Anyone who read our review of Street Fighter IV (SFIV) last February will know where this review is heading. If you didn’t, or just want to remind yourselves why we voted it our Game of The Month for February 2009, then curl yourself up into a Blanka-like ball and roll on over to our SFVI homepage and read it now because Super Street Fighter IV (SSFIV) is essentially a refined, updated, polished version of that very same game.
We’re not about to cover too much old ground here then, but if you did play SFIV you’ll know that graphically it’s the finest looking game in the series -- with gorgeously colourful backdrops and wonderful animations that are at their finest when executing an orgy of feverish (yet strategic, of course) button-mashing, head-butting and face slapping violence. Suffice to say, SFIV managed to give the classic Street Fighter 2D perspective a fresh and very welcome lick of paint.
The gameplay was also something to shout home about. The iconic list of fighters have never moved around the arena better, showing off their Spinning Piledrivers, Tornado Throws and Super Onimusous with some style. Capcom cleverly fused classic gameplay with new ideas to deliver the finest fighting game of 2009. As we enthused in our review:
“While it's certainly nice to have a good mix of suitably impressive and opulently decorated arenas to battle in, it's still the fighting that shines brightest and makes Street Fighter IV so addictive and entertaining.”
That opinion still hasn’t changed for SSFIV. The foundations lay down by SFIV, and the serious as a whole, remain largely the same in this latest revision. Anyone familiar with the age-old Street Fight formula will immediately feel at home with the obligatory tournament mode, where you pick a fighter and trade Hadukens and Shyroukens across three frantic rounds before tackling the next player in the roster. Without it Street Fighter would be like eating bread without butter.
What intrigues us most about SSFIV is why Capcom is releasing it as a standalone game and not DLC, and whether it’s actually worth investing in what initially appears to be an upgraded version of game that we’re already playing. However, after spending a week in its company we’ve now come to a definitive verdict...yes it most definitely is.
Capcom has tweaked the move set of every fighter from SFIV. Gameplay styles remain the same but they’ve been refined, some more subtlety than others, in an effort to add a greater balance to the gameplay and ensure, specifically in the online arena, that some characters aren’t more over-powered or a lot weaker than others. Seth and Sagat for example, two ridiculously strong fighters in SFIV, are no longer overpowered. The damage they can dish out is much less, and the same goes for some of the weaker characters who can now punish more severely. This balancing act from Capcom has resulted in a more refined, challenging and less frustrating experience overall.
So, what of the roster? Well, all the characters from Street Fighter IV are back but there are also ten new additions to the line-up that offer up even more play styles and tactical challenges. Eight of these characters have been plucked from previous Street Fighter games, including the young Japanese Karate expert Makoto from Street Fighter II and Adon, Sagat’s student from the original Street Fighter. Old favourites such as the agile Native American T. Hawk and cheerful kickboxer D-Jay inject some new/old personality (depending which way you look at it) into the impressive 35 strong roster.
The arrival of two new characters, Hakan And Juri Han, in SSFIV is somewhat overshadowed by the addition of some familiar faces, who we were far more keen to take into the arena to see how they’d evolved. The new guys are still a fun addition to a roster that is brimming with personality and variety, but neither we speculate will ever be as memorable as some of Street Fighter's classic characters.
Hakan, the Turkish Wrestler, bizarrely covers himself in olive oil, which makes his body slippery. Though this allows him to move at speed for a short period of time it also leaves him vulnerable to attack while he's oiling up his pecks. It’s quite amusing to see him squeezing his opponents through his bulging oiled up muscles, but he feels slightly out of place in the current cast of fighters.
Taekwondo fighter, Juri Han, on the other hand fits into the cast perfectly. Her play style is slightly similar to Chun-Li with a range of kicks in her arsenal of moves that are suited more to attacking and swift hits than defence. When playing with Juri online our defences have been broken relatively easily as she only has a dodge defensive move, so she's not going to be someone we'll play with that often.
With 35 characters to choose from the strategic options are just crazy though and now you also get the choice of two ultra combos. Ken, for example now has access to an Ultra Dragon Punch (Shinryuken) and Ultra Kicks (Guren Senpukyaku,) while Ryu’s Ultra Fireball or armour breaking Ultra Dragon Punch adds yet another strategic layer to a game that already boasted such a deep and rewarding fighting system in SFIV.
So, in the arena Street Fighter is a more balanced and strategically deep, yet enjoyably accessible experience and Capcom has continued the good work by some of the other new additions. In the single player tournament there are five new stages to fight on. Our favourite is a Jungle arena where Giraffes, and Zebras wander around while a couple of Hippos laze around on the grass -- it's quite a surreal sight. You'll also notice some snazzy new intro and ending animations for each character and should enjoy the return of those classic barrel and car breaking bonus stages.
By far the biggest and most impressive change though is the multiplayer component. Fighting in ranked and unranked games 1 vs 1 with a refined experience would probably have been enough for most fans, but being able to fight 2 vs 2, 3 vs 3, or 4 vs 4 in (tag) team mode is an absolute blast and adds vast replay value. It's also worth noting that now you can't see who your opponent chooses before you choose your character. You'll go into each fight on a level playing field. That'll save some much needed time in lobbies where both parties often sit it out to see who chooses first.
An Endless Battle mode completes the robust online set-up. You jump into a lobby with eight players and while two players do battle you can sit back and watch. It's a great place to showcase your skills and you get a real buzz if you manage to stay in the arena for a long time as challengers step forward to face you. Finally, there's the Replay Channel. SSFIV didn't need it to be a great game, but it's yet another reason among many why this revision is a worthy purchase and much more than a bog standard upgrade. Here you can watch and upload matches, so it's a good place to pick up tips and strategies.
What you’ve essentially got with Super Street Fighter IV is a more balanced Street Fighter game that has been enhanced with more characters, more play styles, more moves and a blindingly brilliant online component that represents the pinnacle of the franchise's glittering career. The only negative words that we can say about the game is that we have no idea where Capcom can take the Street Fighter franchise from here.
-The Final Word-
What you have essentially got with Super Street Fighter IV is a more balanced Street Fighter game that represents the pinnacle of the franchise's glittering career.