Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers Review – Super Finish
Street Fighter 2 is widely regarded to be one of the greatest games ever made, and there’s a good reason for that. The modern fighting game, with very few exceptions, is made in its image, and its core design is so fundamentally strong and resilient that you can pick it up and play it even today, and be enthralled by it. Just ask the thousands of people worldwide who continue to play the game competitively to this day.
It is this timeless appeal of Street Fighter 2 that Capcom is undoubtedly counting on with Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers, an updated release of the classic game for Nintendo’s Switch. Capcom bills this as the definitive, ultimate version of the classic game, which it is in many ways, barring a few baffling omissions (and some almost as baffling additions).
First, let’s get the basics out of the way- this is largely the same game that an entire generation of gamers (and beyond) came to grow to love over the last two decades. It’s based on Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, with the modern HD graphics coming from the digital only Super Street Fighter 2: HD Remix re-release some years ago. It has all of the characters from the previous games, plus Violent Ken and Evil Ryu, which are billed as the first new additions to the game’s cast in two decades. Technically speaking, this is correct- however, Evil Ryu is naturally a lot like plain old vanilla Ryu, and ditto for Violent Ken and vanilla Ken. It’s a shame that Capcom didn’t add some genuinely new characters to the roster here- Rashid from Street Fighter 5, maybe?
“It is this timeless appeal of Street Fighter 2 that Capcom is undoubtedly counting on with Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers, an updated release of the classic game for Nintendo’s Switch.”
That apart, we have all the same classic modes, including the Arcade, Versus (with the option for Player vs Player, Player vs CPU, and CPU vs CPU matches) and Story Modes, from the original games, but there are also a few new additions here- a Buddy mode lets you overwhelm the CPU by teaming up with a friend (or a CPU character) to take on the opponent, and there is a Training Mode where you can come to terms with the game’s controls as well. There is also a brand new Way of the Hado mode, which is a Switch exclusive new addition that has you play as Ryu in first person, and use the Joycon controllers to perform moves.
In theory, that sounds excellent – who doesn’t want to pull off a Shoryuken or a Hadoken with their hands? – but the problem is, for some reason, the mode simply doesn’t work as intended. This is a bit hard to understand- the Joycons are excellent motion controllers, and their sensitivity and fidelity is second to none, but the game does not register any inputs from them. Why this is is hard to tell, but it basically makes this mode a bust.
Other new additions include an excellent gallery mode, that includes high resolution artwork from the entire Street Fighter franchise. For a lot of fans, this gallery alone may be worth the price of admission. It’s essentially a shrine to the franchise, its mythos, and all the fans who have invested themselves in all of that over the years. There is also a new multiplayer mode that lets you link up multiple Switch systems together wirelessly to play.
While there are additions, there are also omissions- for some reason, there is no Tournament Mode present here, and the options you get to configure each match are not quite as granular as you have come to expect, with speed and damage toggles notably missing. On the other hand, you now have the option to save a replay of every single match you have played- Capcom giveth, and Capcom taketh away.
At the core of it all, however, this is the Street Fighter you know and love, and it plays just as wonderfully now as it did in the early 1990s. It’s hard not to get instantly addicted by trying to beat the CPU, trying to complete the Arcade mode with each character possible, trying to beat your friend in a series of multiplayer matches. And Capcom has gone out of its way to make this the most respectful upgrade to the original game that they could have, too, meaning everything from the original is basically retained intact here. In fact, if you don’t like the new graphics or sound, for example – which, while they look great, have some animation problems that can turn veterans used to frame precise inputs off – you can always switch back to the original 16-bit graphics (which are as superlatively smooth and fluid as ever) and sounds.
“It’s a game that lends itself beautifully to the Switch, and that, perhaps more than anything else, breathes new life into this now more than 20 year old game.”
Every stage from the originals has made it into this game, but there are some weird omissions (such as there being no bonuses for car or barrel damage on stages that have them)- for a lot of players who are used to getting a higher score at the end of the match because they utilized the stage better, this will probably be a bit of a bummer.
Playing multiplayer is quick, fun, and painless, and this game was almost made for the Switch- playing multiplayer matches on the go is surprisingly fun, and the controls map to the individual Joycons for impromptu multiplayer matches reasonably well. They also work very well on the Switch’s Joycon Grip and Pro controller, in spite of reservations some may have had especially with the Joycons, due to their split D-Pad. It works well enough, though pro players will naturally want the fight stick.
Street Fighter 2 on the Switch is a lot like Mario Kart 8 or Super Bomberman R, in that it has an intrinsic appeal to short sessions- you can pick up and play a short match or two, and then put the game away and move on, making this the perfect game for the daily commute. You can set up a multiplayer match with a friend painlessly, making this the perfect game to play with your colleagues at work during break. And when you get home, you can work on perfecting your combos and your moves, making this a great console fighting game. It’s a game that lends itself beautifully to the Switch, and that, perhaps more than anything else, breathes new life into this now more than 20 year old game.
Is it worth $40? In a lot of ways, that seems to be a very high price to pay for what is, while a loving one, an update of a 25 year old game. It also lacks some content that can hold people back from calling this the definitive version of Street Fighter 2, which is what Capcom is billing it as, and in the face of other contemporary fighters, such as the just released Injustice 2, which is overflowing with content, it can come off as a bit lean. But in the end, its core gameplay remains so fundamentally appealing and strong, and it lends itself so well to the Switch, that I think fans of Street Fighter 2, and fans of fighting games, who own a Switch would be remiss if they didn’t pick this one up for one final fight.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
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