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[Review] Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers

Posted on May 24, 2017 by (@LyonHart_) in Reviews, Switch, Switch eShop

System: Switch
Release date: May 26, 2017
Developer:: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Chances are nowadays that when you talk to someone about fighting games, one of the first titles to come to mind is Street Fighter. The series has spanned decades, with 2017 marking its 30th anniversary which is further celebrated with the updated release of one of the most seminal fighting games of all time, Street Fighter II. Before the imminent release of Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers on Switch, the game had already returned many times in the past. To some this may seem excessive, but for the most hardcore of Street Fighter fans, it’s a way to continually preserve the history of one of the most successful fighting game franchises of all time, as well as one of the most important titles in the series. However you look at it, Ultra Street Fighter II has a lot to love about it if you’re an avid Street Fighter fan, but may leave a lot to be desired to those looking to jump in for the first time or have casually spent time with the series over the last three decades.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is an arcade game that’s been brought over to your home and, with the power of Switch, the palm of your hand. The thing is, like most arcade games, while they’re fun for what they are, they’re meant for short bursts and don’t actually have that much content. Everything from the start is unlocked, and the few things you see on the main menu when booting up the game, like Arcade, Buddy Battle, Versus, Online, and Way of the Hado is all you’ll really have to play around with.

Arcade Mode offers your standard Street Fighter experience where you’ll choose a character and go towards a series of fights. Nothing particularly exciting happens here besides getting to write your initials at the end of it all. It’s a classic way of playing, but it looks great doing it thanks to the refined visuals.

The sprite work is wonderful, and it’s made even more apparent when switching between the classic style and the HD style Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers has on by default. It’s fun switching between the two, and also changing the sound quality in the process, to see the differences between the original hit and its contemporary big brother. Capcom has done a wonderful job restoring it for 2017, and it looks utterly fantastic on Switch’s screen.

Oddly enough however, the game doesn’t operate at a full 16:9 – it’s more like a 3:2, so there are slight black bars to the left and right side of the screen. The blacked out sides are slightly in use if touch mode is enabled, which allows the player to tap the sides of the screen in handheld mode to initiate one-touch combos instead of a string of inputs. Other than that, though, it’s odd to see the game not be in full widescreen, even though the menus are. It’s a strange disposition that’s weird to look at and go in and out of in between battles. The main menu is incredibly clean and gives the option to change backgrounds while browsing the options, so it gives a sense of personalization to the game, but with the background being mostly covered by the game modes available, it doesn’t really offer much.

Buddy Battle is, to me, where the game really shines. Rather than fighting one another, players can team up either locally or with a CPU and go 2 v 1 against some tough opponents. Teammates share one health bar, and when one player is defeated, it counts as two rounds won for the 1 CPU, so you’re constantly on your toes and making sure you’re not always going in guns blazing or having one person take all the hits. It’s an immense amount of fun, and much like Arcade Mode you’ll just keep going through a string of fights until you “win” the mode. Enemies will get tougher, and having the right combination of fighters is key to success towards the end.

You can even look cool doing it by choosing between one of ten color options for fighters this time around – and even make your own in the Color Editor by making unique skins for the fighters or the ones you like to main. It’s extremely easy to use and has a simple selection of three layers of colors to choose from to modify the palette of a character. One will effect skin tone, the other clothes, another decal or secondary colors. Making a specific combination of colors and saving it will make it available for the character you chose to edit, and can be used in all available game modes. I had fun making an avatar-looking Chun Li and a Hulk-inspired Ryu. It’s a small and goofy but also cool thing to have to add a little more personalization to the feel of the game for players who dive in.

One of the highlights of Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is that, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Street Fighter, Capcom has put a wonderful gallery that you can view at any time that contains art and illustrations throughout the years – a lot of which are out-of-print or never saw a release outside of Japan. All of the images have been faithfully restored and uploaded at an extremely high resolution so you can view them in all their crisp beauty as well as zoom in to get a better look at the detail on some pieces. Although you may not visit it much, it’s an absolute joy to go through it and see how much the series has changed, the different styles and amount of characters that have made their way over to Street Fighter, and the different interpretations various artists have.

The most surprising new feature Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers brings is regrettably its worst, which is its new Way of the Hado mode. Way of the Hado has players become Ryu in a first-person, motion controlled mode that basically turns into a first-person brawler that’s poorly executed. The tutorial has a few moves to teach when starting up, and once that’s done you’ll jump right into a Stage Battle or an Endless Battle, where you can fight a bunch of M. Bison’s goons until you tire of the same monotonous Hadoukens and Shoryukens. Motion controls can be tricky, as a lot of the time there’s an issue with calibration and accuracy, and this just adds to the fire. It’s a cool concept that’s immediately shut down once you begin to try it. Enemies come at you slowly, and all Ryu does is stand there while you’re left to your moves. If there had been a little more mobility rather than a tech demo, this could have been a mode that was much more fleshed out and appreciated, but this was what seems like another attempt to make something a little more worthwhile for the game’s overall content.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, this game is simply Street Fighter at its most basic. While Street Fighter II is a seminal entry in the series and fighting games as a whole, there are only so many tweaks, changes, and remasters one can do before it begins to lose value. Even though the aforementioned sprite work is stunning, the controls hold up, and the history is preserved and added to even more with a great gallery, overall Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers sometimes feels like a shallow attempt at a game that’s really had nothing added to it since the last time we saw it get remade. The few new modes and additions of Evil Ryu and Violent Ken don’t add much – if anything – to the overall gameplay, so it doesn’t necessarily shake things up.

The Verdict

Ultimately, Street Fighter II’s gameplay holds up, though Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is a game we’ve seen multiple iterations of over and over. The inclusion of Evil Ryu and Violent Ken as extra characters with a few new modes just don’t feel substantial enough. The game is meant for the most hardcore of Street Fighter fans, and although I do believe casual fans will enjoy it, they’ll be relying on their friends to play with to use their copy since there is no real incentive here for someone who is on and off with the series or even potentially brand new to pick this up. There is no denying, however, that the sprite work and everything that’s been remastered looks stunning both on TV and off. The most hardcore of Street Fighter fans will undoubtedly appreciate having this in their collection, especially now with the ability to play on the go and immediately have access to multiplayer features with single Joy-Con support. But if you’ve played Street Fighter II previously, you largely know what to expect.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers review copy provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review.

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