Ultra Street Fighter 2:The Final Challengers Review (Switch)
Here comes a new challenger! The Nintendo Switch exclusive and definitive edition of the classic, genre defining Capcom beat-em-up is finally here. Play as all your favorite characters with updated, hand drawn graphics, or see how Evil Ryu and Violent Ken handle the pressure of being the new kids on the block.
Everyone knows Street Fighter, and beyond that, any self-respecting gamer in their thirties or older will surely recall the halcyon days of Super Street Fighter II Turbo, which at the time of release in 1994 was considered by many to the be the definitive edition of the best fighting game ever made. Whether you agree with that statement or not, SSFII:T is almost certainly one of the most revered one vs one beat-em-ups ever made, and by remaking it and branding it as the "Ultra" edition as a Nintendo Switch exclusive, Capcom are under considerable pressure to deliver the goods.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is available now for the Nintendo Switch.
USFII has no story as such, although as was always the case in previous Street Fighter II games, each character has a reason for fighting that is hinted at in between bouts or during their ending sequence. Broadly speaking, the original Street Fighter II story focused on Ryu and Ken as rivals and friends in the role of lead protagonist. Their mission,to prove either that their martial art was the best, or in Ken's case, that he himself was as capable as he was arrogant. Other fighters such as Chun Li and Guile fought for justice or vengeance, with M. Bison (assuming the US and European names apply) as the head of an evil corporation called Shadaloo that had wronged them.
This story line is as relevant (or irrelevant) as it ever was back in the early nineties, and there has always been a clear focus on action in the Street Fighter games. The vast majority of the lore (even to the very light extent that I've described above) exists outside the game, with only the happy endings truly being revealed to us when a given character finishes the game. If you want to learn more, I heartily recommend the 1994 Manga movie known as Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, but please steer clear of the live action Street Fighter movie starring Jean-Claude Van-Damme and Kylie Minogue, because despite the efforts of the late Raul Julia as M. Bison, it is beyond awful.
At the time of writing, the online features of USFII were not available for review. Capcom has stated that it will be launching the online features with a day one patch. We will update this section of the review to provide more detail about these features within a few days of them being introduced.
As you would expect, gameplay is where USFII really excels. The game retains all of the core mechanics that will be familiar to anyone who has played a Street Fighter game before, with only minor balancing changes having been made to suit what will be (on average) a more casual audience than the arcade gamers that the original design was made for.
USFII has a clear focus on clean, traditional gameplay, and as a result it is much less complex than many of the Street Fighter sequels, such as Double Impact or Alpha. It is also much less complex than many other beat-em-ups that were conceived later, such as JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, or Blazblue. There are supernove finishers that are extremely powerful, but they occur much less frequently than in most comparable games.
With this focus on clean gameplay, USFII features the traditional six button layout that harks back to the original Super Nintendo version of the very first Street Fighter II conversion. This will be immediately familiar to returning players, but for anyone new, it's just as intuitive as it ever was. Special moves remain in their original form too, with the flowing down-through-forward Hadouken motion common to many characters, and holding back for two seconds, then pushing forwards and an attack button still present for others.
The original release of Super Street Fighter II did introduce variations on these moves for characters both old and new, and all of these remain, but Street Fighter has never been a game about chaining ridiculous prebaked combos together, so all of them feel learnable and intuitive. One thing I'm pleased to see omitted is the special move and throw shortcut buttons that have become popular in modern fighting games.
This iteration of the game features a number of new modes, one of which could only be achieved with Nintendo Switch (or similar) hardware. There is the basic Arcade and Versus modes, but there is also a Twin Battle mode, that enables the player and a CPU partner (or two players) to tackle a series of single enemies controlled by the AI. In all honesty, I found this mode a bit pointless, but it did work well as a kind of tech demo for the Switch hardware, as it enabled me to kick out the stand, pull of the Joy-Con's and show friends how to play the game in a non-competitive setting. There is also a training mode and for fans of the series, a really nice art collection to wade through featuring about two hundred images from the twenty year celebration book accompanied by either original or updated background music.
The game features nineteen characters that include the entire roster from the original game, plus Akuma (who was added in a later release) and Evil Ryu and Violent Ken, who both appear for the first time in a version of Street Fighter II. Each character has strengths and weaknesses, but whether any of them are real stinkers or not is the subject of a debate that has raged for more than twenty years, and will no doubt continue on for twenty more! For what it's worth, I found Violent Ken to be both very powerful and very fast, making him a force to be reckoned with.
Way of the Hado
Way of the Hado is a completely different prospect however. This solo mode has players taking on the role of Ryu, and plays in first person as he tackles wave after wave of Shadaloo soldiers. The twist in this mode is that Ryu has only a basic moveset that incorporates a basic block and then a range of special moves, such as the Hadouken and the Shoryuken, and each move must be executed using the motion controls in a pair of detatched Joy-Cons.
My God, this mode is awful. Firstly, it looks completely different to the rest of the game – as if it was some horrible afterthought left over from Street Fighter IV or V. Wherever it did originate from, I wish it had stayed there because in real terms, it's completely unplayable. The motion controls are barely functional, making the experience incredibly frustrating to play, and despite Capcom's efforts to introduce replayability through a light-RPG progression system, there's just no incentive to stick around.
it's hard to fathom what made Capcom think this mode was an acceptable addition in its current state, and it feels to me as if what might have seemed a great idea at some point in development has just never been realised. It should have been omitted altogether, or introduced as free DLC in a few months when it had been developed a little further.
Graphics and Audio
To summarise them briefly, both the graphics and audio in USFII are exceptional in either their original or updated forms. I imagine that most people will spend the majority of their time playing with the updated options, but for someone like me that spent days and days playing the original game as a youth, I love the inclusion of classic themes for nostalgic reasons.
Street Fighter II was always known for having beautifully drawn, realistic characters that brimmed with personality, but the early 90's animation didn't feature an abundance of individual frames. This gave the fighters a pulsating feel, and a rhythm that was perfectly attuned with timing of the gameplay. USFII recreates the feel of the original game perfectly, in both graphical modes.
When playing in the classic mode, players will need to suffer a 4:3 aspect ratio that is reminiscent of the classic arcade cabinet, but rather than black borders around the screen, Capcom has seen fit to simulate the arcade cabinet itself, which is a neat touch. Nostalgia aside, the updated graphics are far superior, especially when playing on a large TV. The characters – especially Sagat – are impressively large and detailed, and the game looks absolutely incredible. The only downside I can think of from a graphical perspective is that unlike in many similar HD remixes of older games, you can't change the graphics mode on the fly in USFII, but that's not surprising given the change in aspect ratio.
Where the sound is concerned, in all honesty, I prefer some of the original background music, but because the game allows players to mix and match graphics and audio, that's not a problem. The music serves only to keep the pulse racing during intense fights (which it does well enough) whilst the sound effects and voicing are all entirely functional.
There's really no reason why a Street Fighter II fan shouldn't run out (or rather, log onto the Nintendo eShop) and buy USFII the instant it becomes available. It is, without doubt, the definitive version of Street Fighter II released to date. Even though it does suffer from some periphery modes that take the best and worst of the Switch's mobile and motion features, the core gameplay is exceptional, and the updated graphical style and option to play with a classic look are the icing on the cake.