Game review: Ultra Street Fighter II – The Final Challengers is a remake that misses the mark
It works best as a reminder of all that is great about the retro game over its various incarnations, but it does little to translate into a new gaming era
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
While the Nintendo Switch represents the gaming giant’s console future, its early line-up features a jump into the fighting genre’s past. Fighting games don’t get more classic than Street Fighter II, which is why Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers looks like such an enticing package for old-school gamers. However, the classic fighting is pretty much all this game has going for it, as most of its newer features don’t hit the mark.
Ultra Street Fighter II is a classic game, collected in two distinctly different time capsules. Those familiar with the Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix game, released on Xbox 360 in 2008, will recall the visually upgraded version. That version of the game is fully intact, with sleekly painted artwork, re-recorded voice-overs, remixed stage tracks, and a 16:9 widescreen presentation. Those looking for a more classic experience have the option to switch to retro graphics, which uses a pre-HD era aspect ratio, old-school music, and stages as they were originally designed.
There’s also the option to switch the voice-overs to their original garbled grunts and shouts.
Both presentations for the Switch have their unique charms, but both contain the traditional Street Fighter II combat. Most of this review was conducted using the Switch’s Joy-Con grip, where the left analogue stick is pretty much the only way to play. Execution wasn’t a problem, but anyone looking for a more D-pad heavy experience will have to jump to the Pro Controller. Either way, the Street Fighter II experience is preserved perfectly here, with options to turn games into best-of-five rounds or mess around with the timer.
Capcom also sought to add some supplemental game modes, but they mostly fall flat. There’s a cooperative mode called Buddy Battle, where two players can join together (or one with a CPU partner) to take on SF2’s baddest bosses, including new additions Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. It’s a two-on-one scenario with the team of two sharing a single life bar. This is a novelty that wears thin quickly. The chaos of three fighters sharing a screen gets to be too much at times and having the advantage in a handicap match is only so much fun for so long. On top of that, once the mode is finished, that’s it. No special endings, no bonuses, just a simple “Game Over” screen and back to the main menu. It’s a throwaway mode that players will likely try once and never select again.
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Then there’s the motion controlled mode, which is executed very clumsily. The idea is to take the individual Joy-Cons in each hand and perform certain motions to control the fighter’s special moves, but the game all too often fails to recognise them. Many times inputs are delayed and fighting is impossible. It’s an exercise in frustration and one that doesn’t merit a second look from anyone.
Ultra Street Fighter II works best as a reminder of all that is great about the classic game over its various incarnations. The visual options encapsulate a sense of timelessness, showing how far it has come in its 25-plus years of existence. There’s even a classic art book (Street Fighter Artworks: Supremacy) of the series’ evolution that’s available to browse. The game shows true potential to be a great digital museum exhibit, not unlike what Capcom has done for Mega Man. Even the bare bones main menu lends itself to that kind of presentation. Sadly, that’s where the cool extras end.
Ultra Street Fighter II tries to add a robust package around its tried and tested arcade mode, but much of that package doesn’t pan out. All that leaves is the arcade and versus modes, and great as Street Fighter II is, it shows its age after a while. Fighting games have come so much further since Street Fighter II pioneered the genre, so it’s hard to imagine going back and especially for a hefty US$40 price tag.
Thanks for memories, but here’s hoping that this is indeed the final challenge.