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Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind(2009)
Exclusive with the PS3 game Street Fighter IV: Collector's Edition.
For more about Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind and the Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind Blu-ray release, see Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on March 10, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind Blu-ray Review
The Street Fighter gang punches their way onto Blu-ray!
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, March 10, 2009
The Street Fighter video game series has had a profound impact on the gaming industry, and the newly released Street Fighter 4 has marked a new high in the fighting genre. For those fortunate enough to track down a copy of the Collector's Edition of Street Fighter 4 (there weren't many in my area), Capcom included a supplemental anime film titled Street Fighter 4: The Ties That Bind. While not as entertaining as the prior Street Fighter anime films (including Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Street Fighter Alpha, and the sequel Street Fighter Alpha: Generations), The Ties That Bind is still a nice introduction to the new characters that populate the 4th installment of the video game series, and I hope to see more video game studios jump on the bandwagon by including a Blu-ray film along with the game.
With the greatest martial arts fighters from around the world disappearing at an alarming rate, Guile, Cammy, and Chun Li are assigned to track down those responsible. Through their investigation, they quickly learn of a project known as BLECE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Cell Explosion), which is being developed by a corporation known as S.I.N. The head of this organization is a creature known as Seth (kind of lame, right?), who wants to imprison Ryu (who has been living a life of self-chosen exile in the desert), and harness the Satsui No Hado power that exists within him. Seth believes Ryu's internal power is the key to completing his project, and becoming an unstoppable fighting force. Will the Street Fighter gang be able to stop Seth, and could it be possible that a legendary Street Fighter villain is actually behind the actions of the S.I.N organization?
If that sounded a little convoluted to you, then you read my mind. The storyline isn't necessarily bad, but there is simply too much information crammed into a 65 minute film. At least half of the 26 characters in the Street Fighter 4 game are given at least a cameo appearance in the film, which means a new character shows up almost every 5 minutes. I'm a big Street Fighter fan, so I enjoyed seeing these beloved characters in a high definition film, but I wish the film had a greater focus, and presented a thorough, engaging story on just one or two characters. I can certainly understand the desire to provide fans a glimpse at their favorite character (thereby including as many cameos as possible), but I felt it really became a detriment to the story when characters (such as Sakura) showed up for no reason. We should also keep in mind that cut-scenes from the anime film are included in the single-player version of the Street Fighter 4 game, so I'm assuming the decision to include multiple characters was based partly on the need to include character archs for the game. Aside from those complaints, the greatest disappointment in the story, is the lack of fight sequences. For a film based on a "fighting" game, we would expect to see a heavy emphasis on the actual fighting. Unfortunately, the fighting takes a back seat to the dialogue, and we are left with only a small handful of brief action sequences. What I did appreciate about the plot of the film, was the inclusion of Seth and Maya (Crimson Viper). Both characters are new to the fourth game installment, and it is nice to witness a little background on them.
Regarding the animation quality, this is a low-budget affair. My best advice is that you go into this film with expectations that are more in line with an episode of an anime television series from several years ago. Backgrounds are mostly crude, uninspired artwork, and character detail doesn't fair much better. Details such as shadows on the ruffles of clothing are rarely given definition, so the character models often look merely like outlines sketches. Even given the dated look of the animation, lines are thankfully crisp, and character movement in the few fight sequences is well done. I wish they would have used less artificial brightening in some sequences, since there is a tendency for colors to appear washed out, but I would imagine that was a style choice the director was forced to use in the absence of resources to create the effect using actual animation.
The voice-acting on the original Japanese track is excellent across the board. Considering many of us have been playing Street Fighter games for the past 2 decades (and have grown accustomed to the trademark statements of the characters), I was pleased that the actors didn't butcher the voices, and did a commendable job of stepping into the roles. The English track is also decent, but some people may find it distracting that seemingly no effort was made to match the voicework with the lip movement. There were times on the English track, where the voice actor would still be talking even after the onscreen character had completely closed their mouth.
Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080P, The Ties That Bind is encoded using the AVC codec, with a bitrate that hovers around 20 MBPS. This is a transfer that is hard to judge given the subpar animation quality. Black levels don't appear as deep as other animated features, and colors appear subdued, The detail in the animation doesn't exactly push the envelope of high definition, but at least the transfer seems to replicate the source material. I didn't detect any scenes that appeared blurry, though artificial brightening is used in two or three scenes, and tends to force out line detail. Banding was non-existant, which is a given when color gradients aren't present in the animation, and you won't have to worry about the presence of digital artifacting or edge enhancement. Lastly, digital noise was only present in one scene around the 40 minute mark (watch Seth's suit), and wasn't terribly distracting. Overall, I'd say the video presentation is an accurate representation of the animation, which reveals it's low budget roots around every corner.
Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Although the back of the disc case incorrectly lists the audio tracks as Japanese/English in Dolby Digital 5.1, Capcom has gone the extra mile to include two lossless tracks in Japanese and English, presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. There are also Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks in Japanese and English, but those with a surround sound system will want to choose their language preference in the lossless tracks (both 2.0 mixes lack complexity, and are muffled next to their lossless brethren). The DTS tracks are crisp, but I was a little disappointed in the lack of surround usage through the majority of the feature. Dialogue driven scenes are front heavy, which is unfortunate given the lack of fight sequences, but when the onscreen action finally reared it's head, my surrounds kicked in to deliver a sufficiently robust experience. The well-balanced volume levels in dialogue and music appeared to be similar, if not identical on both the native Japanese track, and the English dubbed track, so fans of either language option won't feel short-changed. I don't remember any standout scenes that hit my subwoofer and brought a smile to my face, which is disappointing given the missed opportunity to deliver some of the trademark in-game special moves we've all performed on numerous occasions. Couldn't we have been given just one "Sonic Boom" from Guile?
Subtitles are delivered in 5 variations, but the only one which concerned me was the English track(I don't speak French, Italian, or German, and my Spanish is limited to ordering off a menu in a restaurant). Given my preference for watching films in their native language, a high-quality subtitle track is important to me, and I'm pleased to report there was only one occasion where a word was clearly missing.
Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The special features section on the disc merely contains five trailers for the Street Fighter 4 game, presented in 720P, and afforded a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. I know this is slim, but what can we expect when the film itself is a supplement?
Street Fighter IV: The Ties That Bind Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Unlike the typical Blu-ray review, my recommendation here is based solely on whether it is worth the additional money to purchase the Street Fighter 4: Collector's Edition for your PS3. While the animation quality is low-budget, and the story feels a bit contrived, the audio/video quality is an accurate portrayal of the source material, and there will be no question you are watching a Blu-ray instead of a DVD. Personally, I found the extra 20 bucks a worthy price to pay for a package that includes this Blu-ray film, a soundtrack CD, and a Ryu figure (that now stands proudly on my entertainment center). Like I said at the beginning of this review, I hope more studios follow Capcom's lead and create supplemental anime films for release alongside the game, though I'd like to see a higher animation budget in the future.
There is one additional note worth mentioning. If you own a PS3 and an Xbox 360, you should keep in mind the 360 version of the Collector's Edition comes with a hybrid disc of the film, that is reportedly only playable on the 360 (and in a maximum resolution of 720P). I guess that may explain why all of the retail outlets in my area have numerous copies of the Collector's Edition for 360, while the PS3 version is sold out. Bottom line, if your planning on buying the Street Fighter 4 Collector's Edition, and the anime film is important to you, do yourself a favor and track down a copy for your PS3.
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