Ultra Street Fighter II – The Final Challengers preview

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Street Fighter II was one of the first games I ever played, and in my opinion it remains one of the best fighters made. Sure, sequels and rivals offer flashier graphics and gimmicks – such as combos, 3D movement, and franchise cross-pollination – but sometimes, the simplest things are the best.

This is why the game has been remade and refreshed countless times for multiple platforms, and I have many an edition in my possession. So do I want to play and write about what’s billed as the ultimate, upgraded version? Hell, yes. Here are my early impressions of Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers for Nintendo Switch, having spent a few hours playing the game.

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Capcom has added a few new elements to the game to keep things fresh. The most significant for me is the choice of graphics modes. These let you flick between the pixellated goodness of the 16-bit era and clean HD.

It’s a nice touch, and of course at first I opted for the blurry version with which I grew up. Nostalgia is a fickle beast, however: while I enjoyed the outdated look, cropped to 4:3 aspect ratio, it wasn’t long before I clicked on the graphics upgrade, which is objectively better.

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It’s beautifully drawn with a Manga-inspired aesthetic. Everyone is unbelievably hench, but it’s still a fairly subtle style that isn’t distracting – unlike the Microsoft Paint approach found in Street Fighter IV. Ultra Street Fighter II also offers a wider (16:9) format, giving a bigger arena to fight.

Moving beyond graphics, the main attraction is much the same. There are 19 characters now, including Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. The paper-thin plot is the same, with brief blurbs about seeking honour or world domination as an excuse to fling fireballs and jump-kick each other. I much prefer this to the nonsensical ‘serious’ stories seen in Tekken. Less talk and more uppercuts is the way forward, thank you.

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Solo arcade mode is exactly that, but two-player offers some variety. There’s a Buddy Battle mode that lets you team up and fight CPU opponents together. Or, if you have no friends and are super-hard, you can fight two CPUs alone. It’s chaotic, but right now it’s the closest thing there is to Super Smash Bros on the Switch.

The most bizarre addition is ‘Way of the Hado’. This is a first-person offering in which you use the Joy Cons’ motion sensors to pull off such sick moves as Hadoukens and Shoryukens, plus that spinny-kick I can’t pronounce [editor’s note – Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, as a Street Fighter nerd I didn’t even have to Google this one]. The motion recognition is effective and the mode is genuinely fun for up to five minutes, after which it feels repetitive and shallow. A little like the party games on the Nintendo Wii, but with less waggling. As with Wii games, it’s recommended that you use the wrist straps.

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There’s one big problem with Ultra Street Fighter II, and it isn’t actually much to do with the game itself. It’s the controls. The Switch isn’t made for fighting games. There’s no proper D-pad, and its four directional buttons are too far apart to work as a substitute.

This leaves you with the analog stick, which is fine for a casual bash but it doesn’t offer nearly enough precision if you want to consistently pull off big moves. My Hadoukens worked only about two thirds of the time – I’m a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure I’m better than that. The more skilled you are, the more frustrating it will be. I’ve yet to try local two-player mode with one Joy Con each, but that would probably be more fiddly, considering their size. The only solution, I suspect, will be to use the Switch’s Pro controller.

First impressions

I’ve loved this game since I was a child, and I’ve always felt that it only needed minimal tweaks to bring it up to date. Ultra Street Fighter II is exactly that – familiar territory but with nicer graphics, plus a few nice but non-essential extras. My biggest concern is the controls, which will hopefully be fixed by the Pro controller. It’s a big ask, since the pad costs twice as much as the game itself, but I feel it’s the only way to play this game properly. I’m going to track one down and spend a few days doing spinny-kicks. I’ll be updating this page with my findings – come back next Wednesday for the full review.

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