Nintendo / Capcom
Street Fighter is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. While its popularity may have started in the arcades, gamers of a certain age (i.e. old pricks like me) will always associate it with Nintendo too.
The Super Famicom version of Street Fighter II was the game that got countless western SNES gamers curious about importing, with magazines like Super Play guiding us through the process.
I distinctly remember convertor cartridges being sold out of independent game shops all over Glasgow as I (well, my dad) and many others happily dropped upwards of £100 on the Japanese version of the game so we didn’t have to wait six months for the European release.
For the longest time the SNES version of Street Fighter II and its ‘sequel’ Street Fighter II Turbo were the big winning blow in the 16-bit console wars, the game Mega Drive owners were jealous they didn’t have. Until they got it a year later, mind.
My (needlessly long) point is that when I think back to the early days of Street Fighter II, my mind goes back to the early ‘90s as I played it for hours every night on the SNES, wearing out my L and R shoulder buttons with endless Dragon Punches, Spinning Bird Kicks and Hundred-Hand Slaps.
It’s fitting, then, that Capcom should celebrate Street Fighter’s 30th anniversary with a return to Nintendo and what it hopes is the definitive version of the game that kicked it all off in the first place. And for the most part, it’s succeeded.
Ultra Street Fighter II is a snazzy upgraded version of Super Street Fighter II Turbo, arguably the best version of the game. It features 19 characters in total: the original eight World Warriors, the four boss characters, the four ‘New Challengers’ who came aboard for the Super editions, hidden character Akuma and two ‘new’ chaps, Evil Ryu and Violent Ken.
Evil Ryu’s been seen in other Street Fighter games and is essentially just normal Ryu with a black outfit, red eyes and a teleport move. Meanwhile, Violent Ken – who’s named after the guy yer uncle goes drinking with – is a reskinned Ken who moves faster and has a teleport of his own.
Because they’re little more than tweaked versions of the characters most casual Street Fighter fans play as anyway, both these ‘new’ additions are something of a disappointment.
Granted, they’re different enough for serious competitive Street Fighter pros to pick apart their moves frame-by-frame and analyse which is best, but for 99% of players the differences aren’t really enough to count them as new characters, rather than enhanced versions of existing ones.
Still, nobody plays an old Street Fighter game for new characters: most people interested in this will probably already have their favourite fighters in mind so the addition of these two new jokers isn’t really going to upset things too much.
A more notable change is the redesigned art style, with all the sprites and backgrounds completely redrawn by Canadian comic studio Udon Entertainment. If this sounds familiar that’s because it actually happened back in 2008 with Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, the digital PS3 and Xbox 360 release: this Switch version simply uses the same ‘new’ assets from that. Don’t worry: if you don’t like them, you can switch to old-school visuals instead.
Don’t be under the impression that this is a straight port of Turbo HD Remix, mind. Many of the balancing tweaks that were added to that game have been removed here, meaning Ryu’s fake fireball in Turbo HD Remix isn’t here any more. This means that even though the game looks more modern, it feels more like the original Super Street Fighter II Turbo from the ‘90s, albeit with a few different tweaks like grapple breaks thrown in.
What has changed, however, is the music. While Turbo HD Remix let players switch between original music and new versions created by game music community OCRemix, this time Capcom has put together its own remixed tracks to replace the OCRemix ones. By and large, I’m a fan of the new tunes.
Street Fighter is all about the gameplay, of course, and this is a treat as always. Fans have noted concern about the Switch’s controls ever since the game was announced, however, and those concerns have been justified to a degree. If you shelled out the extra dosh for a Switch Pro Controller it feels brilliant to play, its lovely loose D-Pad making it easy to roll out fireball commands.
A fight stick is reportedly coming from HORI, but for now the Pro Controller does the trick and will feel right at home for those who grew up with the SNES versions of Street Fighter II.
Using the Joy-Con takes a little more patience. Its makeshift button-based D-Pad makes it hard to hit diagonals sometimes, and while it’s easier to use the analogue stick instead (indeed, you have to when you’re playing two-player games with a single Joy-Con each) it can still take a little while to get used to what constitutes Down versus Down-Right, for example.
Not ideal, then, but for Street Fighting on the move it’s still at least playable and I’ve already worked my way through many an Arcade mode on the train without too many tears.
What we have, then, is a strong gameplay core. Super Street Fighter II Turbo remains one of the greatest fighting games ever made, and whether you decide to play it with its new aural and visual bells and whistles or grumpily plough into the options and turn everything retro because you hate change and you hate today’s youth, the trademark SSFII Turbo feel is just as satisfying as ever.
Sample gameplay video:
The real question comes in deciding how much that’s worth to today’s gamer, though. At a time when retro games are often released with a budget price point, Ultra Street Fighter II’s £34.99 / $39.99 price seems a little on the high side. And when I say “a little”, I mean “a fuckton”.
So, what exactly are you getting for this slightly-lower-than-full-but-not-much price? For starters, there’s the obvious Arcade mode where you fight your way through a bunch of opponents then take out the four bosses Balrog, Vega, Sagat and Bison (or Akuma, if you reach Bison without losing a round). No big changes here, and it’s still my favourite mode.
You’ve got your standard online battles, which at the time of writing weren’t yet active and so I wasn’t able to review them. Street Fighter fans should know what to expect here though, and the option to turn on online challenges – in which you can play Arcade mode while you wait and can be interrupted if someone’s looking for an online scrap – is available too.
On top of these there’s Buddy Mode, a two-on-one affair which has been known as Dramatic Battle in previous Street Fighter games. Here you and a friend (or you and a CPU partner) share a single health bar as you both fight an opponent together.
This is actually a really enjoyable mode but it’s far too short: all you do is fight Evil Ryu, Violent Ken, Bison and Akuma in order and then you’re greeted with a stern ‘Game Over’ screen before being dumped back to the main menu. This is disappointing because it’s been more detailed in previous games like Street Fighter Alpha 3, while the likes of Street Fighter EX 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken had brilliant two-on-two modes which were chaotic but great fun.
I would’ve loved to see a more fleshed-out co-op offering here, because it could have been something to really set the game apart from other versions of Super Street Fighter II. As it is, it feels more like a proof of concept rather than a finished mode. The finger-crossing for a free update from Capcom beefing this mode up a bit begins now.
Finally, there’s the Way Of The Hado mode, a strange first-person mini-game in a polygonal style similar to Street Fighter IV and V. Here, you play as Ryu and have to attack waves of approaching enemies with Hadoukens, Dragon Punches and Hurricane Kicks using the Joy-Con’s motion controls.
This mode, frankly, is a pot of wank. The controls are temperamental at best and outright broken at worst (pulling off a hurricane kick is near-impossible if you follow the exact motion suggested in the tutorial), and throwing slow fireballs at slow enemies results in a slow experience. It’s an utter waste of time and all it does is remind you there are polygonal Street Fighter games out there too, which Capcom has decided won’t be gracing the Switch.
A mixture of highs and lows, then, but there’s one extra addition which is hugely welcome for anyone interested: a Gallery mode. I know what you’re thinking: who gives a shit? After all, most games have Gallery modes and most of them consist of 20 or 30 pieces of concept art along with a clunky control interface for looking through it.
The Gallery in Ultra Street Fighter II goes so far above and beyond the call of duty though, if it was to look back from its lofty position in outer space it wouldn’t even be able to hear said call any more. That’s because it’s a digital version of the entire out-of-print SF20: The Art Of Street Fighter art book, which contains over 1500 illustrations from Street Fighter’s history.
This book was £29.99 when it launched and is now out of print so at best you’d have to pay the same today, if not more. It’s easily the definitive Street Fighter art collection and now you can zoom right in and see the art at beautiful levels of detail. The Switch blocks screenshots during this for obvious reasons, so you’ll need to make do with my camera photos, but look at how much detail you can zoom in to see (click ’em to embiggen ’em):
Even better, it’s a joy to browse on the Switch’s handheld mode, because the touch screen lets you quickly zoom and pan with ease, essentially turning the console into an ebook reader. I’ve spent hours looking through these illustrations, and as a fan of game artwork THIS is what justifies the game’s price for me.
Not everyone shares this interest, of course, so for anyone not interested in Street Fighter artwork this game is a much harder sell at £34.99 / $39.99.
What it really boils down to is how much of a Street Fighter addict you are. If you can see yourself playing this all the time on the move (iffy Joy-Con controls aside), it’s a no-brainer despite the cost.
If, however, you’re relatively new to Street Fighter or fighting games in general and you still aren’t sure if you’ll like it, you might want to hold fire a bit. If you have a 3DS, maybe get Super Street Fighter IV 3D on that instead – it’s really cheap on the eShop at the moment – before upgrading (downgrading?) to this one.
Alternatively, it may be an idea to wait until E3 to see what the Switch’s Virtual Console offering is going to be like (in case we get the SNES versions), or maybe even buy one of the Neo-Geo fighting games on Switch (some of which I’ve helpfully reviewed, with more to come) to try out the genre at a fraction of the price.
For those who already know they like Street Fighter II though, this is the best version and as long as you can justify the price you shouldn’t be too disappointed.
Ultra Street Fighter II is available on 26 May, priced £34.99 / $39.99 on the Switch eShop. You can also buy the physical version from Amazon UK.
In order that I could write this review, I received a free copy of the game from a PR. The content of my review and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by this.
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