Somewhere in Ultra Street Fighter II is a brilliant game – and why wouldn’t there be? After all, Capcom’s fighting classic has achieved not only a cult following in the 26 years since its original release, but is still a fixture at tournaments and house parties. It’s a pixel-precise, well-balanced example of the beat-’em-up genre that’s more than earned its legendary status.
Unfortunately, you’ll be hard pressed to find that came in this upgraded edition for Nintendo Switch. The console seems a fitting home for the game – its ancestor, the SNES, was practically the definitive place to play the 1991 classic outside of arcades – but the hardware itself obscures the best of USF II.
Simply, the buttons on the Joy-Con controllers are far too small to rely on for the precise controls Street Fighter demands, a problem made worse by the mirrored nature of each Joy-Con half. With no proper D-Pad, pulling off the series’ range of special moves feels more fluke than skill, with even the tiniest fingers splaying wildly over the ersatz, separated direction buttons. The problem is barely resolved on the optional Pro Controller for the Switch, either – its loose D-Pad not up to the task of speedy combos or need for precise jumps and movement.
It’s a borderline tragedy for fans, too. With the option of playing in either original aspect ratio and sprite characters or 16:9 widescreen with high-def pixel art, two new characters – Evil Ryu and Violent Ken, warped versions of the series’ leads with both familiar and new abilities – and a host of bonus materials including a gallery replicating a long-unavailable art book, there’s plenty to win over Street Fighter purists and newcomers alike. Sadly, it’s nigh impossible to enjoy the game at its best with such sloppy controls.
That’s an issue that bleeds into the major new offering for the game, a first person mode dubbed ‘Way of the Hado’. Players step into Ryu’s shoes and bat away hordes of arch-nemesis M. Bison’s soldiers, using the Switch’s motion controls to perform signature moves such as Hadoken or Shouryuken. Or rather, they would, if you could actually perform the move you want to. Instead, you’ll feel more like you’re flailing wildly, again lucking into moves rather than performing them with any level of intention. The inability to actually move Ryu around the battle arena is vexing too, turning the mode into a shooting gallery with fists.
All told, a disappointing offering, made more frustrating by the clear potential of the package that lies just under the surface, seemingly forever out of reach.