When it comes to fighting games, the best 2D fighter, in my opinion, is the <em>Street Fighter</em> franchise. There have been many incarnations of<em> Street Fighter</em> over the years, but many people feel that <em>Street Fighter II</em> (or a variation of it) is arguably one of the best fighters ever. I tend to agree with that statement, so I was pleased when <em>Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers</em> was announced for the Nintendo Switch. As a 26-year-old game, is there enough new content to consider purchasing this title?
In case you have never played a <em>Street Fighter</em> game, <em>Ultra Street Fighter II</em> is a 2D fighter that is a very layered game. The top layer of the game is a fun, pick up and play fighter that anyone can enjoy. As you get deeper into the game, there are more and more layers of depth in terms of combos, reversals, grabs, and more. Having played just about every incarnation of<em> Street Fighter II</em>, <em>Ultra Street Fighter II</em> feels just like the classic fighters but with a slight rebalancing. Novice players and casual fans won’t notice too much of a difference, but those who are very familiar with the game will notice a rebalance in terms of characters damage, defense, and more. These minor upgrades go a long way in making the game feel fresh for veterans, but still easy to enjoy for newcomers.
<em>Ultra Street Fighter II</em> introduces 2 new characters into the Street Fighter II world, with Evil Ryu and Demon Ken. Obviously based on the Ryu and Ken characters, these 2 new characters are welcome additions to the roster, which now features 19 different characters to choose from. One of the nice inclusions in the game is the ability to change up any character’s costume and skin color, which can then be used in-game, including online. So, if you enjoy a certain look or color scheme, this game does give you some freedom with that.
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Control wise, I was a bit worried about this game because I only have the standard Joy-Con Grip as my setup, but thankfully this game controls flawlessly. The strange pseudo D-pad that the Switch has works surprisingly well in<em> Ultra Street Fighter II</em>, and within minutes I was able to get my fighting groove back with specials and combos. The default control scheme maps Light and Medium attacks to the face buttons, Heavy to L and R, and Triple Attack to ZL and ZR. The game does allow you to customize the controls to your liking as well, which is a big plus. Also, the game features touch controls for those who have never played a <em>Street Fighter</em> game, which maps special attacks and combos to the touch screen in handheld mode.
One thing I really liked about the game is how decent it controls in single Joy-Con mode. Propping up the Switch kickstand and handing a Joy-Con to someone almost brings you back to the arcade days, and turns the Switch into a mini-arcade. I wouldn’t recommend playing hardcore competitive matches in this control scheme as it can be very cramped, but for some local co-op fun it worked pretty well.
A brand new mode called Way of the Hado was included in this version of Street Fighter II, but it’s mostly a time-filler. Playing as Ryu, this mode introduces motion controls and has you throwing Hadokens and Shoryukens in a first-person perspective with a Joy-Con in each hand. While the character models you battle look good, and there is a leveling system for your character to encourage replay value, this mode does falter because of the dodgy motion controls. Think of a waggle-style game for the Wii, and you have what Way of the Hado feels like. Still, some minor fun can be had with it, so it’s worth checking out at the very least.
Rounding out additional features is a digital artbook with over 150 drawings of <em>Street Fighter</em> characters throughout the years. As a huge fan of the series, I enjoyed looking through these drawings, and the game allows you to select a stage soundtrack to listen to as well while enjoying it. It’s not a huge deal, but a nice touch.
In terms of audio and visuals, the game offers two distinct settings: modern and classic. Modern graphics are crisp HD animation; it looks very similar to <em>Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD</em>, which released on the PS3 and Xbox 360, I feel it looks more refined and detailed on the Switch version. The game also has a remixed soundtrack and voice acting as well, and while I enjoyed all of the remixed music, a few of the voices did sound a bit odd. Sagat in particular just sounds strange, but then again, it could be because I’ve had the original voices burned into my ears for so many years.
A nice feature about this is the ability to mix and match the audio and visuals, so if you want to go with classic sprites and modern sounds, you can do that. The classic visuals look nice and crisp, and goes into a 4:3 aspect with a border around it.
Finally, the game features online play as well. You can participate in Ranked or Unranked matches, with Ranked going towards a BP (battle point) and PP (player point) ranking. PP is your overall points for ranked mode, where BP is based on what character you choose. You can choose between Quick Match, Custom Match if you want to play with characters higher skilled than you. It’s not the most in-depth system, but there is stat tracking and leaderboards.
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All in all, I’ve been really enjoying my time with <em>Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers</em>. If you aren’t a fan of the genre, this won’t be a game that changes your mind, and while some feel the $39.99 price tag is a bit too high for the game, I’ve gotten a ton of enjoyment from it thus far. As a Street Fighter veteran, this is a nice package that you can bring with you anywhere you want, and the additional content makes one of the greatest fighting games a bit more modern for Switch owners. It’s not for everyone, but if you love 2D fighters or retro games, this is a must own for your Nintendo Switch.