‘Ultra Street Fighter IV’: Brilliant, difficult design

Ultra Street Fighter IVGame: “Ultra Street Fighter IV”
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: PS3, 360, PC
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: Aug. 5, 2014
Rating: 4

Something strange happened when the original “Street Fighter IV” hit the scene almost five years ago. Suddenly, a seemingly-dead genre sprung to life with a vim unlike any other genre revival in the history of the gaming scene. People wanted to play 2-D fighting games again — and not only that, they wanted to watch 2-D fighting games. Fighting games as a genre exploded into a sport watched by millions, if not billions. of people worldwide everywhere.

The genre is still in that place today, and now, Capcom has released the fourth edition of “Street Fighter IV,” aptly titled “Ultra Street Fighter IV.”

The “Street Fighter” series basically involves two players on either side of the screen fighting each other until one player’s health drops to zero. Players can jump, kick and punch with varying degrees of speed and strength. It seems simple, but there’s a lot of depth. Every match plays out like a careful game of chess. Knowing when and where to strike, and what to strike with, is incredibly crucial to victory. Some moves have a psychological effect just as much as they have a real effect; throwing a fireball works just as well to force an opponent to react to it as it does to inflict damage. And seeing clever players strut their stuff and face off against others in a battle of wits is an experience unlike many other games, and that’s what’s made “Street Fighter” such a compelling spectator sport over the years.

However, that’s the kicker — many of today’s best players face off on Twitch and YouTube, and frugal gamers can just watch the game there. Trying to get into the game is a foreboding proposition. The game’s online multiplayer community is infamous for being hard on newbies, and the game has a frustratingly little amount of tutorials or hand-holding.

The most a new player can do is either watch online matches or play the single-player modes for the small story cutscenes they provide. But both of these needs can be fulfilled on YouTube anyway.

“Ultra Street Fighter IV” is one of the most brilliantly designed multiplayer games on the market, and watching great players compete can be one of the most mesmerizing experiences online today. But be warned that if you want to play it yourself, it’s best played with a group of local friends who know just about as much as you do.

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Otherwise, it can feel impenetrable.