spike. She can even do two Cannon Spikes in a row if you time it correctly in a corner. If someone blocks her Cannon Drill, they also don’t get a guaranteed throw anymore, unlike in prior games.

In the air, she has a highly useful Cannon Dive downward dive kick to mix up your air attack timing against those with good anti-air moves. Her Hooligan Combination is still great for going over fireballs and can be completed as a standing grab, a slide or an air grab. You can also cancel from a special into a Super, but it’s tough to connect enough of it to make it worthwhile. Her EX Cannon Drill also travels under projectiles and covers a full screen’s range easily, while her EX Cannon Dive can be timed into some complex multi-hit combos that demand far too much fast input timing for my lazy arse to bother with.

Cammy is a character I am yet to fully explore, but thus far she has appeared impressive and has proved to work especially well against Blanka and Honda players, easily punishing blocked cannonballs / torpedos with her cannon drill.

Here’s a great Cammy vs Sagat battle that’ll show show you some her best tricks.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knxr1UOODSU

Chun Li

Fast, versatile and somewhat strong, all she really lacks is range and dedicated anti-air attacks. She also takes a lot of damage from hits, just like the other girls in the game.

Regardless, she’s pretty solid and appears to be based heavily off her Street Fighter 3 guise. She has her Spinning Bird Kick, her Rapid Fire Kicks, her Fireball and her fireball-hopping, arced Swallow Kick leg drop which doubles as an overhead attack when close.

If timed correctly, her Super and Ultra can go through fireballs and crush fireball spammers from about 3/4 screen’s distance – it’s the horizontally traveling leg combo from Super Street Fighter Turbo in case you were wondering. Her EX spinning bird kick spins manically in place and works as a solid anti-air, while her EX fireball travels through other fireballs and her EX rapid fire legs juggles opponents while ruining their lives by way of swift energy bar drainage.

Her standard attacks like her standing fierce punch are great for poking enemies, as is her roundhouse sweep if timed correctly. She also has an instant cross-up attack with ‘down/forward + roundhouse kick’ and a button-based dial-a-combo which launches the opponent sky bound, opening up potential for Super or Ultra juggles.

Her amount of useful standard attacks is staggering. Highlights includes a quick cross-up performed with down/forward and roundhouse kick, her down + medium kick headstomp in the air and her jumping fierce punch which hits twice if you land it deep and tap the button twice, quickly.

Here’s Chun Li vs Sagat, showing her potential for closing distances and swift cross-up death.

El Fuerte

El Fuerte is possibly the least accessible character, simply as his move-set is so unconventional. The fastest character in the game, he is also said to be the weakest. He can run and leap incredibly fast and is tough to read if played well. If you played the Alpha series, he’s a bit like Guy, but quicker and more grab-based.

He has great potential for mind games, thanks to most of his major moves existing as an after-action to the Habernero Dash sprint move.

The Habernero Dash can be followed one of six moves, each represented by one of the six attack buttons. They include the Gordita Sobat close mid-range kick, the low-hitting Calamari Slide, Tostado Press body splash and the leaping Fajita Buster grab. He can also stop his run and lead into a standard attack, or turn his run into a bait and do a quick-step two spaces back . When running backwards, he can leap high to avoid low attacks, do a reverse backflip and take you unawares, or slide you. He can leap off the walls too.

If you thought he needed more moves than that, you’re in luck. His Quesadilla Bomb is a running body check, useful for surprising opponents with a sudden strike quickly, across a short range. And lastly, his jumping Guacamole Leg Throw brings opponents down hard for attempting to jump in.

As for EX moves, his EX Habernero Dash absorbs two hits instead of the usual one, which gives him a tactical advantage over projectile-throwers, including EX projectiles. Even Akuma’s cheesy EX air fireballs are nothing to El Fuerte’s EX leaping leg grab, provided your EX animation doesn’t end by unluckily dropping on top of one.

His Super move is mental combo of kick-flips that’s great to cancel into from a slide or sobat, and his Ultra is a one-man-away head grab where he leaps in the air and squeezes your skull between his ankles, before launching you up into the air to receive a final, crushing, spin-slam.

Additionally, he does have an infinite loop / combo which was discovered several months ago. To perform it, do a sprint, stop it with jab, do a standing fierce punch, two-in-one it with the sprint, rinse, repeat… I can only speculate that Capcom will fix this issue in whatever downloadable update they have planned for the game though the damage scaling stops it from removing the entire energy bar and it is tough to time.

Here’s a great set of El Fuerte battles that show you the speed of El Fuerte. In the second match, you’ll see a few glimpses of his cheesy infinite loop.

Gen

An absolute monster in the right hands, Gen offers an advantage in that hardly anyone uses him and therefore knows how to fight against him, though his attacks aren’t as damaging as you’d expect. What he lacks in power he makes up for in great versatility. His two stances – Crane and Mantis – make him two unique fighters in one, with one stance specialising in close-up counter attacks and another on more long distance bait and punish techniques.

For his Mantis stance (press three punches), he has a Hyakurenko rapid punch attack, which works well to punish those who mess up combos from a jump and is great to end a combo. The Gekiro is a floaty upward kick that can be followed up with several built-in juggle kicks that are very tough to time – the trick is to wait for the opponent to fall inbetween your legs for each hit and to tap each hit carefully at that point.

In Crane stance, he has the Jyasen rolling attack that goes under projectiles and looks a lot like Vega’s crystal flash. He also has a highly versatile Oga wall jump, far Superior to Vega’s in that you have more control over where Gen jumps to and where and how he lands. Gen can follow his wall jump with a higher jump, then a downward kick, a few directional dive kicks or a passive landing. The downward kick is especially dangerous, as it can be followed up by the Crane Super or Ultra.

His Super move in Mantis stance is a horizontal dash that moves immensely fast, goes under mid and high projectiles and delivers a multi-hit combo on connection. It is punishable on block so be careful with it. The ltra version travels a full screen distance and adds more power and speed to the attack.

His Crane Super is an anti-air grab with great range and coverage. It works as a great juggle finisher. The Ultra is much the same with slightly better grab range and a more impressive finish involving a tornado.

As for standard attacks, Mantis stance gives you better poking attacks, whereas Crane has more versatile range of multi-hit, launcher and anti-air standard techniques that work better for more aggressive players. Gen is for seasoned players only and past Gen players will have to re-learn the strengths and weaknesses of his standard attacks due to some hidden priority changes. Specifics to pick out include the crouching light kick in Crane stance which acts as a launcher and can be strung into the Crane Ultra. In Crane stance, he also possesses a double hit jumping roundhouse kick which is great for hitting deep and opening up combos.

EX move bonuses for Mantis stance cause the Hyakurenko to be a better counter tool thanks to increased speed and priority, and the Gekiro kick gaining more hits on the juggle. For his Crane stance, EX Oga simply moves quicker and the Jyasen delivers more damage while passing through fireballs, including Akuma’s air fireballs.

To see some solid Gen play complete with impressive stance change combos, check out this battle against Rose… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwiGVYUqXf0

Fei Long

Quick though lacking in range and power, Fei Long is all about quick, mostly close up counters that lead into combo strings. He has his three-stage Rekka punches which are great combo-fodder as they can follow up most standard attacks. The Rekka Punches can be canceled into a Super or Ultra, though they’re easily punished by some characters post-block and therefore best saved for combos. They’re also particularly worthy for countering blocked opponent sweeps and are a decent general punishment tool.

His Rekkukyaku curved leaping kick is a great answer to fireball spammers at considered ranges. His Shienkyaku dragon kick hits deep and has great wake-up priority. It can also be focus-canceled for strong bait-based guessing game potential, though don’t bother with that stuff unless you know what you’re doing, or you’ll just waste an EX move.

Finally, Fei Long has a new Tenshin grab which results in him rolling over the opponent to face their back, but is difficult to combo into anything meaningful – i.e, a Super or Ultra – and very risky against grab characters, since they can grab you as you land on the other side. Best to think of it as a mix-up tactic after blocked safe-moves, rather than a throw.

Fei Long’s Super is merely an enhanced Rekkaken that can be cancelled into from his Rekka punches or even his fierce Shienkyaku, though connecting it after that move is far more challenging than it is off the Rekka Punches and arguably wasteful unless the opponent has only a few units of health remaining. His Ultra is a better version of his Super, though be aware that landing the third hit is imperative to activate the real part of the Ultra where Fei unleashes a flurry of punches that end in a Bruce Lee style fly kick. It’s not worth putting Fei’s Ultra in juggles for the simple fact that landing the third hit is next to impossible in a juggle and that’s where the meat of the move lies.

His EX Rekkukyaku kick hits more times and allows you to string a combo off it upon completion, though you need to be aware of your range to fully exploit it. His EX Rekkaken comes out faster and has fireball invincibility when you see the flames appear, as well increased travel distance. His EX Shienkyaku dragon kick gets additional range, speed and an increased hit count bonus as well, while the EX extended range Tenshin grab actually becomes useful and is easily followed up with a standing fierce punch into Shienkyaku or a higher damage EX Shienkyaku combo.

Useful standard moves include his overhead medium kick and two-hit standing roundhouse which works nicely as a poke as well. Additionally, he has an infinite loop that fortunately only works on Seth and Abel according to internet chatter. Simply perform the EX Rekkukyaku kick, follow with a standing fierce punch and repeat.

Here it is in action:

Guile

Guile is simplistic, well-built defensive character with some attack potential, though for longtime Guile players his SF4 incarnation is considered the weakest of all Guiles before him.

He has the Sonic Boom projectile which can be thrown slowly to link into combos that start from a distance, or quickly for fireball fights and close up combos. Having a dash in SF4 adds more potential to his Sonic boom-centeric combos though Capcom has understandably tuned the sonic boom’s speed carefully to avoid the Super-exploitation that could’ve potentially occurred.

His Somersault Kick is an upward traveling radial kick that’s only consistently reliable at clip range and is otherwise poor as a last minute anti-air counter unless you’re diagonally in front of him and not deep in your air attack. Luckily, his standing fierce punch is said to be a good alternative if timed correctly. He does have his air grab which has good range on it, and his selection of standard attacks – particularly his kicks – allow him to move backward or forward when using Sonic Booms to help advance or retreat a few steps safely in projectile fights. He can also punish Sagat’s low tigers if close enough, by using his toward + medium kick hop kick.

His Super move is a multiple-hit, double Somersault kick that can be canceled into from a normal Somersault kick, and his Ultra is the same with an added beef third kick on the end. Expert users can charge it then insert a dash inbetween inputs for surprise / showman potential.

Guile’s EX attacks are useful thankfully, with his EX Somersault kick working with the high priority and multi-hit damage you’d expect it to have, along with the added and highly useful ability to pass through fireballs. His EX Sonic Boom goes through standard projectiles and hits twice, which also gives it enhanced combo potential.

He has a great selection of standing punches for reliable poking, anti-air and combo use, but overall, he’s pretty limited. Guile users have complained. Especially in regard to battling Sagat, whose overpowered moveset seems perfect for neutering Guile in almost every position.

Despite these issues, some have learned to play him well, and it seems the key to a strong SF4 Guile is to play him conservatively. Here’s a good example of SF4 Guile play against the ever tough Zangief:

Bison (Dictator)

Still a beast, Bison gets no new toys save for his Ultra.

His horizontally traveling Psycho Crusher is slower and can now be combo’d easier from standard attacks. His Scissor Kicks work as a great anti-air, even at the last second and are still a solid way to end a combo and the Head Press where Bison leaps across the screen and steps on your head, flattens most anti-airs provided its timed to hit them on start-up. The Devil Reverse which grants Bison great control over landing a flaming arm on the opponent’s head is useful for baiting and mind-games, but I’ve seen it rarely used for anything else, i.e, combos and so forth. His teleport is useful for managing range and keeping cross-ups at bay, but it’s vulnerable on appearance, so use it carefully.

EX Head Press is fast and deathly useful against anti-air attacks, save for anti-air grabs. It appears to have invincible start up if done on wake-up. EX Scissors go through fireballs and EX psycho crusher can absorb fireballs post-startup while being additionally useful for combo enders or cheesy chip-damage finishers.

His Super is a series of Scissor Kicks and his Ultra is the same, save for a more visually impressive ending. Both can be canceled into from a normal scissor kick and a dash can be inserted mid-input for that extra surprise element. It should also be noted that the Ultra is deathly vulnerable to punishment if blocked successfully, whereas the Super is safe, provided the opponent is not blocking while in a corner.

Standard attacks worth your time include his jumping medium punch which juggles, and the down + roundhouse slide, which travels halfway across the screen and is fairly safe from punishment if blocked.

Meanwhile, here is what a masterfully controlled Bison looks like:

Balrog (Boxer)

Fast, powerful and bestowed with great range and combo potential, Balrog could trick you into thinking he’s near invincible.

His moves consist of a dashing straight Rush Punch that hits standing and ducking opponents and travels the entire screen. He also has a Rush Upper that moves across the screen but swings Balrog’s fist upward to catch standing and jumping opponents. He has a Low Rush Punch that ends the rush in with a low hook and acts much like a leg sweep, a Low Rush Upper (the Torpedo Punch) where Balrog moves low while hitting high and a new Overhead Rush Punch that knocks those crouching out of their guard.

Finally, he has his anti-air dedicated Headbutt that launches him upward with only a short opportunity for retaliation on landing and the Turn Around Punch which allows Balrog to pass through fireballs when timed correctly. With good timing, the headbutt is a great juggle opener for Balrog’s Super or Ultra.

Balrog’s Super and Ultra are identical in their ‘lots of punches while moving forward quick’ concept, with the same invincibility on startup to punish fireball spammers. The Ultra does have an advantage where holding a punch or kick can alternate each of the five punches swung from straight to uppercut as they are held. If the Ultra is blocked, opponents can punish Balrog with a swift counter attack or throw during a short time window between fourth and fifth hits.

EX abilities for Rush Punch and Rush Upper include standard fireball absorption, Rush Overhead becomes a combo-opener and EX Torpedo Punch breaks armour. Finally, EX Headbutt has greater range and priority along with fireball invincibility.

Few of his standard attacks are without use. His crouching jabs are a great segway into most of his specials. His crouching roundhouse works as a great sweep, his crouching fierce is a good anti-air and his jumping-in roundhouse can get in really deep to punish those with poor anti-air attacks. Balrog is an absolute monster in the right hands.

If you want to see how vicious a good Balrog player can be, watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8NRM5no7eE

Crimson Viper

Definitely not a conventional Street Fighter character, but that’s not a bad thing. Her moveset contains solid baiting, attack, escape and counter maneuvers, making her a very reliable ‘all round’ fighter. Her downside is that she takes a lot of damage when hit.

In her repertoire, she has the Seismic Hammer where she punches the floor and a gust of smoke hits opponents from one of three zones on the screen, chosen by whichever punch button you press on execution. The Burning Kick is a hopping spin kick cloaked in flames and also performable in mid-air. Each kick button represents how she moves when she does it, with one kick moving it backwards, another hopping up in place and the last, hopping forwards. Her Thunder Knuckle can be aimed in three directions – low, mid and high, with the low one traveling vertically and hitting enemies in the shins and the high one leaping upward and acting as a string anti-air. If timed correctly, she can juggle with two of these in sequence. Both her Seismic Hammer and Thunder Knuckle can be feinted by pressing two buttons almost immediately after the punch you use to execute the movement. This is useful for tricking and baiting the opponent to advance a ground attack or jump in.

Her Super move is a frantic electric punch flurry that culminates in a flaming flip kick and is easy to cancel into from her Thunder Knuckles. Her Ultra is one of the best in the game and involves her hitting you in close and knocking you upward before she spins skybound to set fire to your body. Lovely.

EX bonuses include being able to increase the Seismic Hammer’s range, and the adding of further travel distance and combo-follow-up potential to the Thunder Knuckle. Additionally, the EX Burning Kick becomes a highly useful anti-air, thanks to a multi-hit somersault Viper adds to the movement when performed in that yellow EX glow.

Her worthwhile standard moves include a Super jump to help with emergency corner escapes or simply to surprise fireball spammers and those vulnerable to a combo from long distance. Others include toward + medium punch which acts as an overhead, and her standing roundhouse kick which delivers two hits up close and moves her forward.

Viper is highly enjoyable to learn and seeing her played well is a sight to behold. Here’s a Viper vs Ken battle to prove that point.

Rufus

Deceptively crap-looking Rufus is anything but. His lack of range is made up in agility and power, with his rotund frame capable of similar acrobatics to SF’s own Chun Li. Additionally, he has epic combo potential, particularly on cornered opponents when mixing up his specials and EX moves. Rufus is a close-up attacker with only two major distance-covering moves and a large amount of useful pokes in his standard attack library. His juggle potential is substantial.

His moves includes the Messiah Kick that has Rufus leap in an arc while kicking upward, then again on landing in one of three ways depending on the kick button pressed on landing. He’ll either sweep, perform an overhead or flip upward – the flip being cancelable into combos.

The Galactic Tornado is a move where our tubby friend spins for multiple close-up hits and finishes with a punch. This too is cancelable and can be easily strung into combos. If timed correctly while holding the direction toward opponent with the punch button, it’ll pass through fireballs too. Finally, Rufus’ Snake Strike has him jump comically in the air and unleash a flurry of punches and isn’t entirely useful unless you can anticipate an air attack and act early. It’s a pretty poor anti-air.

EX Messiah Kick is immensely useful as a reversal and a distance closer, complete with fireball passing ability – it saves lives, so keep one hand in case you need it to escape a corner trap or cross up. EX Galatic Tornado sucks the opponent in from a two-man distance before it starts to hit and is great used in combos. EX Snake Strike actually becomes a useful anti-air and a juggle finisher, making it a more relevant technique unlike its standard version.

Rufus’ Super is a combo sequence that can be canceled to from other special moves and it hits several times for decent chip damage if blocked in the corner, though it is weak if it hits and therefore not that worthwhile. It’s also great for juggles. The Ultra is moreso combo-able than the Super and delivers more damage, so it’s probably best to save up those Super stocks for his far Superior EX moves instead.

His most used standards include the crouching fierce punch poke and the standing fierce which works as a great anti-air. He also has a diving kick from the air that can lead into combos, if positioned carefully.

Rufus has been sighted in tournament play and SF4 players have mastered him quickly. Here’s a strong Rufus against a rock-solid Dhalsim player:

Rose

A swift and fairly strong character with good combo and trickery potential. She has a Soul Spark fireball that behaves as you’d expect a fireball to, a Soul Spiral forward thrusting attack that’s great after a jab or to end any combo and a Soul Reflect that reflects projectiles in one of two directions or absorbs them depending which button you press. For anti-air, she can use her Soul Throw; an attack that sends Rose upward to grab whoever’s up there so she can throw them back down.

Her Super is a multi-hit Soul Spark that moves quickly and can be canceled into from her normal Soul Spark and Soul Spiral. Rose’s Ultra is immensely useful and involves her throwing out a giant ribbon which results in you being electrocuted upon connection. It works as a zonal grab that activates from 3/4 of a screen away and catches almost anyone and anything not blocking within its visual range, as well as an invisible range that seems to be half a character’s height above the ribbon. A very, very powerful tool. Both her Super and Ultra can be usefully timed to work as excellent anti-air attacks.

EX wise, her EX Soul Spark goes through other projectiles as you’d expect. EX Soul Reflect reflects EX projectiles, but it weirdly doesn’t reflect normal ones, so use it carefully. In a combo, it will knock the opponent across the screen. EX Soul Spiral travels through projectiles and the EX Soul Throw is perfect for Akuma’s air fireball cheese and anyone else who loves to hover up above.

Her standard attacks include a very useful down/forward + medium kick slide that if timed well can go under most fireballs, including Ryu’s Ultra. She has a great roundhouse sweep and a standing roundhouse which works great against the big guys for pokes. Rose is a fun character to get the hang of for somewhat seasoned players and pros and definitely one of the better ones on the roster for VS play.

Enjoy some of Rose’s potential here, in this video:

Blanka

Aggressive and powerful, possessing strong, high priority pokes, Blanka is a tough character to fight, especially with his new anti-projectile measures. Blanka suits players who like to keep things simple and enjoy aggressive as well as slow defensive games. He’s definitely one of the most consistently formidable characters in the game and has only a few tough matches.

His moves include the horizontally traveling Cannonball Roll, the vertical Cannonball which works as a great anti-air if timed correctly, the Rainbow Roll which curves over projectile paths and has cross-up potential, as well as an after-touch for landing. Finally, his newly improved Electric Storm now has insane priority and works as a great wake-up and anti-air move.

He still has his forward and backward hop which is useful for close-up throw or combo mind-games, and his standard moveset still includes the powerful down/toward + fierce punch slide, which is not only awesome for taking out legs from a distance or at a two-man range from the air but especially great for sliding under fireballs including the low tiger. Though on block it’s VERY punishable. Blanka also has a new fireball-avoiding crouch move which doesn’t appear to be as useful as Dhalsim’s Yoga Tower, but as with all moves, time will reveal its hidden benefits if there are any. So far, I’ve only found that it avoids many low attacks that aren’t sweeps.

His Super is a multi-hitting, spinning low cannonball roll which can go under fireballs, and his Ultra does the same but hops high on first hit to become an overhead – the opponent has to block the first hit while standing. It also travels farther across screen but is brutally punishable if blocked. If you hold the punch buttons after performing the Super, or the Ultra, you can spin the ball in place and time it to juggle your opponent if your first hit knocked them up. If distanced and timed correctly, you can trap the opponent on the lowered portion of the Ultra and get a near guaranteed hit for ultimate cheese, but it’s tough to force.

Blanka’s EX cannonball can go through special and EX projectiles; a hugely useful tool against projectile spammers, and his EX vertical ball has wake-up priority and is safe on block. His EX electrical storm has a wider radius and painful multi-hit and anti-air potential. His EX curved ball is great for long range cross-ups as you can guide the fall more intricately, but it’s massively punishable, so only use it if you’re sure of a hit.

This video demonstrates Blanka’s propensity for mind games quite nicely. Notice the hop into an Ultra – a technique that requires very tight command timing, where a ‘dash’ command is sandwiched between the 1st and 3rd inputs of the attack.

Abel

Easily one of the best characters in the game, Abel is a fast, strong and well-armed MMA fighter who plays like an attack-focused mish-mash of SNK characters Terry Bogard, Goro Daimon and KOF ’99 era Kyo Kusanagi.

His moves include an over-arching ‘Change of Direction’ punch that has two built-in follow up strings; one low hit into low or high grab and a mid hit with the same finish options. He has the Falling Sky anti-air grab, the Tornado Throw which has great, but not quite cheesy range, a vital pass-through-the-opponent low Marseilles Roll and a high arching Wheel Kick that if timed correctly can bypass projectiles.

His EX Wheel Kick works as a great last minute anti-air counter and takes out many moves that are otherwise considered high priority, such as Zangief’s lariat or banishing flat. His EX Change of Direction and rolls have greater range and his EX Tornado Throw has ridiculous priority over wake-up attackers. Notable standard attacks include his crouching fierce which launches opponents skyward on the second hit, and his jumping medium kick which works as a great cross-up.

Abel’s Super move is two-man ranged dash attack, whereby a successful connection results in the opponent being hit a lot. His Ultra is somewhat similar, though far, far deadlier, with 3/4 of a screen’s range in travel distance, great speed, an ability to pass through projectiles and great juggle, combo and damage potential overall. Easily one of the best Supers in the game, though it can be avoided by leaping out of the way. Against Abel, treat it his Ultra as you would Akuma’s Raging Demon and you should be okay. Playing as Abel, use it to punish vertically traveling characters like Blanka or Honda when you successfully block a cannonball / headbut.

Here’s a video with a very solid Abel player taking out another cheesy Sagat.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhQzW1CmfXA

THE THREE BOSSES

To play as them you need to unlock them, which is no easy task. A lot of text has been dedicated online to explaining how this is done, but there’s only one true way and Capcom finally decided to share it with the world:
http://www.capcom-unity.com/s-kill/blog/2009/02/24/sfiv_the_real_story_on_how_to_unlock_akuma_and_gouken

Akuma

He is the character those without shame nor honour pick for VS battles. As you’ve probably guessed, he’s also still one of the most versatile and powerful in the game, appearing very strong in versus match ups.

He has standard fireballs, flaming multi-hit fireballs, a juggling dragon punch, a juggling hurricane kick, air fireballs, a teleport and his Demon Flip that launches him over fireballs. Because he obviously doesn’t have enough moves.

His Super move is the famed Raging Demon attack which traps and hits you without remorse, and his Ultra version takes off 60% of an energy bar. These are best used when someone is landing a man’s distance in front of you from a jump, as any other time most players know to jump out of the way. His EX air fireball throws two fireballs at different angles. His EX hurricane hovers in place, spins rapid and acts as an anti-air. Expect all his other EX moves to behave powerfully and with great unfairness.

The only drawback with Akuma is he takes more damage than most. If you play as Akuma, chances are you’re a prick.

Here is how you play a strong Akuma:

Gouken

As the teacher of Ryu and Ken, he seems to have very little in common with them save for the concepts behind his special moves. He’s powerful, big and fast, with projectiles and counters aplenty, along with a Super-cheesy throw that sends the opponent upward and within range of a special or Ultra move follow up. He’s a strong offensive and defensive character with many options.

His Gohadoken fireball can be thrown at three angles, with the fierce fireball working well as an anti-air attack. They can be charged to deliver additional hits and damage. He has a Sengokushoha charging palm attack that knocks the opponent far back and a Tastumaki Gorasen which is vertically traveling hurricane kick that works almost as well as the dragon punch that he surprisingly lacks, but thankfully not to his detriment.

Gouken’s version of the hurricane kick only behaves like the one his students share when performed in the air. If others fireball spam Gouken, he has a leap that can become a mid-air parry, dive or slide attack somewhat like his brother Akuma’s Demon Flip. Finally, Gouken possess high and low attack reversals, much like SNK’s Geese Howard – the move must be performed as you foresee the hit coming – and his Super is ‘The Forbidden Shoryuken’ which you probably figured out is a Super dragon punch, despite him not having a normal one. His Ultra is another dragon punch, just more powerful and dramatic.

His EX moves are plain hateful, with his EX Gohadoken launching two fireballs out at horizontal and diagonal angles to damage those in the air and his EX Tatsumaki Gorasen having invincible start up with great anti-air and combo ending properties. The EX Sengokushoha hits twice and launches opponents skyward on the second hit and it can be followed up by other special or his Ultra for ultimate pain and horror.

Notable standard attacks include his toward + fierce punch which is a great long range anti-air and knocks the opponent back, or his crouching fierce punch which is a rock-solid close anti-air counter. And don’t forget his away + throw command; the essential tool for cheesy Ultra jugglers.

Here’s a teaser of what ridiculousness you can expect to see from advanced Gouken players.

Seth

The cheesy last boss who has a combination of moves from all characters. His moveset is a ‘best of’ from Ryu, Dhalsim, Zangief, Guile, Chun Li and to a much lesser extent, Akuma, Abel and El Fuerte.

He has a Dragon Punch, a Spinning Pile Driver, Sonic Boom, Head Stomp, Teleport, Rapid-Fire Kicks that come out of a grab-like roundhouse, a wall jump and downward-diving kick. His only unique special move is the Tandem Engine, which sucks any opponent within a two-man radius toward Seth and stuns them briefly, resulting in an opportunity for a free hit.

The EX versions of his specials enjoy the same benefits that they do for their host characters, with the EX Tandem Engine getting added range. His Super move is a powered-up Tandem Engine with a multi-hit energy ball waiting for the opponent on being sucked in to the centre. His Ultra is the most visually impressive and involves Seth creating a giant vacuum and sucking the opponent into a whirlpool sourced at his gut. Once you’ve been absorbed, his round Yin Yang belly spits you back out into the screen.

Notable standard attacks are his jumping and standing toward + fierce, where he gets to borrow Dhalsim’s limbs for a few seconds and hit people in the shins under projectiles. His jumping roundhouse is great for cross-ups and his ‘same as Abel’s’ low fierce is a decent anti-air defense, as well solid for two-in-ones.

If it weren’t for his significantly lowered energy bar and the fact he takes more chip damage than everyone else, he’d be horrible to face in VS matches. Luckily, he isn’t.

Here’s a video of Seth vs Ryu, with a few choice combos demonstrated by the player on hand.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7i3x0C5y83w

ONLINE SINGLE PLAYER

If you play Arcade mode, you get an option to turn on match requests. This means anyone playing online can interrupt your game and challenge you.

In concept, it’s awesome and in practice, at least for a while, it’s a welcome addition. Annoyingly, you can’t control the frequency and so if your focus is to beat single player and you’ve got the upper hand on the immensely cheesy last boss Seth, a challenge request will pull you out of the match and stick you in a VS online battle with all that hard work reset. It becomes very jarring, especially if you’re trying to unlock all the extra characters.

On the plus side, you can re-select your character each time and upon completion of the match, regardless of outcome, you’ll go right back to the start of the CPU match you left, as the character you were. An option to turn it off at anytime, or even just set it as ‘only between / post CPU matches’ would’ve been welcome, but another way to look at it is if you want online versus battles but you wish to practice inbetween bouts, this is the way to do it.

I think you’ll get the most use out of it if you think of it as a lobby that lets you practice fighting inbetween rounds.

SINGLEPLAYER IN GENERAL

Arcade mode uses Capcom’s patented gAy.I technology to control the CPU character, which often feels like a robotic set of ‘when guy does this, do that’ instructions with an added flair of unfairness. This is particularly apparent when playing against command grab characters.

Each character in the game is given a story to for some context to carry them through the dozen battles that lead them to Seth. The hilariously godawful stories are illustrated using anime movies that are decent for a game, but contentwise – story and voice acting – are utter diarrhea. Though my hunch says if you’re considering this game, you’re not motivated by character development and plots.

If you’re new to fighting games, Easiest difficulty will seem like a lie and is destined to lead to a thrown pad or a loud screen-directed swear word orchestra. Achieving success in Capcom fighting games, in single player modes, is typically about exposing the AI’s patterns and then exploiting them with cheesy repetitive attack loops of your own.

Challenge Mode is where lonely souls will find happiness, with Timed Mode, Survival Mode and Trial Mode offering the most fun and time-sink potential. Beating these modes unlock different colours, poses and titles for your characters.

Street Fighter is not for you if single player value is your focus however. Details on the Challenge modes follows…:

TIMED MODE (NORMAL AND HARD)

You are presented with a set of 20 challenges where you defeat a set number of AI opponents with secondary rules that include having infinite Super or Ultra moves, a refilling energy bar, the opponent’s energy bar becoming hidden or just standard battle conditions. Later on, you’ll fight invisible players, or you’ll be unable to use special moves or focus attacks on some rounds. Pay attention to the dialogue box at the base of the screen when selecting challenges. I never noticed at first – mainly as I’m still on an SD TV and the text is tough to read on one – but that’s where you’ll discover the conditions that will test you.

You fight a number of one-round battles. You start with an Ultra and Super bar that refills over the course of matches. You win extra time through how you complete your victories, use of Supers, Ultras and of course, perfects. Beating all the opponents unlocks the next challenge and sometimes unlocks an extra character colour, title or in-match pose.

I found this mode to be the most rewarding and fun. Perfect for a bite-sized fix while waiting for friends to turn up for a night out.

SURVIVAL MODE (NORMAL AND HARD)

Another set of 20 challenges, this time tasking you to win X matches with one persistent energy bar across all battles. X amount of % health is gifted back to you between rounds, the percentage of which is different for each challenge. Again, success rewards you with titles, colours and poses.

If battling through dozens of AI opponents in one long sitting – multiple times – is fun for you, then this mode will entertain you. I found it mostly tedious, due to its long-winded nature as it’s only somewhat different to Timed mode in requiring a larger time investment per challenge.

TRIAL MODE (NORMAL AND HARD)

Trial Mode is a great way to learn the basics of each character in a rewarding environment. In short you are presented a set of challenges, each focusing on a specific aspect of each character; Common moves like throws and focus attacks, special moves, Super and Ultras, combos, and finally standard chains and strings.

When you engage the Hard trials, you’re given tasks that move between linked standard attack combos you will never use and complex chain combos, all of which lack certain data relevant to complete it.

While trial mode is enjoyable for the most part, it fails in where some trials just don’t give the player vital information needed to beat them. For example, some of the challenges ask you to execute combos after standing attacks that hit twice. Thing is, you can only complete these tasks by interrupting the second attack. I figured this out as I’ve played the series for ages, but I’d wager many new yet capable players won’t get this. Even as a long time player, this is quite crap to see in such an otherwise highly polished production.

Later instances that confounded me resulted in a visit to youtube showing me that you had to time the move a certain way that isn’t communicated in the trial. Namco owns a certain input display patent that restricts this and could be cited as the reason for the suckage. Though I don’t know the explicit details of that, nor could I get them at time of writing.

TRAINING MODE

Training mode is safe place to learn about your characters’ movesets for combo experimentation or otherwise. You get all the expected settings like being able to view button inputs as they happen, frame data, damage data, and of course, being able to set the state of the CPU character and your power / Ultra bar. You can even record your training dummy doing moves and play him back. Very nice.

It works and is only vulnerable to criticism for its lack of online multiplayer so friends can test out combos on one another safely.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

If you care, you can change the voices per character English or Japanese. You can also change the voice of the singing guy in the title song to Japanese. I hate that song, but if you like a Justin Timb-a-like singing over your fighting games, here’s the band singing some more:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0pnlQfQW60

Strangely, for the first time today, I also noticed the music in the game changes in some modes – halfway through the normal Timed Mode challenges for example I heard a remix of Guile’s classic theme on Guile’s stage for the first time. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there before. Does secret music unlock with repeated play? Do different mixes show up in different modes? Fuck knows. I can’t find anything online about it. But it’s there.

OVERALL VERDICT

When I first started playing this game, I loved it. I loved its simplicity, its beauty and its slowing down of the faster previous games to bring things to a more tactical sense of pace. This was a year ago, even before the SF2 bosses were added to the roster.

After a year, they’ve added 13 more characters, more concepts and additional features that have increased the game’s complexity. This annoyed me at first.

While getting the hang of the game and its new features, my friend Mo Ramzan – a former tournament level UK player – got online with me and every day, for a few days last week, we’d dissect what we thought was wrong and right with the game. Sagat is too powerful, Zangief is a fucking joke, this tuning decision is stupid, etc…

We’d find thing we liked and things we hated. Most of the things we hated turned out to be poorly communicated features of the fighting system we had to look up online to understand. Ever wondered why you can’t level 3 focus attack someone immediately after they block the last hit of Dhalsim’s Ultra? Block stun invincibility.

And that’s the problem with this game and arguably with every old-skool rooted game attempting to capture new audiences. The readability is shit. Everything is trial and error. Some moves will counter your move, others won’t, and it will make only sense within the abstract ruleset that’s been known and refined since the dawn of 2D one-on-one command input fighters. In SF4, a jab will stop a 300 pound man-beast cannon-balling his weight at 80 mph toward you, a man can grab you while your body spews electricity from every pore, and a 250 pound guy can uppercut a 500 pound wrestler flying in from above and knock him far away. When this stops happening, fighting games will become accessible.

Until then, SF is still shitloads of fun to me, a fan of old skool games. I find it a shame Capcom didn’t embrace how viciously hardcore this game is and add a more communicative, unashamedly hardcore tutorial mode that teaches you about all the micro concepts you end up having to find out about on the internet. Luckily for me, my community of friends and my intense use of internets makes up for that’s missing, but for others, it may not be.

SF4 is a fruity love poem to hardcore gamers and no question. Its controls are accessible, but its concepts are not. It’s a game of playing, winning, losing, learning, improving, refining and repeating the cycle over and over until you plateau at a level where you get beat back down or rise up to face tougher opponents.

A fighting game is only as good as its multiplayer, and with online friends who play at your level, it’s exhilarating and rewarding. With other people online, it’s fun once you learn how to de-cheese their cheese and inspire them to call you a black, jewish homosexual… or you have the wonderful surprise of meeting and playing with a solid player and make a new online friend.

For new players like my neighbour Marty, Street Fighter 4 a frustrating, incommunicative, wonderfully-produced stale gameplay experience that inspired him to throw his pad at the wall and take it back to the shop.

So to wrap up (finally – sorry Pat) Street Fighter 4 is an absolute utter failure as an accessible, new player welcoming fighter, but a resounding, harmonised-trumpet troupe of triumph as a hardcore-focused, fun, deep online fighter that friends and enemies can play online, with a large and dedicated community to boot. It’s longevity is as assured as I have friends who carry on to enjoy the game as much as I do, despite the many small faults and that suits me just fine.

The Championship pack will add more friend-centric match options, which will likely be welcomed and extend the value of the game. Let’s just hope Capcom works in some meaningful character tune-ups in, as they will be needed to keep the goodwill of the hardcore devotees that keep the SF4 community and relevance of the series alive.

8 out of 10

FUTURE DLC

There’s been online company talk of DeeJay and T Hawk being ready to fly, and two oddly-placed empty spots on the Movelist pause menu support this. Capcom won’t confirm or deny anything, so I will base that theory purely on logic and the laws of making money. Capcom WILL put out DLC characters. If they don’t, I will eat a shoe. If they add Adon and Sodom from Alpha 2, colour me happy.

Additionally, there’s a free ‘Championship Mode’ coming from Capcom, which will include a Record / Replay matches mode, Event / Tournament Mode so multiple friends can talk crap in a lobby while two others fight, and a new points system that will likely do a better job of evaluating your skills in a match.

Sources:
http://www.kotaku.com.au/games/2009/02/if_theres_demand_capcom_could_add_more_sfiv_characters-2.html

http://blogs.ign.com/Capcom-Unity/2009/02/11/112421/

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

Mo Imran, the SRK forums, Ben Le Rougetel, Leo Tan and Tim Ng.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments