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Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Switch) artwork

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Switch) review

"Street Fighter II was and is good, but I would have liked to see a little more polish applied to the rough edges."

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was amazing when it launched on the Super Nintendo in 1992. Street Fighter II Turbo was faster, plus the original four bosses were finally playable. Super Street Fighter II took a step back in some ways, but it featured enough new options and characters that its flaws didn't matter much. From there, it became difficult to pay much attention to Street Fighter II because new installments arrived mostly on expensive hardware a lot of us couldn't afford, and then everyone was busy getting excited about various editions of Street Fighter III and Street Fighter Alpha. Finally, there was an extended period of time when no one (not even Capcom, the game's developer and publisher) seemed to care much about Street Fighter anything... except for the occasional Xbox Live Arcade title or crossover appearance.

Does any of that sound familiar? Because if it does, we likely share a similar background. Maybe you also used to pause the Super Nintendo version of the game repeatedly, to check out the sprite art on your favorite fighters, frame by frame. Or possibly you headed to the Options menu and listened to some of your favorite tunes in their 16-bit glory. Or you routinely fought the bosses on the highest difficulty setting, just to try for a better ending... or you played against your friends and pretended you were the AI.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Switch) image

My history with the original titles virtually guaranteed I would buy Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers when it finally arrived on the Nintendo Switch. I wasn't asking the developers to reinvent the wheel. I just wanted a capable new version of one of my favorite old games, one I could play on new hardware and take with me on vacations, if I so chose. That's just what I got, too. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Final Challengers has a variety of modes. First up, there is the classic "Arcade" mode, which Street Fighter V regrettably didn't include at launch and (for all I know) still doesn't offer. You start by picking your favorite fighter, out of 18 available options, and then you deliver a series of beatings until finally the boss lies unconscious at your feet and you get to view a character-specific ending. If you did well enough, you enter your initials.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Switch) image

Suppose that's not your thing (though it is definitely mine). There also is a new option known as Buddy Battle that lets you team up with a local friend so the two of you can together thrash an AI opponent. This brand new option interests me not even a little. If I talk a friend into playing with me, I want to spend my time thoroughly trouncing him so I can rub it in his face when the match ends. Or I want him to kick my tail, so I know I have to get better. I don't want anything cooperative, in other words. Maybe you feel differently.

A third mode is Versus, which (as you may suspect after reading the preceding paragraph) is more my speed. You pick your warrior, your friend picks his or hers, and then the two of you play a best-out-of-three match to determine the victor. I spent many an hour going up against my friend Nathan, back in the day, or participating in mini-tournaments with my cousins when we rented Super Street Fighter II, back before I finally bought a spare copy from the store (RIP, Video Video!). So I may spend a lot of time doing the same thing in the future, if I can find interested local competition.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Switch) image

Of course, the fourth mode on offer takes care of things if--like me--you don't know anyone nearby who has a hankering for some retro fighting action. Just make sure you install the latest update from the Switch dashboard before you launch your game. Then you can look for competition regionally or around the world, in either a ranked or unranked capacity. Go with the former and the system will try to pair you with someone who has similar experience, though accrued "battle points" play a large role. That means you could wind up trying to survive in a match with a professional player, if he just happens to be brawling for the first time. Or you could get stuck with a total noob who hates you because you know how to throw fireballs and he doesn't (note that a "lite" control option exists for amateurs, which eliminates the need to learn fancy button combinations that can instead be assigned to the touchscreen).

A special Training mode also caters to those players who might otherwise feel overwhelmed. We didn't have training modes back when I was a kid. "Training" was playing against the AI on the lower difficulty settings and hoping for the best. That worked well enough, but the new option--now admittedly a genre standard--is also good. You specify the character you would like to master and check a list of his or her moves. You also choose a dummy opponent that just stands there. Beating up on that motionless wonder is cathartic if you want to pummel a Vega that doesn't climb the fence and dive bomb you from above. Just for instance.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Switch) image

"Way of the Hado" is another new mode you might have heard about in the months leading up to the game's release. It puts you in Ryu's shoes (or perhaps that should be "bare feet"). You select a difficulty setting from three options, and then you are deposited in a sterile corridor, viewing the action from a first-person perspective. You grip the left and right joycons and you can toss hadoukens or perform other moves, based on motions you take in your living room. The whole affair would have felt right at home on Wii or Wii U. My arms got sore very quickly, and I got irritated because I often had three foes rushing me not only from directly ahead, but from slightly to the left and right. I couldn't seem to choose which one to target first, so sometimes I took damage that didn't feel quite fair. Fortunately, the easiest setting is a cakewalk, and the middle one isn't excessively hard. Then you earn points you can spend to improve your attack and defense, as well as other attributes. Less fortunately, the mode is a dud overall. Backgrounds and enemies are boring, so the experience doesn't feel like a proper adventure or even a real duel. It's just a mini-game.

Besides the modes noted above, there is a special Gallery option, which I didn't figure would amount to much. I was wrong, though. It lets you listen to tunes from the game while you browse artwork scans. Those scans are taken directly from an out-of-print book of art that encompasses a number of Street Fighter titles, not just those in the II set. Most of the illustrations are downright gorgeous, and presented beautifully. I went through all of the art, nearly 300 pages of it, while viewing everything on my very large television set. It was all crystal clear, plus you can zoom in to look at things more closely if you like. I was pleasantly surprised.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (Switch) image

In a general sense, though, the game did less to delight me. I was quite satisfied with my purchase, but there were little issues throughout that I wouldn't mind seeing Capcom patch in the future. You can choose between attractive updated visuals or the old-fashioned design, for instance, but the presentation feels disjointed if you go with the latter. Only the actual matches preserve the old look, so it felt to me like a lot of jumping back and forth. I found I prefer the fresh coat of paint, and consistently applied. I also wouldn't have minded if the action were a bit faster. There's no option to speed things up, as you could in Street Fighter II Turbo on the Super Nintendo. The classic bonus stages are also missing, meaning you don't get to kick apart some poor guy's car or smash barrels. That seems like an odd omission. I would rather have those bonus stages in place than the two new characters, who are just angsty and hyper versions of Ken and Ryu. They don't add anything I wouldn't happily do without.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is an adequate port of a game I loved very much during my younger years. The update offers a variety of new features, but most of them either don't appeal to me or soon lose that appeal. Fortunately, the core game is still very good and should keep fans busy for a long while, particularly if they can rope friends into some competitive matches (or if they have luck regularly finding suitable opponents online). I've heard some people complaining about the $40 sticker price, and my natural inclination is to start telling stories about how I used to pay $70 to obtain the original games, back when $70 went a lot further than it does now. At the same time, though, I do sympathize. I'm glad I got my copy of this new release for closer to $30 on sale. That feels like it probably should have been the actual MSRP right from the start, actually...


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (May 27, 2017)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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