Street Fighter IV is destroying my left thumb. The arcade stick shortage was as unforeseen as it was severe. There’s some hope of seeing a new batch in April, but I honestly don’t think it’ll be enough, what with all the pre-orders that haven’t been honored yet and everything. So for now I’m stuck with the default PS3 controller. Ouch 🙁
Street Fighter IV is the closest thing to an actual arcade cabinet I’ve had in my living room. It has that hard to describe quality to it. Like a wild horse or something. Once you start playing it, the damn thing will grab you by the balls and won’t let go until your left thumb bleeds (or you buy an arcade stick). I sometimes get so into it, I have to play standing up. I can spend hours trying to beat some challenge level or Seth on medium (fuck you, Seth on medium). With other games, I just scream at the TV a lot, throw the controller and go play something else after 15 minutes. Not this time. This time it’s just like when I was 12 and my cousin and me were trying to beat Contra without the cheat code. This time it’s personal.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, Street Fighter IV is one hell of a game. As much as I love the other fighters, this is the first time I really feel like spending actual time learning a character. It’s all about the satisfaction of pulling off an Ultra Combo, the feel of a heavy punch connecting with the other guy’s jaw, the pace, the amount of polish, the art direction. The music. Hahahaha nah, not the music. Even though people seem to kinda get into the main theme song (a boys band/action rock piece called INDESTRUCTIBLE) after a while, I maintain that it is pure evil.
One of the things that really separates SFIV from the others is the very limited amount of special moves per character. First time I looked at a move sheet I was like “where’s page 2?”. If you’ve played Soul Calibur you know what I mean. This “super easy to get into, very hard to master” approach is a great way to get casual players to try the game. And then before they know it, they’ll be wearing a kung fu bandana and doing thumb katas every morning at sunrise.
A quick word on the characters. SFIV offers a pretty solid roster to suit literally every play style. The familiar faces from SFII are all there, plus several from other versions. The 5 brand new guys really bring something different to the table. You’ve got Crimson Viper, a special agent whose real employer IS A MYSTERY! Her moveset has been described as a mix between Chun-Li and Bison. El Fuerte is a mexican luchador and a chef. His basic damage output isn’t that great but he’s super fast and tons of fun to play. Rufus is a fat american biker with a very special brand of kung fu. Don’t be fooled by his size though; he’s fast and vicious. Abel is a french dude who’s lost his memory. He’s got very powerful and satisfying moves. And last but not least, Seth, who’s the end boss of the game, and the king of cheap shots. He’s basically a naked guy with a Yin Yang ball for an abdomen, and his special moves are all borrowed from other characters (Guile’s sonic boom, Bison’s laughing teleport, Dhalsim‘s long arm punch, etc). And I hate his guts. That’s all I’ll say about him.
Arcade mode is rock solid, the AI is versatile and challenging (except for Seth, fuck you Seth). The other game modes are varied and fun (although the Challenges can get pretty frustrating near the end). Now, about the online play, even though it seems to be working perfectly well, the few times I’ve tried it against random people, I got my ass kicked so bad, I bled from my self-esteem for days. So I can’t really talk about it until I finally try it against some of my friends.
The game offers a good number of unlockables; concept art, movies, titles, icons and medals. It’s just too bad that so much of it can only be unlocked by winning online fights. Oh, you can also unlock alternative color schemes for costumes but the actual different costumes are only available from packs that you buy online for 5$ a pop. Each pack contains approximately 5 costumes, and they’re grouped by theme (the Shadaloo pack covers Bison, Vega, Balrog, Sagat and Seth, the Femme Fatale pack covers, you’ve guessed it, all the ladies of the game, etc)
In conclusion, Street Fighter IV is a fucking masterpiece that’ll keep you playing for a long long time. A definite must-buy for anyone who has even the slightest interest in fighting games.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go practice my INDESTRUCTIBLE choreography.