Review: Super Street Fighter IV (PS3)
Title: Super Street Fighter IV
Format: BluRay Disc
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Here we are, a little over a year later and Street Fighter IV’s first (and last?) update is upon us. Not DLC, not a sequel, but essentially a stand-alone retail expansion pack, budget priced at $40. Hopefully this review will help you decide if it’s worth the upgrade.
In case you slept through Street Fighter IV’s initial release last year, it was the latest game in the venerable Street Fighter fighting game series, this time re-imagined with 3D visuals, but retaining the classic gameplay. For the most part, it succeeded. While it maybe wasn’t as accessible to fighting game newcomers as Capcom may have hoped, it still sold very well and recaptured the spirit and fandom of the original Street Fighter II. It introduced new gameplay elements like the Focus Attack, a way to absorb a hit and counterattack, and the flashy Ultra Combos which allowed you to swing a fight back into your favor after taking a beating, but only if you managed to land it. Like most games nowadays, it featured an online mode, but that seemed to be the weakest piece of an otherwise great package with mediocre matchmaking and limiting online fights to 1 vs. 1. Super Street Fighter IV builds upon the framework of SFIV by adding 10 new fighters to bring the grand total up to a whopping 35, new backgrounds, a 2nd selectable Ultra Combo for every character, balance tweaks for the existing cast, bringing back SFII’s classic bonus stages and revamping the online modes.
The new characters have received an insane amount of buzz and attention online and deservedly so. Longtime fans were happy to see 8 returning characters from previous Street Fighter games. Dee Jay and T.Hawk return from Super SFII, Guy, Cody and Adon are back from the SF Alpha series and finally, fan favorites Dudley, Ibuki and Makoto are seen for the first time since SFIII. The remaining two characters, Juri, an evil Tae Kwon Do fighter and Hakan, the zany Turkish oil wrestler are brand new to the series. There were a lot of complaints that SFIV’s initial cast was very Shoto-heavy (characters patterned after series mainstays Ryu & Ken with similar move-sets), but Capcom has done an exceptional job rounding out the roster with these new characters. Each really adds something different to the game and has a fairly unique style unlike any other. If you can’t find a character that fits your playstyle out of these 35, then you may want to play a different game. Oh, and the best part? All the characters are unlocked from the start, including the playable version of the boss, Seth! Capcom really listened to player’s complaints from SFIV as having to unlock nearly half the cast was a royal pain, especially since the save files were locked. All characters originally in SFIV have received balance tweaks to either bring them up in ability or hold them back a bit if they were considered too powerful in SFIV. Likewise, everyone received a 2nd Ultra move which is selectable before the fight begins. This adds a very welcome new level of strategy to the game as you can pick an Ultra better suited to fighting a specific opponent.
The other additions help make this a great package. The new backgrounds are absolutely phenomenal. Tons of detail and little animations make them nearly as fun to watch as the actual fights. Unfortunately they also cause the original backgrounds to pale a bit in comparison. Too bad Capcom didn’t have the time to give them a slight facelift to match the new ones. While there are no character specific backgrounds like previous Street Fighter games (except maybe the final boss, Seth), every character now has their own remixed theme music which is a fantastic addition for longtime fans. Normally they’re reserved for the rival fights in arcade mode, but you can even unlock the option to use this music instead of the standard background tunes. The two bonus stages from SFII make a reappearance in car smashing and a barrel busting minigames. They make for a nice trip down memory lane, but once you’ve done them once or twice, you’ve probably welcome the option of turning them off for subsequent playthroughs of arcade mode. The intros and endings for characters in Arcade Mode have also received a facelift, but are mostly as forgettable as those in SFIV, which shouldn’t be terribly surprising as fighting games aren’t typically known for their storytelling. Most of the rest of the offline modes also make a return. The standard Training Mode and Vs. Mode are there as well as a revamped Challenge Mode. The challenges are largely the same as SFIV, giving you simple and not-so-simple combos to accomplish with a given character, but mercifully you’re no longer required to exit after finishing each one and can keep going through them in order. Absent from SFIV are the Time Attack, Survival and Gallery Modes. I personally won’t miss them, but it does seem a bit odd to remove them altogether. Extra colors & taunts as well as the online icons and banners still need to be unlocked, but instead of tying them to a single mode like SFIV, you now simply unlock them by playing Super SFIV’s various modes.
Next to the new characters and tweaks, the upgraded online mode is probably what interested SFIV fans the most. I’m sad to say, it’s a mixed bag. One of the most requested features, has finally been added: Lobbies. For unranked matches (or Endless Battle as it’s called here) you can have an online lobby of up to 8 players duking it out. Of course, it’s still 1 vs. 1, but the other players in the lobby are free to spectate the match and make comments via voicechat. Or at least they could if the voicechat worked well. In my experience any lobby with more than 4 people caused the voicechat to become choppy and unintelligible which is a real shame. In 1 on 1 matches or fewer than 4 it works great, just like SFIV did. For Ranked matches, the quick matchmaking seems possibly worse than SFIV. You’ll likely be seeing “Cannot connect to match” quite a bit as it seemingly attempts to connect you to full rooms. You can get around this by creating your own Ranked room for people to connect to or turning on Fight Request in Arcade Mode (allowing online players to interrupt your offline play), but that’s no real excuse for it not to work as advertised. The actual gameplay online seems about the same although I do seem to come across more matches with better connections. That could be simply because the game is still new. Probably the greatest positive addition to online, is double-blind select in all modes. This means you’ll never see who your opponent is picking until you’ve both selected. This is great because you’ll no longer suffer by having someone pick a particular character who may have a distinct advantage over yours and you’re still free to select your Ultra after character choices have been revealed. A new addition to the online mode, is the Replay Channel. It automatically stores your most recent online matches and let’s you view them again or save them permanently. You can even turn on the button inputs to see exactly how a killer combo was performed. You’re also able to view top online matches from other players, but the categorization leaves something to be desired and there’s no actual search function for it. Capcom has advertised a full-featured bracketed online tournament mode is coming soon as free DLC for Super SFIV. This looks to be a great addition and welcome as free bonus content.
While some may be upset this was not released as a downloadable upgrade and isn’t compatible with SFIV, rest assured this package is well worth the asking price whether you’re already an avid Street Fighter fan or a newcomer to the series. I must admit though, if the original Street Fighter IV didn’t appeal to you, there’s not much here to change your mind. It’s essentially the same game with some great additions and tweaks. The “not quite up to snuff” online mode revamping is disappointing, but not game-breaking by any means as it’s still incredibly enjoyable online. I would say the busted voicechat hurts the most, but could hopefully be patched in the future. Capcom has stated this will be the last retail expansion for Street Fighter IV so don’t go waiting on Super Street Fighter IV Turbo since this is probably as good as it’s gonna get, and it’s already fantastic.