Debuting in 2008, Street Fighter 4 was not only a worthy sequel to the franchise but also single-handedly brought the fighting game genre back from the dead
The game has enjoyed six years of relevance and prosperity as well as four total editions, until today. With the coming of Ultra Street Fighter 4, the Street Fighter 4 has entered its 5th and possibly final edition.
After already having 2 paid and 1 free upgraded additions, does Ultra come off as a worthy upgrade or a merely quick cash grab?
As it turns out, Ultra Street Fighter 4 features genuine upgrades to the game and is not merely a case of Capcom milking its holy cow dry.
The narrative of Ultra Street Fighter 4 and its characters is similar to its previous editions and is nothing much to speak off.
While players usually don’t expect much in terms of the story from the fighting game genre, however, games like Mortal Kombat, Injustice and Blaz Blue have shown that a fighting game is fully able to deliver entertaining storytelling with a little depth.
It is therefore disappointing that Ultra features the same, tacked on story elements that the franchise has used in the past.
That, however, is the only disappointing feature of the game and not representative of the overall experience. The strength of Ultra Street Fighter 4 lies in its gameplay.
At its base, Ultra features the same mechanics that made Street Fighter 4 talk of the town.
The core gameplay still revolves around 1 on 1 action, where the player tries to best another by utilizing punches, kicks, combos and special moves as well as more powerful Ex moves, Super Combos and come back inducing Ultra combos.
However, as any fighting game enthusiast can attest, while in theory it seems simple, in execution it is anything but.
The gameplay not just revolves around knowing your and opponent’s character, but also managing the super meter, reading opponent’s movements, minding the space between the two characters and where they are on the screen.
The crux of this gameplay is strategy, and this is where Ultra adds most.
Ultra Street Fighter 4 features direct changes in the gameplay systems to allow for greater variety and additional layers of strategy.
Whereas the previous Street Fighter 4 games allowed players to absorb one hit through Focus attacks, Ultra ups the ante by adding Red Focus Attacks into the mix.
With Red Focus, players are able to sacrifice 3 bars of their super meter and absorb multiple hits, allowing them to even absorb the Super and Ultra combos.
Not only does this bring new defensive strategy to the table but also makes the Super Meter much more precious.
Meter management becomes even more important to the fighting strategy due to more options possible through its utilization. Moreover, due to attack absorption, use of red focus also allows for additional opportunities to quickly build up the Ultra meter.
Speaking of which, Ultra Street Fighter 4 allows players to not only chose 1 of 2 available Ultras per character but also an additional option where players are able to choose both for the fight.
Though choosing this, W-Utlra or Ultra combo double, option causes the ultras to lose around 1/3rd of their damage; it allows players an additional option in their arsenal and adds more factors for opponent to consider.
Furthermore, Ultra Street Fighter 4 adds the option of executing delayed wake up into the mix.
In the previous Street Fighter 4 editions, once the character was knocked down, players were only able to get up or wake up from that in an allotted time frame.
This allowed opponents to telegraph these wake ups with attack strategies that left the player at a perpetual disadvantage.
With delayed wake up, players are able to add 11 frames to their character’s wake up, creating a situation where the opponent cannot automatically plan his moves based on telegraphing wakeup timing.
Finally, the most visible change to the gameplay is brought forth via the five additional characters featured in the update.
Ultra Street Fighter 4 adds 4 characters from Street Fighter X Tekken and one new character to boot.
Rolento is a mercenary who utilizes his weapons in the fight and is all about mobility.
His moves allow him to play aggressively by baiting and punishing moves and escape with his rolls and still keep pressure via air kunais and wall-based attacks.
Elena is a happy-go-lucky Capoeira fighter from the African savannah.
Her move set consists entirely of kicks and leg throws as she utilizes her long legs and dance like moves and is the only fighter to feature an Ultra that heals her health bar.
Hugo a giant wrestler whose body is almost as tall as height of the screen and his size even dwarfs huge characters like Zangief and Sagat.
Though this lumbering giant is the slowest one of character roster, his powerful attacks and grapples feature high damage on every hit.
Poison is Hugo’s trashy manager, whose quick attacks are as damaging as her overt sexuality.
As one of the ‘keep-away’ characters, her gamplay style matches that of Juri where she can keep opponents away with her fireballs and get them off her with her whip attacks.
While Elena, Rolento, Poison and Hugo may have been ported from Street Fighter X Tekken game, they feature enough changes to make them suitable for gameplay style of Street Fighter 4.
The 5th and final additional character is Decapre.
While her appearance and movement might make her seem like a Cammy clone, however nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike Cammy, she is a charge character who executes her special moves like Guile or Blanka.
Furthermore, her skill set includes moves catering to mixup gameplay and frequent pressure through her teleport attacks.
Aside from these new characters, the game also features updates and changes that re-balance the whole returning cast of the returning 39 characters.
These changes have been tested and checked by several rounds of public tests and feedback, and seem to add greater balance to the cast.
Whether these changes actually result in more balanced or unbalanced cast than the previous game is still uncertain and will only be revealed in the coming months when the game is tested in tournaments like CEO and EVO 2014.
However, the game basically renders this uncertainty regarding balancing changes almost meaningless via its Edition Select mode.
This allows players to choose a character with balancing from any Street Fighter 4 edition he or she appeared in.
Players are able to choose from Street Fighter 4, Super Street Fighter 4, Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition, Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition 2012 and the new Ultra Street Fighter 4.
Not only does this allow players to select any type of edition they like but also create dream matchups where for instance; they can fight the overpowering Sagat from Street Fighter 4 with the intense Yun from Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition.
Ultra Street Fighter 4 enhances the gameplay experience by offering even more mode additions.
The new Elimination Team Battle mode allows players to fight 3 vs.3 player battles.
This mode works a la King of Fighters series where loser gets eliminated and the victor gets to face a fresh opponent with only a fraction of health regenerated.
The game finally allows players to record replays of offline matches and also has a new feature which allows ability to easily upload the replays to Youtube from within the game.
Another new mode added to Ultra Street Fighter 4 is the Online Training mode.
Not only does this allow players to train while waiting for online opponents but also use training mode with a friend or another online player from anywhere in the world.
The training mode also features an important addition that allows players to save states.
This is an incredibly useful option that allows players to record sequences of moves and then reload the entire sequence at the press of a button so that they are able to practice evasion, counter or follow-up options over and over.
Moreover, there is also a Network Simulation option that lets the player simulate laggy online environments and practice movement and combos for such likely situations.
All in all, these new modes provide not only variety in gameplay but also ease of sharing and training options.
On the presentation front, Ultra does not feature many changes from the previous Street Fighter 4s.
While the game still looks good in motion, its visuals are not comparable to recent fighting games like the 2D looks of Guilty Gear XRD or 3D models of Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
The game does feature six new stages. However, these are merely repurposed from Street Fighter X Tekken and feature nothing visual to gush over.
Over the sound department, Ultra Street Fighter 4 features similar blend of catchy and powerful background music tracks, memorable battle cries and impactful sound effects.
In the end Ultra Street Fighter 4 is an update to the Street Fighter 4 series and is available right now as a $15 digital update and soon as $40 full game.
The $15 update can be availed by anyone with a Super Street Fighter 4 copy and therefore, the aforementioned additions add quite a bit of content for the buck.
On the other hand, the $40 full game version is clearly meant for players who no longer have a copy of Super Street Fighter 4 or those that left the series at the original Street Fighter 4.
From the latter’s perspective of the content that Ultra adds to the original Street Fighter 4 release is immense.
Aside from the modes and gameplay tweaks unique to Ultra, the game features 19 additional characters, 11 new stages, additional Ultra Combo move for each character and cumulative character gameplay changes from all 5 iterations of the game.
That seems like a fair value of updates for a $40 standalone game disk.
For an experienced player Ultra Street Fighter 4 not only brings 5 new characters to master and new modes to enhance gameplay variety but the aforementioned additions to the mechanics fundamentally change the strategies available at high level play.
While it might not convert an unbeliever, whether you are a hardcore or a casual fan, whether you previously owned Arcade Edition 2012 or the original Street Fighter 4, Ultra offers content and value for every single type of player that has enjoyed any previous attrition of Street Fighter 4.
Relative to the price points and versions, the game offers a lot of new content for a person who hasn’t touched the series since the original Street Fighter 4 as well as for those that already have the last version.
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