For all the jabs that Capcom receives for endlessly fiddling with its fighting games, especially the Street Fighter series, fans and critics alike are still grateful for the changes. It was admittedly annoying when Capcom would make a new version of the same game instead of making a sequel, but with the technology nowadays, the process has become less painful. After sticking to its old ways with Super Street Fighter IV, Capcom used DLC to deploy the Arcade Edition, but since the entry fee was reduced, most of the fan base was appeased. Ultra Street Fighter IV is the third and latest of those mega DLC packs, and it shows that Capcom is determined to keep this title at the top of the fighting game list.
Despite the name change, this entry acts more like a patch than a completely new game. The opening movie and title screen, for example, still come from the Arcade Edition. Most of the modes and backgrounds remain the same, and the game still temporarily reverts to Super Street Fighter IV when you're doing the character-specific challenges. Even the Achievement list falls under Super, with a few added that relate specifically to Ultra. Like the 2012 version, the only indicators that you are playing Ultra is the logo appearing on the right side of the menu and the change in menu screen music.
Like previous updates, there's a nice mix of changes that fans of all skill levels will notice. For the more casual players, the first change is the addition of a few new backgrounds. Truthfully, the backgrounds aren't that new since they were simply taken from Street Fighter X Tekken. Only six backdrops have been included, but they rate as some of the more memorable in the game. The Blast Furnace is the least impressive, since we've seen people milling around stages before. Pitstop 109 has a great day and night cycle, and there's a nice array of big rigs with some great-looking art on the sides of the trucks. Cosmic Elevator would be ordinary if it weren't for the presence of Mecha Zangief getting tossed around. The Half Pipe has a bevy of activity, and the falling billboards are a nice touch. The Mad Gear Hideout has some great cameos and is busy enough to be humorous if the fights last too long. Finally, the Jurassic Era Research Facility has two lumbering T-Rexes thrashing about and doing their best Jurassic Park imitations. The backgrounds are pared down from their Street Fighter X Tekken counterparts in that they only have one level for combat instead of two.
The other big noticeable change is the presence of five new fighters, rounding out the roster to 44 entrants. Of the five, four were previously introduced in Street Fighter X Tekken. Some may think of it as a cheat since porting these fighters would be rather easy, but when you consider how the fighting game community disliked that title, it's a good decision to give the fighters more exposure in this new game. Their nuances have been tweaked to use the six-button layout, but those who have played them in Street Fighter X Tekken will know what to expect. Rolento, originally seen in Street Fighter Alpha, is a tricky fighter who has short attacks with multiple hits and some nice air attacks that are difficult to predict. Poison, originally from the Final Fight series, is well balanced for close-up and distance fighting. Her flash kick hits high but not so wide while her crop lash can be quickly unleashed for a surprise counterattack. Elena from Street Fighter III may seem like a Dhalsim clone due to her long limbs, but her focus on kicks of various heights and lengths is a good fit for her Capoeira style. Hugo, also from Street Fighter III, may be the largest and slowest character in the game, but he has a number of distance-covering moves, and his lack of speed is compensated with the strength of his attacks.
The only new character is Decapre, and you could be forgiven for thinking she's similar to Oni or Evil Ryu since her body build, hairstyle and stance make her look like a clone of Cammy. She is a very different fighter, though. Unlike Cammy, her special moves are based on charges and are fast when executed. She has a dash move that can be used to cover distance and make quick escapes, and a rushing multiple-stab combo lets her control a good area during a fight. One of her super moves grants her the power of projectile attacks, but as a brawler, she is exciting to fight as and fight against.
More experienced fighting fans will appreciate the new game modes since they're designed to help the player improve in on- and offline play. Button configuration before matches can be easily accessed via the Back button during the character select screen, a fan-friendly feature from Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition. Offline recordings of fights can be preserved, so great moments against local friends can be saved for posterity, and all replays can be saved to YouTube. They'll only be recorded at 480p, so those wanting higher resolution would need external recording equipment. It's a nice feature for those who want to share videos with minimal fuss.
Training mode now has save states, so you can create and replay specific fighting scenarios. There's also a lag simulator, so you can practice under different network conditions before taking yourself online. Speaking of online, a new team mode called Elimination is available, and it plays similarly to SNK's King of Fighters series. Teams of three battle against each other in a set order, with the winner of the last match going into the next one with a minimal health refill and no way to tag the other players. The big online addition is Online Training mode, where players can conduct training sessions. It's a great way to teach others how to fight properly without having to be on the same console. It's also compatible with the fight request system, so you can practice before a real fight, similar to Tekken Revolution. The amount of new modes and features really expands what the game can do and serves as a lesson to other fighting games about what players can expect.
For the hardcore fighting fan, Ultra Street Fighter IV is packed with an overwhelming cavalcade of new things. First and foremost, just about every single fighter has received a tweak or rebalance based on player feedback, whether it's resizing the hit boxes or adjusting move timers to fix hit strength. If you want to see how different each character is, you can choose exactly which version of the character you want to fight as in all modes but Arcade.
New moves have also been given to all of the fighters. The Red Focus Attack is similar to the regular Focus Attack, where you can absorb a hit but deliver a powerful blow that can knock down your opponent. The difference is that the hit causes more damage to the opponent, but you can also absorb more hits. If you've seen enough matches online, you'll notice how some players can accurately predict when a fighter will get up and catch them with combos. The Delayed Stand technique makes this timing less predictable, giving you a good opening to counter. The final new move is the Ultra Combo Double, which allows you to use both types of Ultra Combos a fighter possesses. It's a combination offensive/defensive maneuver, since your opponent can't predict which Ultra Combo you'll use, and you won't accidentally pick an Ultra you don't like. The downside is that the damage you deliver is reduced. It's still a hard hit, but not as hard as a regular Ultra.
With all of this available, the game feels more than complete. The existing modes haven't been tampered with, though the new characters have animated intros and ending movies for Arcade mode instead of still shots. The soundtrack still hits hard, and the graphics, while not improved, haven't faltered. Online performance is still solid, though it can waver from time to time, and there seems to be a slight improvement in matchmaking. Best of all, the DLC is compatible for owners of Arcade Edition and Super, so those who skipped Arcade Edition and the 2012 patch can jump ahead.
The original Street Fighter IV sent the series back to the top of the fighting game heap, and Ultra Street Fighter IV does everything it can to make sure it stays there. The deep character tweaks are certainly appreciated, though it will take some time to see if these were improvements, and the new additions to the mechanics give the game even more depth. The new characters may not be new to the series, but they are certainly welcome additions to the roster and are lots of fun to play. With nothing else sacrificed for these additions, Ultra Street Fighter IV is an easy purchase.
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