You can take the player out of the game, but you can’t take the player off the streets when it comes to Ultra Street Fighter II’s HD Switch port. With its easy portability, classic moves and a new mode that showcases the Switch’s motion controls, it’s a pick up and play arcade title that’s fun for lunch breaks but nothing more.
Celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year, Street Fighter has such an extensive backlog, it can be hard to know where to start. As an arcade fighting game, there’s often a wave of nostalgia affixed to the sounds of Ryu’s special moves like Hadoken and Shoryuken, along with the accurate button pressing for Ken’s Tatsumaki or Chun Li’s signature spinning kick. Gamer nostalgia plays such a big part in Capcom’s Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers for the Nintendo Switch that it banks on the franchise’s fans being satisfied with just the bare minimal. And while it’s been six years since Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition graced the Nintendo 3DS platform, the arcade game has often fallen from grace when deviating from its core gameplay.
Based on the gameplay from 1994’s Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, Ultra Street Fighter II brings a 19 character roster to the virtual streets and includes Evil Ryu, Violent Ken and Akuma to name but a few. Aside from Arcade, Versus, Training and Online modes, the Switch’s port introduces Buddy Battle, an exclusive motion control “Way of the Hado” mode, and also throws in a Colour Editor and image galleries for good measure. If you’re a classic veteran, you’ll be able to ride that wave of nostalgia and choose the classic art, music and voice-over styles or mix and match styles with the updated UDON art. Plus, Capcom has re-tuned the game’s overall balance to make for a fairer, highly accessible experience for younger players.
With the Switch’s ease of portability, Ultra Street Fighter II is perfect for on-the-go gaming. Play in undocked mode with the Joy-Cons attached, or detach them in single or two-player mode; whichever way you prefer to play it’s still a silky smooth experience with no noticeable lags or glitches. It’s this seamless accessibility that makes Ultra Street Fighter II such an enjoyable experience to share with others. But the accessibility does come at a cost of accuracy. It’s unfortunate that the Joy-Cons are so small as there’s no real fluidity to moves, opening up the way to aimless button bashing and clumsiness. For Street Fighter aficionados, you’ll want to use the pro controller in docked mode for the best accuracy.
In Arcade and Versus mode, you’ll have the standard customisable options available such as setting the difficulty with a choice of eight on offer, the time limit of matches and a choice of one, three or five rounds. As standard, you’ll fight 12 rounds with opposing characters, plus winning all 12 matches gives you access to a short ending to the character’s story, as well as an unlockable title. While Arcade mode doesn’t give you the freedom to choose your stage, Versus and Buddy Battle modes do. Having played on the easier and more difficult modes, the hardest “World Warrior” mode isn’t impossible and even lets this newbie win a fight or two, much to my surprise.
Similar to versus mode, which allows local battle between another Switch console, Buddy Battle can also be played. Here two players can team up against the CPU and face off in a match, or you can go it alone with a CPU player on your team. In this 2-vs-1 fight, your move damage is seemingly halved to combat the unfair advantage against the lone CPU player. While the idea of teaming up with another player is fun, when it’s just the CPU you’re playing against it feels half-hearted. Perhaps if local was available for 2v2 play in Buddy Battle it would open up the way to a more heated battle. As it stands, it’s a throwaway mode on the Switch.
In the Switch-exclusive mode, the Way of the Hado, players will be able to take a new fighting stance in a motion control arena as Street Fighter’s favourite mascot, Ryu. Scepticism aside, the motion controls with the Joy-Cons in each hand perform reasonably well and there’s even a way for you to adjust their precision. But like any motion control mode, it’s one that you’ll beat once and never visit again. The Way of the Hado can be played in three difficulty modes – beginner, standard or expert – with a choice of stage battle or endless battle. There’s no real learning curve here and you can breeze through beginner and expert stages quite easily, the only difference is the amount of enemies and their health.
After defeating each round of enemies, you’ll be rewarded with growth points to add to Ryu’s attack, vitality, defence, spirit, luck and speed. You can spend these points however you wish and can even reset them if you’d prefer Ryu to have an all-out attack than rock-hard defence. And while it is fun, especially if you have children, there’s no redeeming features that make it any more than a gimmick. If you were visiting the arcades and felt like throwing some virtual punches for £2-a-play, then sure, I’m up for it. But as an exclusive mode to the Switch, it just doesn’t seem worth the development effort.
Ultra Street Fighter II’s online mode is quick and easy to find a player within. Connectivity lag is almost non-existent, save for exiting to the main menu, and there’s a simple interface for battle customisation. Play in either ranked or casual mode in worldwide or regional and create your own lobbies with specific rules, including skill level and control type such as lite or pro. There’s also a mode specifically to battle friends, as well as an option to turn fight requests on from friends while you’re playing arcade mode. Should you be looking for deeper customisation options and tournaments, Ultra Street Fighter II’s online mode won’t be your calling. It’s a simple mode with easy connectivity.
What Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers boils down to is simplicity at its core. It’s great-in-short-bursts arcade mode has fine-tuned mechanics and a slick art style, but what the Switch really brings is ease of portability. Those looking for a deeper fighting experience will need to look to Capcom’s previous iterations, however. We’ve seen it all before.
Our review has been updated since publication to include critical commentary for online gameplay.