Ultra Street Fighter IV is almost guaranteed to be a hit when it releases this Summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to address every complaint that gamers have fastidiously documented over the games five-year history. As cool as a new mechanic like Red Focus is, the indecision on Capcom’s part to really brag this feature up to the general gaming public reflects on Capcom’s recent woes (financial, low-risk ventures), which itself reflect on the company not knowing how to improve its core games through simple changes and alterations directly to the different mechanics already in place. And with that short-sighted-ness, there are going to be some equally game-changing system possibilities left on the cutting room floor. Or, what is it? A den-floor? Office floor? Love hotel?
I kid. Anyway …
**All Ultra’s, All the Time | **Or … We Are All “W’s” Down Here.
If you’ve been following the recent news, Ultra lets you use both Ultras with a 60 percent damage reduction for the utility of doing so, called the “W” option. And with this new option comes a controversy that is hair-pullingly absurd.
For one, fans fear Zangief and his merry band of homo-erotic Native American oil wrestlers will now be some all-powerful god-tier assholes with access to two Ultra’s because they can throw people in front or kinda above them, thanks to the use of both Ultras, despite the first option all-ready being a more powerful version of a standard move those characters already have - Their SPD’s. Meaning, when a player has Ultra II selected, they essentially already have these zones covered.
Now, if you’ve been following the scene, you’ll know that this is an outdated concerned that is already been dismissed by those close to the game’s competitive scene, such as respected commentator and grappler player, Ultra David, who has stated that, at present, under the confines of the “W” Ultra option, Ultra I only gives Zangief a minor damage buff (skip to 8:00-ish) to to what would already be his standard SPD, or 360, throw.
But all are forgetting one thing. One very important thing and that thing is - Fuck it. Yes. Seriously. Fuck it. This is Street Figher - We’ve had the two Ultra option for like, three, four years now!? We know the good Ultra. We know the shit Ultra. We know the character specific Ultra that’s good for that one match; and we know the noobie counter Ultras young Fei and Cammy players use. And we especially know the “just started playing so I don’t know they’re terrible” grab Ultras that Honda and Balrog have. So … Fuck it.
Still better than what we have now …
Letting a character have both Ultra options is so … not a big issue. It really isn’t. The tiers will align on whatever the top tier’s turn out to be and the world is going to be fine. The very fact that Capcom are even ALLOWING this, shows that they’ve most likely come to terms with the fact that there isn’t any horribly unfair match up that this is going to promote. If anything, it’s important that you, yes YOU, remember that you will also have a second Ultra option in that same match. Yes, I know, its unbelievable!
Imagine, Ryu’s got that grappler pinned down. His Ultra meter is full. He’s got an FADC primed and greased should he need it and he’s got that grappler right where he want’s him - scared and far away. And that grappler is terrified of coming in, yes he is, and then he realizes, “Wait, Fuck it. I’VE got two Ultra’s too. This mofo can’t jump in or come at me, because I am a 360 god.” And, wouldn’t you know it? He scared that Ryu right up into a corner and U2’d him, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”-style. That grappler ended up winning that match. His name was T. Hawk. True story.
“But, MrDr. Jerkhole, what about the damage?” Well, weren’t you listening, poorly-worded-example-guy? I said - Fuck. It.
Ultra’s aren’t anyone’s cup of tea I imagine. You feel cheap either way, hit or attacking with, but right now if you play Ryu, Fei, Cammy, Sakura, Akuma or any multitude of mid/top characters that have reliable Ultra set-ups, you have to admit, you’re doing pretty good when you consider that one of the defining characteristics of all the low-tier characters is poor Ultra options.
Top tier characters already have setups that won’t be going anywhere in Ultra, and a top player would be remiss to lose out on some of that damage for slightly better utility in most cases. But the low-tier doesn’t have that luxury - Poor hitboxes, poor set-ups, or just the base fact that neither options are very good cough, Honda. Having a full damage dual option can cover some of those problems. And since Capcom’s balance is already with the dual option in mind, we can reasonably expect both Ultra’s changes to be fairly well thought out in Ultra compared from their AE 2012 versions. Plus, come on, it just keeps people thinking.
Renovating this system and giving less choice, actually gives the player more choices in the match. Before this was announced, people never thought Cap would let you use both Ultras, but here we are. Allowing full damage and forcing everyone to learn to use both options in a match changes the whole dynamic of a match-up. For the first time in a long time, every character seem dangerous again. Its day 1 all over again!
Finally, it just feels and looks … I don’t know … tighter? Is that the right word? No select menu, no, “who-am-I-fighting” decision, just, boom! Dee Jay. Let’s go. And finally, the houses of Hakan Ultra 1 players and Hakan Ultra II players will be united. So much bloodshed Cap … so much bloodshed. Or actually … not. Because it’s Hakan were talking about here.
LITERALLY, not even the right direction. Sigh. This character …
**3 bar Super | Or … “Cancel, Cancel, Cancel”.
Where the hell did four bars come from anyway? (something about mary car scene) Seriously. It’s such an ugly number. Was it to allow double FADC’s in a match? Maybe. But game design has the rule of three’s. That having three core options gives a game its strategy without being over-the-top complicated.
In Halo you have shoot, melee, grenade. In fighters you have hit, block, throw. In golf games you have … well, honestly I’ve never played a golf game. I had a demo for Hot Shots Golf 1 on PS1 back in the whenevs but I don’t remember much more than how much Official Playstation Magazine talked about it. That, and my friend had a broken Golden Tee on his porch from when his parents closed their vending company. But, that had like, a rock under the trackball or something.
I present: The only photo of “Golden Tee” not hosted on Angelfire.
Three is just magic. It’s a prime number, its got history, its got … speed. A three-bar Super has goddamn SPEED. Which means, follow me on this … more Supers. How many Supers do you get when you and your friend are playing at home? Hell, how many do you see in a tournament? A better question is, how many people plan for Super? And I hate to assume, but I would wager that half the time, getting and / or activating it was a mistake as the damage never seems worth losing four EX bars for. You’re better off getting punched in the face a few times and FADC’ing into Ultra then using FOUR bars for 250 - 300 damage.
A three-bar allows Supers to actually be meaningful as they can be planned for in every round and they don’t require you to meter hoard as intently between rounds. And the beautiful part? You don’t even have to change the meter gain. It’s already fairly decent at letting most characters hit three bars in a given round. The only thing you would have to change would be the coding from four to three bars and the UI. I know that’s no walk in the park, but in giving every character a second, second chance every round? Seems worth it. Plus, this is a “new” game, right Cap? UI changes are kinda par for the course at this point.
And the strategy!? Oi. So much changes. I mean, who goes for Super now? Who literally says, “I’m going to absorb so many hits and then Super this fool!” Nobody. It’s a written off attack most times because for so many of the cast (Chargers especially) your EX reversals are key to a successful match. All this equates to Supers being the closest thing SFIV has to Street Figher X Tekken’s Pandora mode. I know that’s a lofty insult to most, but all I mean is that it is a very unregarded move.
Right before Sadako …
I would imagine, nay wager, that most people look down, see they have Super and go, “Oh, cool. That would be fun to use now.” But that is not strategy. That’s happenstance more than anything. I would put the amount of players who actively seek out and save meter for Super at somewhere around 10 percent of players. And that’s being generous.
Supers are so high risk; so expensive, you almost forget about them until someone does it. Then you’re all like, “Oh, yeah, those things.” Changing the meter from four to three would mean that, for once, people might actually, I don’t know, CONSERVE their meter in a round hoping to land it before the rounds over. That would be an amazing change. Plus, they’re fast!
I don’t know a single person who isn’t sick of their character’s Ultra animation. If you still love it after five years, god bless you, you are a hero of men, but I could do without. Yet, Super’s are quickly animated. Like, really quick. They’re almost what Ultra’s should be. Really, they should swap. Supers should get the long animation because when you actually do purposefully launch a Super (and it hits) it’s like a goddamn event. There are Supers that, no joke, I don’t think I’ve seen in years. YEARS. Fuerte, anybody?
Now I don’t seriously mean that Supers and Ultra’s should swap (though I don’t not mean it …). All I DO mean though, is that it would be cool to see these moves come into the games strategy a little more. They’re fast, they’re deadly, but as they stand right now they are too damn expensive and take too long for everyone but the most offensive player to activate. Which is another thing I just want to throw out there. The offensive players get Super a lot more than the defensive, but it’s not uncommon for the defensive player to get three bars in a round, even after using an EX bar to reversal. It would be cool to see those defensive players get the chance to come back more.
“But, what about FADC’s? You’ll only get one in a match!?”
Well … that’s … that’s another thing.
Everything Takes One-Bar to Activate Or … Why not?
No. This is not a joke. This is my serious face.
The idea behind a two-bar cancel vs a one-bar EX attack was to, I imagine, prevent a character’s offense from becoming too safe and/or dominant. But, I believe that ship has sailed at this point. Some characters are clearly dominant and some are not, it’s time to mix up the very basis that defines a character’s ability to pervert a match - The use of FADC and, soon to be, “Red Focus”.
Allowing one-bar to become the norm allows Ultra to become a new experience entirely. An experience bound to the conventions of the previous game while allowing a whole new level of combos and reversals. For new players, this would have the added benefit of allowing the game to be simple to pick up and understand while improving the footsie game for veterans. The footsie game which has become largely standardized at this stage in the game’s life, I would argue could stand for a couple of new options for each character in the cast. A one-bar FADC would be a major change, but a strong change that already has precedent in the game as it is. This would merely increase the opportunities in a given match to do so, and allow more risky use of the mechanic. i.e. through normal cancels and more baiting ala FADC backdash. Being able to FADC with one bar would allow for a whole new dynamic, in both defense and offense.
The combo system would be entirely overhauled by this change, but not overwhelmingly so. Allowing one more cancel in a match due to the change in the Super meter, versus the standard two only gives one more defensive chance, but upon full contact it would allow characters full new combo opportunities (if they had full bars of course). It would make the game more fun in the long-term as it would allow higher aggressive peaks for the offensive player, and a much tenser experience when they run through their meter and have to rely on their meter-less defense. Which is to say nothing of the new mechanic - “Red Focus.”
Red Focus has become a controversial change in Ultra, with many decrying its use and effectiveness. Some worry it may be too strong, but the majority opinion is that the move while be quite weak, due to it’s activation costs. Well … if that cost is one-bar, many defensive characters can use the technique without fear of burning through their meter and not being able to EX-reversal, which is quite necessary to some characters regaining ground.
As it stands, if you Red Focus and cancel, you’re talking a full-round of meter (four bars, as it stands now!) for one dodge, which is ridiculous since, I would imagine, the point of using RF in most cases is to punish someone’s predictable offense, not escape it. So for something as innocent as getting away from a bad match-up’s predictable flow chart offense, you are required to take it until you can expel most of your reversal options. This is too expensive for a fairly innocuous strategy as just escaping.
I predict that the reason RF is getting the two-bar treatment is not because it is a powerful maneuver as much as it is a NEW maneuver. It is unproven. Could it break the game? Maybe, but probably not. Could it be worthless for most of the cast? Maybe, but probably not. No, I suspect the real reason is that it is a somewhat drastic new feature to a competitive game that is five-years-old. That’s big. And I suspect Capcom is rather afraid of making a new feature as relevant to the game as say, regular focus, lest they invite the kind of attention that would dissuade new / returning fans. You might know these as “FGC blog comments”. The stuff you find on Eventhubs and Shoryuken that seems, let’s say, “over the top”. Good or bad, these outspoken individuals would be … VERY outspoken.
RF invites new defensive options to players whom, in the case of troll commentators, are afraid of having to learn new ways of approaching their matches, or, in some cases, being less strong due to this new mechanic. These players see their dominance as largely one befitting their present character’s strength and less on their skills as a player. They see this new mechanic as an attack on their ability to win. They hide behind excuses. Like the timeless, “That’s not what the designers intended.” Which is the FGC equivalent of “Jesus said…”. It is a closeted mentality used to hide a players fear of change. It also, in the case of FGC vs FGC (ala the old, “Smash is a party game” shit) it is used to express hate and belittle another person’s choice in game preference.
In both shortening the Super Meter from 4 to 3 bars and making all bar-based attacks and options only use one bar to activate, the game itself is now a faster beast. One that would feel radically different from what came before it.
“And what about delayed get-up?”
Delayed get-up is a defensive maneuver that will allow a player to get off the ground either, quick, medium or, now, slow. This will likely equate to about a 1/2 second extra delay from the present longest option, which is about 1.5 seconds. So … no. That should not cost a bar of meter. Asking your opponent to pay a one-bar tax for the privilege of a .5 second delay in getup is the textbook definition of being butt-hurt and not willing to give your downed opponent necessary options they need to defend themselves.
That’s tea party shit. If you really think delayed get-up should cost meter, you probably burned people back in the day because you thought they were witches. It is, in the scheme of things, such a minor addition, that only to the FGC is it even noteworthy. It lets you get off the ground with three different speeds. It’s the equivalent of a 10 foot bridge that people think we should charge a toll on. Get fucked. Seriously.
That’ll be one bar, grandpa.
Lower Health Or … 1993, baby.
Dare I say, the most CONTROVERSIAL change (Yeah, I know) is that the overall health of EVERY character, should be reduced by 50, if not 100 for some.
People like the extra health. “Hey, I don’t die with one mistake!” you may say. However, this is an illusion. In actuality, higher health puts heavy emphasis, not on tricks or mix-ups, but on Ultra set-ups. This is not set in stone. However, it is a fact. While a player may have other options available to them, Ultra’s are, at this stage in the game, essential in most comebacks against high-level opponents.
The problem with a lot of the lower cast is that their is some fundamental problem with their Ultra setup, be it high risk, low damage, hard to commit, what have you. Lower health opponents takes the emphasis off the Ultra as being the main comeback mechanic and allows your Hakan’s and Abels to thrive off tricky play. If you’re an Ultra man, hey, no problem, it’s still hugely effective, but being able to let a footsie-driven player play their game without the Ultra being essential is a virtue that would add a lot to the game. Plus, this is the same game that would have more mix-ups and footsies as a result of the 3-bar Super meter with one bar activations, baiting and “safe” risks would become more common allowing a more thoughtful game then just, “I jumped, they FADC’d into Ultra, I died”.
I wish …
And maybe its nostalgia, maybe delusion, but I love low-health fighters. Every match is tense. Every move has gravity to it and every decision requires careful calculations. Hell, the oldest fighter on the scene, SFII, is still defined by its high damage gameplay. As it stands, watching low health characters go at it in SFIV is some of the best battles you’ll see. Not just because of the extra options those characters usually have, but because those players have to play so carefully. Every opponent demands respect because you know they are two hit confirms away from winning. I want that in every match. Yes, Zangief and Honda and T-Hawk deserve more chances (and walk speeds, nudge nudge) to block attacks, but their style is also preserved when they know hitting an opponent will feel ever more satisfying when the health just MELTS after they touch their opponent. Grapplers should be able 1000 health (1100 right now), average health should go from 900 to 800 and the 700’s should go to 650. Is this madness? Maybe. But, in essence, nothing will change, even the lowest character will get about three get-off-the-ground opportunities, while the mix-ups awarded from the new systems (pitched above) will allow them to hide strategies between matches and not require them to use every trick in a match. They could actually, ya know, surprise you three matches in with a strategy you haven’t seen them use because they don’t have to use every trick in the book to kill Balrog in two / three rounds.
**Conclusion **| Or … *“Why I hate This Guy”. *
In the end, I love SSFIV:AE 2012. It’s an amazing game. Probably the best game I’ve ever played.
These suggestions are not to turn this game into “Marvel”. I have no interest in picking up any number of other fighting games out there. I don’t want SFIV to become a “party game” or “09’er friendly” or whatever else bullshit people can say to diminish these suggestions. I didn’t write this to get a rise out of anyone, but merely to express my desire for the game designers to own up to the opportunity. Fuck the haters, follow your heart.
In the game business you usually only get one shot to make the game of your dreams. The producers of this title have now gotten five (seven technically). If they’re satisfied with the game as-is, then fuck it. Keep it going. If they want to do the exact opposite of everything I’ve written, that’s their right and I hope they make that game. I would just hate for an opportunity this big to be wasted because people, designers or fans, were too afraid to make waves. Ultra is coming and I hope it’s every bit the gut punch we all want it to be.
SSFIV:AE 2012 is here forever, nothing can change that. You can always pop in your AE disc and go, no Ultra balance, no new characters or levels, no red focus. If people really hate Ultra, they will continue to support AE. Nothing can take that game away. So why not distill everything this game has become into the most fun, advanced fighter possible? For the many that go out and buy Ultra, it will be a whole new start. Five years ago, people in high school were in middle school, or even elementary. The college kids are now workers, possibly with kids. The one’s with kids are now teaching their kids the game. This is now a lineage experience and giving it a shot of fresh air cannot hurt the game. It really can’t. The only thing we have to lose, is the opportunity to take this series to the next level.
Oh, and that title. I really hated typing out that title. I’m not going to miss that title.
Long live USFIV.
TLDR: No. Screw you. Read it.