Shoryuken. Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. Satsui No Hadou. Sounds like a sushi menu, right?
Not to fighting game fans. To us, they’re the unmistakable sounds of Street Fighter. You couldn’t step foot in an arcade back in the nineties without spotting one of Capcom’s cabinets – usually with a line of players waiting for their turn at the joystick.
The series has morphed and evolved over the years with countless updates, spin-offs and sequels, but it was Street Fighter II that first sent it stratospheric – and now it’s back.
Thank god the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a coin slot. I’d be penniless.
The Final Challengers is more than a mere HD overhaul; it takes everything that was great about the original, adds online multiplayer, and adds two new characters to keep you on your toes. Oh, and a bonkers first-person mode for when you’ve had enough of two dimensions.
Are you ready for all that? OK, round one. FIGHT.
KEEP IT SIMPLE, SCRUB
Modern Street Fighter games have so many mechanics and moves to learn that The Final Challengers feels like a breath of fresh air. You’ll be landing two-hit combos, not 20 hits, and you’ve only got one Super meter to keep an eye on.
It’s based on Super Street Fighter II Turbo, arguably the best iteration of the game’s many, many updates, and the one favoured by most of fighting game pros. A few tweaks have been added, like being able to escape from healthbar-sapping grapples by waggling the direction buttons, and two new characters join the original roster of 16. Evil Ryu has been playable in other Street Fighter games before, but never as part of the Street Fighter II series, and Violent Ken is a brand new addition (only having previously appeared in crossover game SNK vs Capcom Chaos).
These twisted versions of series stalwarts Ryu and Ken move faster, hit harder, have attack-dodging teleports and can land devastating supermoves, but have much less health than the rest of the cast. Sure, they’re a little unbalanced, but then Street Fighter is no stranger to cheap characters. If you’ve ever played as Old Sagat, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
More importantly, they’re both fun to play, whether you’re a series veteran or have only just thrown your first hadouken. Fans will lap it up, and newbies will love their faster pace – a real contrast to some of the slower, more methodical cast members.
BRING ON THE WORLD
Arcade mode is basically unchanged from, well, from the arcades. You fight your way across the world, taking on the main roster before a final showdown with M. Bison. You rack up points with each win, perfect and super move victory, and the final score goes on a leaderboard. It’s properly old school.
If you want some practice, the training mode is useful for practicing combos, but with no trials or tutorials to explain how to link it all together, you’re left to figure things out on your own. There’s also an art gallery hidden in the main menu, filled with original and new designs, but that’s about it.
The major new addition is online multiplayer, which should keep Street Fighter super fans coming back for more. The servers weren’t online in time for this review, so we’ll be coming back after launch with an update on how well connections hold up. Capcom doesn’t have the best track record with net code, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that the Final Challengers doesn’t turn into a lag-fest.
TAKE A LOOK AT ME NOW
Capcom has really gone all-out for The Final Challengers, giving every aspect of Street Fighter II a visual upgrade while staying faithful to the original game. Or rather, it went all out when it made Street Fighter II HD Remix for the PS3 and Xbox 360, and has simply ported everything over to the Switch.
Every fighter, every stage, and even the onscreen elements have been remastered from the SNES originals. It all looks glorious in motion, but there’s an odd mix of art styles.
The stage backgrounds look nothing like the fighters duelling in front of them, and the character portraits look different too. Finish the arcade mode and the ending cinematic look different again. This stays true to the original game, sure, but it’s still jarring.
Fighters look overly sharp in places, and there’s no option to smooth things out either. Look closely and there are even a few errant pixels, too: Ryu’s hair looks like it was cut-out in Photoshop. Badly.
You can swap back to original 16-bit, pixelated art style if you want to fuel your nostalgia even more, but only in the main menu. You can’t switch mid-game.
PUSH MY BUTTONS
In action, The Final Challengers is… fiddly, to say the least.
Street Fighter‘s six button layout works brilliantly in the arcade, but let’s be honest: squeezing three punches and three kicks into the Switch was never going to compare.
With the Switch in handheld mode, the left Joycon ties movement to the analogue stick and the four directional buttons – but neither are perfect.
The tiny analogue stick isn’t all that precise for charge motions, and it’s next to impossible to pull off Street Fighter’s signature quarter circle special moves on the individual directional buttons. You’ve essentially got to switch between the two on the fly, depending on which character you’re using.
Things are similarly frustrating on the right Joycon, with the face buttons handling light and medium attacks, and heavy punches and kicks relegated to the L and R triggers. It’ll take quite a few rounds before you’ve adjusted to the split layout – and forget trying to pull off Akuma’s Raging Demon super without some serious practice.
That’s probably why Capcom has added a Lite mode, which lets you tie special moves to single button presses, and adds onscreen shortcuts for the more complicated attacks.
Street Fighter IV for the Nintendo 3DS did something similar, but with no need to charge attacks some characters were hilariously overpowered. That doesn’t happen here, so Guile can’t spam out sonic booms quite so easily.
Disconnect the Joycons for two-player versus and things are even more compact. You’re forced to use the analogue stick, too – sorry, Guile and Balrog fans.
If you’ve got a Switch Pro controller, things are a little better. You’re not going to end up with hand cramp after a few arcade mode playthroughs, but you still don’t have the perfect six button layout. You’ll need Hori’s arcade stick for that – a serious investment when this is basically the only fighting game on the Switch right now.
WAY OF THE WARRIOR
The Final Challengers wouldn’t be much of a Street Fighter game with at least a little Capcom craziness thrown in – and Way of the Hado definitely ticks that box.
It’s a first-person survival mode that’ll have you throwing your own hadoukens using the Joycon motion controls. We’re not talking the same wild flailing you got with Wii Sports boxing, either: each move has its own motion, even if you don’t exactly have to be precise to pull them off.
You can only play as Ryu, which means three different attacks (hadouken, shoryuken and tansu) plus a screen-clearing super move once you built up enough meter. Make it through enough waves of nameless flunkies and M Bison will make an appearance; survive until the end and you’ll earn experience points that can upgrade your stats.
It’s wacky, and a complete departure from anything the series has seen so far, but it’s also an absolute, undeniable turd of an extra mode. You know that big pile of dino poo Jeff Goldblum spots in Jurassic Park? Yeah, this is bigger.
You might get a few solitary laughs out of it once you start throwing out those stomach-churning spin kicks, but beyond chasing high scores, it has hardly any replay value.
The fact it’s in such contrast to the main game wound me up a little bit, as a Street Fighter fan. There’s just no fun to be had here, and I can’t really comprehend why Capcom bothered adding it at all.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers Verdict
This should have been a slam dunk for Capcom. The Final Challengers is the first proper fighting game on the switch, and an update to one of the genre’s true highlights.
Instead, it’s a full-price re-release of a remaster that is itself a generation old, with a few (admittedly welcome) extras thrown in to try and justify the extra cash. The new characters are fun, and online multiplayer will keep true super-fans happy, but that’s about it. I don’t think that equates to £35.
Oh, and let’s not forget that absolute stinker of a Switch-exclusive game mode.
I wish Capcom had picked one of its faster-paced iterations, like Street Fighter III: Third Strike, instead of the slower, simpler Street Fighter II, for the HD treatment – but that would have exposed the Switch’s fighter-unfriendly buttons even more.
This isn’t a console that’s built for frame-perfect inputs, so unless you’re planning on spending even more cash on a dedicated controller, this basically boils down into a nostalgia-filled party game that’ll be good for a few rounds.
Unlike the arcade original, don’t expect your mates to be queuing up to be the next challenger.
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Probably still a must-buy for serious Street Fighter fans, but there’s just not enough here for more casual players
HD remaster stays faithful to the 90s original
Gameplay just as slick as it was in the arcades
The perfect party game for Nintendo’s portable console
Switch-centric 3D mode is utter, utter garbage of the highest order
Not packed with content for a full-price release
Sprites look a little ropey in places
Switch hardware isn’t built for fighting games