Let’s face it, there’s barely a soul out there that hasn’t played at least one round of Street Fighter II, but while there were plenty of updates in the ‘90s, there’s been no major official update to the mechanics since Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers may be the first update to this fighting game classic in years, but is it worth the wait?
On face value, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a re-release of Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix – an HD port of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It uses the same Udon art assets, certainly, but all the audio has been redone, meaning punches and kicks sound more realistic. There’s also new mixes of the classic themes and a new and jazzier menu track. They’re decent, but a far cry from the Overclocked Remix sourced tunes from Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.
One thing it has in common with other HD remasters of classics from the 90s is the ability to switch between the modern artwork and the original graphics, as well as stepping back to the original sounds. However, it’s tucked away in the system menu in Ultra Street Fighter II, as opposed to being accessible on the fly with a simple button press as in, for example, the Day of the Tentacle remaster. Online it’s understandable, to avoid balancing issues, but it’s a little disappointing that you can’t do this in offline modes where balance is less of a concern.
One of the biggest selling points is that this version has two new characters: Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. Both are essentially souped-up versions of their regular counterparts, with a few new evasive moves and faster walking speed. They’re fun to use, if somewhat unoriginal. It’s not exactly a ground breaking addition, but call backs to Street Fighter history and even a cross-over game developed by SNK are still appreciated.
I’d be lying to you if I were to say that there have been balance changes. That isn’t to say there aren’t any at all, but without analysing frame data, there’s no way to tell if this is the case or not. The Street Fighter community will probably dissect the game at some point, but Ultra Street Fighter II certainly hits all the right notes when it comes to the gameplay.
It has that authentic feel when you are playing with a Pro Controller, but you’re likely to be playing with either the two Joy-Cons together or against a friend with one JoyCon tilted sideways. The lack of a proper D-Pad on the Joy-Con meant that I was either getting blisters or having to resort to using the thumb stick; neither of which are ideal. With reports of a Hori Fight Stick coming to the Switch, there’s at least a rather expensive silver lining on the horizon.
Ultra Street Fighter II does have a host of other play options, such as Buddy Battle that allows for 2v1 fights with a friend or a CPU partner on your side. With only a few stages, it’s not going to take long to complete, but one interesting twist is that you have a shared health bar that when depleted is a forced loss, even if you win the first round.
Online is serviceable, built with the standard ranked and casual lobbies, but it largely depends on the connection between players. As such I have had decent matches but also very laggy ones where I was unable to get a move in and the slowdown was just too much. It’s also worth noting that Evil Ryu and Violent Ken have a significant advantage in that they move relatively quickly, so they seem to be heavily dominating the ranked mode at launch.
Other modes include Arcade, Versus, and Training, which are self-explanatory, while bonus content include a gallery full of artwork and music, a colour palette editor for every character, player data, and the game manual. Titles are also unlockable depending on conditions met. It really has the bare minimum of features for a 2D fighter, but not a lot else worthwhile. There is, however, the Way of the Hado Mode.
Way of the Hado is a hot mess. The general idea is you perform Ryu’s signature attacks using Joy-Con motion controls in order to defeat M.Bison’s goons. This can be done in either a three stage campaign mode or an endless mode, with a tutorial in order to learn the different motions and practice doing them.
Having said that, executing some of these moves in a tight time frame is cumbersome as the motions are incredibly precise. When M.Bison attacks with his head stomp, pulling off a Shoryuken is unresponsive to the point where you’re flailing your arms like you’re a wacky inflatable tube man.
While Way of the Hado feels tacked on and ultimately a pointless gimmick, this is still a great version of Street Fighter II and currently the best way to experience the classic game on today’s hardware. The additions to the main game are minor at best for the astonishing price tag, with Evil Ryu and Violent Ken just being amped up clones of existing fighters, but it still plays like the classic arcade fighter. Just don’t expect anything revolutionary.