There’s nothing quite like the feeling of landing a particularly intricate combo at just the right time in a Street Fighter IV match. The further advancements the series makes to the core formula, the more complex fights get and the better the player you are, the deeper you get into the ins and outs of what makes this relatively old game still feel fresh in its newest iteration, Ultra Street Fighter IV.
Earlier this year at Evolution 2014, one of, if not the biggest tournament in the world, the cream of the crop of professional players went face to face in probably the first high stakes event to involve this new version of Street Fighter IV. I was in the middle of such a congregation of talent and passion for this venerable series, and it was quite a sight to behold how far Street Fighter has gotten and how much its community is devoted to learning absolutely all the secrets within the game. Much to that success is due to the repeated tweaks and refinements it has been getting over the years, through both paid and free downloadable packs.
Ultra is by far the most packed of upgrades Street Fighter IV has gotten. Not only is the game’s roster further stuffed with great new characters to fool around with, but gameplay is now even deeper thanks to a major re-balance to the entire cast and new extra layers of options like the red focus. Focus works a lot like parries from Street Fighter III, that is, a move that absorbs damage in favor of dealing a stronger than usual counter attack. It’s a big gamble, though, due to how easy it is for an opponent to break through it and deal a huge chunk of damage. Red focus doubles the odds by giving you a bigger margin of hits you can take before losing the gamble, and in turn, adding more damage to the final hit, helping characters have a possible escape from potentially frustrating situations.
Extra options also come to ultra attacks, which are the big comeback mechanic during a fight – the more you get hit, the bigger your ultra bar gets, allowing for a more powerful ultra. Super Street Fighter IV added in a second ultra move to every fighter’s arsenal, but up until now, nobody was able to use both moves on the same match. The W ultra changes that, letting you equip both moves, allowing for more tactics to be employed during a fight, at the cost of overall damage. This change is probably the bigger of the additions to Street Fighter IV and gives some of the weaker characters in the roster more chances to break through and away from sticky situations.
As mentioned before, there are five new additions to the cast to pick from, totaling 44 fighters to pick from. The ever growing cast is varied and extremely fun, and the inclusion of some of the Street Fighter X Tekken brawlers makes it even better, not to mention a new playable character that’s new to the series. Rolento, Elena, Poison and Hugo make a second Capcom franchise jump, after diving in from Final Fight to Street Fighter X Tekken, with mixed results. Including these guys in Street Fighter IV is a rather smart choice by Capcom. Instead of just copying and pasting these guys from one game to the other, they took their time to incorporate them into Ultra. Even though most of their moves remain the same, they feel more in their nature in this game than the previous one.
My personal highlights from these additions are probably Hugo and Elena, who are so unique and fun to try and learn. It’s funny to see series’ juggernaut Zangief getting the shorter end of the stick and getting dwarfed by Hugo’s slower but positively devastating suite of grabs; the same goes for how weird it is to play as and against Elena’s strange posture and very horizontally strong and quick move set. That’s not to say you won’t find much to like about Rolento’s easy to pick up quick pokes and dirty tricks or Poison’s very trap-based stance – frankly, there’s something interesting here for all tastes.
Decapre is probably the most striking of the new additions to the roster. She looks a lot like Cammy, but her fighting is a very quick and dangerous, making her a difficult character to just jump in unprepared but is oddly alluring to try out. Even though her visual design isn’t anything out of this world creatively-wise, she fits in well within the Street Fighter fiction as yet another of Bison’s psycho power dolls first introduced – but never included as a playable fighter – in the Street Fighter Zero/Alpha series.
And if you’re looking for more modes to play in Ultra, you’re in for a delight. All the modes added over the years in previous versions of the game, after all, this is an incremental update to an already upgraded version of Super Street Fighter IV. Aside from those, we now get to pick which character version we want to play as when choosing a fighter, an option that can potentially multiply the huge cast even further, considering how much some of these guys have seen in changes with each game upgrade. Imagine pitting the original release’s Sagat against the oh-so-broken Yun from Arcade Edition – possibilities are aplenty for interesting and completely unbalanced matches.
Still, if you’re looking to put some practice in between online matches, you can do so as well, through fight requests that pop up while you are busy in training mode. This might sound like a minor addition to most, but it has been one of the most requested features from the Street Fighter community, one that has already seen plenty of use in my personal sessions with the game. It’s worth noting that Capcom has announced that the new cast additions from the previous upgrade, Arcade Edition 2012 and Ultra will be added to the trial modes as well in a future patch. Also coming is an Omega edition of the entire cast, basically introducing an extra version with new moves and mechanics to all the 44 fighters.
I could spend countless more words going on and on about how much I enjoy Street Fighter IV, so I’ll spare you from it. If you are coming in fresh into the series, Ultra Street Fighter IV will be intimidating and daunting, and all the while, absurdly rewarding and fun. The re-balancing to the existing cast turns previously weaker characters into better choices and the handful of new fighters are incredibly varied and entertaining. There’s no better time than now for all Street Fighter fans to join the fray.