Capcom’s definitive version of the arcade classic
Back in the ’90s there was no game I played more than Capcom’s legendary fighting game, Street Fighter II. It sparked a revolution in the fighting genre with its diverse cast, exceptional controls, and unrivaled competitive spirit. With that in mind, learning that Capcom was preparing a definitive version for Nintendo Switch got me very excited indeed.
That game, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, marks the first Street Fighter for Nintendo since 2011’s SSFIV (3DS). Ultra Street Fighter II also happens to be part of the franchise’s 30th Anniversary celebrations. This latest iteration of SFII brings back all of the classic characters, plus adds two new fighters into the mix. There are also new modes, including the co-op Buddy Battle, and the first-person Way of the Hado. Let’s have a look!
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
19 playable characters
Ultra Street Fighter II contains a whopping 19 playable characters, the largest ever for this entry in the series. All your favourites are back including:
Original 8 fighters: Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, E. Honda, Blanka, Zangief, Guile, Dhalsim
4 Grand Masters: Balrog, Vega, Sagat, M. Bison
4 Super Street Fighter II characters: T. Hawk, Cammy, Fei Long, Dee Jay
Secret character (now playable): Akuma
Ultra Street Fighter II also includes 2 all-new combatants: Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. Both of these characters are essentially palette-swaps albeit with slightly enhanced moves and combos. Evil Ryu uses Ryu’s standard moveset and mixes in Akuma’s dash and Super move. Violent Ken adds a few new special kick moves and also gets a dash similar to Akuma’s. Ryu and Ken were already powerful fighters, and now these two sinister forms are even more so.
It’s worth noting that technically, neither of these characters are “new” per se. Evil Ryu was in Street Fighter Alpha 2, while Violent Ken made an appearance in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos. That’s definitely a letdown, although a minor one all things considered. Ultra Street Fighter II‘s roster is so phenomenal there’s bound to be several favourites of yours to choose from. Capcom brought back this particular group in Street Fighter IV for a reason — they’re the most well-known and popular.
Go retro or go modern
Ultra Street Fighter II features the updated HD visuals created for 2008’s Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. These refreshed designs by UDON Entertainment capture the essence of the original sprites beautifully, while also modernizing the game. All animations have been touched up, and aside from a few awkward-looking facial expressions, everything appears crisp and clean.
For purists and older players, the game also includes the original pixel graphics that harken back to the SNES version. Switching to this graphical mode will also adjust the screen to a 4:3 aspect ratio for true retro authenticity. After spending hours with the game, I’m happy to say both the HD and pixel graphics look beautiful on Nintendo Switch’s screen. When docked and playing on your TV, the larger images are just as stunning, no matter which mode you prefer.
The audio, too, has also been upgraded with remixed tunes and newly recorded voices. Sadly, the new tracks are not as good as the aforementioned Remix version, which contained catchy tunes produced by OverClocked. With that said, I did find myself preferring some of the new remixes, in particular Ken, Dhalsim, and Blanka’s. Like the graphics, you also have the option to revert back to the classic ’90s audio and announcer. What’s cool is you can select your A/V settings separately, so I opted for ’90s sound and modern HD graphics.
Buddy Battle mode
In addition to standard Arcade and Versus modes, Ultra Street Fighter II also includes the co-operative Buddy Battle mode. Taking inspiration from Street Fighter Alpha, this mode lets you and friend take on a single CPU opponent. The two of you share one life bar (but have separate Super meters) and must defeat your enemy twice for a victory. Conversely, your opponent only has to beat your group once and it’s game over. To help compensate for this tough challenge, you do get a smidgen of health back between rounds.
You have the option of playing Buddy Battle with a human or A.I. partner, and obviously the former is much-preferred. Playing with a friend is a lot of fun, and also gives you the advantage of coordinating attacks and combos. With A.I. allies it’s impossible to sync up strategies, and often times they’re more reckless than they ought to be. While I really enjoyed this mode, one small complaint I have is the inability to pick your opponents. You face the same four fighters — Evil Ryu, Violent Ken, M. Bison, and Akuma — each and every time.
Way of the Hado
Another included mode is the all-new 3D Way of the Hado. It places you in the role of Ryu and has you perform his signature moves using the Joy-Con’s motion controls. These include his Fireball, Shoryuken uppercut, and spinning Hurricane Kick. Three difficulty settings are present, each one pitting you against a series of foes and finally culminating with M. Bison. As you battle you’ll earn XP points that can be allocated Ryu’s attributes, like his speed, attack, and so on.
While it’s an interesting experiment, in practice Way of the Hado suffers from imprecise controls. Often times the game wouldn’t recognize my motions properly, performing say a fireball when I intended to do an uppercut. This loosey-goosey input recognition means you’re mostly left spamming moves with little regard for what Ryu’s doing on-screen. While the mode is fun to try out, it probably won’t be long before you head back into the main game.
Outside of these modes, Ultra Street Fighter II of course offers online play. You can play ranked matches that will affect your overall player rank and individual character ranks. There’s also casual matches where your rank is unaffected, ideal for gaining practice and playing with friends. The online options are fairly robust, too, including the ability to create lobbies, custom searches, and find your friends. Most of my online matches were smooth and lag-free, however, the odd time I’d get a poor connection and experience modest lag. Thankfully, you can view your opponent’s connection prior to matches, and choose whether or not to challenge them.
Switch Control schemes
Like other Nintendo Switch multiplayer titles, including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Bomberman R, the game benefits from the console’s versatility. You can play Ultra Street Fighter II in many different configurations, depending on your locations and number of players. For instance, on-the-go you can player single-player with the two Joy-Con controllers attached to the screen. Or, by detaching the controllers and using the kickstand, you can instantly game with two players.
When at home, you can either hold a Joy-Con in each hand, or slot them into the Joy-Con Grip peripheral. For the best experience though, I highly recommend the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. That’s the controller I used for most of my play testing and it allows for much more precise inputs. Hopefully a true arcade stick for Nintendo Switch will release down the road, but in the meantime, the Pro Controller is your best option.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is a nice updated version of this legendary fighting game. It brought back a flood of great memories and reminded me that this 26-year-old game still holds up excellently today. The ability to switch between modern/retro graphics and sound means this game will appeal to veterans and newcomers alike. I also appreciate the many different play configurations thanks to Nintendo Switch’s versatile Joy-Con controllers. While the two new characters and Way of the Hado are minor disappointments, overall this is a must-have game for Street Fighter and fighting game fans.
+ Pixel and HD graphic settings look beautiful
+ Option to toggle between retro and remixed audio
+ Gameplay is remarkably precise using Joy-Cons
+ Online functionality worked smoothly
+ Definitive version of this fighting game classic
– Way of the Hado is underwhelming
– Two “new” characters are technically not new
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5