I’ve been playing Street Fighter II for just about 25 years now. Released in 1991, it became an instant classic, reinvigorating a flagging arcade scene. A year later, it saw release on home consoles and computers, becoming one of the biggest drivers in the video game industry.
Originally released as Street Fighter II: The World Warriors, Capcom’s seminal fighting game popularised genre conventions, paving the way for Mortal Kombat, Tekken, The King of Fighters, Virtua Fighter, Guilty Gear, Killer Instinct, Dead or Alive and just about every other competitive fighting game you’ve ever played.
Capcom, being Capcom, milked the game for all it was worth, rereleasing the game more times than was necessary. World Warrior begat Champion Edition, allowing for the previously computer-controlled boss characters Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M.Bison to be played. That, in turn, saw the game tuned for competitive play in Hyper Fighting. It all culminated in Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, a game people still play competitively. Of course, Street Fighter’s had its own sequels, but for many reasons, the second one will always be special.
In that case, it makes sense that the company’s remastered the game again for a Switch release. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers should be the last entry in the 25-year old game. Maybe. Ultra Street Fighter II boasts crisp HD visuals, brought over from last generation’s Super Street Fighter II: HD Remix. Its manga aesthetic was controversial then; some loved UDON’s refreshed art, while others thought it an abomination. For those people, the option to run the game in all of its nostalgic 16-bit fidelity exists, squishing everything into a cropped, 4:3 ratio. While I’m not especially enamoured with UDON’s art style, it didn’t take long for me to switch back to it after trying the classic graphics and taking off my rose-tinted nostalgia goggles. Purism be damned. I did prefer the older music though; the new stage song remixes just seemed to lack any soul.
I didn’t need those glasses for the game itself. Though fighting games have evolved over time, Street Fighter II is just as fun to play as it ever was. The fast-paced battle of wits, fireballs, and uppercuts plays out like a lightning round of chess, as it always has. The game is responsive, fluid, and has had a bit of tweaking in the balance department. Throw escapes have been added, bringing a little more modernity to it all. As its name implies, The Final Challengers adds two new characters to the roster. Newish. Both new characters are based on existing Shoto characters and have appeared in games before.
First appearing in Street Fighter Alpha 2, Evil Ryu is a less-friendly take on the series established protagonist, which has him succumbing to the Satsui no Hado or Surge of Murderous Intent. It’s a deep, dark, and base power that’s the physical manifestation of destruction. It’s the same power that series bad guy Akuma has tapped into, so Evil Ryu plays very similarly. He has glowing red eyes, a stronger fireball, can teleport across the screen, and even has Akuma’s Raging Demon as his super move.
Violent Ken is a brainwashed version of Ryu’s blond sparring buddy. Taken in and given the Clockwork Orange treatment by Bison, he’s angrier, and is able to do a sneaky rush teleport that makes Ken a combo heavy-hitter, and a little trickier to deal with. He’s from SNK vs Capcom Chaos, so he’s not new either.
In truth, both new characters are disappointing palette swaps with a slightly altered move sets. In a game that already has Shoto characters like Ryu and Ken well represented, it feels like a misstep. It would have been nice to have some characters from Street Fighter III, IV, or even V given an old-school makeover. If you liked the Dramatic Battles from Street Fighter Alpha, those have been thrown into Ultra Street Fighter II. They let you and a friend (or a computer-controlled chum) pair up to tackle a single fight co-operatively, with one shared health bar.
The most bizarre (and frankly pointless) addition is the first-person Way of the Hado mode. It’s a Street Fighter shooting gallery from Ryu’s perspective that has players waggling a pair of Joy-Con to emulate Ryu’s signature moves. It’s horrible. A gimmicky mess, it’s a throwback to some of the very worst shovelware on the Wii. It would be a fun distraction if it worked properly, but its seemingly random controls make it an exercise in frustration. It does, however, look quite nice. Using what seems like the base engine for Street Fighter V, it suggests that there’s enough power in the system to run Capcom’s latest. As much as I love Street Fighter II, the idea of a portable version of the latest one sounds far more appealing.
The Switch is also not the best place for fighting games, given its standard controllers. A pair of Joy-Con controllers nestled in the grip works well enough, but given that there’s no actual D-pad, it means you have to use the imprecise analogue stick for inputs. If you’re planning on playing the game, you may want to get a Pro controller as well.
Oddly enough, I preferred playing the game on a single Joy-Con, which is also, I suppose, The Switch’s ace-in-the-hole. Two players can play the game just about anywhere, by detaching the controllers and using them horizontally. It’s perfect for impromptu multiplayer battles; flip out the stand, detach the controllers, and M.Bison’s yer uncle. Certainly, not the most comfortable way to play a fighting game, but pleasant enough.
Nostalgic fans are sure to get a kick out the included gallery that features over 14000 illustrations from the official Street Fighter II art book. They’re a bit of a pain to scroll through, but lovely nonetheless. There’s also a robust colour edit mode, finally allowing people to edit the 19 available fighters colours to their heart’s content.
Were it not for its $40 asking price, Ultra Street Fighter II would be easy to recommend if just for its nostalgic value. It’s a good remaster of the most classic fighting game on the planet, given just enough tweaking to make it feel fresher and more modern (though the lack of the car and barrel-bashing bonus stages is a crime against humanity).
As a note, the online modes of the game are not available yet – but would have little bearing on the game’s score. We’ll update the review once online functionality has been tested.
Last Updated: May 24, 2017