First of all, The name of the game is “Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers.” That’s a really long, stupid name and I’m not going to type it again in its entirety unless I’m summarizing the game. Thanks!
Second, this game is a strange, double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s the most balanced Street Fighter 2 experience ever created. It is hands down the best version of Street Fighter 2 on home consoles, bar none. On the other, Capcom’s ridiculous price tag for this thing make it EXTREMELY hard to recommend for anything less than the most hardcore Street Fighter Fan. You can be your own judge, but here are my own thoughts!
Some Things Need No Introduction.
Seriously, if you play videogames today and don’t know about Street Fighter 2, you’ve either woken up from a twenty six year coma, or you’ve led the most sheltered life in existence. Either way, let me bring you up to speed.
In 1991, the fighting game community was very much a mess. Virtually all games were in arcades where people would gather to play competitively. Unfortunately, things just weren’t catching on. The problem at the time being most fighting games simply weren’t fun to watch. Even the first Street Fighter game, which is now rightfully forgotten in time was slow, clumsy, and had real no skill ceiling to speak of.
Then Street Fighter 2 happened.
Blazing into pretty much every arcade, bar and laundromat in existence, SF2 took the world by storm. An entirely new concept for fighting games, SF2 added an elegance which its predecessors didn’t couldn’t even fathom. SF2 introduced a number of mechanics which revolutionized the genre, among which are special attacks and combos. Most importantly though, it introduced a sense of speed and fluidity to the genre that made players feel like they were controlling something powerful and skilled. It was an instant hit with worldwide audiences and sparked a legacy spanning almost three decades, a port on virtually every home videogame system created since its inception, and an incredibly vibrant and active community.
A New Home
Fighting games are a strange creature of the gaming world in that they were some of the first videogames to receive updates. Because the game was played on a major competitive scale, players were able to find flaws and exploits to give them an edge. Because of this, SF2 has had so many iterations at this point that you’d need a spread sheet to keep track. Because this was pre-internet, there were no internet patches. The game simply had to be redesigned and reshipped as a different version. All of these versions added to the overall experience — be it balance to the existing fighters, new features such as speed increases to further the competitive scene, or even brand new characters completely. When transitioning to the HD age, Capcom released 2008’s Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix. Incredibly aggressive name aside, this was the pinnacle of the series. All of the assets were recreated in beautiful 1080p sprite form, the audio was updated to reflect a modern era of sound chip not possible in the arcade or early home console days. It was completely re-balanced and was the first time the title had supported online play. It’s important to bring this game up because that’s essentially the same game released for Nintendo Switch.
Ultra Street Fighter 2 is a further adaptation of that gold standard. Which, I know, the game has been rebalanced so many times it’s a bit like Jimmy Page remastering Stairway to Heaven every 5 years. We get it, Jim. On top of this rebalancing, the game adds a number of new features. Some of which are better than others.
Old School, New Cool
Yes, this version sports the same HD visuals created in 2008. All of the characters and environments pop and appear vibrant. It looks wonderful, both in docked and tabletop mode. It performs as smoothly as you would expect, even for a game running on an engine from a Sega Dreamcast era. Minor slowdowns that are really signature to the game at this point will occur from time to time, but it really doesn’t interrupt the flow of the fight or get in the way. In order to give the game a bit of a retro “pop”, The Final Challengers allows you to swap the Graphic and audio sets between HD and retro. This can be done independently and is interchangeable. At any time of the game, I can sport Super Crisp HD visuals, with classic audio sounds and voices from my gaming past. It’s a neat feature, but not fleshed out quite enough to be perfect. These changes can’t be made on the fly. You have to decide your preference in the settings before playing, forcing you to quit your game and return to the options menu if the preference doesn’t strike your fancy. Also, despite the original audio being mostly intact, some sounds, such as the announcer are forced to be the remastered variant. It’s not a big deal, but it stands out, especially when the announcer tells me I’m visiting Russia. IT’S USSR, BRO!
Also, I’m personally not a huge fan of the retro graphics when in the switch is docked as it forces the display into a 4:8 aspect ratio, which looks unsurprisingly terrible on HD TVs.
Truly Portable (for better or worse)
Touting the Switch’s portability for local multiplayer is sounding a bit like a broken record at this point, but that’s honestly where Ultra Street Fighter 2 makes the most sense. For the first time, a fighting game can not only be played on the go with others, it’s the same experience you would find in an arcade or home console. It’s a great option for those social rooftop parties Nintendo was so excited about. In tabletop mode, the switch performs at a fluid pace, keeping up with the action just as you would expect. Unfortunately it’s not all smooth sailing, though — here’s why.
What a joy(con)kill
There’s no way around it, the joycons are the worst possible way to play the game. The D-pad inputs are spaced out beyond comfort, and the joysticks mush and don’t register correctly. Let me give you an example:
The Hadoken, arguably one of the most famous button inputs in all of videogames today. It’s burned into our brains and should come naturally…
Not on Switch.
A majority of the time I play with Ken, these fireballs wouldn’t execute, let alone any other special input I would try to rapid fire. I feel like it’s because the joysticks lack any kind of deadzone for input, which leads to weird movement being registered on a consistent basis.
In a game that is all about stage control, this flaw is devastating to the playability of the game.
I can see how playing casual multiplayer with friends wouldn’t be much of an issue, but the moment you want to get competitive, you’re going to have to look for alternate control methods. I would recommend either a Pro controller or an 8-bit-do SNES 30. They both have great feeling d-pads and will make the game a much better experience.
Way of the Hadon’t
I’m not sure Capcom got the memo about the waggles. Nintendo is done with them, guys!
Ultra Street Fighter 2 features a new mode, called ‘Way of the Hado’, which puts you in a first person view of Ryu. Using the joycons, you try to make gestures that would naturally equate to the character’s special moves. This means that in theory, you you should be able to throw fireballs, uppercuts, and spinning kicks all with the motions of your arms.
It doesn’t work. In fact, it sucks. Bad.
The motion controls don’t register correctly, requiring you to repeat the command while enemies storm ever closer to you. Most of the time, you’re just flailing your arms around, looking like an inflatable car lot guy, praying to the gods of hadoken that you PULL OF THIS STUPID FIREBALL. It’s novel for a few moments, but fades faster than a receding hairline.
Seriously, don’t play that mode.
Let’s get it on-line.
Online Multiplayer is a necessity in today’s gaming climate. That is here in Ultra Street Fighter 2. The game sports a solid ranked mode, allowing you to climb the skill tree until you hit your ceiling and realize you’re just too old and unable to react to those 16 year olds strung out on redbull.
It has very solid netcode as well. I’ve played a number of matches online and have had zero issues with lag or ping. It’s a very well built online engine. Unfortunately, it carries on the tradition of its predecessor by lacking a butt load of features.
I’d like to use Overwatch as an example here. In my opinion, Overwatch kickstarted a renaissance of social multiplayer gaming. Every game should be encouraging players to get together for the fun of hobby. Allowing them to forget about the complexities of modern competition and just encouraging to you have fun. Most fighting games these days follow this mantra by offering things like multiplayer lobbies, where groups of humans can gather and play together.
Not Street Fighter 2. No, SF2 counteracts this by giving you absolutely no lobby system. Seriously, you can only party up with one person at a time, forcing players to rotate in and out when more than two people are involved. No Lobbies, no spectating, not even a tournament mode. To be this bareboned in a 40 dollar package is just rude to the consumer. Try again Capcom. It’s 2017, everyone else has their stuff together.
Among the remaining new features, we have a strange 2-on-1 mode, allowing you to gang bang your opponents into a completely challengeless pulp.
They’ve also thrown together a very nifty art gallery, sporting all sorts of concept art and illustrations spanning Street Fighter’s history. They’ve even thrown in hi res scans of the original boxes of the game’s first console entries. That should up the appeal for those Street Fighter power fans out there who really love the culture and lore of the game.
Again, Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers is like a bittersweet dessert. It has a 40 dollar price tag which seems like highway robbery. It also practically guarantees you have to spend extra money on a better controller if you want to take the game seriously. Then again, it’s a fully realized portable Street Fighter 2, the best fighting game ever created. Coupled with great local multiplayer accessibility and solid (albeit minimum) online functionality, you won’t regret the money you’ve spent. Am I enjoying my time with it? Definitely — but I really like fighting games.
Ultimately, I would say this game is for two types of people:
- The fighting game loyalist, who wants the best version of Street Fighter 2 out there.
- The social gamer, who knows without a doubt they will be playing this with other friends in a very casual setting.
It’s hard to NOT reccomend Street Fighter 2. It’s the very best of the very best. It has a legacy unlike any other fighting game. It’s also the only version currently available on next-gen consoles. For the sake of preservation and celebration of the series, I’m glad it’s here. Just be careful, that $40 asking price might leave a bad taste in your mouth.