Review: Super Street Fighter IV

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Super Street Fighter IV.

We’re talking about Street Fighter in 2010. STREET FIGHTER.

Let that sink in for a few moments. After a long and successful run that was primarily composed of the Street Fighter 2, 3 and Alpha series, it seemed like Capcom’s signature franchise had rode off into the sunset after tearing up arcades and homes for over a decade. It wasn’t until a few years ago that producer Yoshinori Ono seriously looked at the possibility of a proper sequel, and convinced the powers that be at Capcom to give him a shot at revising their once dominant title.

What a rebirth it was! Street Fighter IV arrived in North America to great fanfare in early 2009, after receiving huge critical acclaim from the Japanese market, and a few lucky gamers on this side of the pond that had access to imported machines. Ono’s decision to craft the game with 3D characters and environments that stuck with the 2D gameplay from previous titles was inspired, and his team deftly mixed elements of the old and new together for a game that worked with modern sensibilities while respecting its past. Its roster of 25 characters ranged from mainstays like Ryu and Chun Li to more obscure choices like Rose and newcomers like El Fuerte, with someone for every play style. Super moves carried over, with its bar segmented for use in powered up EX moves with boosted damage and range. The new Focus move offered varying degrees of opponent stun and armour penetration based on how long you charged, and could be combined with a dash to sidestep projectiles or interrupting your combos. Last but not least, the new Ultra moves were devastating attacks that became available as you absorbed damage, keeping each round in a state of risk/reward that required continued diligence to achieve victory.

What else was left? As it turns out, a lot; Super Street Fighter IV adds a ton of goodies to the formula for both the hardcore and the newcomer alike. 10 additional characters join the mix, from the rest of the New Warriors in T. Hawk and Dee Jay to the Final Fight crew in Guy and Cody. Capcom also adds a pair of brand new faces in the Korean Tae Kwon Do combatant Juri and the Turkish oil wrestler Hakan (who plays as ridiculously as the description implies).

They have campaigns to play through, but they serve primarily as an extended tutorial. The opening and closing cut scenes are very brief, and their plots are inconsequential but amusing; there’s something almost giggle inducing about Dudley pounding his opponents to seek out new roses for his estate. You can also learn techniques from the Trial mode, which starts off with basic special moves and continues into some truly thumb twisting combinations that chain together regular and special attacks with interrupts and directional changes.

The real heart of Street Fighter has always been in fighting human opponents, and this game really delivers. First and foremost, it’s easier than ever to find and keep playing with others which was a big problem with the original Street Fighter IV. Team Battle lets you split up into a pair of teams (no, really) that go head to head in staggered matches, and you can always look for a quick Ranked Battle which can earn you both Player Points and Battle Points to boost your virtual ego. The best addition is Endless Battle, which is essentially a quarter mode with winners holding court while losers are shuffled to the bottom of the queue to await the next battle. This totally reinvents the experience: all players in your party can chat and watch every match together, the matchmaking for everyone involved is completely automated and there’s a real incentive for every victory. Nothing keeps the competitive fires going like winning or going home, and Super Street Fighter IV delivers this in spades with Endless Battle.

This ties into the fighter changes that Capcom has made with the Super edition as well. Each character has been subtly adjusted: Sagat feels a tiny bit slower, Seth’s hit priority doesn’t seem quite as high and Dan’s recovery time from attacks is almost inhumanly fast. Every fighter now offers a pair of Ultra moves as well; the returning characters gain a supplemental one, while the new fighters arrive with a brand new pair. Actually, check that; many of the Ultras entering the Street Fighter IV series here are favourites from previous entries, there are some recognizable Super High Arts that veterans will appreciate mixed in with the brand new ones. These fill in some significant gaps or weaknesses for a lot of characters: M. Bison’s new Psycho Crusher is a deadly weapon to pull off after change of direction cross ups, Sagat’s Tiger Cannon has a huge range and Ryu’s Metsu Shoryuken is lethal against enemies being juggled.

The network code has been significantly improved as well, resulting in a much smoother online experience. I haven’t dropped a single match to accidental disconnection or lag, even during personal connection instability or with a full 8-man party rumbling away into the night. The public matchmaking is still pretty rough for mediocre players (I’m writing this after a 2-17 debacle) and there are still far too many Ryu/Ken/Akuma users, but it’s the best way to improve your game.

A common and accurate criticism of the game is its controls with a console gamepad, and that hasn’t changed. Using the default Xbox 360 controller is passable, but it feels awkward and frustrating; for the best experience, I recommend investing in another device. I’ve been playing with Mad Catz’s awesome Tournament Edition FightStick for over a year, and the difference is like moving from coach to first class. This game is an experience best enjoyed in style, and although there are more affordable options such as the Special Edition FightStick or products from other brands such as Hori, I give my full endorsement to the Sanwa parts, solid cabinet feel and highly customizable TE from Mad Catz.

If Street Fighter IV was Capcom’s appeal for fighting game lovers to give them another chance, Super Street Fighter IV is their thanks for the overwhelming support that it received. First but not foremost, the game launched at a $40 USD price point to ease the demand on the wallet of any gamer that supported the original. Those who picked up the disc in 2009 also get some bonuses here, with a couple of exclusive colours and the automatic importing of any DLC costumes that were purchased. It’s packed with the returning characters and features that fans requested (you can beat up cars again!), a healthy dose of new additions and an incredible sense of polish that fits these parts together.

Super Street Fighter IV is one of the greatest games to arrive this generation. It’s one of the best fighting games ever made at a really low price that brings generations together with its flawless combination of the old and new. The game is the latest top quality entry for a franchise that not only created but has now also revitalized an entire genre, and it has the quality and depth to firmly root itself in every fight fan’s gaming rotation for many years to come.

 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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