STAFF REVIEW of Street Fighter IV (Xbox 360)

Monday, March 2, 2009.
by Rick Wallace

Street Fighter IV Box art There is nothing like the days of playing Street Fighter in the local arcade or bowling alley Pumping quarters into the arcade like they were pennies seemed to be just common place. I dropped several $10 rolls into the machine over my youth and to this day I still am no better at Street Fighter games than I was the first time I played it. Then the Street Fighter series hit the home consoles and now you did not have to worry about spending your weekly allowance within a day in order to beat the game. Ah, the nostalgia of this title!

Well low and behold a few month back we got Street Fighter IV Turbo Remix on the Xbox Live Arcade and folks rejoiced. Skip ahead a few months and we come to find out that there is a full retail version of Street Fighter IV on its way to the Xbox 360. And the fans rejoiced! So does the retail version stack up against its previous classic iterations which seem to be etched in video game history. Well, I am here to tell you that this game does complete justice to the series and aura of the Street Fighter name.

You'll find a few new characters, all new fighting venues and plenty of new attacks and combos that are all displayed in brilliant graphical form. While the game is graphically beautiful throughout, it still holds that Street Fighter feel and look that folks have become so accustomed too. I personally think thats a great thing and it really does tap into the memory banks of days past sitting with buddies beating the crap out of each other with our favorite character. Speaking of characters, all the characters you have come to love and hate are in the game as well as a few new ones to wet your whistle. Each character again holds to its original past self in great fashion and even the new characters feel as if they have been a part of the Street Fighter world all along.

Every fan of the game will immediately be familiar with the game and be able to take their favorite character through arcade mode. All the combo and special moves you have come accustomed to over the years are right at your finger tips once again. The only gripe for most will be that the Xbox 360 controller really does not seem like the perfect fit for what you are used to when playing the Street Fighter series. The D-Pad is a little more loose than most would like it to be and becomes evident at times when trying to pull off specific combos. On a side note though, a 6 button arcade stick is available for purchase and would seem like an ideal investment for any fan of the series that plans on playing this on a regular basis. I have also heard many players using a method called ?sanding the dpad? in which you basically make your controller dpad a little more responsive to your presses. I don't condone the sanding option, just making mention that some folks feel the need to carry out this controller modification.

So lets get right into the game itself. You'll find quite a few modes available from the main menu. They include: Arcade Mode, Versus Mode, Xbox Live Battle, Challenge Mode and Training Mode. You'll also be able to view a gallery with art and movie cut scenes as well as a player data screen that will detail your time playing the game with leaderboards, medal lists, character records and player records. You will also notice on the main screen that there is a player status displayed. This status displayed an icon and a title which you earn and apply to your name as you unlock them. It is basically your avatar in the game and on the leaderboards. There is also 2 other things listed in this status. The first is Request Status which allows a second local player or an Xbox Live player to jump into your arcade mode by sending a request to join you at any point if you have the option turned on. The other is Battle Points in which you earn by fighting opponents and plays into your Xbox Live ranking along with a point system.

Arcade mode and Challenge Mode will be the most popular for a lot of users, but if you just want to get down to fighting real life players than head to the Xbox Live Battle mode and you can fight ranked or player matches. You will only earn Battle Points for competing in ranked matches though.

Thats the basics of the gameplay modes and I could go on more and more about the smaller details of each mode, but in the end its all fairly familiar and straight forward. So lets head onto discussing the graphics a bit. SFIV for the 360 keeps the 2D fighting style that has been a staple asset of this gameplay. There are plenty of upgrades to the backgrounds and the character models that make the game fresh and exciting without giving up the true core of what SFIV really is and thats a 2D side scrolling fighter. You'll also notice many of the special attacks have been enhanced graphically but still remain simple in design and again holds this title to its roots very well. One thing that really stands out is that while this game is a 2D style game, all the character models are 3D rendered and many of the cut scenes are a beautiful thing to behold. Some of the attacks you can perform will actually be shows in a 3D animation which doesn't take away from the game's overall nostalgic sense, but rather adds to the experience and should be welcomed by most veterans.

As I discussed earlier, the gameplay holds to its origins fairly well with the exception of a somewhat out of place Xbox 360 controller. As in the past, the moves are all combinations of buttons and dpad movements and folks will be pulling off their favorite combos in no time. There are some new aspects to the gameplay now that add to the experience while holding true to the gameplay associated with the series. One of those aspects is called ?Focus Mode?. While this mode will not have to be mastered to play the game and progress through the levels it is just added depth for the fans of the series to learn and master. Basically this mode allows the player to charge up a meter to perform a focus attack that will knock down the opponent if executed properly and contact is made. Its nto difficult to perform the maneuver, but timing is key and a missed attack could leave you hanging out to dry for your opponent to attack. The Focus Attack is somewhat a defensive maneuver as well though. While performing the attack you can take a hit and continue to perform the attack.

Along with the Focus meter, there is a Super meter that fills up during the match with each successful punch or kick landed and allows you to pull off super attacks and special moves. The Ultra Meter is another meter that fills with each hit you take. It's used to pull off devastating Ultra attacks that are cinematic in nature if executed properly and can really turn the fight around quickly and put your opponent on their heels. All of these especial combos require meters to be full, but you can pull off Ex attacks that only require a portion of the meter to be used. I don't want to get to in depth into the gameplay features as this game really is pick up and play for most folks and they'll have fun with it. The veterans and fans of the series will truly be the ones digging deeper and will find an abundance of new things to learn and master.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the modes included in the game is online play. I have to say that my experience with online wasn't always the most pleasant. Many hiccups within matches caused delay in performing combos and just as I thought I was about to attack my opponent I was suddenly trying to defend myself. SFIV is truly meant to be played locally more than over a network it seems, but that doesn't mean you will not run across good connections and matches. I had a few smooth interactions that felt like the person was right in the same room with me. So I guess my recommendation would be to take online in stride but be prepared for some frustrating moments that leave you scratching your head.

Overall SFIV is a great game with a lot of depth. Plenty of combos to learn for each character, plenty of unlockables and online play should give fans of th series plenty of gameplay time. One thing worth mentioning is that SFIV is in essence the same SFIV you have been playing since you were a kid with a few new characters, bells and whistles thrown in. For most this will be a good thing, but for those that were looking for something new and fresh in the Street Fighter universe will be somewhat disappointed. Its a must have for any fanatical followers of the series, but just another Street Fighter title that you feel like you have already played for the casual gamers.

I guess my only gripe would be related to the online play and the lag I experienced. I am not sure if a patch would fix anything but it just seemed that the network code didnt always mesh together well with opponents and I would be seeing a completely different result on the screen than my opponent. Other than that, the game was great and brought back fond memories of my teenage years and playing this game. Good job.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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