|Release: May 26, 2017|
|Players: 1-2 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p||Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Nearing the thirtieth anniversary of Capcom’s highly acclaimed fighting series, Street Fighter remains in every debate as the greatest franchise in the genre. And while the newest iteration, Street Fighter V, has made progressive strides into the realm of esports, there is still a large audience from various generations who hold Street Fighter II closest to their heart. When originally launched way back in 1991, its critical success and fan base cravings prompted Capcom to integrate new features, characters, and gameplay overhauls. Of course, this was well before the emergence of downloadable content, thus entire new physical media had to be created and released to add all the updates. We’ve had Champion Edition, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Anniversary Collection, and I’m sure a handful of other variations I’ve missed. Now we have Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, a fully loaded version with plenty of options for enthusiasts of every age and preference. The menu screens offer a variety of modes and extras, some that satisfy the need for fast-paced fighting, but others that seem either ill-conceived or lacking expected features.
Diving right into Arcade mode and working your way across a random selection of computer controlled opponents, the up tempo combat is pulled from the Super Street Fighter II Turbo template. It is right on point with tight controls and simplified, yet strategic, move sets and combos. You’re given a few choices before the campaign begins, choosing difficulty levels, round length, total rounds, the ability to record replays, and allowing other players to drop in and take over a match. You can also pop on over to the Color Editor mode and tweak the paint job of every character, using the entire spectrum of colors as your palette. In Arcade, you jump right from one match to the next without any story filler, however each character has their own unique conclusion upon completing the campaign, giving you a taste of their personality and ambitions. For those who like to soak in every inch of Street Fighter lore, the Gallery holds nearly three hundred pieces of artwork to inspect. Add in robust statistics and a replay viewer in the Player Data section, as well as sifting through personal titles to tag to your profile that are collected as you play, and there are tons of diversions for when your cramping fingers need a break from the action.
The titular reference, The Final Challengers, introduces Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. These are alternate versions of Ryu and Ken corrupted and plagued with dark desires. However, apart from a couple of exclusive special moves, these two play identical to their heroic counterparts, merely sporting malevolent skins and shadowy colors. Along with them, the full roster is unlocked and available from the start, including Akuma, who is no longer relegated to being a hidden character.
The best addition to Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is the Buddy Battle mode, an expanded version of Street Fighter Alpha’s Dramatic Battle mode. It pits two players in co-op combat against a single computer-controlled opponent. It opens up a completely new set of tactics, allowing you to flank your enemy, perform dual combos, and hang back and taunt to recover vitality. It forces you to watch your defense as well, since both players share a single health bar. The biggest disappointment is that there is no option to play against another human opponent. A two vs. two addition would have also been a fantastic tag team upgrade, but sadly there is nothing like that to be found.
The biggest head scratcher is the Way of the Hado mode. Taking control of Ryu in a first-person perspective, you use motion controls to perform his special moves to dispatch M. Bison’s goons as they pop down in continuous waves. There are three difficulty levels in either Stage Battle or Endless Battle mode. At the end of each match, you are awarded experience points which can be spent to beef up offensive and defensive attributes, allowing you to last longer in combat. Not only do the motion controls respond poorly and cause arm cramps from thrusting forward to perform Hadokens, but the mode itself feels tacked on and designed to appeal to the few people still swayed by motion controls. The upcoming ARMS may breathe new life into motion controls, but Way of the Hado is just a clunky addition designed to cram in more content in an attempt to justify the game’s hefty $40 price tag.