Just over a year after they helped reestablish the fighting game genre with the original Street Fighter IV, Capcom returns to an old habit – prefix adjustments – for Super Street Fighter IV. The original game, while significant for the genre, wasn’t the fighting game-of-choice for every fan. Many (myself included) still preferred the intricacy of Street Fighter III, a game who’s extreme subtlety and micro-finesse made it almost impenetrable to those unwilling to fully commit themselves to the battle. But with new gameplay enhancements, improved online modes, new (and old) characters, the game makes its intentions of serving as the connective tissue between the original Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III known and felt with the force of a hundred-hand slaps to the face.
Makoto, Ibuki and Dudley; they were all characters I actually put time in, characters that stood out as arguably the most interesting and fun. Makoto’s extreme speed is legendary and I loved it. My matches against my friend Kyle, brother of Chris, playing as Dudley were some of my favorite moments in recent memory, gaming-wise. Recreating those? I wanted that, I wanted it so bad that I was willing to throw money away to get it. The rest of those characters were just gravy on the main course. Super Street Fighter IV does this, for the most part, and thankfully offers up a great deal more than its relatively small asking price suggests.
As its name suggests, Capcom has taken everything about the original game and, well, made it Super. Major gameplay differences in this update include all characters having at least two Ultra Combos (some, like Blanka and Gen, have more) that can be selected before the match, much like Street Fighter III. Focus Attacks are faster, and the game has also been significantly re-balanced, meaning all characters have had their damage reduced considerably, resulting in longer and more strategic matches. Sakura, a personal favorite, has worse pokes and a shorter shoryuken than before, while others seem a bit mix-matched. Makoto in SF3 had average health (Base Average 1000) and matched Ryu. Here she’s below Ryu and seems to have less options than him. The game is balanced but some characters that are high end offensive seem to lack some options that the ‘core’ characters have in spades.
I won’t call some characters cheap; that would be a mistake in and of itself. I realized this after getting rolled by naturally good tactics and knowing that I was making the mistakes, not them.
SSF4 adds 10 characters to the original game’s 25, and are culled from Street Fighters of the past and include T. Hawk, Deejay (from Super Street Fighter), as well as Cody, Guy, Adon (from Street Fighter Alpha), and Makoto, Dudley, and Ibuki (from Street Fighter III). The SFIII characters don’t seem to mesh as well as I’d hoped, as Dudley is much better off than Makoto and the Street Fighter Alpha characters seem arguably just as good, if not better than most. Guy’s cross up game is insane, and requires a spider-sense to predict right, and I suspect Adon will become a new favorite for many.
The game also introduces two entirely new characters to the roster, although how you’ll react to them will depend entirely on your preferences. Juri is something of a double-addition, as she’s the first Korean and Taekwondo fighter in the series long history, and she doesn’t play like anyone else. She moves fast and hits even faster, and it was interesting to see her lobby back fireballs while charging – and holding – her own against others. Turkish oil wrestler Hakan is very…oily. A grappler by trade, he operates more like Zangief, although his moves hit with less authority than the Red Cyclone (or even fellow grappler El Fuerte). With his greased up antics you might think he would challenge Dan for the title of resident jokester, but Hakan’s definitely a serious addition and it will be interesting to see how players adapt and learn to manage him over time. You haven’t lived until you’ve been squirted through the manly thighs of a man on a mission.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the substantial changes that Capcom made to the game’s online mulitplayer, which seems to have taken fans complaints about the original system to heart. The different modes have been refined to the point of near-perfection, including Ranked, Endless Play, and Team Battles available to keep things really interesting. Ranked matches are particularly thrilling, as the Player Points and Battle Point system has been changed considerably, as they now reflect your overall skill (Player Points), and individual character skill (Battle Points) as you build your online reputation. Actual connections seem on par with the first game, and lag indicators will help you weed out those with less-than-suitable connection speeds.
Endless Mode features packed lobbies (up to 8 players) in the most arcade-like experience you’ll find in the game, and Team Battle means having to pick your partners with a little more thought and care.
Also available are significant improvements to actually helping players improve their game, including Spectator Modes and Replay Mode. You’ll be doing plenty of Spectating during longer Endless matches, and it would be wise to take note of how the more talented players handle themselves – and their favorite characters. Replay Mode (once unlocked) allows you to upload saved matches and watch them in the Replay Theater. Street Fighter fans are no stranger to watching favorite matches online, and that Capcom would include this feature (to some extent) here is a great
Other changes that should make fans very happy include having the full roster of characters (all 35) available from the start, meaning you won’t have to play through and defeat final boss Seth to unlock anyone. Speaking of Seth, the infamously difficult boss is now much easier to defeat this time around, which should open up the game’s multiple (and still horrendous) anime-inspired endings to players looking to see every last bit of the single-player game. The long-missing bonus rounds from Street Fighter II make their triumphant comeback, and it felt just as good to demolish a car with your bare hands now as it ever did.
The game also looks better than ever, with new unlockable colors available for every character that dramatically change their appearance onscreen, almost making them look like living sketches. The new backgrounds are equally fitting, and bustle with more life and vitality than anything we saw in the original game (one locale in Africa, complete with curious hippos and a solar eclipse, is outstanding). The game also benefits from having newly scored tracks for some levels, new compositions, as well as a completely new (and completely ridiculous) announcer that just makes everything feel more alive than ever before. The English-language vocals are ridiculously bad, and can mercifully be switched to Japanese after unlocking the feature.
The only major disappointment is that originally the alternate costumes for all the characters from Street Fighter 4 were suppose to be in the game. However, I discovered that you need to still buy them, although those who purchased them originally will see them carry over to the new game. Capcom has been vocal that there would be bonuses for people who also purchased the original game, but nothing has been revealed at the time of this review. A free downloadable update that’s scheduled to come this summer will bring full tournament management options to the game
In every way possible, Super Street Fighter IV is an honest improvement over the original game, and continues its mission to help reestablish the fighting genre among the masses. But its appeal goes far beyond simply adding new and returning characters to the roster, as just about every aspect has been scrubbed to help widen its appeal across the board. The enhancements to the online multiplayer modes are considerable, and hardcore fans will love having Endless and Replay modes available to them. But the game’s greatest trick is helping make the often incomprehensible world of shoryukens and fireball combos accessible and meaningful to practically everyone. For many, this will be the definitive fighting game experience.