Review: Ultra Street Fighter IV scores a knockout

"Another Street Fighter add-on?!" some of you might be thinking when hearing about Ultra Street Fighter IV. True, this is the fourth expansion in a new chapter of the ongoing fighting series since its initial release in 2009, following Super Street Fighter IV and the add-on Arcade Edition. While some people see that as tiring (and, in some ways, a "cheap cash-in"), it's in fact Yoshinori Ono and his team trying to perfect the art of how the game works. Sure, they could've done that five years ago, but sometimes it's a learning process. Besides, some things just get better with age.

In the case of Ultra, which can be purchased either as a complete game for $40 in August, or bought now as an add-on to Super Street Fighter IV for a mere $15, it's an improvement for the better. The team didn't just add on five characters and call it good, it provided an abundant service to fans that have stuck with the series for a long time, while adding accessibility that newcomers will certainly appreciate as well. Plus, being able to upload YouTube fights…well, that just adds a satisfying social angle.

Bring On the Combatants

Along with the 39 other characters introduced in prior versions, Ultra Street Fighter IV concentrates on five returning favorites. Rolento, a fighter who first appeared in Final Fight before moving to the Street Fighter Alpha series; Elena, who left her mark in Street Fighter III; Hugo, another Final Fight mainstay who also moved into III territory; Poison, a notable female (or is she a he?) character from Final Fight; and Decapre, an all-new character based loosely on Cammy's stature (but not necessarily her style), all play a tremendous part in the cast. Each one brings technique and a certain kind of power to their fights.

For instance, Hugo is a good strong man who moves slow, while Elena and Decapre are more agile types, perfect for "speedy" players who want to chain together characters. Poison has a few delicate but well-appreciated number of tricks up her sleeve (well, if she had sleeves), and Rolento, packing an arsenal of weapons and his own level of strength, is a lot of fun.

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Watching all these characters seamlessly blend in with the rest of the cast is no small feat, but Capcom went a step further by adding an Edition Select. Here, players can select their characters and which type they prefer in the Street Fighter IV legacy, from the original game all the way to the rebalanced Ultra style. That sounds complicated, but fighting fans have a certain care for which characters they prefer, and for them, it'll be a saving grace. For others, it's still an interesting experiment, even when you're getting your butt kicked.

Balance Is Everything

With Ultra Street Fighter IV, Capcom also made some of the more crucial balance changes the series has ever seen. There have been some moves that have left some players exposed over and over again by "cheaters," or those who rely on them to win a fight the wrong way. These are mostly done away with in Ultra, as you can now cancel Ryu's EX Shoryuken when it would otherwise rip through anything, pick up certain walking speeds, and make Akuma just a little less god-like than he used to be.

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This, again, sounds like a technical approach, but avid fans of the series will again welcome the changes for the better. That, combined with the six-button gameplay we've come to expect from the series over the past two decades, makes this one of the most playable fighting games out there. Even if you're a rookie getting the hang of someone like Sagat or Blanka for the first time, you're bound to get glued to the action sooner rather than later. That's a good thing.

Uploads, Anyone?

One great feature that fighting fans will certainly appreciate is being able to upload fights directly to YouTube. In some cases, players may not see what the craziness of this is about. However, the swiftly devoted or the highly social crowds will grab a hold of this feature and take full advantage.

The process is not only easy, but very fluid, and you can have a slew of videos online within a matter of hours. It's really cool being able to upload a fight that you consider epic to YouTube for others to see, or maybe even provide a tutorial service, even without the voiceover option (except through editing later, maybe). Regardless, Capcom has really opened a door here, one we certainly hope will remain open in other fighting games to come.

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That Street Fighter Feeling

Despite all the new changes, Ultra Street Fighter IV retains the competitive spirit that made the series such a hit to begin with. You can play either locally or online against others, and there's virtually no lag getting in the way of a fun, competitive fight. For good measure, the ability to tweak certain styles – and choose what edition type you're after – make it even better. Sure, the $40 price tag for the general retail package is a bit much, but the $15 upgrade makes it a little easier to handle, and that's the route we'd consider taking (plus, that's already available compared to the month or so you'll have to wait for retail).

This is probably the last we'll see of the Street Fighter IV brand (unless a Super Ultra Plus edition rolls around, which we doubt), but it goes out on top, and leaves the door open for whatever part five brings about. Even if we have to wait for a bit, Ultra will certainly keep us busy.

My View

Here are the criteria I consider most important for judging Ultra Street Fighter IV.

Presentation: 9/10

It doesn't look too different from other games in the series, but the visuals and sound are still razor sharp.

Gameplay: 10/10

As balanced as Street Fighter gets, and the new balancing system will work wonders for fans.

Replay value: 9/10

There's plenty of local and online competition to take on, and the YouTube uploading adds a splendid social hook.

Features: 9/10

The new fighters will keep you busy, and the ability to choose from separate editions makes each fight seem fresh.

Overall: 9.3

Don't think of Ultra Street Fighter IV as "just another add-on." Ono and his team have put delicate work into this final expansion, with new characters that fit right in, balancing that truly makes sense, YouTube uploading and plenty of fun fighting options to choose from. Enjoy the brawl.

 

GameCrate reviews represent the opinions of the GameCrate writer who wrote them, and not necessarily those of Newegg.