Capcom makes one last stop for the fans as Street Fighter IV's release draws near.
Within the Twitter application on my iPhone is a panic button that, when pressed, will sent out an emergency message to the service calling for help, complete with a Google map link to your exact location. The only time I ever thought I'd have to use this was when I travelled to central Los Angeles for Capcom's Street Fighter Club event, which was held in July 2008 in honor of the arcade release of Street Fighter IV in what amounted to an abandoned warehouse, complete with homeless folks burning barrels only a block away. Fortunately, there's nary a place that makes you think about your digital rape whistle in downtown San Francisco as Capcom once again invited the most dedicated of their fans, along with the press over for a bit of virtual fisticuffs, only this time, on the console edition of Street Fighter IV.
With only a month to go until its February 17 release, what we saw was the completed version of the game with all the console exclusive characters and modes available for play. Capcom's crack team of promoters converted the Stillman Street warehouse into the ultimate Street Fighter IV arcade, with dozens of consoles and a small handful of arcade cabinets littered throughout the facility. Once inside it was all a matter of picking your method of destruction, and by that of course I mean your controller of choice.
As previously reported, Mad Catz is coming out with a fresh batch of new arcade sticks and controllers for Street Fighter IV, all of which were available for use at the event. Hopping around between the FightPad's, FightSticks' and Tournament Edition sticks, there are really no complaints to be had amongst the line of products. The regular FightStick, which will retail for $79.99, felt much more solid than the Xbox 360's mainstay, the Hori EX2, with its stock buttons feeling more responsive than the typically mushy Hori. Some of the features of the new arcade sticks, however, were difficult to appreciate at the event where the only lighting came from the LCD televisions displaying the action, as finding the smartly hidden pause buttons in the dark took quite the effort. As someone who currently has one of the ludicrously expensive Tournament Edition sticks on pre-order, I feel extremely confident in the purchase having now played on it.
While some players at the event were unfortunately in "serious business" mode, sticking religiously to the top tier Sagat and other tournament staples, it was refreshing to see what the new crop of console exclusive characters could do, namely Rose, Sakura, Dan, Gen, Fei-Long, Cammy, Seth and of course, Gouken. Rose wound up being my personal favorite of the night as my time in the competitive Street Fighter Alpha 2 scene paid off in spades. If you're familiar with the character, she functions exactly as you'd expect her to with devastating normals and extremely useful special moves, including her new Ultra combo attack (1:55) which has since been dubbed the "ShamWow" by the community.
As for the others, Fei-Long and Cammy seemed to disappoint the competitive players in attendance as, while they look fantastic in-game, their performance is less so, lacking the tools they need to be effective against the stronger characters. The master of Ken and Ryu, Gouken, received cheers from the crowds every time someone would land his Ultra combo, the Shin-Shoryuken, made famous by Ryu himself in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike.
The hype for Street Fighter IV is building to likes unseen for a fighting game since the release of Soul Calibur II in 2003, which was aided heavily by its popular guest characters. With the overwhelmingly positive reactions from both the press and fans, the game could very well be a massive success for Capcom, should they push onwards and advertise it more heavily than they already are.
For more on the event, check out GiantBomb's excellent video coverage and not only because it features an interview with yours truly. They're always excellent.