Released to US consoles last year, Street Fighter IV helped to reinvigorate the franchise, if not the entire fighting genre. Now, a little more than a year later, Capcom is at it again, perhaps with less lofty goals.
Where Street Fighter IV introduced Capcom and Street Fighter fans to the notion of 3D fighters brawling on a 2D plane with an artistic flair and managed to respark the flagging interest of aging fighter fans, Super Street Fighter IV is more about nuance on its surface.
The game delivers 10 more characters, boosting the count to 35 and several new modes, but doesn't tinker much with what turned out to be a very successful formula. Is that enough to warrant a full game at a $US40 price tag?
Tweaks: They may be minor, almost imperceptible to all but the most seasoned Street Fighter fans, but Capcom did a lot of balancing work on the moves of those 25 characters that they brought over from Street Fighter IV. You may not appreciate it, but long-term fans of the franchise will. If nothing else, if gives you another reason to sink back into your favourite character and remaster him or her.
35 Characters, No Waiting: Capcom has finally capitulated and done away with the need to unlock characters before you can play them. What that means is that players new or old to the franchise will be able to drop in and select from any of the 25 Street Fighter IV characters, the eight new characters from the franchise's history or the two brand new character creations. Thank you Capcom, keep it up.
Bonus Stage, Classic Characters: In re-examining what was great about the storied history of Street Fighter games someone realised that those dopey bonus stages were actually kind of fun. Also fun, some of those classic characters like T.Hawk and DeeJay, both of which make a return to the game along with the car-smashing, barrel-breaking bonus stages.
Juri and Hakan: There's plenty of subtle and not so subtle changes that came with Super Street Fighter IV, but the two you'll likely spend the most time with are Korea's Juri and Turkey's Hakan. Juri is a fireball kicking Tae Kwon Doist that comes with some interesting new abilities, like charged fireballs and diving kicks that can be chained together. She is a great Ryu and Ken replacement for those of us finally willing to try something new. Hakkan is an oily grabber who seems to be a little bit Zangief and a little bit Blanka. Not my cup of tea, but a joy to watch play. Both are the sort of additions that give this latest Street Fighter legs.
I Like To Watch: One of my chief complaints with Street Fighter IV was that it didn't allow you to watch in-progress online matches. Fortunately, Super fixes that, allowing you to spectate as if you were in the arcade with the players. Not only is this a lot more fun than a matchmaking screen, but it also gives you a chance to check out the competition's play style before you take them on.
Set to Record: What's better than watching? Rewatching! Super Street Fighter IV now includes the ability to save off your favourite battles and watch them at your leisure. A Replay Channel gives you access to a slew of different matches from around the world as well as a running list of your matches. You can go through all of these and save off your favourites to your hard drive to examine in minute detail whenever you want. Better still you can invite friends into an online viewing room so you can watch the saved bouts together and chat about it.
Team Battles: So far, my favourite addition to online play is the ability to host team battles featuring four to eight players. The game automatically sorts the players into two groups and then has you fight it out, direct elimination style, until one team has been completely defeated. All the while team mates can watch the matches and chat with each other. It's currently the closest thing I've ever seen to replicating the Street Fighter arcade experience. And I love it.
The Promise of Things to Come: Unveiled at Captivate earlier this month, Super Street Fighter IV will be getting a free download patch on June 15 which will add a tournament manager to the game. That means you will be able to have the game create tiered online tournaments with all of the benefits of the current team battle mode. Spectacular.
Lag: Lag is the hobgoblin of good online fighting titles. And unfortunately, Super Street Fighter IV has its share of it. The matches I played over the course of several days were almost entirely lag free. But in the handful of times I ran into lag it was game ending. One Team Battle I hosted had such bad lag that the game paused and automatically turned off spectator mode to try and resolve the issue. Unfortunately that just lead to a complete online failure of the matches. Hopefully this lag issue is the product of an excessive number of new gamers checking out the title and some early kinks.
Out in the Cold: Do you own Street Fighter IV? Are you longingly looking at some of these new modes like Team Battle, the Replay Channel, Tournament Mode? Tough. Capcom has nothing for you. This iterative Street Fighter step forward requires a $US40 purchase to access. No exceptions.
Super Street Fighter IV might sound like a iterative title, one that doesn't deliver much new for the $US40. But the Street Fighter IV's core mechanics were already rock solid, as was its look. The inclusion of new characters are nice, but that's not what you're paying for here.
What your $US40 buys you is a chance to experience Street Fighter the way it is meant to be played, as part of a community. It's unfortunate that arcades are for the most part dead in the US, but what Super Street Fighter IV manages to do is bring to your home that experience of playing in front of groups, smack talking, of being centre stage among a gathering of gamers.
The notion of team battles and tournaments, of watching a bout unfurl live as you chat with friends and strangers about a common interest. The ability to watch tragically bad and spectacularly good bouts in your home with friends online. All of these things rebuild the community torn down by the death of arcades.
This is the future of fighting games. I can't imagine playing a Tekken, a Mortal Kombat, a Dead or Alive without it.
Super Street Fighter IV was developed and published by Capcom for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on April 27. Retails for $US39.99/$AU79.95. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played all game types and modes on the Xbox 360. Played multiple online matches and team battles.
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