Boy, what a disappointment this turned out to be. Since I don’t have a console, I had to wait for months in eager anticipation for the long-awaited sequel to one of my favourite fighting series to be released on PC. Finally getting it up and running on this old laptop just filled me with a boyish delight I had not known since MVC2 was released. But after playing around with it for a few days and unlocking some of the hidden characters, I had to give in to that nagging feeling in the back of my head: Street Fighter IV is a lousy fighting game!
Okay, before I move onto the complaints, let me highlight what I do like about the game. Presentation-wise, SF4 is flawless. The theme song by Exile is notoriously catchy and the stage tracks are all very memorable. Likewise, Capcom did an excellent job squeezing mountains of dialogue into the game, and it’s a delight to hear all our favourite fighters speak english. Graphically, although there was a lot of controversy surrounding the style at first, I really enjoy watching the character animations and facial expressions prior to an Ultra combo. So in the audio-visual department at least, SF4 is a success.
Where it disappoints is the actual gameplay. To put it simply, it’s fifteen years old! This is Super Street Fighter II Turbo all over again. It was a great game for it’s time, but hasn’t the series evolved in the slightest after all these years? Capcom did pursue gameplay enhancements in its other fighting games, particularly regarding combos. I refer you to the superb system used in the VS. series. People say that’s it’s a totally different style from Street Fighter, but it’s not! It’s the evolution of what began with glitch combos in Street Fighter II. Capcom first included a genuine combo system in Night Warriors by cancelling a light punch or kick into a heavier one. This was later improved upon in Marvel Super Heroes with super cancels and super jumps, and eventually perfected in Tatsunoko VS. Capcom with variable moves, delayed hyper combos, baroque and more.
So while the VS. series has seen constant improvements to the gameplay, Street Fighter IV seems to have regressed to an infantile state. The combo system is shit. Punches and kicks don’t cancel into one another, so there’s little reason to open a combo with a light hit. You can’t hit someone on the ground, and hitting someone in the air can be a nightmare. Sometimes you can uppercut a falling opponent, sometimes you can’t. Somtimes a move will catch someone close to the ground, sometimes it won’t. There’s really no consistency in this game. Even the basics are messed up. The rhythm is ruined because your opponent is always floored after every Shoryuken or Somersault Kick. Dashing is useless because the characters only do a tiny hop and leave themselves open to attack. I always get confused what to do when both characters jump towards each other because there’s no air blocking and most fighters don’t have air throws. And besides, you wouldn’t get off more than one hit from the exchange anyway. Even when compared to the SFA and SF3 games, there’s a shocking lack of options. No parries, no ISMs, no Excel, fewer Ultras… In fact, moves is one thing that this game sorely lacks. Each character only has one Ultra combo! Well, okay, one and half if you consider the insignificant Super variation. And it’s alarming to see that after eighteen years, Guile still only has two moves! Two moves! TWO! What. The. Hell.
I have no idea where Capcom is going with this minimalist approach. People who would argue that it’s balanced might as well stick to Rock, Paper, Scissors. That’s a balanced game, but why the hell would you want to play that when you’ve got World of Warcraft at your disposal? Why can’t Capcom see that more moves and combos enhance the gameplay? I want multiple Ultras! I want Aerial Raves! I want tag battles! I want whatever possible move or trick Capcom can throw at us! I don’t want to see the Street Fighter series doomed to a prehistoric fighting system when there are so many better alternatives already available. There’s so much more that can be done with it!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play MVC2…