Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers Review
The year is probably 1992. A very young – but obviously already showing very clear signs he’ll end up a stone cold stunner of a man – Adam Cook is sat in his friend’s bedroom. His friend has a SNES, while this so called “Adam Cook” has a Mega Drive (Genesis to our friends across the pond). He was probably enjoying James Pond, Sonic, Streets of Rage, and other games he’s just had to google to ensure his aging memory isn’t mixing them up in time, but this… this was his first Street Fighter 2 experience. Being an incredibly attractive young gentleman, he was obviously also a righteous rebel, so he decided to play as Ken instead of Ryu like all the sheep did.
It’s love at first play. This is what was missing in his as yet unburdened life. He needed this. Street Fighter 2 has woken a sleeping dragon and other such metaphors. He will go on to play fighters badly for the rest of this life. He will forever be an incredibly attractive gentleman with plenty going on in the trouser department, and he will go on to great things he could never believe would happen to him.
I’ll let you in on a secret, dear reader: that Adam Cook was me.
And that’s an incredibly long-winded way of saying Street Fighter 2 is a very old game. But it’s not just an old game being released for the Nintendo Switch (The New Hotness), no, it’s an old game that’s incredibly expensive on The New Hotness. £35-40 is a hell of a lot of money for a game that’s been done to death, so what’s new, and who’s the audience?
Firstly, the audience. I think it’s probably people like myself (I’m Adam Cook, remember) who played it back in arcades or on the SNES, and then continued to play the many variants throughout the years. To people like me there’s something nostalgic about playing the new Street Fighter 2 on the new Nintendo. There are also people who will just want a new Switch game that’s an exclusive, and those people are unlikely to be exclusively massive fighting game fans. Given that it’s an Switch-only game being released around the time Injustice 2 is hitting, I’m finding it hard to envision too many hardcore fighting fans being overly excited about it.
As an updated version (of sorts) of SSF2 Turbo (but closest to Turbo HD Remix), you’ve got the original eight characters along with the “boss” lads, and also the SSF2 characters in Dee Jay, Fei Long, T. Hawk, Cammy (the best), Akuma and – for the first time in SF2 – Evil Ryu, and Violent Ken. You can play with the old visuals and the shiny new look, but there’s an intentional design choice to keep to the old fighting style, and not bring the mechanics too much up to date. That said, you can break out of a throw now, and the combos are closer to a modern game than they are to the original vision.
It plays well, then. All ages can get involved because, while it is a technical game, it doesn’t require quite as much knowledge as a modern fighter, by hook of there being less mechanics. That’s not to say it’s not deep, just that it’s accessible. My kids played it and enjoyed mashing the buttons but were quickly undone when my horrendously under-practiced Ryu could just constantly wreck them with a simple jump heavy kick and sweep. It’s still fun – no question.
But saying “it’s fun” isn’t really a yardstick, because it was always going to be fun. I’d be shocked if anyone reading this had never played some version of SF2 before. So what’s new? First up, and most notably, there’s the awful motion controlled mess that is “Way of the Hado”. Here, you grab the Joy-Cons and play as Ryu, physically enacting a terrible approximation of his special moves. “HADOKEN!” you won’t shout, as you awkwardly thrust both hands together. As for the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku (Whirlwind Kick, probably), well, it’s just stupid.
This mode throws waves of enemies at you in first-person, and it’s visually styled like Street Fighter 5. If they enemy is far away, fireball. Close? Dragon punch. A group? Whirlwind kick. Lots of them? Shinku Hadoken. Whether the motion controls are bad, or poorly programmed, I couldn’t tell you, but this mode is bad and I have absolutely no idea who it’s aimed at.
Elsewhere, Buddy Battle is exactly as it sounds: you and a friend team up against a CPU opponent. 2 v 1 sounds easy, but you’ll go up against some of the more interesting characters in the game, and you will share a health bar. If you’re clever you’ll have a character who can attack at range from one side while your “buddy” gets in close. It’s not as easy at it sounds, though in fairness it does sound very easy.
A range of accessibility options that let newcomers do specials at the touch of a button is a nice touch, but ultimately that’s pretty much what this game offers. Portability is good, and playing SF2 on the go is pretty cool, but it’s not exactly a selling point as such. Bizarrely, despite trying with the Pro Controller, I actually found the most comfortable way to play was in handheld mode with the Joy-Cons either side. Even in multiplayer on the big screen I preferred the Joy-Cons in their controller cradle thing.
Ultimately, this is pretty much the game you think it is, for better or worse. I still like and enjoy Street Fighter 2, though I’d prefer to play a more modern fighter. Including Violent Ken and Evil Ryu is a boon, but newcomers won’t care. Whatever you do think about SF2, this is far, far too expensive a price point for what is on the cart. While I can heartily endorse it as a good, sometimes great fighting game, I really can’t recommend buying it this price. So it’s a conundrum, then. A good game that costs too much. I wonder what a young Adam Cook would make of me saying £40 is too much for his beloved SF2 on the train. Ah well, who cares, he’s in the past and can’t hurt us now, and there’s possibly an argument that says SF2 should have stayed there, too.
It still plays really well
Cracking on the go gameplay
New modes are bad
There are better fighters available