We have definitely come a long way from buying 2-D fighting game updates for US$60 apiece. I have lost much just by upgrading from Street Fighter 2 for the SNES to two of its iterations (Turbo and Super SF2); it’s enough to make a kid work way too hard for pocket money for what seemed to be a minute-sized update. Now, Capcom is making amends for us 90’s kids by releasing an “update” of sorts for Street Fighter IV. And boy, does it live up to its Super moniker and more.
At a glance, it might seem like a slight update of Street Fighter IV, but just play a few more rounds and the changes come full circle and blindside you with a roundhouse. There is no way anyone will remain stubborn and stick to playing vanilla Street Fighter IV. For starters, each character now has two Ultras of their choosing that helps cover up their Street Fighter IV weaknesses and introduces versatility. Claw’s Ultra II, a low-hitting damaging slide attack, can catch jump-ins and whiffs quick, while Boxer’s Ultra II (a command grab) compliments his ability to keep opponents blocking. Focus Attacks also come out faster, making Super SFIV a little more offense-heavy than usual.
No matter how seemingly useless some of them are, tournament-level players will have a blast trying them out and finding a situational use for them. The ability to choose between the two isn’t just fluff and rainbows; it’s to help you decide which one is suitable for fighting against particular characters. For example, you might want to use Hakan’s jump-in counter Ultra against the likes of Dictator and Juri to keep them on edge (or punish them if they’re spam-happy).
Concerning roster updates, we’re not talking just two new characters. If you want to get technical, you’re getting two new characters and eight existing Street Fighter characters reworked to Street Fighter IV’s engine. Counting the rest of the Street Fighter IV roster, that’s thirty-five new characters to experiment and tinker with. Thirty-five new characters that are well-balanced and are given various playstyles topped off with varying learning curves; that is something not well-known in fighting games these days. From the blazing quick Adon (his dash is basically like Fei Long’s) to the very technical ninja Ibuki and even-more-technical Makoto, you’ll find one or two characters to pick as your main in no time flat.
The brand-new additions also add in their own spin. The Taekwando practitioner Juri is already a fan-favorite ;she’s hot, can link her moves with her useful Pinwheel Kick and has an Ultra that reminds gamers of Street Fighter Alpha 3’s V-ism. Hakan is also another unique addition; he’s a Turkish oil wrestler who has to score a knockdown to buff himself up (thus making him a huge threat when he’s all shiny). There are already techniques out in video form where he can cancel his backdash to a normal as well as an oil dancing technique (use focus and dash normal canceling while oiled up), so there’s huge potential for this guy.
The old guard of Street Fighter IV also get changes; usually for the better. The community will be pleased to know that Sagat’s not as intimidating as before (though he still has good options, just toned-down damage output). Dictator and Guile also got better Ultras, faster charge times, and better utility for their normals. The changes to the characters, big or small, will make fighting fans relearn the structure of the game.
It’s also good to know that Capcom heard your bickering about Street Fighter IV’s skimpy online offerings; you now have an equivalent of an online arcade with Endless Battle. All connections are region-based, so you’re sure to have a full green bar for all of your matches. Within the fifteen games I’ve found (usually at the evening and at night for obvious reasons), I’ve only encountered mid-match lag in just two of the (and it’s only for a second or two). That’s an impressive feat, considering that the online netcoding isn’t using the famous GGPO.net (used in Blazblue: Calamity Trigger). It’s also fun to watch other people beat the crap out of each other, be it just for kicks or learning how the winner fights so you get to counter his strategies.
You also get to save and watch replays in the Replay Theater mode, but we’ve already got YouTube for that. It’s still a nice addition though if you don’t want to turn on your computer at the same time your PS3/Xbox 360 is running.
You still get Player Points for fighting in Ranked Matches, but you also garner more points for the characters you use. Frequent use of, say, Dudley net you Battle points for him. The score system just acts as bragging rights and an ego-booster of sorts, so if that’s the sort of thing you like, go play a lot of Super SFIV online then. It’s also a telltale sign that lets people know that you’ve been practicing with that particular character a lot and forces you to fight for real against him/her. Nothing beats having a match with a live person or four in the same room as you are in, but Super SFIV’s online stability and modes is close to substituting that method of play.
The other little things not gameplay-related proves that Capcom did listen. Great-looking-even-if-coming-off-as-ambiguous intros and endings? Check. Arranged BGM and new themes for each character that plays during Versus offline and online? Check. Little details like Ibuki’s “ninja trail” and character-specific winning quotes that draws a chuckle from fans of the series’ lore? Double-friggin’ check.
The final kick in the nuts for every other upcoming console fighting game is that Super Street Fighter IV costs about US$40. The only way this deal could get any better is if they added Sienna Miller with a Baroness outfit. Delusions of grandeur aside, the former king of 2D fighting got itself a makeover of epic proportions.
Don’t be afraid of change, hardcore fighting fans. Embrace it. Embrace Super Street Fighter IV like you mean it.
(Head to the next page for a few tips & tricks for some of the new characters I’m more familiar with)