Fighting games are quite possibly the one genre of video games which stands out from the rest. Not only do they fall in the extreme spectrum of “love them” or “don’t care”, but a good fighting game can suck in a player for hundreds of hours spread over years, which makes it quite a treasure to behold. Of course, the keyword is “good”, and some of the recent casual ones like Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe weren’t even matching up to the old ones, let alone bringing about any evolution to the genre. That’s when Street Fighter IV came along and it proved itself to be par excellence. Yet, one year down the line, Capcom releases the newest (debatable) iteration of the Street Fighter franchise and, incredibly, the bar has been raised further.
[singlepic id=2023 w=450 float=center]
Let’s clear the air a little first. Super Street Fighter IV is neither a add-on, nor is it just a simple patched upgrade. It is a completely different game altogether. The heart of a fighting game lies in the internal mechanics. Super Street Fighter IV tweaks and turns the cranks of almost the entire machinery to come up with a more robust and rebalanced experience, while maintaining all the greatness that went into Street Fighter IV. A lot has gone into making this a different game, and the most obvious is the addition of 10 new characters, 8 of which are taken from earlier iterations of the franchise, and 2 of them being completely new to the Street Fighter universe.
Not only do these new challengers have their own unique set of moves and individual styles, but they succeed in adding even more variety and depth to the already diversified existing roster. Special mention goes to Dudley – a pugilist like Balrog, but much faster (and British), Cody – who will surely take his place among the top tier with his potent ranged game and anti-airs, T-Hawk – my personal nightmare from my SSF2 days playing as Ryu, Juri – a Korean Taekwondo fighter who I think is a brilliant new addition with her great offense moves, and Hakan – another new addition who carries his annual supply of oil on him at all times and has some rather bizarre grapple and slide moves. But perhaps the best part about this mammoth 35-fighter roster is that each and every character is unlocked from the very beginning, giving the hardcode veterans no reason to waste their time in the single player campaign.
[singlepic id=2022 w=450 float=center]
The revamped gameplay is also a result of almost each and every character being tweaked to some extent. The Godly one-eyed beast Sagat is powered down to a more human level, Rufus has a particular Snake Strike massive damage glitch removed, M. Bison is made more formidable, Guile has a reduced charge time for this attacks and he’s given the ability to put on his awesome aviator glasses in the middle of matches, Ken has been (surprisingly) made more unstoppable, and so on and so forth. I’m also sure Dan has been touched up here and there, but since no-one ever uses him, there is nothing to compare. These changes, most of which have come as suggestions straight from the community, have been achieved by changing the damage done by the moves, the time taken to perform them and the ability to use them in chained combos. The infamous turning-the-tide Ultra moves have been toned down in their damage, and each character is given a set of two Ultra moves to choose from, though only one can be chosen during character selection. Technicalities aside, the changes under the hood result in the reinvention of the wheel for the players of the game who must now devise new strategies to deal with the revamped opponent and their own fighter, keeping in mind the 10 new additions to the cast.
On the presentation front, there are changes to the various modes the game offers. The single player campaign is made a little more playable with an ending boss who doesn’t feel quite as cheap as he did in his last appearance (due mostly to his less damaging and now blockable Ultra), so new players will have an easier time completing the campaign. The beloved bonus stages from the past make a comeback with the addition of the car mashing and barrel breaking stages which are just as fun as they were all those years ago on the arcade machines. The story campaign is also made a bit more interesting with the addition of Rival Battles, which has each character facing his individual rival from the SF stories.
[singlepic id=2025 w=450 float=center]
Also making their presence felt are five brand spanking new stages, including Metro City from the Final Fight games and an incredibly lively African jungle stage full of animals with a solar eclipse to add to the awe. New animated character movies, which are equally ignore-worthy as those of SF4, and new costumes for each fighter also add to the layer of freshness. My only gripes with the changes are that the annoyingly catchy main menu song – Industructable – and the super-excited announcer from SF4 have both been changed. Whatever were Capcom thinking! Come to think of it, the Tutorial mode could also have been improved, but the new set of fighter challenges/trials, which do not have to be done in a sequence, partly make up for it.
The online modes have also been re-envisioned. The Ranked Mode lets the player fight one-on-one bouts, earning points for each character and increasing his/her rank as the player progresses. The Endless Mode lets the gamer create online lobbies for up to 8 friends, two of whom fight at a time, with the winner continuing, while the others formulate and discuss strategies on chat with each other as they watch the ongoing battle. Players can also form up to 4 vs 4 teams in Team Battle elimination matches. Here, the players fight in sequence with each entering the arena as the team’s previous player is knocked out, with the aim being to defeat all players of the opponent team. Another great addition to the online modes is the Replay Mode, where players can record and upload their own replays or watch those of competitors. Of course, searching for a particular replay is next to impossible, but it’s a small price to pay for this amazing addition.
[singlepic id=2024 w=450 float=center]
One major omission, however, is the lack of a Tournament mode and although one is coming as DLC in the near future, this is something which should have been present from the get-go. The graphics have not been given an overhaul, but since SF4 was one of the most incredible looking fighting games of this gen already, there is not much to complain. The menu screens are now less boring and the new CGI opening movies are fantastic. The music has some excellent additions and remains a forte of this celebrated series.
With almost every change counting as a positive improvement and with very little to complaint about, there are enough refinements and rebalancing of fighters to give Super Street Fighter IV its own identity and not let it latch onto that of Street Fighter IV. Of course, this will lead to the death of the online community of the old masterpiece, but it is a worthy sacrifice, and one which has paved way for the next step in the evolution of an already legendary franchise.
(+) The best fighting game of this generation
(+) A lot more balanced than SF4
(+) 10 new fighters, 5 new stages, and the return of bonus stages
(+) Online modes are awesome. Replay Mode is a brilliant addition.
(-) Online Tournament Mode missing
(-) Tutorial Mode could have been improved
Title: Super Street Fighter IV
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 (Rs 2,499)
Reviewed on: PS3