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Review: Ultra Street Fighter II The Final Challengers – Insert coin for nostalgia

There’s a surprising amount of content, but also a surprisingly large price tag.

ultra street fighter 2
Image: Capcom

First things first – you need to be listening to this as you read my review.

Now that we’ve established the soundtrack – because this game is a cover of the original so it’s only appropriate to use a cover version of the song –  let’s jump right into things. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers marks the 30th Anniversary of the Street Fighter franchise. What better way to celebrate a milestone by releasing the most complete version of the game that really put the series on the map?

Everything you’d want in Street Fighter II is here in a tidy little package on the Nintendo Switch. Okay, maybe not everything – cause if you were a fan of Hyper or Rainbow editions, there’s no turbo/hyper fighting mode available, but you do get the entire Super Street Fighter 2 roster, as well as Akuma, Evil Ryu, and for the first time ever, a playable version of Violent Ken from SNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos.

Now that we’ve established the characters, what about the game itself? How’s it feel, how’s it look? Well, if you played the 2008 HD remaster, the graphics are smooth and bright, and they look like hand-drawn comic books. That’s great for the character models, and the stages are super pretty, but unfortunately, they wind up looking like Papier-mâché cutouts sitting in front of a really sexy shadow box.

Remember those cool books from when you were a kid that had the characters drawn on vinyl stickers that you could re-arrange and re-apply whenever you wanted? The same idea applies here, and it’s even more noticeable on stages like Jamaica where there’s a plentiful amount of independent background bystanders. It’s gorgeous, but it ultimately looks a little weird if you pay closer attention. You can disable the new look for a classic feel, which returns everything to the pixelated glory of the arcade – and it looks great on the Switch in portable mode, but it looks like blurry garbage when you put it on a TV.

There’s also an updated music and voice choice as well, but the best possible favor you can do for yourself is immediately changing it to classic mode because the remixed versions of the songs are almost unidentifiable and the voice acting is absolutely atrocious. Guile says “Sahnic Bewm” and “Summarsalt” when shouting for his Sonic Boom and Flash Kick respectively. Don’t even get me started about the announcer either – just trust me when I say it’s bad, and the fighter select music should be illegal due to how terrible it is.

Enough about the presentation, what about the gameplay? Well, performance wise, it’s absolutely stellar. I didn’t notice a single hitch or delay while playing. Everything worked smoothly, including playing the two-on-one co-op arcade ladder in the Buddy mode. I never experienced any slowdown in handheld or docked, which makes this a well-polished port.

The disconnect for me came in two different places: When playing in handheld mode, the Left bumper/trigger positioning made doing button inputs with my left hand and successfully using a heavy punch or three punch combo button extremely awkward to use – ultimately resulting in poor execution and low success rates when performing special moves. In addition to that, the analog stick is decent on the Switch, but this isn’t a game designed for anything but a real D-pad or a Joystick. Since there’s not currently a fight stick available for the Switch, the Pro Controller is the absolute best way to play Ultra Street Fighter II.

Everything felt tremendous while using the Pro Controller – but that’s not the main appeal of the Switch, and that’s why it’s disappointing. There are ways to get around this button layout issue, such as mapping Heavy Punch to R and Heavy Kick to ZR – but then the buttons in single Joy-Con mode frankly do not work. In order to play local versus mode with the Joy-Cons, you will have to reset the controls in order to have a fully functioning controller. You could also give someone the Pro Controller and the other play the Joy-Con pad, but that’s a lot of extra equipment which takes away from the portability attraction of the Switch, and the Pro Controller is, in my opinion, a serious advantage against the other player.

While Street Fighter 2 isn’t known for a real story mode, the classic arcade ladder exists here complete with character endings for each of the 19 playable characters. Depending on your skill level and the settings of difficulty, rounds, and time limits, you can play through an entire run in just a few minutes or longer than an hour. If you want to try something completely different and unique for Street Fighter 2, the Switch has a mode called Way of the Hado, which allows you to remove the Joy-Cons and use them like dual Wii controllers allowing you to live out your childhood fantasy of pushing both controllers out to throw a Hadouken.

Way of the Hado is basically a first-person shooting gallery where you take down Shadaloo agents. While it’s a cool idea in theory, in execution it’s quite lacking. Not only does it get extremely repetitive, but the controls also seem to forget what they’re doing the longer you play. If you calibrate the controls to the Technical setting and set them to the highest precision it seems to work better, but ultimately it starts registering weird and you die spamming Tatsus when you were desperately trying to throw a Hadouken.

The final verdict here is a favorable one, though it comes with a lot of caveats from a life-long Street Fighter fan. In fact, I’m probably less forgiving than a lot of people will be due to how important this franchise has been to me across my formative years.

Fun fact: I got Street Fighter II and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a present a few months after my parents divorced when I was a kid.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is competent – if not a complete version of Street Fighter II ever released – but it’s a cash grab on nostalgia disguised as a celebration of Street Fighter’s 30th Anniversary. I’m grateful that the Nintendo Switch finally has its first fighter, but the price to play is simply too many coins. Remember going to an Arcade and it cost $2 to play a game back in the 90’s when everything else cost 25 cents? That’s about what this presentation feels like.

Asking $40 for a 26-year-old game? C’mon Capcom, you already price gouged us on Street Fighter V, no reason to hold a classic hostage behind a ridiculous price point. At this price point, you’re better off waiting for a sale or just waiting until E3 for news about the inevitable Smash Bros for Switch announcement. Even if this a good way to introduce new people to the venerable, nay quintessential icon of the genre, this game would have to be absolutely flawless to command this price and even then it would still be too high. Asking $20 for the HD remaster in 2008 was questionable, asking double that price over eight years later is simply obscene.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is good, but not great – though it is a promising start on seeing competent combat on the newest handheld hotness, and while I have a hard time recommending this one at the retail cost, I hope it opens the door for more titles to appear on the Switch. Other 2D fighters like Skullgirls, King of Fighters, BlazBlue, and Guilty Gear could absolutely thrive on Nintendo’s pocket powerhouse. Let’s just hope they show up at more reasonable asking prices.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers was provided for review by Nintendo.

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Big-headed Blogger with a press pass. Jonathan is a former KnowTechie contributor.

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