Review: Super Street Fighter IV
June 7, 2010, Author: Andy Corrigan
Street Fighter series, how I love you. Let me count the ways. Sigh… I’ve written many times over the years about my love for Street Fighter, with its immediate and seminal sequel probably the game that turned me into the overindulgent gamer that I am today. I’m not going to cover old ground but the series has been something of a constant in my life; always there, always something I returned to, something that was always guaranteed to keep me entertained.
It’s fair to say that I never really invested the time into Street Fighter III that the game deserved, but boy did I make up for that with Street Fighter IV in February 2009. The game hit with a drastic visual redesign for the series, while the gameplay returned to the simplicity of the older games in a way that made it almost the perfect brawler and addictive like I’ve never experienced before. The game took a firm hold of my life for nearly six months, being practically the only game I played in that entire time (it took Batman: Arkham Asylum to snap me out of it). Just over a year later, in typical Street Fighter style, Capcom have taken the game back to the drawing board, and while not changing much in pure gameplay terms, have added a boatload of new characters and game modes.
Despite what I heard they were adding, when Super Street Fighter IV was actually announced I was still a little peeved; a new game only a year later? What?! Have we reverted back to ’92 and I haven’t realised? Why couldn’t this have been DLC?! Well, in the end I bought it regardless, so the idea can’t have been all that repulsive. So after sampling, is this a worthy of a full price purchase, or is it just money for old rope? You know what to do to find out.
Some Anime to break up the brutality
As with SFIV, this is a fighting game in its purest and simplest form and as such any story will always take a back-seat to the action-packed combat. As usual, each character has their own reason for attending a martial arts tournament, this time organised by a somewhat shady corporation named ‘S.I.N’ (like their intentions aren’t clear by that dodgy acronym). The CEO, Seth, a mysteriously blue-skinned fella (never questioned by his employees for some reason), is using the tournament to learn the various styles and powers of the fighters that have entered.
Not all of the characters story-lines tie into this element of the plot, instead often intertwining into each others, but S.I.N’s intentions are the overarching glue that holds it all together. Not a drastic departure from stories found in other fighting games of its type (big bad company tries for world domination), or even a departure from Street Fighter titles, but it’s there and it works well enough to create the illusion of a plot.
These short snippets of story are told in the form of Manga-styled intros and endings, which are absolutely stunningly animated, though they don’t really provide that much detail in the grand scheme of things. This could be a bit of a disappointment for some considering that Street Fighter has spawned a number of successful Manga-made animated movies over the years, but seriously, we all know what Street Fighter is about; if you’re here for intricate and thoughtful stories outside of two colourful characters pummelling the living crap out of each other, you’re in the wrong place.
Perfection in motion
Okay, here’s where I really insult your intelligence; we all know how this works, right? You choose your fighter, and then take on a random selection of opponents in best of three, one-on-one fights until you are blessed with an ending. It’s really that simple. As with all of the Street Fighter games, this is a brawler on a 2D plane, although everything is technically rendered in 3D, allowing for some amazing visual effects when it comes to special moves.
This keeps the gameplay relatively simple, but that does not equate to a watered down experience. In Street Fighter’s simplicity lies its strength and if you’re thinking that simplicity automatically leads to a lack of depth, think again. The game is extremely frenetic but each battle is highly strategic thanks to all the characters having their own style, strengths and weakness.
The Street Fighter series has always been easy to pick up and get to grips with in this sense, but devilishly difficult to master and Super Street Fighter IV is no exception to that. Players will need to work on their own style of play, their own strategies, especially if they plan on taking the game online. Whether you use a pad or an arcade stick (I use the pad myself), special moves are easy to pull off, keeping the action flowing smoothly, and I’ve not once been left cursing shoddy control choices.
So, that’s the patronisation done with, what’s new? In terms of the arcade mode, there are a few changes to the previous formula, but outside of some general balancing and refinement the only really notable change is the return of the classic bonus rounds; both ripped right from Street Fighter II and beautified in a way befitting Street Fighter IV. In the first of the two, your chosen fighter will be tasked with totalling a car, and in the second you have to break falling barrels in a warehouse.
It’s amazing how muscle memory works, as all your old tactics to complete these rounds will work in the exact same way they did back in the nineties. While yes, this is a little unoriginal, Street Fighter IV already had a lot of fan service contained therein, and this is simply an extension of that. As someone who grew up on this particular Capcom game, the return of these bonus stages had me grinning like a moron. I mean even more like a moron… shut up…
The real change in this version are the ten additional fighters, where as eight of the ten are returning Street Fighter characters from various iterations, there are two entirely new characters along for the ride. The most outlandish of the two is Hakan, an oil wrestler who after encountering online a number of times can be absolutely lethal in the right hands. The other new fighter is Juri, a S.I.N employee who is a far more conventional and accessible fighter than Hakan, but a welcome addition to a strong and balanced stable of characters. Old favourites like T-Hawk, Guy, Cody and Deejay are welcomed with open arms, and offer the game an amazing amount of variety.
Another nice feature for those in my shoes that might have traded up towards Super Street Fighter IV, is that any DLC you may have purchased for Street Fighter IV, such as the various costume packs, will be imported in to the new title when you load it up for the first time. This is a plus point for people like me who may have felt a little more than ripped off after purchasing a certain packs shortly after the release of the original, only for an entirely new game to land just a year later.
A picture is worth a thousand punches to the face
Not greatly differing visually at all from SFIV, this refined version is still as gorgeous as ever. The character designs are the key here; colourfully and artistically drawn in a comic styling that is only ever pleasing on the eye. The important part is in this iteration is that that all of the new characters feature the same great design and level of detail you’ve in the other fighters. Animations are perfect, without a single frame dropped in transition between any of the moves, keeping the game moving fluidly despite being visually busy. It’s not overly stimulating or confusing in that sense either; there are some lovely effects, particularly on some of the more spectacular special moves, and thankfully in this instance a busy screen doesn’t make the action seemed overly clustered or confusing.
It’s not just the fighters that have received this loving attention to detail. The backdrops, of which there are several new ones, are all simply beautiful. Whether you are battling in the African desert areas, with animals in the background checking out your skills, or fighting in a small Chinese town with many onlookers, everything is stylised and animated perfectly in a way that makes the fighters seem part of the scenery, and not just something laid over the top of it.
The new guys don’t have equality in all areas however, while the previously included characters still have their gorgeously animated intros and endings intact, the roster additions are left with still-frame storyboards with voice overs; this stands out, as people who played SFIV previously would surely rush to the new characters first and foremost, and as such, this has a slight detrimental effect on the game’s otherwise flawless presentation.
Street Fighting Man
The production value when it comes to SSFIV’s soundtrack continues its good form, with the sounds of campy j-pop featuring heavily alongside with remixes of classic Street Fighter themes. It’s not the sort of thing you’d like to cart around on your iPod, obviously, but the tracks included suit the game’s design consummately. There is one major disappointment; gone is the ludicrously catchy and appetite whetting ‘The Next Door’ by Exile, and when the navigating the menu’s the game does suffer a little as a result, replaced with a harder but extremely generic remix of an old Street Fighter theme.
Worth mentioning, though, is that early on you will be able to unlock the ability to switch to the Japanese voice track, so Japan-ophiles and arcade purists can rest easy, seeing as they can tailor the audio experience to their expectations. This won’t be a big deal to many, however when Street Fighter IV hit the shelves, there were those who felt the English voice overs detracted from the overall experience.
The World Warrior
As with all fighting games, the arcade mode can only ever remain fun for so long, and the remainder of the enjoyment will come from pitting your skills against friends or taking the game online. Thankfully, the online modes in SSFIV have more than enough to keep you going for quite a while, and continues to be one of my favourite online games of any genre.
In addition to the standard and expected Ranked and Player matches, Capcom have introduced a few new modes, starting with Team Battle Mode. In this mode, a team of up to four players can compete against another team. The first two players are pitted in to battle, the victor will then move on to the next in the oppositions roster. Once all players in a side are defeated, they lose. The real gem here, though, is the Endless Battle mode, in which a lobby of up to eight players are rotated in a ‘winner stays on affair’, and this is a great deal of fun providing potential for boisterous and banter filled evenings, especially when playing against friends.
Modes aside, the real beauty of Street Fighter’s multiplayer appeal has always laid with the fact that the core gameplay has always been that of an unquestionable quality. The game allows for so many different strategies, and despite of all characters having their own styles, you could play against thirty different players in a row who are using the same character, and not encounter the same tactics twice. This alone prevents boredom seeping in online, as every battle is so different, and presents a new type of challenge every time you choose to enter a new fight.
Added to the previous game in DLC was a replay recorder, and this makes a welcome inclusion from the off this time around. This feature allows you to save and upload fight replays that others will be able to watch either by themselves or with up to seven friends in a lobby too. Even cooler is the option to see what key presses displayed, which means that it can be a great tool to learn from players better skilled than yourself, or at least see where you went wrong. It’s also a great humbler, as similarly with killcam’s in FPSs, bang goes any excuse you might have losing a close run fight. The video player itself is pretty well organised, allowing you to select to watch fights between certain groups of characters from various iterations so should you wish.
Is it ‘Super Street Fighter IV: Get it’ , or ‘Super Street Fighter: Forget it’?
So, I’ve raved about it, but I do have to concede that as high quality as it all is, everything new included in SSFIV could probably have been achieved in a heavy DLC pack for Street Fighter IV. That said, as a huge Street Fighter fan, I personally found that punting towards this newer version to be completely worth the extra cost (the online modes are worth the price alone), but I can’t say with any certainty that the same will be true of all people with Street Fighter IV already in their collection. For massive fans of the series, there is just about enough new content to justify the purchase, but chances are if you owned the previous title and decide to trade in, you’ll know exactly what it is you’re getting for your buck anyway.
If however, for some reason you never bothered with Street Fighter IV the first time around, then there really is no excuse for not picking this up now, because as it stands it’s easily the most balanced and polished fighter on the market.