Probably the best version of an iconic game with HD graphics and online play. But a too high price for admission.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Street Fighter series. The original game (featuring Ryu & Ken) came out way back when in 1987! But that original game is mostly forgotten, it seems as Capcom is using the occasion to shell out yet another version of the series’ most iconic entry: Street Fighter II. The title, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, suggests this might the last incarnation of the game but you never know… Is the game worth revisiting?
Let me start by immediately addressing the elephant in the room: the price. This game sells for 40 bucks. Yes, four-zero, for a game that is essentially a game from 1991! The price is the big topic when discussing this game. About the game itself, there isn’t that much to say. Yes, this version has several additions to the game (which I’ll address), but in essence, this is Street Fighter II with an online mode. To me, this also is the main appeal of the game: this is Street Fighter II with an online mode. But looking at the new additions Nintendo might be making to its virtual console (as in, online features) a price of 10 bucks, which is a little higher than the normal VC price of 8 bucks, seems more appropriate.
So, what does this game do extra to merit the price? In my opinion not that much. The main improvement is the HD graphics. Which aren’t even new as they are the same graphics you got in the HD remix from 2008. The graphics took me some getting used but they are a lot better than the original graphics. In my recollection, the old-skool graphics weren’t as bad as they are here. I found them ugly enough to stick with the HD version. The game does allow you to switch to old-skool graphics but to do so you need to navigate to main menu’s options instead of just pressing a single button as is common for old/new switches. What’s interesting about the new graphics is that they match the originals and their hitboxes to a T. So they should not impact gameplay in any way. To me, the best part of the new graphics is that is displays the game in widescreen.
The other big feature in this version is the ability to play online. This was the first time I could play Street Fighter II online and this was one of the main reasons I was interested in this game. Online play was a smooth experience for the most part. It offers various modes including a ranked one. Gameplay was good but, unsurprisingly, lag is a major factor. While for the most part things were fine when I got a laggy connection thing soured pretty quickly. The online “lobbies” indicate a connection type so be sure to keep on eye on it.
The last relevant new feature is the inclusion of two new characters, the titular final challengers. These are Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. At first glance, they didn’t seem that interesting, just alterations of the series’ oldest characters. But they offer more than just more of the same. Their ability to move behind an opponent, in particular, is very cool. If online presence is any indication, the community seems to have taken a liking to the new characters as well. It also took me awhile to figure out the moves for these characters. Their moves are listed in a menu item available during battles. While this is the way it’s always been and it’s convenient for training (and during battles) I would have liked to have a central section, outside of battles, where I could leisurely browse the characters and their moves.
After this, the list of new features becomes rather irrelevant. The list includes things like a gallery and a color editor. The biggest one is called “Way of the Hado” which is aimed to use the Joy-Con’s motion controls to create a first person take on Street Fighter. While I am a big fan of the Wii and experimenting with different types of controls, this mode is as gimmicky as it gets and it brought back a lot of memories of all that shovelware that killed the Wii. The idea is that you use gestures to recreate Ryu’s special moves. In practice, though, the gesture recognition did not work for me at all. While it has a special training section that shows you the various aspects of the move and how you’re executing them, it did not help when actually playing. I was able to produce a fairly consistent Hadoken but that was pretty much it.
At the end of the day this is still Street Fighter II and probably the game’s best incarnation to date. It controls very well, but you’ll probably want to get a Pro controller to get a prober d-pad. But if that’s your concern you’ll probably prefer a proper arcade stick and the Switch doesn’t have one just yet (but Hori should be filling that gap soon enough though). Fighting with the Joy-Con is somewhat of a challenge but that is the compromise you get for multiplay on the go.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is a solid rendition of the iconic fighting game. It’s good to be able to play the game online if you keep an eye out for bad connections. The new features elevate it above a VC game with online features but not enough to merit the price Capcom is asking. For half the price this would be a solid offering, now it’s for die-hard fans only.