Tuesday 3 Jun 2014
Ultra Street Fighter 4
Considering that Street Fighter 4 is now nearly five years old, the additions in Ultra are actually quite daring. W-Ultra is the big standout here, giving you access to both of your character's ultra combos instead of one or the other. Neither will do as much damage, but the utility it provides is almost irresistible for characters like Dudley for instance, whose Ultra 1 is threatening in specific matchups, but his Ultra 2 is too generally useful to pass on. It's a great additional layer of tactical consideration that adds dimension to many formerly stale matchup considerations.
Delayed wakeup and red-focus on the other hand, are a little more situational in application, and thus, they aren't as immediately impactful as W-Ultra. They do,however, give every character some new options for dealing with the knockdown/vortex aggression that defined tournament play in Arcade Edition 2012, and for that reason alone, these are welcome additions. It's nice to feel less helpless after getting knocked down by Cammy or Akuma.
The most abundant changes however, are the subtle ones, and it is here where Ultra truly distinguishes itself. Every character has been touched in one way or another in an attempt to broaden the field of viable characters, and close the gap between the top and bottom tiers. The true degree of Capcom's success here will take time and tournaments to tell, but so far, the changes look great. Little things like fixing Rufus' Messiah Kick, and reverting some of Yun's heavy-handed 2012 nerfs help make those characters feel like threats again. Subtle enhancements like the speed of Ken's crouching forward, or the hit box of Dudley's standing fierce mean that characters who have long been ignored may have a chance to rise to prominence. More than ever, characters who have struggled at the bottom seem worth dusting off again, giving Ultra a fresh, exciting feel.
For folks who aren't into the finer points of fisticuffs, the biggest chunk of new content is the five characters, bringing the playable count to a whopping 44 fighters. Rolento, Elena, Poison, and Hugo make their way from Street Fighter x Tekken with a lot of their move-sets intact, but retooled for SF4's more traditional combat engine. The results are pleasing across the board.
Hugo's unrelenting clap and grapple pressure, Elena's smothering high/low poke game, Rolento's cat-and-mouse trickery...each of them brings flair, and a well-differentiated fighting style to bear.
That goes double for newcomer Decapre, whose disappointingly familiar “Cammy with a mask” look hides one of the most dynamic skill-sets in the entire cast. Two useful Ultras, good pokes, and a stacked toolbox of mixups make her a blast to play.
Feature-wise, absolutely everything from previous versions returns, with a couple of extra cherries on top. Offline match recording, and the ability to train while waiting for online match opponents have been top requests forever now, but edition select is nothing short of a dream come true for hardcore SF4 nerds like me. The ability to pick any version of any character across the entire Street Fighter 4 series leads to incredible grudge matches. And really, who didn't miss nonsense like Rufus’ jump roundhouse into EX snake strike shaving off wads of life, or getting a full ultra off a traded Ryu dragon punch?
Ultra Street Fighter 4 takes an already incredible, content-rich fighting game, and builds upon it in ways that fighting enthusiasts can get lost in and casual fans can enjoy. Every addition and refinement, both big and small, works. The new characters feel like they've been here all along, and the rebalancing gives old characters a fresh lease on life, making Ultra a must-have for anyone who's enjoyed any version of Street Fighter 4.