Now that exams are over, I decided to kick back and enjoy my video games. As I stated in a previous post, I love Street Fighter. I always have enjoyed the series and have purchased various systems to keep up with the various titles that have been released over the years. In high school I picked up a Sony Playstation to enjoy the Alpha series, and shortly thereafter a Sega Dreamcast so I could knock around Street Fighter III. I even picked up the poorly reviewed Street Fighter EX 3 when I got a Playstation 2. Suffice to say, I have never had a bad word to say about a series I loved, that is, until now. Super Street Fighter IV is not only a slap in the face to loyal fans who purchased the first game when it was released, but it is an incomplete title which could have used a few more months of development.
Where do I start? Being a fighting game fan, I have also played other titles, some good and some not so good. At the request of a friend, I picked up Virtua Fighter 4 for the Playstation 2 when it was released. After a year of knocking that game around, I heard that there was a new version being released, Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution. While upset at first, it was released as a discounted title, $29.99 instead of $59.99. While Super Street Fighter IV wasn’t released as a full priced title, $44.99 is not a discounted price by any means.
The good news is that owners of the previous version get a bonus, additional colour schemes for all characters, but the bad news is that this small addition is not worth the buying price of the original title. Such a token gesture is definitely not the “fan appreciation” that was promised when news of this title’s release came out, especially since Capcom had well over a year to put something together for those who spent the sixty to seventy dollars on the original Street Fighter IV. Loading up Super Street Fighter IV for the first time and finding such a small ‘thank you’ felt like an insult. Seeing how Capcom’s other titles aren’t selling well (Bionic Commando and Dark Void come to mind), sticking it to loyal fans who continue to spend money on their games isn’t a great way to increase sales.
Now what do I mean about incomplete? For those who have played the Street Fighter III games for the Sega Dreamcast, it is very much like comparing Street Fighter III or Street Fighter III: Double Impact to Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Aside from a slew of new characters not found in the first two versions, Third Strike also tweaked the arsenals of all fighters to provide for a more balanced roster. In the right hands, any one of the twenty characters could be a contender. You don’t find this in Super Street Fighter IV as the newer characters have not been thoroughly tested and are either incapable of putting up a fight or are overpowered to the point where other characters cannot compete. For example, I bumped into an amateur T. Hawk player the other day who had been on a winning streak. While I was able to trounce him, it is only because of my familiarity with T. Hawk’s move set from previous Street Fighter games. Though T.Hawk had been given a slew of new moves, this player only used those found in Super Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha 3. What does it say when one character can dominate so many opponents by using only half of the unique moves and special moves in their arsenal? That being said, with some exceptions, the original cast is also fairly unbalanced.
Charge move characters, like Guile and Blanka, seem to have a significant advantage as their moves appear to have higher priority than others. It also doesn’t help when the classic “rock-paper-scissors” of previous games (hard beats medium, medium beats light, light beats hard) has been replaced with a system dependent on who strikes who first (this complaint could be made of the original Street Fighter IV as well). This pretty much leads to a game of “turtling” as players either use their charge moves or a crouching hard punch (a secondary uppercut for most characters) while charging said charge moves. In previous games, a jumping light kick or light punch would prevent this kind of stalemate, but this is a strategy I quickly found out doesn’t work anymore. Why wasn’t this issue addressed before this game was released?
This isn’t all, however, as Street Fighter is now suffering from problems that were once thought to exist only in SNK’s King of Fighters series. Yes, that’s right, infinite and near infinite combos.
Though the combos in the video are impressive, the videos themselves are fairly troubling. With the release of Street Fighter IV, Prima Games identified a near-infinite El Fuerte had involving his Habanero Dash, something which for some reason had slipped by Capcom game testers. I had fallen victim to this numerous times in online play in the previous title as cheaters (only cheaters use infinite combos) would simply abuse this to win. Yesterday I bumped into one El Fuerte player who did the very same thing to me in our first fight, but not the second, though he tried a few times (we would exchange hits and then he would go on the defensive for some reason). I was also the victim of an opponent who abused E. Honda’s Sumo Splash while cornering me. Two hits in rapid succession, with the second being a near unblockable cross-up, and considering the increased priority charge moves have compared to other moves, there was very little I could do about it.
The fact that these problem weren’t corrected with the release of Super Street Fighter IV demonstrates downright laziness on the part of Capcom. That was one of the reasons for the release of this title right? To balance the roster? As the above videos clear demonstrate, this game has become almost as laughable as SNK’s flagship fighting franchise in terms of balancing. How does anyone compete with players who use characters with these combos? My twin brother uses Fei Long (aside from Ryu, his primary character), and if he learned the infinite displayed in the second video, I wouldn’t have a chance. Whatever happened to a fair fight?
Aside from this lack of balance, new Ultra combos further unbalance this roster. Sagat, who was supposed to have been downgraded, has instead become more powerful with a Tiger Uppercut to Tiger Cannon combo. Previously only Ryu was able to string together such a combo, something which made him a top tier contender. Abel’s new Breathless Ultra combo is also unbalanced, giving this fighter a rushing grab attack that absorbs hits while traveling across the screen. Aside from jumping (Breathless can be delayed so even this isn’t terribly effective against it), unless your character’s Ultra has more priority, there is almost no way to avoid it. Akuma’s new Demon Armageddon is also unbalanced as it can be activated from his teleport, which makes it almost impossible to avoid unless blocking, though, as the first video above shows, this can be made unblockable with the assistance of a fireball. How does giving already powerful characters new powerful moves balance the game? It doesn’t, and that is the problem. One of the selling points for this game, and one of the reasons I decided to spend fifty dollars on it, was that we were promised a balanced roster. I feel as if I have been cheated, but, if you can believe it, it gets worse.
In Street Fighter IV, players were able to see not only what characters their opponent was picking (that way, if an unbalanced fighter was chosen, players could level the playing field by also choosing an unbalanced fighter) but the player’s stats and his/her icon and title, both which could show what characters that player likes to use. This gave players the ability to avoid other players who not only had a high ranking, but favoured unbalanced characters like Sagat and Gouken. Now online play is like Russian roulette where there is a good chance that you might find yourself in a one-sided fight before the match has started. I know you can choose the skill level of your opponent with a custom search, but the problem is that you still find yourself in situations where you are seriously outmatched by a far more experienced and/or cheap player. I was well on my way to getting the Tenpeat achievement, getting my seventh win when I faced off against a Seth player who abused a near infinite combo. Every time it connected, I lost a quarter of my life, and while I was able to momentarily break free and do some serious damage to him, there was no way I could win with the way that player was playing. While Seth was supposed to have been downgraded in comparison to his appearance in the single-player Arcade Mode (decreased health and damage), boss characters rarely are balanced no matter what is done to level the playing field. Suffice to say I have spent the last two days repeating this scenario, finding myself on a nice winning streak when I am paired up with a fighter who doesn’t fight fair, using one unblockable/infinite combo or another.
You will also find players abusing poor internet connections, as with the previous game (though it seems far worse this time around), to win fights, even though their internet connection is supposed to be good. A near perfect internet connection last night turned out to be anything but as my opponent appeared to teleport around the screen (Ryu doesn’t have a teleport move). This is partly the reason why I am here writing this blog post, since after two days straight of online fighting I have yet been able to get this achievement. To make matters worse, players cannot quit matches once the identity of their opponent and their opponent’s character is revealed. Disconnects are recorded and those who try to escape these humiliating situations by powering off their system or simply quitting the game are branded cheaters by the online community (the irony is that many of the higher ranked players are cheaters themselves). Instead of finding an enjoyable outlet to vent my frustrations, I find myself with something that further frustrates me. The added insult on top of all this is that I paid fifty dollars to put myself in this situation.
Aside from the unbalanced roster, it lacks various modes from the previous game. It doesn’t have Player Match that allows for unranked fighting between players with the ability to have rematches. I would much rather have this then Endless Battle as I could pair up with a better player and not only challenge him/her to a fight, but learn a few tricks over the course of a few matches. It also lacks Tournament Match which was added to previous title in a large game update. The fact that it lacks even the most basic versus modes that are found in other online fighting games, like Bandai Namco’s Tekken 6, makes Super Street Fighter IV feel far more incomplete.
All these new features, while welcome additions, aren’t that impressive. The Replay feature, which allows for players to watch matches, feels like an ill-conceived afterthought. While the fights can be slowed down, it lacks basic replay features like fast forward and rewind, let alone skipping or replaying rounds. Also, seeing how players can save every match they played, it does feel like a waste. I have found myself in really close fights that I would have loved to review, but I couldn’t save a replay. I have also found myself in fights that were terribly easy wins for me, and not worth saving as a replay. If I humiliate my opponent, I don’t see any reason to broadcast that humiliation to the rest of the online community. I am not the type of person to gloat about my victory at the expense of someone else. Why wasn’t any of this considered? Once again, Replay feels like an ill-conceived afterthought.
In conclusion, the only reason I could see for Capcom to not only insult loyal fans, but released an incomplete game is for money. Am I saying that Capcom doesn’t have the right to make money? Of course not. I am an avid supporter of capitalism and if a company can make money, especially in these hard economic times, than they should. Capcom is made up of regular people who do need a paycheck, so to say that they should be denied a salary because someone doesn’t like this game is nonsense. That being said, because these are hard economic times, Capcom should have spent a lot more time working on this game before shipping it to stores. Times are tough and gamers don’t have the money to buy all the games they want, so they will try to spend their hard earned cash wisely. I was told by various reviews and interviews with Capcom spokesman that not only would this title have a balanced roster, along with new moves and new characters, but loyal fans would be rewarded for purchasing the previous title. As I explained throughout this post, the facts demonstrate that this claim is dubious at best and myself and others feel betrayed. Feeling the way we do, we are going to think twice before spending money on the next Capcom title. While I initially couldn’t make up my mind as what game to pick up with the rest of my petty cash, after all this, it definitely won’t be Lost Planet 2.
Capcom needs to prove that they can be trusted to produce games worthy of their sticker prices, and they did themselves a disservice with the release of Super Street Fighter IV. This definitely isn’t the game they promised, and unless we see significant updates that address the issues discussed in this article, this latest brawler belongs on the shelf beside King of Fighters XII and other fighting games that weren’t worth the sticker price, even a reduced one. Pathetic…
UPDATE: What did I say about Capcom’s sales? Gamespot is reporting on the dramatic drop in sales by the gaming giant. A 73.1% decline? Maybe instead of simply pumping out one title after another, Capcom should spent more time making their games better instead of making more of them. Quality over quantity as the old saying goes.
UPDATE: Tried giving Super Street Fighter IV another chance, and once again it didn’t fail to upset. Missed grabs at close range, being grabbed out of combos (Jumping HK, crouching MK to Hadoken turned into Jumping HK COMMAND GRAB or Jumping HK, crouching MK COMMAND GRAB), awkward move executions (Forward Step Kick executes with Ken facing away from the opponent), being thrown in the air while executing the Shoryuken, etc While many of these problems are specific to Ken Masters (for those who didn’t know, he is a low tier fighter in this game), it all goes back to my point on the lack of balancing.
I also got upset with the lagging fighters I was up against, especially with how “convenient” much of the lag was. Perfect and near perfect connections suddenly became unplayable on my end when fights were drifting in my direction. After winning the first round against this Ryu player with relatively little difficulty, the connection became so bad that the screen would literally freeze for a second or two (I did manage to win, but in the third round and with very little health left). I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just an extension of the “there is no cheating” nonsense mentality expressed in Domination 101 and Playing to Win, two books which promote the exploitation of bugs, glitches and whatever else a player can to win. I might not be a tournament-level competitor, and I have no problem losing to a better player, but I would at least like a “fair fight” with a balanced roster and a properly designed fighting system.
As I expressed in the earlier in this post, some characters are simply too powerful, and it is obvious that the promise of balancing the roster for the release of Super Street Fighter IV wasn’t kept. For example, allowing Ryu to follow up a Shoryuken with an EX Hadoken for considerable additional damage is just mind-boggling. Not only does the first move have near unrivaled priority, damage and recovery time, but this added bonus of allowing players to follow up with an EX, Super combo or Ultra combo gives Ryu a clear advantage over the majority of other characters. Mind you, Dan, possesses an Ultra combo projectile as well that can be comboed from his Koryuken, but the Koryuken itself lacks the range, priority and recovery time of Ryu’s Shoryuken. Dan’s combo also requires very precise timing and a bit of luck as I discovered last night against two Dan opponents, with only one of them able to pull it off (I had drifted out of the range of the attack the majority of the time). It doesn’t even take skill or luck to execute.
While other fighting games like the Tekken series demand precision (which comes from hours of practice), these combos in Super Street Fighter IV are low risk, high reward and do not require any serious time in training mode. At the very least efforts could have been made to tone down the damage, if not reduce the time players have to execute the combo, but, once again, we see laziness. I understand that all characters have their strengths and weaknesses, but this is a balancing issue, one that Capcom failed to address. (UPDATE: Aside from the various balancing issues I have raised already, many forums have discussed the awkward hit boxes from some characters, notably Blanka, where attacks have actually passed through him because of missing hit boxes. For those who don’t know, hit boxes are designated areas on the character where they can be attacked. I didn’t realize this before, but since a few players pointed it out, it makes sense as to why certain combos didn’t connect. Once again, LAZINESS!)
As for this news about Capcom giving up on Western developers for new titles, I think this is another decision in the long line of bad decisions made by the company recently. While Bionic Commando and Dark Void weren’t as successful as they would have hoped, Capcom’s Lost Planet 2, a game produced wholly by Capcom, turned out to be a disaster, scoring poorly due to a underdeveloped single player campaign, incomplete and unintelligent AI, unbalanced multiplayer modes and a slew of graphical and gameplay glitches. As Jun Takeuchi, the producer of Lost Planet 2 said, the Japanese gaming industry doesn’t have a hope in hell of competing with North America’s because it doesn’t evolve. To me, Super Street Fighter IV reeks of this kind of development strategy, borrowing heavily from other fighting games, especially King of Fighters (from character design to the emphasis on juggling), while producing an “adequate” title which lacks appeal in the broader gaming market. You will have the loyal fans purchasing it, as well as other fighting game enthusiasts picking it up, but lacking a broad selection of modes, along with a dependence on a flawed online multiplayer for replayability, it definitely isn’t going to be the best seller Capcom is hoping for, and to tell you the truth, I hope that it isn’t.
Produce a complete title or don’t bother producing anything at all. Money is tight and it isn’t to be wasted on a game that fails miserably to meet the expectations set by Capcom itself. Disgusting…
UPDATE: What did I say about “convenient” lag? I might be new to online gaming, but having experience with this kind of nonsense with older PC games, I figured this is what many players were doing.
There are even videos on how to make a lag switch…
How do you even justify this? How do you even play with some players using this cheat? I can’t tell you how many times I have lost when lag interrupted combos, as well as slowing down my attacks. While I am willing to accept that some of the lag isn’t purposeful, there is too many players, many I have fought, that are purposely using lag to win fights. Once again, one has to wonder how many of the top ranked players are using these tactics. Disgusting…