On the first demo disc I ever had, courtesy of the Official Playstation Magazine, there was a demo copy of Tekken 3, which introduced me not only to beat ‘em ups, but also to distinctive and interesting fighting styles that I never imagined possible. I’ve since played a lot more Tekken games, but not really ever gone into many of the other popular beat ‘em ups. I’d tried Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, but never for too long and never got too into them. As Steam and Capcom have combined to offer a free weekend of Ultra Street Fighter IV, I figured it’d be a good opportunity to give it another crack and see if it had progressed since the last time I played it… on the Super Nintendo.
There’s quite a lot that’s changed from the 1990s, most notably the art style. It’s not an area that Street Fighter ever really needed an improvement. Even when it first came out, it was pretty spectacular looking, but they’ve really taken it to the next level with USF4. They took what they had and converted it spectacularly into high definition 3D, and seemingly stuffed the characters full of steroids in the meanwhile. It’s a good thing they weren’t going for realism in their games, because this positive could quickly have become a negative, but as it is, the cartoony characters with their bulging biceps really make this game gorgeous, even just to watch.
The mechanics have vastly improved too, though it took me a little while to get used to it, combos and many different punches, kicks and throws are available which really make the game more interesting. You’ll have a boatload of various moves to beat your opponents to custard and performing the final punch to the back of your opponent’s health when you’re near death is a marvellous experience. Together with the moves, there’s a wide array of uniquely designed characters to select from. So many, that I only recognised a few of them and didn’t have a clue who to choose! Players who can claim to fully know the movesets of multiple combatants will have my respect. I found it hard enough just trying to get to grips with one of the characters.
I do feel as though I went into it expecting a little more than it had to offer. I was expecting the standard arcade experience, which it did offer, but there was little more than that. The online mode is a nice boost to the arcade mode, and it forces you to hone your abilities against scores of foes, but it just left me a little disappointed. Obviously, defeat after crushing defeat in online mode wasn’t the most fun, but it’s part and parcel of the game, however when that’s all you’re given, it’s pretty disappointing. I was hoping that the game had progressed beyond just being a one-off fight between groups of musclebound fighters, but it’s just stagnated in its familiar territory. Admittedly, there isn’t too much they could add to it, but adding a mode in where you progress through a world, beating up all comers, similar to Final Fight, would be amazing. Final Fight was originally planned as a Street Fighter spin off, and they’ve brought Guy and Cody (though no Haggar?!), so surely bringing in something to mimic that wouldn’t be so much of a stretch.
That was pretty much my entire experience of Ultra Super Duper Mega Street Fighter. I probably expected more from it in terms of progressions in the series, but perhaps that wasn’t entirely fair. What it actually sets out to do, it does very well. You’re able to beat the stuffing out of all comers and make your friends look silly as you destroy them without them even getting a hit in on you. It’s just, if I were to pay for this game, I’d expect a lot more than that. The game is fine for a freebie, but definitely a disappointment.