It is fair to say that Street Fighter IV breathed much needed life into a franchise that had gone stale with age. Here’s why it was the perfect return of Capcom’s seminal fighting saga.
The Street Fighter series has been around for decades at this point, the first game getting an arcade release way back in 1987. The game itself wasn’t great; it’s most notable today for introducing the gaming world to the likes of Ryu, Ken and the Sagat. Nevertheless it seemed unlikely that a sequel would follow (although apparently at one point Capcom considered making Final Fight a sequel to the original game). Yet an official sequel did come in 1991, taking the arcades – and then home consoles - by storm: Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. The game brought back Ryu, Ken and Sagat and pitted them against new favourites such as Guile and Chun-Li. The rest as they say is history.
A whole slew of updates, semi-sequels and spin-offs followed, introducing even more mechanics and characters; most notable among these is the Alpha series, which sprang to life in the mid-90s and was popular in its own right. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that Capcom unleashed a true sequel. Street Fighter III: The New Generation discarded most of the second’s game roster and introduced brand new characters and mechanics. Two more updates followed, including the legendary Third Strike in 1999. This last iteration introduced the now (in)famous parry system, brought back a few more familiar characters and is still played in tournaments to this day. The series then took a nine year hiatus.
Capcom struck back with Street Fighter IV in 2008. The game included a mix of familiar and new faces as well as returning mechanics (combo system) and new mechanics such as focus attacks and “Ultra” finishing moves. Not only did the game immediately strike a chord with fans, but it also revitalised the fighting genre (and the 2D fighting genre in particular), the popularity of which had been waning in the preceding years. Needless to say, Street Fighter IV soon established itself as a classic game in its own right. The reasons are clear to see. The game brought back a good portion of the beloved characters from Street Fighter II, all beautifully rendered with cell-shaded graphics. The game was also accessible and easy to pick up and play; it catered to new and experienced players alike: novice players started pulling off combos after a short time while seasoned gamers and professional got to grips with the deeper mechanics the game offered. In short, Street Fighter IV offered something for everyone. Subsequent iterations of Street Fighter IV brought more gameplay tweaks and balances, more characters and moves, making a great game even better. It speaks volumes that Street Fighter IV made more of a splash than even Street Fighter V did upon release. That is why the fourth instalment was the perfect return for Capcom’s beloved franchise.