Haduken!The Street Fighter series is back this week with the launch of Street Fighter IV on February 20th and its a glorious return for the 20 year-old franchise.
Having had my hands-on the game for the past week, I've been fighting my way through the arcade mode with old characters and new, getting to grips, via the excellent challenge mode, with all of the familiar moves that made Street Fighter II an arcade classic back in the day. Chun-Li's Spinning Bird Kick, Ken's hard-hitting Shoryuken, Blanka's Electric Rolling Attack and E. Honda Super Onimusou (flying headbutt, all make a welcome return. If you played the original you'll probably still remember how to pull most of them off by using perfectly timed quarter circle thumbstick movements and a combination of light, medium and heavy punches and kicks.
Street Fighter IV has a deep fighting system if you're willing to invest the time, but Capcom has given everyone, new players and Street Fighter veterans alike, a fighting chance to master the moves with its brilliant challenge mode. It's here that I was acquainted with the likes of Guile's Sonic Boom throws, and Zangief's Spinning Piledriver, as well as the techniques required to throw opponents and pull off the tricky super moves. Starting off with light, medium and heavy punches, Challenge Mode, takes you through each move on screen until you've mastered them, and then steps up the difficulty by challenging you to complete combinations of moves, as well as execute the powerful Super Ultras, which are unique to each character. Get through all the challenges and you'll be well equipped to take the battle online against some skillful opposition.
Street Fighter IV features a mix of returning favourites such as Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and Guile along with new characters created exclusively for this game, such as Crimson Viper, Abel, El Fuerte, and Rufus. Characters and environments are rendered in high definition 3D, while the game is played in the classic Street Fighter 2D perspective with additional 3D camera flourishes. While it still retains the look of the Street Fighter series, colours are more vivid, character models are more polished and moves look more spectacular that ever. Life has also been injected into the backgrounds of the fighting arenas in various ways, including impressive crowd animation in the likes of the USA's Drive In-At Night Stage.