It’s strange to think that the first fighting game I ever played, Street Fighter II, is still going strong to this day. It helped spawn the fighting game craze of the 1990s yet stayed relevant throughout the arcade fighter boom thanks to updated versions and home console releases. The game’s most recent incarnation, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, is both an updated take and a home version but also a portable version. This alone makes it worth your attention, even if you’ve only ever had a fleeting interest in the series.
Those familiar with Street Fighter II will find a lot to love about its Nintendo Switch debut. In addition to the full character roster of Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, USFII brings with it two new playable characters: Evil Ryu and Violent Ken, both of whom have been seduced by the forces of evil and are therefore appropriately scowling and grimacing with evil/violent power. These fighters are slightly more than just palette-swaps of their “good guy” counterparts, however. But each fighter’s new shadow attacks give seasoned players a reason to try them out, if only to know what to look for when matched against one of them in online battles. I’ve personally become a huge fan of Violent Ken, as his new shadow transport move makes him a little more unpredictable than usual.
The core game remains as satisfying to play today as it did in the ’90s. The overwhelming feeling of being excited to play this on the Super Nintendo has not waned in the slightest for me. This is the main attraction, never mind the bonus content.
Graphically the game maintains the look of HD Remix with updated sprites drawn by the comic masters at Udon. There’s an option to switch the graphics to the classic pixel sprites, but unfortunately this inclusion is half-assed because it only affects player and background sprites. In-game score, some HUD elements, and VS/Character select screens are still inexplicably HD Remix style. If you’re going to include a way to play the game with its original arcade graphics, this kind of approach makes it seem like an afterthought. Additionally, the only way to switch between the two styles is to exit out of the game and go back into the options and manually do this, which is cumbersome at best. But this is a minor complaint.
Thankfully the game still plays amazingly, even with the Switch Joycons not having a proper D-pad. Characters that rely on quarter circle movements feel right at home playing on the tiny analog sticks. Charge move characters like Blanka and Guile however, feel a bit trickier to master in handheld or split Joycon mode where each player gets to hold a ridiculously tiny controller. It’s not the ideal situation but it’ll do in a pinch if you really must get your fix.
USFII features some online play as well, with both ranked and casual matches. It’s a real thrill to face off against players around the world on this tiny handheld, and even while losing horribly I still could not wipe the grin from my face. You can also play the game single-player against the computer with the option to include fight requests, arcade style. This means other players can interrupt your game to challenge you. Despite what you may have heard about Switch sales, there is always someone online ready to give you a beat-down.
The game also includes an extensive digital art book showcasing character designs, a fun colour editor that lets you create custom colour combos for your favourite characters, and a “Buddy Battle” mode that lets you fight the CPU with either a human-controlled or CPU-controlled “buddy” by your side, sharing a life bar. Last and also sadly least is the new “Way of the Hado” mode which has you controlling Ryu from a first person perspective and waving the Joycons in various patterns to throw fireballs, dragon punches, and hurricane kicks while enemies approach. A tutorial is included to help you get the hang of the various gestures and they do work most of the time, but the mode is more of a tech demo than an actually enjoyable game experience. But that’s okay. Most people are going to get this game for the classic Street Fighter II action they know and love, and there’s plenty of that here.
Shaun is a freelance writer and musician who has a lifelong love of playing and talking about videogames. He has contributed to magazines and websites and has appeared on national radio as well. Shaun is perhaps best known for his five-year stint on the TV shows EP Daily and Reviews on the Run.