Five by Five – Super Street Fighter IV

Super Street Fighter IV is an update to the original SFIV released just under two years ago. Both versions have the return of all twelve of the classic characters from Street Fighter II, and this update introduces ten more to the roster. The format is familiar to anyone with experience in the tourney fighter genre that Street Fighter II helped to define; an eclectic gaggle of martial artists get together to be the tar out of each other for vaguely-defined reasons. Should you put your quarter up for this one even if you have the original? Let’s step into the ring and find out.

Get ready… Fight!!

Make new friends and keep the old – The updated version of 2008’s classic roster ups the number of fighters to 35, supplementing the original dozen with characters from Super Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha, and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, plus two new faces. Better still, every character is unlocked right from the beginning. All the fighters are also reasonably balanced, which is no small feat with so many characters. Numerous tweaks have been made to characters old and new to keep everything square.

Here comes a new challenger – Like SFIV before it, SSFIV has a solid ‘easy to learn difficult to master’ fighting system. A feature I find to be key to good pick-up-and-play fighting games is a simple one-press universal counter, and the one in this game also charges up the bar for your big finisher. Said bar also goes up when you take damage, so if you’re getting pounded yours will charge up quick (though likewise if you fire off your big attack and the opponent survives, his big gun will be coming after you). While being user-friendly for new players the game also maintains the deeper combat that fighting purists crave. I still don’t know what FADC means, but if you do you’ll find a suitably smart fighter.

Everything old is new again – SSFIV takes graphics forwards by taking them back. The characters and many of the stages are designed to be 3d emulations of the classic 2d graphics (and gameplay) of Street Fighter II. Watching the faithful emulations of the classic attacks and animations will make you feel like you’re back in the arcade, putting your quarter up for nexts with one hand and balancing greasy pizza on a paper plate on the other. I also like that the game doesn’t move as fast as games like Street Fighter II Turbo or Marvel vs Capcom 2 so that you can actually see what’s going on. Even when you’re losing it can be a fun fight to watch.

I got next – What really sets SSFIV apart from the previous iteration is the online functionality, especially the addition of Endless Mode. Up to eight people can gather in a lobby ‘winner stays loser pays’ style just like the old days, a feature bafflingly missing from the original SFIV. Capcom also went the extra mile and added a Team Battle mode wherein you can take a team of your friends online and try to fight your way through opposing teams. There is a bit of lag now and then but even on my finnickey connection having only two lagspikes out of a hundred matches isn’t half bad. Additionally, almost everything in the game can be unlocked by just playing online a lot.

Welcome back – Knowing that a lot of folks who are eyeing this one already have the first Street Fighter 4, the starting price for this show is $40 instead of the usual $60. Still a little bit higher than I’d like, but then I’m the sort who usually waits for used games because I don’t like paying more than $30. Niftily, any extra costumes you bought for SFIV are useable in SSFIV, and two extra costume colors are made available only to players with a save log from the original game.

Back to the Flowchart

What button does what now? – As is the case with most good games, finding five things at which to point the finger often involves nitpicking. So here’s nit number one: less-than-perfect interface. For some reason the move lists take the form of an assortment of menus instead of the snazzy fight cards like in SFIV. Also it would have been a big help if, like many other fighters (Street Fighters included) before, it showed you the input notations when you’re choosing which of your two Ultra Combos to take into battle. Should I use the Bushin Muso Renge or the Bushin Goraisenpujin? New players had better take a crack at Training mode first or have a webpage open with the moves. If I had my druthers I’d flash the move list on the VS screen before the fight starts so you can try to memorize one or two.

I’m pressing the button as hard as I can! – Maybe it’s just me but I find a majority of special move inputs involving the upward arc unusually difficult to pull off. This goes double for double-diagonal inputs like Guile’s Ultra Combo and triple for 720-degree rotations like Zangief’s UC. That said though, there does seem to be a nice balance that the moves that are nearly impossible to use cause massively rewarding damage when/if you ever get them to work.

So many faces to kick, so little time – One might say that there’s almost too many characters. Thirty-five characters can be a lot to pick from for new players who don’t already know and love these guys from past Street Fighter games, and as above the enigmatic names of the Ultra Combos generally don’t help newcomers figure out what to do.

Yay capitalism – I suppose this one isn’t so much a gripe against the game as it is against the company. As with the previous iteration there’s extra costumes for some of the characters available on the marketplace, with costumes for the rest of the gang soon to come. Also as with the previous iteration, I’m pretty sure that somewhere down the road there’s going to be a pack with all the costumes at a discounted price. I can see the financial logic in snagging a few extra dollars from the fans who just have to have the new stuff on day one, but still it vexes me.

One is the loneliest player – Some folks may be a bit bored with the lack of unlockables. If you’re playing solo there’s nothing in particular to be gained from going through everyone’s Arcade mode (aside from seeing the laughably tangled mess that is Street Fighter’s story at this point). But then again, if you’re looking for single-player fun why are you playing a tourney fighter?

The Final Word

If you already have the original SFIV this one is probably still worth a shot due to the bigger roster and added online modes. If you don’t have SFIV, this is what that game should have been two years back, and if you don’t already have a solid 2d-esque fighter in your stable than this is the one to snag to bring to parties. The full roster unlocked from the beginning means nobody has to tirelessly slog through Arcade to unlock everything for the gang, so it’s a sound rental for a weekend. Folks who enjoy climbing leaderboards will find this a fine purchase as well. Amongst the consoles this decision is heavily dependant upon where your friends play online and controller preference, with game performance comprable across the board.

Super Street Fighter IV was played on the Xbox 360, and is also available on the Playstation 3 and as an arcade cabinet. Initial and current retail price is $39.99. The ESRB has rated this game T for Teen for Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. Super Street Fighter IV is developed and published by Capcom, with additional development work from Dimps. All copyrights property of their respective owners.

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