From Vanilla to Ultra; a look at the history of Street Fighter 4 to predict what Street Fighter 5's future may have in store

One of the franchise's most iconic titles had its fair share of ups and downs

Posted by Nicoma 'Melchiorus' Christian, guest writer • November 9, 2017 at 7:52 p.m. PST

We're two years into Street Fighter 5 now, and close to the highly anticipated release of Arcade Edition, which promises to add new spice to the game in the form of second V-Triggers for all along with new single player modes and probable new characters.

These sorts of updates are very common, and happened all throughout the course of virtually every Street Fighter throughout the franchise's storied history.

Seeing as we're right on the verge of a major update, this is a good time to take a look back and compare the evolution of Street Fighter 4 to perhaps get an idea of where things may go with Street Fighter 5.

We're looking to learn a few things: How did gameplay change? How did the single player modes change? What was the community response at the time? I'll be diving into all that and more, starting with the initial release of Street Fighter 4.

The Evolution of Street Fighter 4

Street Fighter 4 was the first new release for the series in nine years. 3rd Strike had come out in 1999, with re-releases later on Dreamcast and PS2. Street Fighter 4 came out to the arcades in Japan on July 13, 2008, and would later be released on console in Japan, North America, and Europe in 2009.

It came out to widespread critical acclaim with the initial arcade version being highly praised in Japan. Soon after, the console version in the US received a 93 on Metacritic for the Xbox 360 version, and a 94 on PlayStation 3.

Street Fighter 4 was praised for staying true to the Street Fighter games of the past, while also pushing it forward, but that was only one side of the coin.

The community reaction wasn't as favorable at first for Street Fighter 4, as there were many who thought it hadn't done enough to change things. It was too familiar, and not worth the price. Especially when they could go back and play 3rd Strike or Street Fighter 2.

That wasn't the only viewpoint out there of course. For every person bashing on Street Fighter 4, you might see another praising it. Forums from the era could look like the ravings of a madman with the amount of flip-flopping and contrasting opinions.

There were a few main complaints from the core players of Street Fighter 4 when it came out. According to an article by The Score people said there were too many fireballs and the game was too slow. Also, the Focus Attack system wasn't as good as they had hoped.

In an interview from that article, UltraDavid said, “There were a lot of people who didn't like it at all, and they thought it was simple and it was slow and defensive, and it didn't have any room for depth.”

Street Fighter 4 was not at all a stagnant game. It had many a version, and throughout those versions was a roller coaster of changes. The first big changes came with the release of Super Street Fighter 4.

Super Street Fighter 4

Super Street Fighter 4 added ten new characters, including two that were completely new to the Street Fighter franchise in Juri and Hakan.

Character unlocking was not required, with all 35 being immediately available. Super also added two new online modes, Team and Endless Battle. A new Ultra was added to every character along with five brand new stages.

The game was again praised by critics, and the community seemed happier overall as well. Some of the people who had waited to jump on the Street Fighter 4 train decided they would give it a chance. 2008's EVO was pretty small compared to what we have now, and Street Fighter 4 would give it a huge boost.

In 2009, Street Fighter 4 had around 1,000 participants at EVO, a big jump from the previous year for 3rd Strike. After Super released in 2010 that EVO attendance ballooned to around 1,800 participants.

The game still had plenty of naysayers, but that didn't stop it from revitalizing the fighting game scene of the time. EVO wasn't the only tournament that saw large amounts of growth. Even local tournaments were doing much better.

Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition

Not long after the release of Super Street Fighter 4, Arcade Edition was announced. It released for arcades later in 2010 and was available both as DLC and as a full retail game in the summer of 2011.

Arcade Edition was not the same jump in content as Super. This time it only added four new characters, various tweaks to balance, and some new EX moves.

Arcade Edition had a rocky start, especially on PC where characters were locked behind DRM. Due to community outcry, the characters were unlocked for offline play.

In a forum post Capcom's Christian Svensson said the argument of pirates having a better experience than legitimate consumers had been very convincing.

Growth continued throughout 2011, and the viewer numbers for EVO were higher than ever as no less than two million people tuned in to the matches.

Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition Version 2012 and 2014

For the next few years there wouldn't be new versions of Street Fighter 4 released. Instead, large patches were put out that tweaked character balance and changed the way characters played.

The 2012 patch had changes across the board for most characters. Gouken, Yun, Yang, Evil Ryu, Fei Long and Hakan had much more drastic changes. Many players were happy with the alterations, since there was less of a difference in power levels between characters.

The patch later in 2014 had more tweaks, but the main thing that changed was a switch from Games for Windows Live to Steam for PC players. Unfortunately there were problems with DLC purchases not transferring over. Not a good time for those on PC.

Ultra Street Fighter 4

Ultra Street Fighter 4 is the final version of Street Fighter 4 to be released. With it came more tweaks to balance, five new characters, six new stages, and new game mechanics. The game mechanics added are the ultra combo double, red focus attacks, and delayed wake-up. This adds even more depth to the gameplay.

But Ultra brought with a host of new problems. The PS4 port was very poor on release, and the PC version had pretty massive problems with multiplayer. Capcom wasn't immediately able to put forward a solution, and this meant that for weeks players had to deal with rampant connectivity issues.

Kotaku has a nice list of the not so nice problems that plagued the PC port that you can view here.

Even with the problems that some versions of Ultra had, the community were still pretty happy with Street Fighter 4. But even so, there were more and more rumblings from people who weren't so happy with what they thought of as Capcom "milking the game".

As you can see, Street Fighter 4 was hardly perfect. It had plenty of good things to it that overcame some of the less good parts.

One of the biggest accomplishments that Street Fighter 4 boasted was in its bringing of new life to the tournament scene, something we're still seeing the effects of today. Street Fighter 4 surely can't claim sole responsibility, but it was unequivocally a major part of that important growth spurt.

That is undoubtedly part of why people remember it so fondly, and for good reason. Some of the big names in the community got their start with Street Fighter 4. Now let's take a look at the modern era of Street Fighter.

The Evolution of Street Fighter 5

Street Fighter 5 did not come out to the same sort of critical acclaim as Street Fighter 4. It was released with some notable absences of content when it first came out and ended up with a Metacritic score of 77 for PS4 and 74 for PC.

There was no Arcade Mode, which meant that single player options were very limited. Instead there was a survival mode and a short story mode for characters. This was not received well with the community.

People were even less happy because Capcom's competitors sported very robust story modes. Games like Guilty Gear had extensive stories and a training mode that made learning the game much more fun. Street Fighter 5 had a training mode, but the options were more geared towards competitive players. Which left the more casual fans without a good option.

Yet most reviewers and members of the community did give Street Fighter 5 credit for a few things. The cast of characters was consistently praised, as was the gameplay. Though it may not have the depth of Ultra Street Fighter 4, it started out in a good place.

It took more than 5 years for Street Fighter 4 to get to that place, so it wasn't very surprising that the depth wouldn't quite be the same. The soundtrack was also praised. With a good variety of styles, and callbacks to previous Street Fighter games, they delivered good music for new and old fans of the franchise.

Much like Street Fighter 4, the community was divided in its praise and derision of Street Fighter 5. They were perhaps even more outspoken than ever before.

The main complaint was that Street Fighter 5 felt more like a beta than a completed game. With a better Story Mode promised to be released later in 2016, and a slew of connectivity problems, especially on PC, it didn't feel complete.

Over the course of the year after the release of Street Fighter 5 there were many updates. There were fixes for connectivity issues, character tweaks, new character and stage releases. Much like many other games these days, it really did feel like it was an Early Access game. Even so, Capcom committed to fixing the issues from launch, and for the most part they did.

Story mode was released. Though it wasn't as large as some other fighting games, it was the most story in any Street Fighter game to date. Which isn't a huge accomplishment considering how lacking Street Fighter is in that department. But at least it's something.

Connectivity issues were, for the most part, fixed. And in a weird stroke of fate the PC version actually ended up with the least amount of input lag between all the versions. The game also steadily sold copies over that time, even though it missed the sales mark set by Capcom according to Game Rant.

By the end of 2016 seven new characters released, and things were looking better for Street Fighter 5.

The Lead up to Arcade Edition

2017 saw more of the same from Capcom. A steady release of new characters and character tweaks. Instead of new versions of the game, updates came in the form of seasons, with the latest being Season 2. Capcom had said they would not be releasing new versions of Street Fighter 5, but that's what they said after Arcade Edition for Street Fighter 4.

There weren't as many glaring problems with the game brought to Capcom's attention by the community. That doesn't mean everyone was happy, but it was a far cry from the chants about the fall of Capcom around release.

Sales continued to be pretty steady, and by August of 2017 would reach around 1.7 million.

Arcade Edition and Predictions for the Future

So here we are, on the precipice of a new edition of the latest Street Fighter.

The latest version of Street Fighter 5 will have access to all characters up to this point. It also has a new visual layout, Arcade Mode, Extra Battle Mode, and new V-Triggers for characters. It is a free update for current Street Fighter 5 players (not including DLC characters), or a $39.99 purchase (with all characters).

Giving the update for free is a good move from Capcom, as they need good PR right now. Both Street Fighter and Marvel did not initially sell quite as well as developers had hoped, and so reception and proper release of Arcade Edition will be a key moment for Capcom. They need a win here, in sales and in community approval.

Considering trends for Capcom, it is hard to say whether they will get that win. Previous new versions of Street Fighter games have sold less than the original version, at least for Street Fighter 4. Super Street Fighter 4 sold 1.9 million copies, while SSF4 Arcade Edition sold 1.1 million copies. The original version of SF4 sold 3.4 million copies.

If that trend holds true for Street Fighter 5 then Arcade Edition will sell a bit more than half of what current sales are, which would likely be just below one million copies.

The price point of $39.99 is likely to pull some people in. Also, the inclusion of all characters thus far may get people who were on the edge about buying. One thing is for certain though, and that's that Capcom still has faith in Street Fighter 5.

An influx of new players will give them more incentive to continue. Expect more characters, more stages, and more costumes. The Capcom Pro Tour will likely get an announcement for a 2018 run as well.

The Tour continues to see great support from the FGC and even more viewers than ever before, and will hopefully get even more support from Capcom. Anyone who has followed League of Legends and CS:GO will tell you how crucial that support is for a competitive game's continued success.

As someone that wants to see games succeed, I hope that they have now learned from past mistakes and will be in a good place going forward. If they keep the game growing as they did with Street Fighter 4, 2018 could be a good year for Street Fighter 5.

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