Street Fighter is back, now with much more than a simple Hadouken…
It seems that the fine folks at CAPCOM have been hard at work revamping and polishing the next revision of their popular fighter for the iOS. This time, Street Fighter IV offers new characters, new game modes, and even a new underlying avatar battle system. So, are these updates really worth the $6.99 price tag? Are two scoops of ice cream better than one?
For starters, SF4 Volt offers something that I was looking for in my review of Street Fighter 4 back in 2010; online multiplayer via wifi. While the lack of online support seemed like a pretty big oversight with the original game, I can say with confidence that it has been worth the wait. Some people have reported that the online games have really bad lag, but I think this is solely dependent on the user’s wifi connection. Matt and I played online via a couple different networks and had no lag issues. I also played against some random players online for a good amount of time from my mediocre home internet connection without a single issue. I feel like the Bluetooth gameplay has been smoothed out quite bit as well. One feature of the online play that has been ported over from the console versions is called “Accept”. This allows for online players to join and play against you while you are in Arcade mode. This is essentially simulating someone walking up and challenging you in a real arcade.
The online multiplayer offers two types of games: ranked and friendly. Playing ranked games allows you to gain Battle Points (BP), which contribute to a Street Fighter social status of sorts. If you beat someone really high, you gain more points than if you beat an equally ranked, or lower, player. The same is said about losing to a lower ranked person; you lose more BP for a loss against a lower ranked player. There are also Special Points (SP) that are gained from completing online challenges. There are 9 challenges that change daily, such as landing a super combo or throwing an enemy three times in one match. These challenges correspond to a number (1-9) on a “bingo” board. Getting bingos and completing challenges are then traded in for SP bonuses. Special Points are used to upgrade your avatar, as well as purchase titles that directly affect your avatar’s battles.
Volt’s brand new avatar battling system, called “Wandering Warrior”, brings a whole new level of online multiplayer to the table. Each player has his or her own avatar/player card, which consists of selecting an avatar face, such as Ryu or Chun Li, as well as unlocking and combining titles for a more advanced and powerful avatar moves. Basically, as you battle players online, your avatars are also having a separate battle behind the scenes. You can’t watch the battle, but you can view the battle’s results, as well as see a detailed description of what went down. This reminded of the Streetpass features that come with the 3DS version of Street Fighter 4, but instead of battling as you walk past someone, the activity occurs while you are fighting them. As a bonus, you can change the viewable name and motto on your avatar card.
These avatar battles ultimately earn you SP which can be used to upgrade your avatar’s titles. Every 300 SP earns you the rights to a new title, which are selected randomly. Each title can increase or decrease one or more of the following parameters: attack, defense, agility, technical, guts, and luck. Mixing and matching up to 4 titles per player card can strategically affect your avatar’s ability to own or get owned in battle. To top it all off, some titles allow for special skills, such as “Furious Fists,” which will “perform a powerful, stunning attack when your health is low.” This is some pretty advanced stuff for an underlying battle that isn’t even seen.
The only downside I saw in the online play relates to people who quit in the middle or at the end of a match. Even if you’ve already landed the final punch to win the match, unless your opponent waits for the final summary screen, you won’t earn any battle points at all. This happened when I was owning on Matt online, and neither of us got points for the match. I hope CAPCOM will address soon, as quitting multiplayer games to punish the victor is nothing new to online titles. A player’s ranked drop rate can be seen in their player card, but I would like to see quitters receive some sort of negative marks if they continue. Perhaps adding a feedback system for online players would be helpful. Considering this game is on a phone, quitting the game quickly will be a common occurrence, and not addressing this problem was a pretty serious oversight on CAPCOM’s part. Does it break the online experience? Not completely, since avatar battles are just an extra facet of the main versus matchups, but it’s still really annoying and disheartening to win a battle only to receive nothing from it other than an increased statistic. Otherwise, as long as you have a decent internet connection/solid wifi connection you shouldn’t worry about getting disconnected for technical reasons.
Volt adds three new characters to the battlefield: Balrog, Vega, and Cody. This rounds out to 17 playable characters at your immediate disposal. There is a secret 18th character, but I have yet to see him/her, even after beating the game on both normal and hard difficulties. A new game mode worth mentioning is Survival: you simply fight against AI opponents until you lose. After each victory, you are rewarded some health and are then immediately put into another battle. It’s fun if you have no online connection and want to test your skills. That being said, there are still the same, yet remastered modes from the original Street Fighter title. However, Dojo is now replaced by the new Challenge mode. Rather than force you through all of the moves a character has like Dojo did, Challenge mode gives you different combos to complete. This is a great way to hone your combo skills, rather than just practicing single moves. SF4 Volt still offers Training and Free Sparring modes.
Viewing stats and replays is much easier in Volt. You can view personal stats, as well as data based on each individual character. One of the cooler new features is the ability to view the stats of anyone you’ve ever competed against. You can view previous players’ game completion, win/loss/tie ratio, character use stats, achievements, and a ton more! You can even see what titles they have attached to their avatar player card and their specific attributes and skills. This doesn’t relate to stats, but before I run out of words I should mention that noobie players now have the option to enable special assist, which allows you to simply tap the relative power bar to perform an ultra/special move. Don’t worry though, you can set your online preferences to not include people who enable this feature if you want!
Speaking of features, or lack thereof, one of my main complaints from the original Street Fighter for the iPhone still remains: no autosave for Arcade Mode. You can quit to the home screen in the middle of playing through arcade mode without any issue, but if you quit arcade mode to play online, or check stats, there is no way to save the arcade progress. You either must beat the entire arcade ladder or abandon the game and start completely over later. This may be the case with console versions of the game as well, but I feel like a mobile device should be a bit more gracious with saving progress.
I’ve heard complaints that Volt should have been released as a free update to the original game, or as cheap in-app purchase, but that’s not really the way that CAPCOM does things with the Street Fighter franchise. (I remember buying Street Fighter IV on my Xbox no more than a couple weeks before Super Street Fighter IV was announced with new characters and features!) Besides, CAPCOM added a bunch of extra characters to SF4 on the iPhone for free in the past year and a half, so people really can’t complain. Releasing a new title that’s chock-full of fun social features, new characters, and slick online play sounds perfectly acceptable to me. For those that already own the original Street Fighter 4 on their iPhones, CAPCOM even included a few little goodies for you, such as unlocking every special card in the game. See? There’s no need to complain. If online play, new characters, and practically infinite replay value doesn’t sound good to you, don’t waste your money. For the rest of you, go buy Street Fighter 4: Volt now!