A topical review.

So… I’ve played Street Fighter IV. Go ahead, be jealous. I had to make a pilgrimage to outside subway range (!!) to play this thing, but I did it so I would have a topical first review. In the future, my reviews may be amazingly untopical. I might review movies from the 70s and games that were first written about in stupid papyrus. 

I have one and only one Street Fighter loving friend, who may get to write a guest post on here eventually. He’s a huge creep who can actually discern the STORY in fighting games. When the first trailers were released, he had a weird mixture of excitement and pure hatred for the thing. I kind of share the same feelings after playing it.

Ok let’s get the full disclosure stuff disclosed. I enjoy the Street Fighter franchise quite a bit. I haven’t played every one, but I don’t think most capcom employees have either. I would describe myself as a fan who borders on hardcore, but doesn’t quite make it. I go to the arcades and I take on random strangers and have fun playing, but I don’t enter tournaments or watch videos of other people playing. I played probably five games while I was there. Some were against the AI, some were against other people. This means I can’t comment on depth, balance, or longevity… so this will be more of a first impressions type thing.

First things first, it looks great. I’m glad they went for a 3D look, even if it’s just to shut up all the graphics nerds. It is a little bit clunkier in terms of animation when compared to third strike, which sacrificed a whole dimension in favor of better frames per second. It’s a different look for the series, but it’s in no way a bad thing.

I had some serious concerns though, and i’m not sure the game has addressed them. The big problem with the street fighter franchise is marketability. For some reason everybody in the world played street fighter II, but nobody played the later ones. I’m not really sure why, but that’s the case. Capcom seems to be trying to revive people’s love of the “classic” street fighter II feel. This means the old classic character roster (which I have no problem with), and a massive step backwards in gameplay development (slight problem there). 

The parry system was a work of art. It meant if you were good enough, you could stop ANY attack and reverse it in your favor. Unlike the parries you can pull off in the dead or alive games with no real problems, they made them freakishly hard to do. This gave the game immense depth, and a genuinely interesting psychological angle. If your attacks become too obvious, you will be punished for it. For SF IV they brought in a new system, which seems to have the same sensibilities as the parry system, but wants to make it so everyone can play. You can absorb a hit while doing a “focus attack”, and smack them back. It does give the same “reading your opponent” feel, but it’s pathetically easy to do. You just press two buttons, like you would with a throw. Timing does not enter into it much, and the focus attack does not need to be adapted to the attack it is absorbing. 

This is an attempt to make the street fighter franchise more marketable. A running theme on this blog will probably be that I HATE THAT SHIT. Now, when I was playing the game, I was learning and I had a blast with it. I do worry that this system will be easily abused and will destroy long term play, as well as the souls of everyone who takes fighting games seriously. Street Fighter players are a creepy and obsessed bunch, the last thing you need to do is make it so “everyone can play”. It’s something the hardcore fans will frown upon. It’s like suggesting that everyone can use nunchuks (real ones, not the thumb thingy with the wire attached to the remote thingy without the wire). Sure everyone caaan use them, but most of them will smack themselves in the face, meaning everyone needs to use special padded safety nunchuks, pissing off all the real nunchuk users. That’s what Street Fighter fans are, the nunchuk spinning maniacs of the gaming world.

There are other issues as well. Online play for most fighting games is an absolute joke. For serious games, it’s a bigger joke, since precision timing is extremely important. The slightest bit of lag can mean the difference between victory and defeat. When asked about how they’re going to deal with online lag, they pretty much said they have no clue. The solution? Don’t bother unless you can do it beautifully.

Remember though, I had a ton of a fun with the game. I think it will be great for the more casual audience. With the limited time I had with the machine, all I could say when I walked away is “so far, so good…”. If you told me right now I could play more of it, it’s ALL I would fucking do. I think once the new game smell wears off though, the really hardcore fans will go back to third strike.


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October 2008
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