Street Fighter experts on why Switch's SFII lands the nostalgia blows, but sucks for esports

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Street Fighter is the glittering jewel of the fighting game community (FGC) and, although there have been a few issues with Street Fighter V, It and it’s predecessor are synonymous with competitive two-dimensional punchfests.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, as the Switch edition is called, is a love-letter to the original 1991 release, rebalancing several characters and adding several new features, partially to appeal to that nostalgia, and partially to convince you to shell out £40 for a game that’s 26 years old.

Honestly, when I originally started putting the article together, it was with excitement: I’d hoped that a new edition of Street Fighter II might have lead to it regaining popularity in the FGC. However, there are many minor flaws that add up to make it a poor fit for modern esports, and the huge fighting game tournaments that now swirl around the Street Fighter franchise. I spoke to three fighting game experts, who revealed that the issues are that the game is launching for the Switch, and Capcom clearly have their eyes on other things.

Evil Ryu and Violent Ken are Ultra Street Fighter II’s new recruits - clearly original Ken wasn’t violent enough

“I kind of wondered if (an esports resurgence) might happen with Ultra Street Fighter II, because it’s rebalanced as opposed to just spitting out a remake.” Said Michael Martin, a content creator for Yahoo Esports who is focused on the FGC. “Because it’s Switch only though, it’s not likely on any official level.”

Martin mentions the grassroots movement by ST Revival, an organisation dedicated to trying to build the profile of competitive Street Fighter 2 Turbo, who are often at Wednesday Night Fights, a fighting game event running each week in Southern California. It’s popular, but it doesn’t fit the same mold as Street Fighter V’s big tournaments.

“Certainly not esports relevance,” SaidAndi Hamilton, the UK Media Street Fighter Champion. “It’s fair to say a new version of the game, with a few balance tweaks, will likely mean it’ll show up at a few tournaments. But the fact it is on the Switch, with no fightstick and no LAN port for online play, if it even has it, will mean it won’t go major leagues.”

Really when you think about it, shouldn’t everyone in Street Fighter have names prefixed with violent?

Regardless of the new balancing work done before the new remake comes to the Switch,Gary Dooton, a photographer covering esports events in the UK, is a big fan, excited to play the game. However, he doesn’t see Capcom committing to the long-term support: “Capcom will want to continue focusing its efforts on balancing and updating sfv, as well as growing the scene. Also, esports viable games require constant stats monitoring, balancing and patching, and I can’t see them spending a long time balancing characters from a 25 year old game”

“Unless there is publisher support, it would be difficult for SF2 to ‘be an esport.’ said Martin. “Their focus is on current, new games (Street Fighter V and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite,) which will have broader appeal than SF2 thanks to multi-console/PC releases and esports initiatives.”

So, there probably won’t be big-money tournaments centered around Ultra Street Fighter II and the trio have admitted they’re all keen to try the game, with Dooton admitting that so much of the reason he’s keen to try the game out is the Switch’s portability: Unfortunately, the lack of peripherals and sizeable cost might keep fans and potential tournament organisers away from Nintendo’s little black box.

Violent Vega here, doing some acrobatics

“The investment to even play this game for someone who is into competitive gaming is steep,” Said Martin. “ Console, game, most likely need a gamepad or a fightstick. That’s a heavy price to pay for a SF2 remake.”

Still, if Capcom decided they wanted to get serious about bringing Ultra Street Fighter II to arenas around the world, what would they need to do to make it better?

“The only thing they could do to improve its relevance would be to provide alternative controller support in the form of fightsticks, because the execution required seems like it would be frustrating and unsuited to the joycon,” Said Dooton. “The Pro controller would start to mitigate the problem, but serious and professional players would need a six button fightpad at least, and most would prefer fightsticks.”

“Putting USF2 on multiple consoles. and lowering the price, would help increase its exposure.” said Martin. “When HD Remix launched, it was a tournament-worthy game. I don’t see any reason why USF2 can’t be other than Capcom has its eyes on SFV and Marvel for esports.”

Violent Ryu and Violent Blanka here, facing down in the SNES edition of SFII

Ultimately though, the general consensus is that it’s a nostalgia grab. “The Switch version of SFII will, for 95% of the audience, trade on nostalgia over any sort of competitive want.” Said Hamilton. “5% will be interested in the new balance changes and things like being able to tech throws and be up for playing it competitively.”

“This is a game being sold on nostalgia to a Nintendo fan base who has previous for lapping this sort of stuff up. Capcom/SF fans will definitely get it, but I imagine only a small percentage of those will actually start playing it competitively.”

“It’s one of those things where someone buys a Switch, sees there’s a SF2, and goes ‘man I remember playing that.’” Says Martin. “New SF fans are probably being exposed to SFV. I don’t know if there is any incentive for them to buy a Switch just to play USF2. Especially when there are multiple other options to play SF2 games if they were interested — emulation and such.”