Decades later not a lot has changed, but given the massive amount of iterations this one mold has had, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers doesn’t feel quite as impressive.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Switch)
Released: May 26, 2017
Ultra‘s nostalgic intro gets its tendrils in you very quickly. One look that old school Ryu, one pass of those retro sound effects and announcer, and I’m back in my bedroom with my X-Men curtains. But a lot has changed since then.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers‘s main gimmick is swapping between the classic pixelated and modern graphical styles. While I’m not nearly as down on the latter as most, the way the swap is actually implemented actually feels more outdated. The big hangup is that you can’t actually hotswap them in-game, or even mid-mode — you have to unceremoniously go back to the main menu to do it. The same goes for the retro/modern sound effects and music (although I really dig the new OST). With games like Wonder Boy and several others dedicating a button to it, the option in Ultra feels like a chore. I can understand why Capcom wouldn’t want people swapping online, but offline, anything should go.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the segmented d-pad of the Joy-Con for serious play, it does work. I primarily used a Pro, but didn’t have many issues with complex combos, or even supers like Raging Demon with some practice. I bet you some folks will even win tournaments with it. But that more so just speaks to the ageless beauty of Street Fighter II. Just about anyone can pick it up and start learning rudimentary combos, or experiment with the few command moves they have at their disposal and feel formidable. Newcomers Evil Ryu and Violent Ken are basically Dark Shoto clones with slightly different movesets (Ken has a little Psycho Power in him), but they slot nicely into the crew, which already represents just about every fighting game style already. Charge characters, mashers, zoning — there’s something for everyone. You can see why Capcom would rest on its laurels with a cast like this.
Ultra Street Fighter II also has an arcade mode, which is a surprisingly novel take given Capcom’s stance with Street Fighter V (ha). With an online fight request “coin-up” system to boot it’s pretty spiffy, and I worked my way through arcade with most of the 19 characters and had a blast. Another notable inclusion is Buddy Battle, a 2v1 affair that has roots in the series, but is rarely paraded out. It’s a good way to teach someone the game (my wife enjoyed it), and although veterans will probably ghost it the minute they boot up Ultra, it’s a great icebreaker, especially when coupled with the “light” control scheme that lets you assign command moves to buttons. They just don’t go far enough with it as it’s essentially a glorified boss rush.
I don’t even want to dignify Way of the Hado — the game’s motion enabled first-person Ryu mode — with a response (but I will, because you’re probably reading this review to hear about it). Seriously though, it’s not worth your time as it’s mostly unresponsive schlock that hearkens back to the original Wii’s era of poorly implemented waggle. You’re beating up fodder for the most part by flailing your arms to trigger a few iconic moves, and although the M. Bison boss fight shows some promise, it’s one blip on this beaten-up second-hand radar. Three levels of difficulty, an endless mode, and an RPG system with non-noticeable stat increases attempt to provide some semblance of loyalty to the mode, but I will never play it again, much less show it to anyone else as a demonstration of what the Joy-Con are capable of (don’t worry, what I’ve played of Arms is much better).
There’s also some gallery stuff to peruse, like Sagat over the bloodied corpse (?) of Dan, that sort of thing. Custom colors (something I loved from SNK 2) return, as do the innate benefits of playing on the Switch. Taking the system off the dock, bringing it to someone’s house, and just popping off the Joy-Con is perfect for fighters — even with the aforementioned d-pad issues.
Meet the new Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, mostly the same as the old Street Fighter II. Beyond the veil of some visual wizardry and a few rote fleeting fluff modes, this is the old school foundation that a lot of folks built their fighting game careers on. That’s not a bad thing, especially with the Switch’s on-the-go hook, but it could just as easily have been a downloadable release.