Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation3
Review Date: 3/15/09
It's been eighteen years since the genre defining "Street Fighter II" came out, and it's gone through numerous iterations and revisions. While "Street Fighter III" was a solid and well crafted game, its characters never seemed to find a following and the game was quickly disregarded by all but the most hardcore fans. "Third Strike" reintroduced series veteran Chun-Li, but still failed to capture the magic of SF-II. As a result, Capcom decided to go back to its roots with "Street Fighter IV" and basically make an all new version of "Street Fighter II" with all of the classic characters as well as some new additions and fan favorites from other games in the series. The game maintains its core 2D fighting mechanics, but the characters are all rendered in 3D. Capcom tried this once before with the ill-received "Street Fighter EX" (I believe), and corrected their earlier mistakes by adopting a uniquely distinctive cartoon look for the characters. While they're not much to look at in still shots, the exaggerated caricatures are beautiful to watch in motion. Curiously, apart from the visual presentation, the game hasn't really evolved at all since the inception of SF-II. It continues to be a deep technical fighter, but is also easy enough for newcomers to pick up. Capcom is notorious for making ridiculously hard fighting games, but they thankfully cranked down the difficulty so that it's actually playable on the easiest setting.
Each fighter has their own animated intro movie that attempts to put a story behind that character's motivations. They're all rather obscure, and the game tries really hard to tie all of the various threads together, but unfortunately, it doesn't quite work. They're silly and fun to watch, but don't try too hard to make any sense of them. Each character also has a rival character that must be defeated before facing the new super villain, Seth. Drawing inspiration from "SoulCalibur's" Inferno, Seth uses a combination of techniques from all of the other characters, making him a tricky foe to counter. He also has a couple of other nasty tricks that he uses, and is generally a total pain in the ass. Several characters are unlockable, including "Street Fighter Alpha's" plucky Sakura, Fei-Long, Gen, Dan, Rose, and fan favorite Cammy. Cammy is by far the most attractive character in the game, as well as the least cartoonish. The queen of fighters, Chun-Li, makes her triumphant return to the stage, but her enormous thighs are bigger than ever and she appears to have gotten a boob job, which is unfortunate. The four new characters don't really fit in with the style of the other characters and are mostly annoying. I was super intrigued by Crimson Viper at first, but her in-game model is unattractive and she's not very fun to play. She looks and acts more like an SNK character than a Capcom character, and her technique doesn't fit in with the rest of the fighters. Rufus is a ridiculous tub of lard who was clearly intended as a joke, and his inclusion in the game is odd.
Presentation wise, the game looks like a cross between "Street Fighter II" and "Project Justice," with a dash of "Okami" thrown in. The classic stages are revamped to have more depth and animation, but are still not interactive. The soundtrack is very reminiscent of Team Ninja's "Dead Or Alive 3" which is a vast improvement over the crappy trip-hop score from SF-III. However, Fei-Long's theme becomes extremely irritating after only ten seconds. As great as the game is, it has plenty of shortcomings, the most glaring one being the supremely annoying announcer. I just wish he would shut the hell up, but there's no option for that. The victory poses are too long and uninteresting, and the long delay between battles interrupts the otherwise brisk pacing. SF-IV is a fun distraction and great for nostalgia, but it's intended for much more serious players. For my tastes, the "Dead Or Alive" games are far more fun and entertaining.