Super Street Fighter IV ReviewBy Matt Keil - Posted Apr 26, 2010
It wouldn't be Street Fighter if Capcom wasn't tweaking and rebalancing the base game, and Super Street Fighter IV is no exception. It implements ten new fighters, adjusts discrepancies between existing characters, and delivers highly improved online play. It's likely the best bang for fighting game fans' buck they'll get all year.
- Improved roster balance
- Enhanced online modes allow group play
- New fighters offer very different playstyles
- Trial Mode still needs a "demo move" feature
- Hakan is a very odd addition to the roster
Well, we all knew this was coming. It’s not a true entry in the Street Fighter series if it doesn’t have at least two upgraded iterations with the same number attached, and now we have Super Street Fighter IV to carry on Capcom’s fighting game tradition. Thankfully, this is much more of a Third Strike-level improvement than a Hyper Fighting one, and offers some substantial improvements on many fronts.
The Talented Ten
The biggest addition is, of course, the roster expansion. Ten "new" fighters join the cast, including two all-new characters. Rounding out the original Super Street Fighter II Turbo cast are Dee Jay and T. Hawk. Dee Jay is one of the more effective charge characters in the game, and T. Hawk is an absolute beast of a grappler with tremendous range to his command throws. Street Fighter Alpha donates Adon, Cody and Guy, with Cody as the standout and possibly the strongest overall of the ten newcomers. Fan favorites Dudley, Ibuki and Makoto have made the transition from Street Fighter III: Third Strike admirably, with Makoto in particular being an impressive fit due to the character’s previous reliance on Third Strike’s parry system.
Super Street Fighter IV official debutants are Juri, a lithe Korean fighter with a spider themed look and an evil gleam in her eye, and Hakan, a big red Turkish wrestler with a full body lubrication fetish. Juri has a fascinating Tae Kwon Do-inspired play style almost reminiscent of a King of Fighters character. Hakan is a bit tougher to figure out. He’s a grappler with a oil-up buff that lets him slide around, giving him deceptively long range. However, his appearance is so strange that he doesn’t fit well with the rest of the cast. Street Fighter has certainly dabbled in the weird before, but the Street Fighter IV roster is grounded enough that Hakan feels oddly out of place. Is that his hair or some kind of headgear? And if it’s headgear, how is it attached to his mustache? These questions remain tragically unanswered.
Each character has a brand new story to play through, complete with new cutscenes, voice acting, and rival matches. The openings are just static "motion comic" style, but endings are fully animated. Some of the rival scenes are fan-requested dream match fodder, such as Ibuki’s meeting with Sakura and Dudley’s long-awaited confrontation with fellow boxer Balrog.
Balance feels more on target for the whole roster. Returning characters have gained one new Ultra Combo each and most of them have been tweaked a bit to counteract weaknesses or tone down advantages. Weaker characters like Guile and Vega now have a slightly more level playing field to work with, while beasts like Sagat are less dominant. You’re probably not going to see Ken winning any tournaments any time soon, but the rebalancing does seem to have resulted in a willingness for players to try characters other than the standard Shoto-Clone club.
There have been many requests for improvement in the online department since Street Fighter IV’s launch, and Super Street Fighter IV manages to deliver on nearly all counts. Connection speeds for potential opponents pop up instantly now, removing the constant guesswork and nasty surprise lag that occasionally popped up in the original. The matchmaking snafus of the original also appear to be gone. Ranking Match is very good about finding players of my own ranking to play against, as opposed to the broken original that repeatedly matches higher level players against players with no ranking points. It’s hard to tell if it’s all fully functional without thousands of players online, of course, but what I played on a retail copy pre-launch was definitely an improvement.
Endless Battle mode is something that really should have been in the original from the start. It lets a lobby of players play in succession in a "winner stays" round robin session. While waiting your turn you can watch the other players’ fights, and even save them as replays should you see something you deem historically significant. Replay saves are a big deal in Super, with a robust replay theater offering tons of ways to organize your replay viewing habits.
Team Battle mode offers a tournament-style challenge in which two teams of opponents fight a series of matches in an effort to rack up the most wins. This mode was not being played online at the time of this writing, so I was not able to evaluate it, but will follow up after launch.
The only real disappointment in an otherwise grand package is the lack of improvements to the Trial Mode. The advanced combos in Trial feature timing that can border on the cryptic, and it really needed a "demo move" option that would show you exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. Instead you’re stuck with a list of commands and no hints as to how or when to string the attacks together. You can always watch videos of how to do them on YouTube, of course, but it would be nice if the game itself offered more of a helping hand.
In conclusion, Super Street Fighter IV is an excellent upgrade to what was already a stellar fighting game. The amount of new characters, fighter rebalancing, and online improvements nullify the assertion that Capcom is cynically cashing in on fans. After the dozens of hours I’ve invested in the game, there’s just too much improvement here for that argument to hold water. At the lower-than-average price of $40, it’s a fine buy for fans of the vanilla Street Fighter IV looking for some new content or new players wondering what all the fuss is about.