I’ve always loved fighting games, it’s the one genre that I have never grown tired of. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the bright colours, the interesting characters, maybe it’s the level of absolute perfection required and knowing that a match can be won or lost with one simple mistake. But of all the fighters I’ve played in my 20 years or so of gaming, none of them mattered to me more than Street Fighter 4.
Street Fighter 4 was released in 2009, only 3 years ago at the time of writing, so calling it a defining game of our generation may seem a little pre-emptive. However, the game did a lot for the fighting genre and played a large part in resurrecting it from the grave. Had it not been for SF4, we may not have some of the great fighters that we do today.
No one was really quite sure what to expect, Capcom hadn’t released a Street Fighter game in 8 years, the last being SF Ex3, and that had received mixed reviews. Could Capcom really produce a great fighter after all this time? Would it please fans but at the same time be accessible to newcomers? In 2009, Street Fighter 4 finally burst onto our screens and proved anyone who doubted it wrong.
The game used 3D models played across a 2D plane for that traditional Street Fighter experience. The graphics maintained a hand-drawn look, with Capcoms decision to shy away from photo-realistic characters working to their advantage. The game looked truly gorgeous. From the detailed backdrops to the over-the-top flurry of colours when executing an ultra combo, every detail of the game delivered heaps of nostalgia.
But Capcom knew that nostalgia alone wouldn’t be enough to win the hearts of fighting fans new and old, so they gave us one of the deepest fighting systems to date. Street Fighter 4 used the standard 6 buttons set up, 3 for kicks and 3 for punches with varying levels of strength. While retaining the special moves from previous games that we’re all familiar with, SF4 also included Super and Ultra combos that could be activated once the Super or Rage bars were filled respectively. However the most depth came from the new focus attack, an attack that must initially be powered up, it allowed players to absorb an attack and follow it immediately with a counter-attack, working somewhat similar to the guard parry from Street Fighter 3: Third Strike.
There was certainly no lack of variation,SF4 offered a whole host of game modes and a total of 25 characters. The arcade mode featured cutscenes for each character following their story lines and featured a new bad guy in the form of Seth, who, admittedly, was a bit lame. The new challenge or trail modes were a great way for players to hone their combos and of course training mode so that players could really nail the gritty elements of their game down.
Introducing the fighter to the latest generation of consoles launched Street Fighter into the world of online gaming, and oh boy did it bring it. The original SF 4 featured both ranked and unranked online games, including a fight request mode, where any player could challenge you as you played through Arcade mode. However it wasn’t until the expansion (but not really an expansion) Super Street Fighter 4 came along that the potential of online play was realised. It featured replays, tournaments, team play, an improved match making system and gave us a real arcade feel with unranked games now in a winner-stays-on style format , dubbed Endless Battle, with players able to watch their opponents games as they wait, planning their strategies and playing mind games.
In true Capcom style, a number of revised versions were produced with enough prefixes and suffixes to make your mouth water. The first and most significant being Super Street Fighter 4, too big of an update to be considered DLC, SSF4 was released as a standalone title at a reduced price. Apart from the slew of improved online features mentioned above, SSF4 also came with an additional 10 fighters to sink your teeth into, bringing the total to 35, all unlocked from the beginning. The popular car and barrel levels were also added to the arcade mode to help flesh out single player. A further update (try to get your tongue around this one) Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition included an additional 4 characters, included a ton of rebalancing and could be purchased as either DLC or standalone title.
Street Fighter 4 paved the way for the fighter on the latest generation of consoles. A genre that was once thought dead, all of a sudden flourished. Once developers caught wind of the high levels of demand for fighting games, the creative juices started flowing and in just a few years we have seen series like Dead or Alive, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur and King of Fighters return, along with newcomers such as BlazBlue and Skullgirls. Even Capcom themselves have been highly successful with Marvel vs Capcom, and the more recent Street Fighter X Tekken. Hardware manufactures started producing fight pads and arcade sticks to compliment the new games and the fighter was truly reborn.
Thank you Street Fighter 4, thank you.