The lights are on
SF 4 is what many of Capcom's earlier 3D ventures should have been. A game that preserves its classic fluid, two-dimensional gameplay and brings a visual overhaul, along with some other innovations. As a long-time fan of Third Strike, I expected a deeply rewarding combat system and was satisfied. Street Fighter 4 is leap forward for the series, and overcomes the few flaws it has.
In terms of story, it has been the material outside the game - anime, comics, and regrettfully, live-action films- that we've looked to for the complex narrative involving the myriad characters of the Street Fighter universe. Don't expect much of an overhaul in that department in this game, as a few anime cutscenes - some of them utterly idiotic- are all that comprises any plot. The new characters are also a little absurd, but it's their fresh fighting styles that interest us most. Still, the old characters that we loved are here, except for a few - no Dee Jay or T Hawk? - offering a plethora of styles to master. Speaking of fighting styles, let's discuss the combat system.
Imagine tightening a bolt or nail so tight that you can barely unscrew it. Yeah, that's how tight the battle system is in this game; moves connect if you use the D-pad but for the analog, you'll find yourself occasionally guessing to get moves correct. Note that the combos in Trials will leave you with blisters on your fingers as you drill yourself and finally master those hard-earned challenges. This is partly due to the tightness of the combat system, which inhibits it in the end, as the preciseness requires you to "cheat" your way to success - inputting some moves at superhuman levels of speed ahead of time. I remember being able to repeatedly string a league of Hadoukens without fail on older iterations; not so on this one. Perhaps loosening this system a little would help. However, that's not to say this game isn't playable; it's simply showing that this game has an incredibly steep learning curve for some, which is rewarded with a vast number of unlockables. The solution to this is for beginners to simply adjust the difficulty to their liking.
The titles and colors, as well as other costumes, and taunts, come in spades as rewards for completing various challenges, from Time Trials to Survival mode, and only unlock colors for the respective fighter, so they invite you to master the nuances of the other characters. It also doesn't hurt to try to gain some of the achievements, which will have you cringing with malice due to their difficulty. Online play is also a bonus, if not irritating sometimes, due to the lag and shoddy connections that some of your opponents will have. Also note that the class system is also faulty, and this comes with personal experience, as inexperienced players will occasionally get placed against veterans of the game. However, these all are minor discrepancies which you will ignore in the end, as this is still an incredible gaming experience.
Street Fighter 4 doesn't have the arcade perfect gameplay of SF2 Turbo or Third Strike, but it comes the closest in translation and execution. The characters have strategies which we all can adapt to suit our own individual tastes, and the challenges, along with the unlockables offer a rich gaming experience which hardcore gamers can appreciate.
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