Release Date: TBA
Anyone who went to Capcom's booth at this year's E3 was in for a number of pleasant surprises. Mega Man 9 shut up naysayers with its quality design (I should know, I was one of them), the Bionic Commando franchise was about to come back in a big way, and Resident Evil 5 was basically Resident Evil 4 For Super Players With Co-Op Added. Well, two out of three isn't bad.
There was, however, one message that got through louder than any of the others: Street Fighter IV is real, it's coming, and it is nothing short of awesome.
The game's producer, Yoshinori Ono (ironically the same force behind the ill-fated Capcom Fighting Evolution) has gone on record multiple times saying that he wanted to make a Street Fighter game that brings people back. Far more people than you think played the original Street Fighter II: The World Warrior in its heyday, and far more people than you think haven't played a Street Fighter game since the old CPS1 titles, or in some cases, the Super revisions. No Alpha, no Versus, no Three. In fact, due to their increasingly complicated mechanics, those games arguably turned off all but the fighting game hardcore to the series. One merely has to look at the Groove and character select screens in Capcom vs. SNK 2 to see just how complicated mass-market 2-D arcade fighters were in the twilight of their popularity. "Accessible" is the last word that springs to mind.
Thus, in this sense, Ono has succeeded and then some. Pick any of the World Warriors in SF4 and attempt to perform their special moves, or their old normal-move tactics, and they will work just the way they used to back in the early '90s. Picked up some skills from the later SF titles, such as Super Moves? Most of those work too. In this way, playing Street Fighter 4 is like coming home. Most characters from Super Street Fighter II Turbo have already made it in, with a smattering of new characters created just for this game. Crimson Viper attacks with flames and looks like an SNK refugee; Abel straight up wrecks folks; Rufus is a large blobby guy who's a lot faster than he looks, and El Fuerte is a luchador with flashy high-flying moves that just look incredible. There's also a new boss, Seth, head of Shadoloo's weapons division, who looks a lot like Street Fighter III's Gill, at least thematically.
However, for those who've been hardcore into fighters, Street Fighter IV has advanced mechanics waiting in the wings for those who wish to "step up" to higher-level play. EX Attacks and the throwing system from Street Fighter III return, while the new Focus Attack system allows a character to set up unblockable counterattacks with the push of two buttons, if correctly timed. This ties into the Revenge mechanic, which uses the Focus Attacks as a start-up for a flexible rush-in combo of sorts. Ultra Combos are more powerful versions of Super Moves. Between these tactics, ground moves are now just as versatile as jumping when it comes to closing in on your opponent — and along with being devastating, the Super/Ultra moves are just very fun to watch. All of this is accompanied by high-definition visuals that actually work. While 2.5-D fighting has been done before, it's never been done like this, with dynamic camera angles being worked seamlessly into the action, activating whenever a big combo or Super Move is cleanly landed.
Street Fighter IV's currently set for an early 2009 release, but that's subject to change. Still, after this summer's showing, many others and I couldn't be more excited, and why not? One of the defining games of our youth and adolescent years is getting a true revamp for the next generation in a way that stays faithful to the original product. The excitement from that just comes naturally.
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