It’s hard not to slip into nostalgia mode when talking about the Street Fighter series.
Especially for me, when thinking about how many games of it I must have played. I’ve even had a genuine arcade machine of Street Fighter II, operated with 20 cent pieces, outside my bedroom in a flat.
But it’s an unfortunate cliché that we reviewers often fall back on. So no more ’23 years ago’. Lets just acknowledge that it’s a very long running series with many many editions. Where as industry stalwarts like Doom may have three sequels, the Street Fighter franchise has more variants than I can count on my hands and toes.
So here we are with another ‘sequel’ in Super Street Fighter IV. Sequel is a bit of a stretch. For any other genre of game this would be called a stand alone expansion pack. It is essentially the street fighter IV game engine, with a few tweaks, and a few new characters and modes.
With ten extra new (and returning) characters, there is a reasonable amount of content. Deejay, Ibuki, Rose, Guy, Cody, and a few other series classics return, along with two new characters, an oil wrestler, and a Taekwondo proponent.
As with any new characters, the learning curve is steep. When you know Ken and Ryu’s moves so well, after playing the same basic style for twenty plus years, picking up a new fighter, who runs on a different mechanic initially feels cumbersome. I have yet to have had enough time with the game to determine if the new characters really feel balanced, but on YouTube already there’s some neat combos and ways to use the two new additions effectively. All I know is, put me up against a good Ryu style player with either of the newbies, and I’m toast.
I have to admit that the new characters, in both super and regular Street Fighter IV, are just so much less interesting to me than the regular cast. Nostalgia alert, but I did grow up with Ken, Ryu, Blanka and Chunners. The new additions really just don’t have the depth, or the sense of familiarity. That said, it’d be dull without them and you do have to inject new flavour into the genre somehow.
Given the style of fighting games, depth is certainly something hard to achieve without deviating from core game play. Mortal Kombat tried a basic rpg mode with "I Am Shujinko!" Actually, come to think of it, aren’t we due for another Mortal Kombat soon? (End of the year - Ed.) Tekken tried it with a side scrolling beat em up mode and Tekken bowl. Capcom ignored alternative modes almost entirely this time, and frankly the game is no worse for it. Yes, I’d like more depth in my fighting games, but no, I don’t have a good suggestion.
Then there are the new old bonus stages. The barrel bash and car smash levels from Street Fighter II have been modernised and thrown back in to the mix. I always loved those back then, and they play quite well this time round.
Ultra combos have been tweaked a bit, with the ability to select a second ultra including a counter ultra present. Counter ultra moves are a mission to pull off, especially on a standard game pad.
The other major change is supposedly under the hood. Better net code is meant to be in there somewhere. Maybe it’s just me, or more likely Telecom, but it’s still a case of having much better games with locals. Choose an enemy from too far away, or let the game do it for you and you’ll be in lag central. Still it’s far far better than Tekken 6 managed.
Thankfully, they have also allowed all the characters to be available from the beginning. No more unlock grinds. This is a very welcome change, as I love to play against my mates, and not having to trudge through single player to unlock things is great.
The Achilles heel for this game is of course the same as it has always been since the original console ports. To play it well, and to enjoy it the most, you need arcade sticks. The standard game controller set up just doesn’t work as well as a decent fighting game controller. The Xbox controller especially is just not up to scratch.
Here’s the rub. If you don’t own the normal Street Fighter IV game, this game presents better value for money, as it is cheaper, and offers more content. However, you probably don’t have the arcade sticks, so to enjoy it properly; you’re looking at another $150 or more for peripherals.
Conversely, if you already have the game, and the sticks, I’m struggling to say there’s enough content in here to justify the $85 odd dollars to purchase the game. I guess if you paid $250 for some awesome arcade sticks, you’d think $85 wasn’t so bad
It's probably the best fighting game out at the moment. But to really get that true experience you need to have the right gear. Oh, and the ends boss is still a dirty cheating bastard.