Street Fighter IV: Then and Now
We put the latest version in the ring against its Xbox 360 predecessors to see if it really is the king of fighters.
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Capcom's iconic fighting franchise made its Xbox 360 debut through the Xbox Live Arcade port of Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting back in August 2006. While the game was a good re-creation of the orirginal, including authentic animations that remained intact, it was let down by some bland presentation and wasn't as razor sharp as you would expect on a high-definition display.
Capcom then partnered with American comic house Udon Entertainment to re-create Super Street Fighter II Turbo with brand-new HD graphics for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Our review awarded the final product with an outstanding visual design medal, thanks to "gorgeous anime and wicked special effects," combining widescreen, high-definition visuals with characters and environments that had been crisply redrawn with vibrant colours and wonderfully painted textures.
Before SSFIITHDR even made its ways to consoles, however, Capcom dropped the bomb that Street Fighter IV would be coming to arcades in 2008 and later to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PCs. That time has finally come, and with copies flying off the shelves faster than a hundred-foot kick, it's time to see how far the series has come on home consoles. Our review highlighted SFIV's technically and artistically stunning graphics. The cel-shaded character art style, splattered-ink effect, and fast, fluid animation made it a joy to see in action. See how SFIV compares to SFIIHF and SFIITHDR on the Xbox 360 with our graphics comparison. (Note: Though we examined the Xbox 360 versions of SFIV and SSFIITHDR, the PlayStation 3 versions of each are comparable).
KenKen's look hasn't changed much over the years. He still sports a red gi, gloves, and his trademark blonde mullet, but the detail and animations are more fluid than ever. Veins pop out of his biceps, his hair and belt flow gracefully when he moves, and all of his animations look more natural than before.
BlankaThe Brazilian beast has always been one of the most colourful characters in the Street Fighter roster, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Street Fighter IV. Blanka's hair has less of a swept-back look this time. Instead, he has a spiked punk look, and his arms sport thick patches of orange hair instead of stripes. But it's Blanka's animations that really stand out, from his heaving chest and stomach that constantly move with his breathing, to his unpredictable, almost dancelike fighting stance.
Chun-LiChina's most formidable fighter has changed subtly across the three versions, from the baby-blue dress and schoolgirl look of SFIIHF, to a more aggressive-looking Chun-Li in SFIITHDR with a vibrant blue dress, to a mature version in SFIV that illustrates just how graceful and lightning fast her fighting style can be. Details on her headwear and dress embroidery stand out more clearly in SFIV. Most importantly, though, is that fans will be pleased to know that Chunners still has the most powerful thighs of any Street Fighter to date.
Street Fighter IV's environments have been given an overhaul, and most of them are completely new levels, including a secret lab, a diner carpark, a beautiful tropical bay, and even the rim of a lava-filled volcano. There are still a few stages inspired by the Street Fighter games of old, including Crowded Downtown (Chun Li), Inland Jungle (Blanka), and Small Airfield (Guile), and to say that they've been given an overhaul since we last saw them is an understatement.
Gone are the shanties, picture-snapping photographers, and the giant anaconda from Blanka's Brazilian level. They've been replaced with a stage set on top of a wooden bridge, overlooking waterfalls and Incan ruins. The new Inland Jungle features gushing waterfalls, leaping monkeys, and a great sense of depth that the original stage lacked. It's easy to get distracted from fighting by all the vibrant wildlife.
Chun-Li's Chinese marketplace has been re-created as Crowded Downtown, one of the first stages shown off when SFIV was announced. The Downtown stage retains the hustle and bustle of the busy Chinese market and the cyclists (scooter riders in SSFIITHDR) and hawkers are back, but what amusingly stands out in SFIV is the eager tourist snapping pictures in the background. There's plenty of attention to detail that previous versions missed out on, such as the spinning exhaust fan and the barber's pole, laundry blowing gently in the breeze, and bystanders talking, cooking, and even blowing bubbles with chewing gum during fights.
Guile's classic US airbase has been replaced with a Shadoloo airfield in Africa, and the result is quite a different experience. The American troops and girls are gone and have been replaced with khaki-wearing African soldiers, a shimmerlingly hot plain complete with giraffes and distant hills, and a huge cargo plane baring the Shadoloo logo. The plane itself is the centrepiece, appearing towards the end of the first round, as Balrog sticks his head out of a fuselage door to taunt you. If they get too close to the plane, certain characters can even split the wing in half.
Ken's combos are as enjoyable as ever and are more elaborately illustrated in SFIV. Dust clouds trail behind his jumps, dragon punches, fireballs, and hurricane kicks. The detail and rich colour in his fireball gives it a feeling of immense power, while the trailing flames and cinders from his dragon punch look brilliant--both around him and on the burning bodies his attacks touch.
Chun-Li's attacks flow gracefully and incredibly fast this time around. Her hyakuretsu kyaku lightning kicks look faster than ever, thanks to SFIV's faster frame rate, and her spinning bird kick explodes with a burst of colour upon impact. Her kikoken fireball, like others in the game, is well detailed and glows with hues of blue and yellow energy.
The Shadoloo boss's energy-based psycho crusher sizzles with purple kinetic energy, rather than the yellow colour previously seen, enveloping both his body and those that get in his way. Meanwhile his scissors kick looks both faster and smoother than before, thanks to some brilliant animation. His aerial attacks are also superbly animated and will ignite his opponent's body with purple energy if correctly executed.