Street Fighter IV was a great success when it was released in February last year, revitalizing the dying genre of fighting games with a much-needed shot in the arm, and reminding everyone why they loved the series so much in the first place. Now, following tradition, Capcom are back with an updated version of the game, with new characters, moves and stages among the upgrades on offer. But is it worth shelling out again, just over a year after the first game came out?
The simple answer is a resounding yes. Capcom have gone above and beyond the call of duty, and this is no mere cash in. For fans of the previous game, this is a must-have, and it also is a great entry point for first timers.
The key draw of Super Street Fighter IV is the ten new characters, increasing the overall roster to a massive 35 to choose from. Of these ten, eight are characters returning from previous Street Fighter games, such as Adon from the original Street Fighter, Cody and Guy from Final Fight, and Ibuki and Makoto from the Street Fighter III series. These characters are all slightly more obscure than those included in the original Street Fighter IV, and as such are sure to be popular with long-time fans. The last two characters are completely new to the Street Fighter series, and both bring new fighting styles to the equation. Juri is a slightly insane evil-henchwoman, with a suitably crazy style of Tae-Kwon Do, perfect for players who like fast characters. The other is Hakan, a national champion at the Turkish sport of Yagli Gures, or oil wrestling. His play style revolves around finding time to "oil up", covering himself in oil briefly and enhancing his move properties and damage greatly. He is also bright red. Certainly, Capcom cannot be accused of conservative character design.
All ten new characters are a blast to control, and all revolve around a more offensive style of play, in contrast to most of the original cast of SFIV, whom favoured a more defensive approach. This gives the core gameplay a good shakeup, making all-out assault a more viable tactic than before.
Other balances and tweaks have been made to create a more fast-paced play style. Ultra Combos, a character's ultimate attack, now tend to do slightly less damage across the board; punishing a player less if he makes a mistake and takes an ultra in the face. On the subject of Ultra Combos, each character now has two to choose from, rather than just one. This is chosen after you select your character, and the choice allows for characters to adapt and adjust to new scenarios better than before. If one Ultra seems useless against a certain character, the other will probably be more suited to the situation.
The original cast has also seen changes of a less obvious nature. Subtle tweaking and balancing has taken place, in an attempt to make the game as fair as possible. Obviously, some characters will always be stronger than others, but overall, Super Street Fighter IV is very well balanced, and almost every one of the 35 characters is viable in high-level play.
As well as the gameplay changes, new online modes have been added to sweeten the deal. As well as the standard ranked match, the game now includes an "endless battle" mode. This mimics an arcade, with a group of players sitting in an online lobby. Two of them will be playing a match, with the others free to watch and chat amongst themselves. After the fight is over, the winner stays on, and the next player has their turn to battle. This mode is a great way to learn how to improve, and altogether a more social experience than the 1v1 ranked match mode.
The second new online mode is the replay channel. This allows you to upload and download replays of matches to watch. Whilst watching matches will not appeal to everyone, for those looking to learn new tactics and improve their skills, watching replays of the top players can be a great asset.
As with all fighting games, Super Street Fighter IV is best played with an arcade stick, rather than a regular controller. Peripheral developer Mad Catz have once again released a line of sticks to coincide with the game, and for the player aiming to get the true Street Fighter experience, there is no alternative.
There is little to find fault with in Super Street Fighter IV. If you were not a fan of the original instalment last year, then there is nothing to change your mind here. Also, the learning curve of Street Fighter has always been greater than that of other fighting games such as Tekken or Soul Calibur, and as such new players may be put off by the constant pasting they will be sure to get online to begin with. But for those willing to persevere, as well as current fans, Super Street Fighter IV is the definitive fighting game of the generation. The fact Capcom have released it at a budget price, due to the short turnaround between this and the original, makes it essentially unmissable.