Five Ways Ultra Street Fighter IV is the Best Version Yet

Street Fighter IV” is a beast that combined great new features with highlights from the previous games in the franchise, including nods to “Super Street Fighter II Turbo” and a few features from “Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.” In the years since its 2010 release, Capcom has set to work further refining “Street Fighter IV” with “Super Street Fighter IV,” “Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition,” and now the new updated “Ultra Street Fighter IV,” available now for digital download on Xbox 360 (and hitting retail on August 5). For fans who have lost touch with the series, we’re offering this quick primer on why this version of “Street Fighter IV” is worth a look.

The Gang’s All Here: With this entry, the “Street Fighter” roster has now swelled to a whopping 44 characters. If you were trying out a different character every day, that means you’d go about a month-and-a-half before lapping back to someone you tried before. Of the newcomers, Poison should be of particular interest to longtime gamers. She (or he, depending on what you choose to believe about the character’s origins) hails from classic Capcom arcade brawler “Final Fight,” and it’s wild to see her unleashing fireballs and besting Zangief in a grappling match.

Poison’s not the only one hopping over from “Final Fight” – “Ultra Street Fighter IV” also features Rolento (a mainstay from the “Street Fighter Alpha” prequel series) and Hugo (last seen in “Street Fighter III”). “Street Fighter III’s” Elena also returns, and Decapre (a member of big bad M. Bison’s elite guard) is the newest original character to join the fold. That’s a lot of characters. It means more choices for whatever play style you want, and more challenges for people who already have their one or two characters, and don’t want to change things up.

Street Fighter” Has Matured: Button-mashers will not be able to survive long in “Ultra Street Fighter IV.” Those days for the series are long, long gone. This game is a technical marvel, both from a visuals perspective, and from the sheer strategy at play. To excel, you’ll need to study the timing of moves and their animations to execute cancels and reversals.

Seth Is Still a Brutal Final Boss: Remember M. Bison? One of his employees (Maybe? It’s unclear how the Shadaloo government’s infrastructure really works), Seth, took over as the final boss in “Street Fighter IV.” He’s a big, hulking blue freak named for former longtime Capcom employee and “Street Fighter” pro player Seth Killian, and he basically has every character’s techniques at his disposal. He is agonizingly tough. One of his most frustrating original moves is the ability to deploy a vacuum in his body that sucks you closer to him. Beating him is so, so satisfying.

The Focus Attack: Introduced in “Street Fighter IV,” focus attacks (also known as saving attacks) are available to all fighters. They’re part of the chess game present in any match, and they grant you Super Armor against one attack. This affords you a momentary window of invulnerability, but it also makes you incredibly vulnerable between letting go of the buttons and actually attacking. As an additional twist, “Ultra Street Fighter IV” adds the red focus: This costs you two bars to absorb essentially as many moves as you want, so long as the opposing player doesn’t use a focus attack themselves. Think of it as a lengthier parry, a bigger gamble, and potentially pretty confusing until you start employing it yourself. Then you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

It’s Still Cheesy – and Proud of It: From the goofy win quotes (like Vega’s “I look the most beautiful when glimpsed in the moment of your demise,” or Balrog’s “Damn! My fists have your blood on them!”) to the silly death rattles (Fei Long screams “I lost!” as he corkscrews to the ground), the “Street Fighter” series hasn’t lost its way when it comes to it being a big, fun, theatrical experience. With roots going back to the arcade days, it’s nice to see there’s still that bombastic nature alive and kicking, punching, and Shoryukening to this day.