We took the day off on Friday to go and have a look at the kitchen we’ve potentially chosen for the new extension. We’re pretty set on it, but I’m not about to spend three or four thousand pounds on something without having a look at it first. The kitchen in question is from Ikea, nothing special in itself there, but living in this part of the world means a trip to Ikea is a bit of a mission.
The closest store to me is in Bristol, which means if I want to go and have a look around I have to drive a 380 mile round trip, which is exactly what I did on Friday. It was my first trip to the Swedish monolith so I didn’t really know what to expect, I just had the mental image I’d built up from the tales people had told me of oddly-named, cheap furniture and utensils piled high. The reality was a lot better than I’d imagined thankfully, much more spacious and less like a big jumble sale than it could have been. The good news is the kitchen looks great; we’ve definitely made the right decision. The flooring needs a bit of re-jigging, the bamboo we had planned isn’t going to fit in properly, but overall it’s going to be perfect (not to mention a damn sight cheaper than the six thousand quoted from a local supplier). It unfortunately means another trip up there in about a month’s time with a van, which I can’t say I’m particularly looking forward to, but it will be good once it’s all done and bought. If you’re really bored and want to know what it’s going to be, I believe it’s called Solar Beech if you should find your way to the website.
Street Fighter IV is out, and if you aren’t working at this very moment in time, I’d have to ask you why you aren’t playing it instead of reading this….
When I read that it was really going to be taking the franchise back to its roots adhering more to the SFII style, I was a little worried. SFII feels very stale to me now, and I was besotted with SFIII, so the thought of ‘dumbing it down’ and losing parrying frightened me. I needn’t have worried though, Capcom have come good, and while it can feel very basic to start with, there’s still bucketloads of depth to the gameplay mechanics. At first the game looks very clunky, the new 3D graphics look a little out of place and overly chunky, and if like me you weren’t overly enamoured with the Street Fighter EX series, you could be forgiven for thinking ‘oh no, not again’. Give it one fight though and the difference couldn’t be starker. Instead of the horrid, sticky mess that was SFEX, what we’ve been given with SFIV is a smooth, fluid, joy of a game.
The first thing which has to be mentioned is the graphics as above. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it won’t have escaped your attention that the series has made its first major foray into 3D. It was a bold step and one which initially drew a lot of criticism, but once again, as with Nintendo choosing the name ‘Wii’, the marketing and design departments have been proven right in their decision. Rather than going for a ‘realistic’ look like the Soul Caliburs and Tekkens of the fighting world, Capcom have gone for a much more cartoon-like interpretation. The characters have muscles on their muscles, exaggerated facial expressions and everything feels like a homage to SFII. The 3D isn’t cel-shaded, but it’s not far off. Newcomers to the series or to fighting games in general won’t feel out of their depth jumping into this one, it’s very accessible and the training modes do a good job of teaching the basics and beginners combos. Those of us who were brought up on the games however will feel totally in their element. All of the returning characters have their classic moves, some with a few from the later games, and the new characters build on existing traditions in terms of special move motions.
The main new change to the fighting system is the addition of ‘Focus Attacks’. By holding MP and MK the player begins to charge a powerful move, flashing white on each of the three stages of being charged. While charging the player develops ‘Hyper Armour’ which adds a boost to the player’s health meter in grey. The bar begins to fill with health until the player is hit again, when it stops. Each of the three stages of charging adds different attributes to the attack, but essentially the attack is powerful and crumples the enemy, allowing a free shot if you’re fast enough. The charge also blocks the first move of an attack and can be unleashed as a counter. Couple this with the return of EX attacks (standard special moves performed with two attack buttons at once, more powerful versions of special moves), a ‘Super’ meter which charges as you attack, and a new ‘Ultra’ gauge which charges as you receive damage, and you’ve got a lot of scope for tactics.
I’d urge anyone and everyone to give it a go, and if you’re a fan of fighters then I flat-out demand you get it. It’s an awesome game, the online works very well (if you can get a non-laggy connection to the other) and it packs a surprising amount of depth. There are plenty of characters to unlock, and if I had to give a negative point, it’d be Capcom introducing another *cheap* final boss in Seth. It’s not enough to degrade the game in any way though, and at less than thirty quid online you can’t go wrong. Thanks Capcom, we’ve been waiting a LONG time for a true Street Fighter sequel, and I think you’ve delivered it.
(now to find a decent stick or an adapter for my PS2 Hori one…..)