Seven reasons why I haven’t bought Street Fighter IV yet [Update]

I’ve been a fan of the Street Fighter games for more than half of my life. The first game in the series I ever played was Fighting Street on the TurboGrafx-CD. Despite its crappy two-button controls, narrow selection of playable characters (Ken and Ryu), and a multitude of other “flaws,” I absolutely loved the game, and on some level, I still do.

Ever since then, I’ve picked up every Street Fighter game brought to the home market (with a few exceptions) on the day they’ve been released, but with the release of Street Fighter IV, that long tradition has finally been broken. Though I did feel some pull to pick the game up when it hit stores last Tuesday, I ended up passing on the purchase, and so far I haven’t regretted it. I’m sure I’ll end up buying the game eventually, but I’m not entirely certain that’s going to happen this week, or even this year.

What does it take to make a die-hard Street Fighter fan pass on the first major Street Fighter game to be released in almost ten years? Hit the jump to find out.

[Update: A lot of the people who’ve commented here seem to be under the impression that I have not yet even played SF IV (probably my fault for not mentioning it). So yeah, I have played SF IV… and that’s the problem. If I wasn’t lucky enough to try the game out before it hit retail, I would have pre-ordered it out of pure loyalty alone. After playing it for about an hour, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to have it on the first day, hence this post.]

#7 The Economy

Just because I work in game journalism doesn’t mean I don’t have to buy my own games. In the past two weeks, a lot of really kick-ass games were released, and I had to pay for most of them from my own pocket. Ultimate Shooting Collection, LIT, Noby Noby Boy, LocoRoco 2, Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?, House of the Dead: Overkill, and Retro Game Challenge are all of the games I paid for in the last three weeks, and though none of them cost $60, put them all together and you have a pretty big chunk of change.

If there was a drought of good games to buy right now, I probably would have picked up SF IV, but that’s really no excuse, is it? It’s like when you ask someone to hang out, but they say they are really busy and they can’t. Busy doing what? Well, busy doing something more important than hanging out with you. The reason why I didn’t buy SF IV isn’t really because I didn’t have enough money; it’s because I chose to buy the above games instead of SF IV, which is pretty crazy considering how long I’ve loved the Street Fighter series.

So why didn’t I hold off on one or more of those games and buy SF IV instead? Well, a lot of that has to do with the fact that …

#6 I’m still actively playing Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom

It’s hard to get excited enough to spend $60 on a new game when you already have not one, but two great games that already hold the place in your life that this new game would take.

Street Fighter IV basically has two selling points:

1) It’s got online play

2) It’s introduced some new stuff to the series

As nice as those things are, I kind of have both of those bases already covered. Even though I think Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix looks like ass, I’ve had a blast jumping online every few days just to put my skills to the test against random players. As for Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, I still can’t believe how much stuff there is to learn in the game. It is by far the “newest” feeling fighting game I’ve played in a long time.

That brings me to point #5 …

#5 Street Fighter IV doesn’t have enough new characters

Or should I say, Street Fighter IV has one new character that’s just another Shoto-clone, one that is perhaps the cheapest character in fighting game history, and four other new characters that aren’t that compelling.

From that perspective, you can see how I’d perceive Street Fighter IV as a pretty serious downgrade from the last Street Fighter game I bought, Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX (which features thirty-eight different characters, about ten more than SF IV).

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not the size of the roster that counts, it’s the amount of new gameplay that roster offers. I wasn’t at all disappointed with SF III’s roster, despite the fact that it only featured twelve characters, because ten of those characters were brand new.

By adding just six new characters to the mix, SF IV feels less like a true sequel, and more like a “3D Remix Edition” of Street Fighter Alpha 3, with a few new characters put in, and quite a few old characters taken out.

And speaking of remix editions …

#4 Street Fighter IV: Championship Edition is inevitable

If I’ve learned one thing from being a Street Fighter fan over the years, it’s that Capcom will put out an improved version of every Street Fighter game they make at least twice before they stop and move on to the next game. They may release new SF IV characters via DLC, but they will also definitely release a new version of SF IV no more than twelve months from now.

And why shouldn’t they? Street Fighter IV has some problems (like Seth) that players are already hoping to see fixed, but more importantly, SF fans have proven over the years that they will buy anything and everything with the Street Fighter name on it. A Street Fighter IV: Championship Edition would make money, and therefore it will be made.

Speaking of making money …

#3 Fighting games just aren’t as exciting without the arcade

Back in the day, I used to justify buying Street Fighter games as a way to actually save money.  

A lot of kids today don’t understand that once upon a time, the better you were at videogames, the less you actually had to spend on playing them. There was a time when you could get really good at Street Fighter, go to the arcade, put one quarter in the game, and play for hours. If you sucked at Street Fighter, you could easily spend $60 a week playing the game in arcades. If you bought the game, got good at it home, then took your skills to the arcade, you’d end up spending a tenth of that, at least.

There was a kind of excitement behind having both your gaming pride and your actual money on the line that made arcade fighting games an experience that can’t be replicated today, online or otherwise. As weird as this may sound, if there were an arcade near my house that had SF IV, I might have looked past all of the the factors that have led to my disinterest in the game and picked it up last Tuesday. Then I could practice at home and put my skills (and quarters) on the line in the arcade with some level of competency.

That kind of compatition and skill honing is probably about 1/3 of why I’ve always loved Street Fighter. The other 2/3 is because of the way the games look.

That’s right …

#2 I am a 2D graphics whore

Remember when I told you that I bought just about every Street Fighter game that hit the home market? Well, one of the exceptions I made was deciding not to buy games in the Street Fighter EX series. In case you don’t know, the SF EX games were a series of spin-off titles that played mostly like Street Fighter II, but added a few new characters, and utilized a 3D graphics engine in order to bring the series into the “modern age of videogames.”

Sound familiar, Street Fighter IV fans?

The SF EX games weren’t bad or anything, but to take Street Fighter and put it in 3D was like taking the crime out of the GTA games, or taking the rolling out of the Katamari series. That’s how intrinsic the sprite-based graphics were to Street Fighter‘s appeal. Along with the first three Metal Slug games, the Street Fighter series was the premiere showcase of what the upper levels what of 2D graphics could achieve. In my opinion, Street Fighter III 3rd Strike is still the best-looking sprite-based videogame ever made. The game is ten years old now, and it still hasn’t been topped. 

That’s not to say that it couldn’t have looked better. It could have had more detailed sprites, a more unified character design, and some (please, Dudley fans, no hate mail) cooler looking characters. For the past ten years, that’s what I’ve been hoping Street Fighter IV would offer, a game that actually looked better than the best looking 2D fighting game of all time.

And that’s not all I was hoping for in Street Fighter IV.

#1 There are one hundred and one things I always dreamed SF IV would be …

… and the Street Fighter IV that came out last Tuesday isn’t any of them.

When this kind of thing happens to a fanboy (and it happens a lot), I call it the Phantom Menace Syndrome. This is the phenomenon when the excitement felt by the fans about a movie, game, or TV show is so intense that they’ve already created a version of the upcoming entry in the movie, game, or TV show in question in their minds, and nothing can live up to what they’ve already mentally created.

The Phantom Menace Syndrome has long plagued the Street Fighter series. Many SF II fans were extremely disappointed with SF III, despite its amazing visuals and new gameplay techniques. Their complaints? “Ryu’s feet aren’t suppose to be that big” and “It doesn’t have a cyborg version of Sagat like it’s supposed to” were a lot of the things I heard.

Yep, that was one of the rumors back in the late ’80s and early ’90s: that Sagat was going to appear in SF III as a cyborg, that Ken’s son was going to be in the game, that Ryu was going to kill Akuma and become the new villian of the series, etc. Keep in mind that these rumors circulated at a time before Capcom even had a Web site, so videogame news was just as often spread through word of mouth as it was through official press releases.

Back to the point … here’s what I imagined the ideal Street Fighter IV to be:

All the fighting would happen in full 2D, with graphics that surpassed SF III. Beyond just being a fighting game, SF IV would also have a World of Warcraft-style open 3D landscape where you could meet other fighters online for matches, item trading, clan formation, marriage, whatever.

Every Street Fighter character ever would be included in the game, as well as many brand-new characters, and characters from other Capcom games like Final Fight and Rival Schools. Thing is, you’d never play as any of them. Instead, you’d play as yourself (via a create-a-character mode), and from there you’d choose one of the packed-in characters to be your teacher. So if you choose Blanka as your master, your character would then dress and fight like Blanka (green fur and all); if you chose Ibuki, your character would look dress and fight like Ibuki, etc. As you played the game, you’d learn skills from the character you trained under, and could later change your teacher, which, in turn, would change the physical appearance and fighting style of your character.

I know this all sounds like a fanboy-ish dream, but so does the idea of Star Wars Episode One where a young Anakin tears the wings off of flies and talks with James Earl Jones’ voice, and Yoda fights evil with lightsaber-infused nunchucks. That still didn’t stop people from deciding way ahead of time that that’s exactly what they wanted The Phantom Menace to be, or stop them from being disappointed when they didn’t get anything like that from the actual movie.

Now, if just one or two of the things I wanted out of Street Fighter IV (2D graphics, a create-a-character mode, etc) were in the game, then I probably would have been satisfied enough to buy it last Tuesday. As it stands, practically none of the things I wanted in Street Fighter IV are in the game.  

That’s what has caused me to feel like the real Street Fighter IV hasn’t been released yet. The Street Fighter IV we have now feels like a placeholder, like the first step towards the creation of another game that will deserve the name of Street Fighter IV.

That’s not to say that the SF IV we have now is a bad game. It’s a perfectly fine game, but it’s far from being one of the best 2D fighting game ever made. In fact, from what I’ve played of the game so far, it’s not even in my personal top five. That would be OK if we were talking about any other series, but this is Street Fighter we’re discussing.

This is the series that started it all. 

With Street Fighter, there is no room for “fine.”

Jonathan Holmes
"Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1 "The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Just like in a Gameboy game... a nice tight little world... and all its inhabitants... made out of little building blocks... Why can't these little pixels be the building blocks for love..? For loss... for understanding"- James Kochalka, Reinventing Everything part 1 "I wonder if James Kolchalka has played Mother 3 yet?" Jonathan Holmes