Blasting onto next gen with the force of a Super Ex Ha-do-ken, the first proper info drop on upcoming beat-'em-up spectacular Street Fighter IV has hit... and it's a zinger!
Yet after the gob smacking teaser trailer Capcom taunted us with at their recent Gamer's Day, we confess we've come away feeling ever-so-slightly perplexed. Gone is that heart-achingly beautiful feathered, ink-splashed art style that drew so many gasps of admiration when we beheld the teaser, and in its stead we find more generic models sporting calves thicker than Henry VIII and feet larger than Frodo Baggins'.
Another potential worry that's freaking hardcore fans out seems to be the absence of Third Strike's near perfect parry system, replaced by a new bar-based system tentatively referred to as Saving/Revenge that's built around cancels. Ultras and supers are also set to make a re-appearance.
Pleasingly, though, rucks will kick off at a lightning 60fps and stalwarts Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and Dhalsim will all be returning in a game that, while temporarily an arcade exclusive (due in the second quarter of 2008), will surely be heading to 360 and PS3 later next year. The idea of venturing online to take on the best - and, er... lose - resonates with us like you wouldn't believe.
So, hype and controversy reign in equal measure at the mo - the jury as delicately poised as a Ryu-Ken match-up at one round apiece. With so much affection for the series across the gaming globe, Capcom Japan just can't afford to get this one wrong...
The Known Knowns About SFIV...
Thankfully, although Capcom US owns the rights to the Street Fighter series, the game has been contracted back to the Land of the Rising Sun for development - with Yoshinori Ono, who worked on SF Alpha, SF III and oversaw Capcom Fighting Revolution, taking the production reins. He claims he wants IV to feel like the "second coming" of SF II...
Despite the pedigree of SF2 and Third Strike, it's worth remembering that, arguably, Capcom hasn't turned out a decent fighter since those halycon days. Conversely, its last attempt at a 3D beat-'em-up - Capcom Fighting All-Stars - was canned after negative focus testing...
While IV looks as if it's got more in common visually with, say, Virtua Fighter 3 than the Street Fighter we all know and love, Capcom are stressing it's a strictly 2D fighter - so there'll be a fixed camera and none of that stepping in and out of the screen malarkey going on. Ono is intent on "preserving SF II's strategic nature", with initial reports suggesting IV plays remarkably similarly to Turbo.
Pleasingly, SF IV's test bed will be where it was first born: those dark and sweaty dens of iniquity called 'arcades'. This should hopefully result in a perfectly balanced beauty like Virtua Fighter 5 instead of an unbalanced mess like the gobsmackingly pretty yet fatally flawed Soul Calibur 3. Also expect full online play, plus potential microtransactions including new characters and stages.
Time to die
Apparently, IV is set in between Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Third Strike, suggesting a character roster rammed with old 90s faves like Zangief, Blanka, Bison et al. Also expect a few all-new fighters including two as-yet-unnamed laydees... Nice.
IV is rumoured to be a particularly aggressive fighter, with an emphasis on taking the initiative rather than defending. Though we'd be lying if we said we weren't disappointed that Third Strike's parry system had been scrapped, its replacement looks intriguing - with two new meters: Revenge (built up by getting pounded) and Super (built up by attacking). Bonus!