Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers Review

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is a remake of the 1994 arcade classic, Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It was developed by Capcom and released in May, 2017 on the Nintendo Switch. Aside from Virtual Console releases, it’s the first version of Street Fighter II to come out on a Nintendo system since Super Street Fighter II X Revival on the GBA in 2001 and the first SFII to come out on a Nintendo console since SSFII on SNES in 1993.

Before I start talking about the actual game, I have to say that this game is nearly unplayable with JoyCons and the Switch Pro Controller. Both the JoyCon’s d-pad buttons and the Pro Controller’s d-pad are terrible for this game. If you plan on getting this game, find some other control method, like an arcade stick, the Pokken controller, or an adapter for controllers for other systems. I’m using the HORI RAP V arcade stick for Switch, which I reviewed a few weeks ago.

USFII uses the new HD character and background graphics from Super Street Fighter II HD Remix and all-new UI and character portraits made by Capcom specifically for USFII. All the the characters and backgrounds were redrawn by artists at Udon Entertainment, a company known for their art books and comics. Sagat actually looks like the giant heavyweight he’s supposed be, Dhalsim looks more muscular, and most characters generally look closer to their Alpha 3 versions. Some characters look better than others, though. It looks like they tried to fix some poses they thought looked awkward, but didn’t change some of the ones that actually do. For example, they drew Cammy with her head turned more towards the camera, instead of looking straight ahead, making her head look wider than it originally did, but they didn’t touch Chun-li’s idle pose, which makes her look like she’s sitting on an invisible stool.

For the most part, the redrawn backgrounds look pretty good. They look like something out of a Street Fighter comic. Some backgrounds have been changed to be more politically correct, I guess. For instance, the painting of Ganesh in Dhalsim’s stage has been replaced with a view of the Taj Mahal, and all Communist symbols have been removed from Zangief’s stage. They also changed Chun-li’s stage to look cleaner and more modern, which really doesn’t match the look of the original. For some reason, some elements, like the boat in Ken’s stage and the clouds in Ryu’s stage, are no longer animated, even though they were in HDR. It seems like an oversight they just didn’t bother to fix. It’s not like the Switch isn’t powerful enough to do it. There are also a bunch of visible white pixels around the borders of some background elements, as if the alpha channels don’t match up with the color channels.

The game was redrawn in HD, but not for a 16:9 aspect ratio. It was redrawn to match the 4:3 aspect ratio of the original. The wide aspect ratio used in USFII is actually zoomed in and cuts a bit off the top and bottom to fill more of a 16:9 screen. Even then, there are still black bars on the left and right of the in-fight graphics. Unlike in HDR, there is no option to play with both the HD graphics and 4:3 ratio. Playing with the graphics zoomed in doesn’t really affect the gameplay, though, so it’s not a big issue. The only real difference is that character’s heads go off screen when jumping and some characters’ torsos go off screen during dragon punches. There is an option to play with the original 16-bit graphics in 4:3, but all the UI stays the same and there are no options for filters or different borders.

All the music has been re-recorded and the game uses voices and sound effects from Street Fighter IV. All the announcer lines have also been re-recorded, with a new voice actor trying to sound like the old one, and failing miserably. You can play with all the old music and sound effects, but not with the old announcer, which is a shame, because the new one’s delivery of lines like “Fight!” is pretty awkward. I guess they didn’t want to mix and match announcers when people played with the new characters.

This game looks like HD Remix, but a lot of the gameplay changes to HDR are not in this version. You can no longer store E. Honda’s super and Ryu doesn’t have a fakeout fireball, for example. This game does have all the easier Street Fighter IV style inputs, though, like down-forward double tap dragon punches. This version also introduces throw breaks, which can be performed by doing your own throw input when being thrown.

Three new old characters join the roster in USFII; Evil Ryu, Violent Ken, and Shin Akuma. These are all lower health and higher damage versions of the originals with a few new moves. Evil Ryu is basically Ryu with a few of Akuma’s moves, like the teleport and Raging Demon. Violent Ken, who first appeared in SNK VS Capcom Chaos, has a new command dash and a KOF style super. Shin Akuma has a double air fireball and even lower HP and higher damage. Shin Akuma is not playable online, because apparently, he’s too cheap.

There are 6 play modes in USFII; Arcade, Buddy Battle, Versus, Online, Training, and Way of the Hado. In Arcade, you play through 12 matches against the AI and after beating M. Bison, you get to see a cutscene that tells you a little bit about your character. In versus, you can play 1 on 1 matches against other players or the CPU, in any stage, with custom rules. In Buddy Battle, you and another player, human or AI, play simultaneously in 4 matches against Violent Ken, Evil, Ryu, M. Bison, and Shin Akuma.

Way of the Hado is a new first person, JoyCon only, motion controlled minigame. You play as Ryu and waggle the JoyCons to perform moves, like Hadokens and Shoryukens. Unlike the rest of the game, this mode uses 3D graphics in the style of Street Fighter IV. This mode is really bad. The controls are finicky and unresponsive, and it’s not worth your time.

My online experiences have been pretty hit or miss. Matchmaking usually takes a while, because apparently no one is playing this online, and half the time, the matches are pretty laggy. When I do find someone who’s not playing on McDonald's Wi-Fi, it’s actually alright. There are options to create lobbies or search with custom rules, including within your region only, but I have not been able to find a single match using them.

At the end of the day, Ultra Street Fighter II is still SFII, and SFII is still one of the best fighting games ever made. I wish Capcom would have put more effort into cleaning up the graphics and maybe included the original game with no alterations. Maybe then it would warrant the $40 price tag. This game is not worth $40, but it is a fun game, and considering how well it has sold, I doubt it’ll go on sale any time soon.