Review by Matt S.
It’s an undeniable fact that Street Fighter 2 is one of the most important, respected, and playable fighting games. To this day the core mechanics, balance, personality and art of the game come together to offer players something that feels eminently modern and worthwhile.
Related reading: For other fighting games on Nintendo Switch, here’s some short ‘n sweet reviews of Neo Geo classic fighters on the console.
All of this is good for Capcom, because it means the company has a game that it can keep tapping into with the most minor of changes, and then package it off as something new. Nintendo obviously decided it needed a fighting game for its new Switch console. Capcom offered to do just enough to Street Fighter 2 to package the game up as a “new” release. Nintendo jumped on board as the publisher, and the consumers win.
Except the consumers don’t really win with Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challenge. Packaging up some hugely gimmicky and pointless features with a core game that has far too little added to so many years after it was first released it is simply not worth getting excited over.
The major new feature in the game is Way of the Hado; a Nintendo Switch exclusive mode where you hold one joycon controller in each hand, and then play as Ryu from a first person perspective. Enemies come at you like in a shooting gallery, and then you need to manipulate the joycons in certain ways in order to have Ryu perform his various famous attacks (including the hadoken). This mode is fun for all of five minutes, but is ultimately so limited and shallow that it barely works as a tech demo for the Switch hardware; it’s like one minigame escaped from 1, 2, Switch and was then bundled into this game as a major feature.
Where you’ll get any long term value out of The Final Challenge is in the single player, local multiplayer, and online. Most people have played Street Fighter 2 by now, so know how the basic game works, and the good news is that there are so many different ways to enjoy the game itself. For local multiplayer, each player can take one of the joycons, and you can share the screen of the Nintendo Switch, allowing for some heated competition when out and about. This is uncomfortable over the longer term, but of course you can also play on the TV at home (gamepad supported), of over wireless, if you and another person have a Switch and a copy of the game. I haven’t had a chance to test online yet, but assuming it works, then that’s another bonus for people that want to get competitive.
You can also play the game with the original Street Fighter 2 graphics, or modern, re-drawn art that gives characters a nice level of detail, without quite bringing the art up to the standards of the likes of Guilty Gear or BlazBlue. Beginners can get a feel for the game with an “easy operation” mode, where they can tap parts of the screen to perform their character’s various specials. There’s a point where this control system becomes too cumbersome to be competitive, but by then you’ll be ready to do the input for specials by yourself.
This is all good, and it all works, but there’s so much more that could have been done. There are numerous popular characters from later Street Fighter games that are missing; Sakura, for example. Capcom did introduce two new characters to the roster; Evil Ryu and Violent Ken, bringing the cast to 19, but those two are barely palette swaps, and far too many characters on the roster effectively play the same way. Chun-Li’s there, but I’m really pissed off that Capcom didn’t bother bringing in Sakura, or generally use this as an excuse to change up or build out the roster.
There’s also a complete lack of effort to make any of this rewarding. There’s a couple of minor unlocks to enjoy by completing the story mode, but the leaderboards are limited, and don’t differentiate between difficulty, so once you’ve cleared the game with all-perfects on trainee difficulty, there’s not much of an incentive to even try and gun for a better score on the higher difficulties. There’s a character colour editor, but that lets you mess around with the costume colours in a very limited manner and is a pointless addition.
And perhaps most irritatingly of all, there’s a gallery of art from an out of print art book, showing a lot of the concept stuff proving the artistry in the background, but Capcom has blocked screenshotting of this, so the only way you’ll get to appreciate it is in the game itself.
So really, what you get when you buy Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challenge is Street Fighter 2, with a bunch of useless gimmicks thrown in to create a checklist that allowed Capcom and Nintendo to sell the game as something “new.” Don’t be fooled by it. It’s not new. In fact, you’re better off going with some of the old Neo Geo fighters that are available off the Nintendo Store on the Switch. Samurai Showdown IV and King of Fighters 98 don’t need cheaply re-drawn HD art to look better than Street Fighter 2, and those games are utterly masterful, while coming at a much cheaper price.
– Matt S.
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