Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not reflect Shoryuken.com as a whole.
Last week saw the announcement of Ultra Street Fighter II on the Nintendo Switch. I sat there watching the trailer perplexed. When they talk about this being the start of a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Street Fighter, I can understand and appreciate it as such–but the actual title itself leaves me with many mixed emotions.
Am I supposed to be excited? Am I supposed to be disappointed? Somehow, I was both at the same time. What caused me to feel this way? As a Super Street Fighter II Turbo veteran, it’s quite possible my experience with the past title made it difficult for me to fully embrace this new version—and the problems that caused players like me to return to the original over HD Remix are still in the forefront of my memory. Granted, even when I look at this title on its own merit, I still see a lot of reasons to be apprehensive of the direction it seems to be going.
The moment I saw the announcement, and the reveals of Violent Ken, and Evil Ryu, I knew what was likely going happen. I expected that we could see the following:
- Akuma would be selectable on the character select screen without the use of a code, much like HD Remix. I expected that with the release of Violent Ken, and Evil Ryu, they would assume this to be correct to do.
- They would not make any changes to Akuma from his Super Turbo iteration.
- “Old characters” from ST would indeed be gone, since there were now three characters on the character select screen that were not in Super Street Fighter II. There would also be a gap of two games between USF2 and SSF2, which would make having “old character” versions make no sense.
No more than a day later, Echo Fox’s Justin Wong tweeted out his impressions of the game, and proved all three correct. While I have an obvious bias toward the old characters—having mained O.Chun across Super Turbo–and hated to see them gone due to the extra character diversity that they bring, I could understand losing them.
However, having Akuma not only be easily selectable, but just as broken as he was before is one of the toughest decisions to understand so far. There is a reason for the soft ban in Japan and the hard ban in the West–and if this game were to be played competitively, would likely devolve events into Akuma mirrors until the eventual and inevitable ban of him for the third time in the Street Fighter II series.
There are multiple iterations of Street Fighter that have had Akuma properly balanced in the competitive ecosystem to be playable, setting a precedent that he can be competitive without being completely broken. While David Sirlin’s attempt to make Akuma balanced in Street Fighter II failed, it was at least a noble effort. His failure does not excuse Capcom developers from not giving a concerted effort in making him playable themselves, and only serves to disappoint players of the title who want better for the character.
If that was the only issue at hand, there wouldn’t be a lot to write about. However, the time that they spent changing the balance of other characters has resulted in changes that can be puzzling based on how they did so on a case by case basis.
While some will benefit from modified move motions (Cammy and Sagat), and all characters will benefit from the changes in the execution requirements from the game, other characters were hit with the nerf hammer, while others were unchanged.
Two of the biggest questionable changes made to the characters in Ultra was the removal of Chun-Li and E. Honda’s stored supers, where after inputting the charge motions, you can continue to store your super by holding the final forward input until you press the final button, allowing you to move forward while still maintaining your super. Even more questionable is that while they removed these stored supers, Boxer’s (Balrog’s) stored super still remains intact.
While the status of Dee Jay’s stored super is unknown, he did not rely on it as much as these three characters. Chun-Li’s super alone helped to propel her to top tier, whereas E. Honda needed it just to stay remotely competitive against the higher tiers. Boxer doesn’t need stored super to be a threat, but having it amplifies his strength. What they have essentially done is take a top tier to mid tier, and take a low-mid tier to the lowest tier, essentially neutering Honda.
While Justin did not mention any other major updates about other characters, one can assume that there are also changes to the remainder of the cast. What these changes will say to character rankings obviously remain to be seen–as we haven’t seen anything indicative of those changes yet–what they have done to Chun-Li, E. Honda, and Boxer leave me questioning their abilities to balance this game.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two of the largest changes to the system itself. Firstly, they have changed the way throws work within the game, allowing characters to tech normal throws just as is possible in Street Fighter III and beyond. This has drawn ire from some of the core players of the Street Fighter II series, as this is a direct departure from the core mechanics of the game. Up until Super Turbo, throws were untechable and did full damage. In Super Turbo, you could tech throws, but it would only lessen the damage incurred by the throw.
Several characters have gameplans revolving around throw traps, including Dhalsim and Boxer, as well as Ken to some degree. However, it’s entirely possible that while this may cause some changing in the tiers, that it isn’t as consequential as the balancing done to the characters themselves. Anyone playing this game will have to accept this as a departure for the series and simply adapt.
The other major change is the one that brings me the most concern, and that is the reduction of speed in the game. One of the best features of Super Turbo is the high octane speed that forces you to think fast and adjust on the fly. Inexplicably–and like a bad piece of history repeating itself–it is being taken away.
This is not the first time Capcom has introduced a reduction of speed to a Street Fighter II release. After seeing success with Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting, Capcom implemented a drastic reduction of speed in the update to Super Street Fighter II. This caused a lot of the core audience to shy away, feeling bored and underwhelmed by the relatively glacial pace that Super Street Fighter II had to offer. It was this reaction from the fans alone that forced Capcom’s hands into creating Super Street Fighter II Turbo in the first place.
I believe that this speed reduction could easily put a hamper on sales, and think out of all of the design choices that Capcom has made, this is the biggest mistake of them all.
Switch, Controllers, and Lag?
Adding this title to the Nintendo Switch (so far) exclusively appears to be an attempt to make use of nostalgia goggles to encourage a better start to sales than the Wii U had… This is actually a smart move from Nintendo and Capcom, as if done right, this could bolster sales for Nintendo and establish the FGC on the system beyond the Super Smash Bros. series–and beyond what Tastunoko vs. Capcom could do in the days of the Wii.
The problem could be the hardware that we have to deal with on the Switch itself. We have currently only seen players playing with pro controllers and the Joy-Con controllers. Why, when showcasing a fighter known for utilizing arcade sticks, would you not have some sort of prototype stick available for players to play on? It’s not like HORI didn’t have a Nintendo Switch arcade stick leaked or anything. Is it possible that this game, which has always been associated with arcade sticks, won’t be compatible with them? I highly doubt it, but I do question the move to not partner with HORI immediately, so that players can test the game with fight sticks.
And while we are on the subject of input lag, a lot of people that bought HD Remix who were seasoned veterans in the community were soured by the introduction of input lag into the game. This is something that often draws the ire of David Sirlin–creator of HD Remix, who insists that there are absolutely zero additional frames of input lag in the game–but the fact still remains that community tests have proven that the Xbox 360 version has about 2.5 frames of added input latency when compared to the arcade version of ST, with the PS3 version suffering from 3.5 frames extra. While this was definitely not intended by David Sirlin himself—who designed the game with the utmost best of intentions, to be as close to the arcade experience as he could, be while doing a rebalance—there was just something within the code or the remade engine that made this so.
So with that fresh in their minds, are players going to want to invest in a whole new system, for a whole new game, that they may like–but could possibly face the same fate? Capcom needs to be extra careful with this, as people are already irate at the amount of input lag in Street Fighter V. Between this and HD Remix, they are going to draw additional ire from fans and isolate a large swath of potential buyers should this trend continue.
Ultra Street Fighter II is a peculiar case. We have Capcom claiming to be catering to players who grew up playing this game, and that may want to share it with their children. If that was the case, why take the effort of making an entirely new game in the Street Fighter II fork of games? They could have instead created an arcade-perfect port of Super Turbo, put GGPO netcode on it, and the same people that they claim to be catering to would have been perfectly happy. So would the core group of players, most of whom aren’t able to put together the money required to get a CPS2 and Supergun, but could afford a Nintendo Switch.
This is what makes me think that they are still essentially attempting to cater to players like me, who continue to push Super Turbo as a popular game on the circuit. It is obvious that there is relevance and they want to not only cash in on it–something they can’t do if people are only buying archaic CPS2 boards–but update it in a way that brings in new players and old players alike. They are on the verge of disappointing both sides: the people potentially buying this for nostalgia, and the diehard fans who make it out to every Super Turbo event they can.
Even the people looking at Street Fighter II through nostalgia-coated glasses are obviously going to know that this is not the Street Fighter they grew up with. The moment they see the new characters and tech throws, they will be disappointed. The core players will see all the nonsensical changes to the mechanics and characters, be also disappointed, and immediately move back to Super Turbo without a second thought.
So what should Capcom do? If they are thinking that their job is done on this game once they reveal all the modes, they need to think again. The balance at this moment aims to be worse than it was in Super Turbo, and far worse than it was in HD Remix. They need to not only be making changes, but running those changes by Super Turbo players for feedback. Justin Wong didn’t take the game as seriously as others, so his opinion doesn’t inherently count as serious endorsement; nor does allowing a single top player to play the game for a couple of hours a thorough playtest make. I’m talking about getting players like Mattsun, Kusumondo, Nuki, Afro Cole, James Chen, and eltrouble–players that cut their SF teeth on Super Turbo–involved in the development process. They also need to make sure that the game has the same amount of input lag as playing Super Turbo in arcade. Finally, and for the love of God, fix Akuma if you are going to keep him on the character select screen.
Failure to do these things will set up Capcom to have more egg on their face, something they can ill-afford.