Over the years, fighting fans have grown accustomed to Capcom's Street Fighter series, and rolled with the punches around every new series that the company introduced. This includes the Street Fighter III saga that dominated the 90s, and the enjoyable Street Fighter Alpha series.
However, the franchise truly left its mark in 2008 with the debut of Street Fighter IV. Featuring an all-new 3D engine (but with 2D style controls) and refined visuals, the game became a fighting classic for years to come. It was so popular that Capcom continued to update the game through three more releases: Super Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition and the just-released Ultra Street Fighter IV.
Without further ado, we break down the significant points for this side saga, as well as its highs and lows. It never hurts to have a FightStick on hand for this.
*All dates are for US releases.
The debut of a champion (July 18, 2008)
Nine years passed since Street Fighter EX3 released in 1999. That's quite a hiatus for Capcom, especially considering the dearth of fans that the previous games have generated. However, then producer Yoshinori Ono and his team were devoted to bringing it back at the right time – and in 2008, it did.
Street Fighter IV made its highly anticipated debut first in arcades on July 18, 2008, drawing a large audience as a result. The game introduced several returning favorites from the roster, including Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, E. Honda, Blanka, and Akuma, to name a few. It also introduced a number of new faces, including the Mexican luchador El Fuerte; the obese kung fu fighter Rufus; the deadly agent Crimson Viper; French fighter Abel and the "Puppet Master" boss Seth. In addition, Gouken, the elder brother of Akuma (trainer of Ryu and Ken), also appears as a secret challenger.
Capcom had dabbled in 3D before with Street Fighter EX3, which found its way to the PlayStation 2 in time for the console's launch, but the team knew it needed to refine the game in order to keep fighting fanatics happy. Thus, Ono and his team took the time to research the engine and make the game feel just right. When July 2008 rolled around, Capcom felt that the wait was long enough for fans, and brought the game out, using a Taito Vewlix cabinet to run the modified hardware. It was so popular that some U.S. arcades even imported the machine for fans to enjoy.
Let's hit the consoles (February 17, 2009 for consoles, July 7, 2009 for PC)
Street Fighter IV arrived on the home market for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on February 17, 2009, then on PC (using GFWL) later that year on July 7th. It brought with it a number of features that were missing from the arcade release. These included the ability to play against others online, six additional backdrops, extra downloadable content (including modifiers and new combatants), a Challenge Mode that works similarly to a training mode, and the ability to select between U.S. and Japanese voiceovers, which turned out to be a well-received option.
It wouldn't be long before the game made its portable debut as well, arriving on iOS in March 2010. Even with somewhat tricky on-screen controls, the game was well received, featuring a number of combatants and Bluetooth-supported versus play. Plus, it was a saving grace for those who couldn't quite afford the full version of the game.
Street Fighter IV was an immense success, largely due to its traditional 2D gameplay combined with its stellar presentation. The game sold over three million units across the two consoles alone, prompting Capcom to expand upon the series with…
Super Street Fighter IV (April 27, 2010)
In April 2010, Capcom introduced a new expansion to the Street Fighter IV brand, dubbed Super Street Fighter IV. The move felt like déjà vu, similar to what the company did with Super Street Fighter II years ago. Like that edition, this new version featured ten new combatants, including Dee Jay and T. Hawk from SSFII, Adon from the original Street Fighter, Cody and Guy from Final Fight, and Dudley, Ibuki and Makoto from the Street Fighter III sub-series. In addition, two new characters, Juri and Hakan, became instant fan favorites with their eclectic fighting styles.
Super Street Fighter IV also introduced a handful of new ranking modes, such as Team Battle and Endless Battle, as well as a new Replay Channel, which allows players to view and save replays across the globe. This became an imminently popular feature, mainly because people could see what other players were doing right (or wrong) in their game.
Unfortunately, Capcom opted not to release this version for PC, for some inexplicable reason. Fortunately, it would be a one-time lapse, as the following Arcade Edition did release for Windows.
This chapter in the series also marked the debut of the franchise on the Nintendo 3DS (it released March 27, 2011), with most of its content intact. Featuring 3D visuals that, at the time, took advantage of the hardware, along with traditional controls intertwined with touch-screen commands on the system's bottom screen, it became an instant best-seller alongside the launched system, clearing out over one million units sold worldwide. Unfortunately, Capcom opted not to provide this edition any expansions, despite the feverish fan base.
Let's Go (Back) To the Arcade (June 18, 2011 for consoles, July 7, 2011 for PC)
Not content with just sticking with its "Super" roots, Capcom launched a new Arcade Edition of Super Street Fighter IV in late 2011, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. In it, four new characters, including Yun and Yang, Oni and Evil Ryu, were added to the roster, along with a variety of tweaks as part of the Version 2012 balancing update. In addition, this marked the first time that Capcom offered the ability to upgrade the game via a download, if a previously owned copy of Super Street Fighter IV was in the buyer's possession.
The Arcade Edition was a huge part of the company's special Street Fighter Anniversary package, which included a felt box set, a variety of CD soundtracks from the series, and both a copy of Arcade Edition and Street Fighter x Tekken, which emulated the Street Fighter IV style for both universes. It also came with a light-up Ryu figurine, as well as a headband featuring Ryu's emblem on the front.
Crossing the Tekken (March 6, 2012 for consoles, May 11, 2012 for PC)
In March 2012, Capcom introduced the latest in its crossover line of fighting games, Street Fighter x Tekken, for PS Vita, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. Although not a tie-in chapter with the Street Fighter IV brand, the game benefitted from having a similar fighting style to the series, rather than the usual fast-paced antics that players have come to expect from previous Versus titles, like the Marvel Vs. Capcom games.
Featuring a number of characters from both universes, as well as "oddball" favorites like Pac-Man (in a Mokujin-style mech, natch) and Mega Man, the game was well received by fighting fans and critics alike, although it didn't quite sell as well as Street Fighter IV's previous releases. Regardless, its influence made it a popular favorite at various tournaments, including EVO for a little while.
It also introduced the Vita to the Street Fighter brand (released October 23rd of that year), even though, outside of PlayStation classics, no other chapters in the series have made their way to the handheld. Not yet, anyway.
Changing out rivals on the PC (May 30, 2014)
The Games for Windows Live service has been arguably the weakest part of the Street Fighter IV experience on the PC. Complaints were usually about performance issues and poor matchmaking, but it was the rumor that GFWL would shut down in 2014 (effectively ending online multiplayer) that really got players on edge. Beyond that, other Capcom offerings for the PC like the Resident Evil series were starting to use Steamworks, which was more popular. PC fighting fans feared that Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, which had been out for almost three years by this point, would be overlooked and forgotten. However, it turned out Capcom was listening, and righted the ship by announcing that Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition would updated with Steamworks just in time for summer.
The conversion to Steamworks was part of Capcom's plan to eventually introduce Ultra Street Fighter IV, which would be a premium DLC purchase. To make the transition a little easier, gamers that purchased the game digitally from any other retailer such as GFWL could download the Steam version at no extra charge. The only downside was that the DLC wouldn't make the transfer, so players would have to repurchase them.
One Ultra to rule them all (June 3 - August 5, 2014 for consoles, August 8, 2013 for PC)
In what appears to be the final entry in the ongoing Street Fighter IV saga, Ultra is shaping up to be the defining note. Initially offered as an update to the Arcade Edition on consoles (June 3, 2014 on PSN and June 4th on Xbox Live), full digital and retail versions became available this week on August 5th, with PC version releasing on August 8th as an Arcade-to-Ultra Edition upgrade.
Ultra features five new characters added to the mix, including Rolento, Elena, Hugo, and Poison from previous games, as well as the Cammy alternative (and M. Bison agent) Decapre. In addition, the developers have put strenuous amounts of effort into the game's tweaks, making this the most balanced edition to date, based on feedback from the avid fan community.
Some new features have also been added to this new version, including the ability to select from specific editions, like if you prefer the Street Fighter IV build of Sagat. There are also a number of fighting mechanic improvements, such as the debut of Red Focus, which allows more invincibility hits. Some fighting fanatics will also enjoy the ability to use two Ultra Combos in one, even with the sacrifice of hit strength in certain areas.
Ultra Street Fighter IV truly marks the end of a fighting era, but hopefully paves the way for the next chapter in the series to come. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another nine years for it…