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First American champion: Why I love Street Fighter IV

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Dan Boutros won the first ever North American Street Fighter IV championship at GDC last month. Here, Dan gives VG247 his exclusive thoughts on the game and its characters. Must read.

Here's my thoughts on SF4 based on several hours play across two GDC days.

Presently, I love it. If you can't be arsed reading all the details I'm about to lay before you, know that it's very close in spirit to the ORIGINAL version of Street Fighter 2. Not Hyper, Turbo, Champion, Super or Super Turbo. The ORIGINAL. The pace is slower, the move-sets are simplified and in turn, the action seems more focused towards simpler play and classic rock-paper-scissors strategy. It's still being balanced but right now it plays and looks like a dream.

First, I'll detail the systems.

1 - The Revenge Meter

It's a circular bar next to the main energy bar. It fills as you get twatted. It has two parts to it. When one or both are filled, you can unleash a super move exclusive to that bar. For example, Dhalsim has a very slow moving Super Fireball (like Oro's super in Street Fighter 3) and Ken has a 'kick the s**t out of you' super combo on the end of a Super Dragon Punch. But they can only activate those supers with THIS bar. I'm guessing it's because these supers are very powerful, easy to combo and easy to perform and are thus perfect comeback maneuvers. To perform them, you simply do your character's super move motion and press two buttons instead of one.

2 - Throws

As in Street Fighter 3, you press two (light attack) buttons together to perform a throw. Not like the cheap throwing in other Street Fighters.

3 - Focus Attacks

The full potential of these attacks are not entirely revealed yet. Every character has one. You press both medium attacks to perform the move. However, hold them down for a short while and you can absorb an attack before you unleash your move. For some characters, this works as a great anti-air. Otherwise, you can hold the buttons down to their chargeable limit and the character will unleash an unblockable attack that knocks off a tasty amount of energy. I can't remember how much exactly (it was a few weeks back) but it was substantial. Again, the unblockable attack can also absorb one hit. Supposedly you can cancel out of this move by inputting the command to dash. You can also be thrown out of the move.

4 - Ultra Combo

A shitty name for what is a combination of having your super move bar and your revenge meter completely filled up and unleashing a super with two buttons instead of one. A very powerful move that's also impressive to behold.

5 - Camera angles

A lot of the more dramatic moves have custom camera cuts that make the process a lot more watchable and exciting for onlookers as well as players. When I first read up about this, I thought it would be annoying, but it doesn't obstruct play in the slightest. It's been handled beautifully.

And now, the other s**t that's not so new.

1 - Super Moves

You have one super bar. It can hold one super. For now, characters only have one super move attack each.

2 - EX Moves

These are special moves that have a 'super' quality about them. For example, Ryu's EX fireball hits you three times, Blanka's EX cannonball goes through fireballs and Zangief's EX banishing flat (that glowing hand thing) stops dragon punches launching. You simply perform a special move with two buttons, though it does drain resource from your super move bar.

3 - Taunts

Don't seem to do s**t for now. Taunts have always had very random and bizarre effects in Street Fighter games - Chun Li would hit you with hers in Street Fighter Alpha, Q would power himself up in Street Fighter 3, Dan would just roll and pose in Street Fighter Alpha, etc. Press two hard attacks together.

And now, the characters.

1 - Ryu

Plays like Ryu from Street Fighter 3.

2 - Ken

Plays like Ken from Street Fighter 3.

3 - Chun Li

Plays like the festering s**t of her SF3, Alpha and SF2 Turbo mothers. She has a worthless fireball that fades out after a few seconds traveling, her spinning bird kick (still a crap move after all these years) and her lightning kick (the one where you press the button very quick). Her non-special moves are rubbish too. Her super move however is retardedly unstoppable. I felt violated every time it got me.

4 - Zangief

Plays like Street Fighter Alpha series Zangief. A tough bastard. Has better combo potential now too.

5 - Blanka

Super Turbo meets Alpha series Blanka. VERY powerful. They need to tone him way down. His electric storm is obscene and catches almost every move. A Dhalsim player burned me while I was in the move, he got shocked, I got burned, and I was still in the move!

6 - Dhalsim

Alpha series Dhalsim. Awesome. Probably my new favourite character. His teleport is almost instant now. A lot of fun to play with. His Revenge move is a lot of fun too. Great for combo potential.

7 - Guile

Rubbish. The delay on his flash kick and the delay after his sonic boom makes him worthless. I guess they tried to tune him down as he's always been really powerful and probably a nightmare for them to balance.

8 - E Honda

Pretty boring to play I thought. Seems like Alpha series Honda. His special throw is now done with a full circle. His new super's pretty cool though.

9 - Crimson Viper

Very weird. She's clearly influenced by the super-bizarre SNK characters. If you play their games, she's a mix of K' and Benimaru from King of Fighters. If you don't, she has a flaming kick she can do in mid-air, she has a range of charging punches and a ground pound that shoots damage underneath the opponent from far, though it isn't very effective. Supposedly, Capcom's having the most balancing issues with her at present.

10 - Abel

Again, very SNK-influenced. And he'll probably end up a favourite. If you like the SNK stuff, I'd say he's a mix of Maxima and Goro from the KOF series. If you don't know what that means, he has a one of those combo-sequence special move strings (where you do motion after motion for multiple successive attacks), a special throw, an anti-air grab, an over-arching fly-kick and a roll. Powerful, great combo potential and strong all-round ability against all types of player. May struggle with super fast Chun Li players, assuming Capcom fixes Chun Li.

Final thoughts?

Loved it. Can't wait to play the full balanced character roster (Balrog and Sagat were recently revealed in the Japanese beta tests).

Capcom does admittedly have a lot of move-set choices (Chun Li) and balancing issues to tune out. For one, projectiles tend to have longer recovery times, meaning if you hit someone, you're vulnerable to attack if they're close enough to you. Guile and Dhalsim suffer from this the most, but hopefully that'll get fixed when it hits Japanese arcades in the Summer.

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