Super Street Fighter 4 is the latest instalment in Capcom’s Flagship fighting franchise. The 2D fighter was released in April 2010. It is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and in arcades on a limited-release. The game is an update to Street Fighter 4, and as such supersedes the previous ‘steps’ of Champion Edition and Hyper Fighting.
Since SSF4 is not an original game, the most important question to ask is “What’s new?” After all, the basic fighting system remains largely unchanged. Normal moves still cancel into special moves performed by specific directional inputs; whilst EX specials, focus attacks and super/ultra combos are still as vital to winning as ever, and Ryu can still Shoryuken FADC into ultra with the same motions & timing as in the original. Just like Street Fighter 4, the gameplay in Super captures that cliché of ‘easy to learn, hard to master’. Any single attack, whether it’s a simple Hadouken or a round-altering Wrath of the Raging Demon, can be pulled off with ease after a little practice. What does take time, however, is learning the individual character matchups and figuring out which of your character’s techniques work well in a given situation. The amount of complexity and depth in this brawler depends entirely on how much effort you put in.
The most significant gameplay change is the addition of a second ultra combo for every character. Just like the original SF4, these flashy, high-damage manoeuvres can be activated once your character has taken enough damage and the revenge meter at the bottom of the screen lights up. An effective ultra combo is as important to picking up wins as ever; however, you now have two options to choose from before every fight. It’s definitely a nice touch since not only does it give you a reason to check out all of the characters again, but it also adds another level of pre-match strategy and mind games into the mix. For example, your chosen character’s first ultra might be easier to combo into and guarantee some additional damage, but his or her second ultra has the ability to pass through fireballs and dish out some heavier punishment. Which one should you go with? Choosing the right ultra for the right situation can often mean the difference between victory and defeat.
The new combos also contribute to rebalancing what was already (mostly) balanced combat in Street Fighter 4. Guile’s impressive new Sonic Hurricane ultra seems to have greatly improved the character’s overall standing amongst the rest of the cast and Chun Li’s Kikosho is a much safer bet over her sometimes unreliable Hosenka. Unfortunately, this is not the case with everyone. Cammy and Fei Long’s counterattack ultras, for example, are very situational and often don’t seem to work even when they should. The rebalancing in Super doesn’t end with simply the new ultra combos however. The overall damage output seems to have been decreased, and Capcom had the good sense to go in and tweak some characters and attacks that caused players some grief in the original Street Fighter IV. Fans can sleep easy now that Muay Thai expert Sagat is nowhere near as threatening as he once was and Zangief’s spinning lariats are much more punishable. Overall though, if you were comfortable in the original SF4 then you should be able to jump into this expansion with no problem. Super Street Fighter 4 isn’t about changing the formula; it’s about adding to it and making it better.
The largest of these additions comes in the form of 10 new characters, boosting the total roster size to a comfortable level of 35 unique fighters. Two of these characters—the sultry Taekwondo master Juri and the Turkish oil wrestler Hakan—are making their Street Fighter debuts. Juri is an agile, offensive character who can store fireballs by holding down any of the kick buttons and can chain many of her normal moves together if you activate her Feng Shui Engine ultra combo. Hakan, on the other hand, is a bizarre grappler who can increase his attack range and the combo-chaining of his normal attacks by dousing himself in oil mid-match. His Oil Combination Hold is also one of the most amusing ultras in the game to watch, though humiliating when used against you. Veteran characters new to the world of Super Street Fighter 4 are T. Hawk and Dee Jay from the Street Fighter II universe, as well as Adon, Guy, and Cody from Street Fighter Alpha, and Ibuki, Makoto, and fan favorite Dudley from the Street Fighter III series. Just like the members of the returning cast, all ten of the new characters have two ultra combos to select from. Greater character variety is always a positive, and each of the new world warriors deliver in this regard with their unique fighting styles. As expected, some made the transition to SF4 better than others, but I’ll leave the tier list rankings and such to the pros. All 35 combatants are unlocked from the start, so there’s no need to grind through ‘Arcade Mode’ to unlock any of them. Given the dubious quality of Super Street Fighter 4’s ‘Arcade Mode’, this is a good thing.
The structure of ‘Arcade Mode’ in SSF4 is standard issue for the genre—you start by choosing your character, difficulty setting, and the number of rounds per opponent. You’ll then fight through seven different battles while experiencing the story of each character. This is all well and good, but there are several problems with ‘Arcade Mode’. The first is that the difficulty is all over the place. On the easier settings, the A.I. opponents practically stand still and let you perfect them. On the harder settings, however, some of the computer controlled opponents, especially boss man Seth, seem to be able to read your moves and instantly react appropriately. This can certainly be overcome with some patience, but it can be frustrating to find the appropriate difficulty for characters that you aren’t particularly skilled with. The other issue with ‘Arcade Mode’ is that the presentation is extremely poor. Characters’ stories begin with a set of still images set to that character’s voiceover and end with poorly drawn anime cutscenes. Many of the stories are also rehashed from previous games or are just laughably bad. Street Fighter 4 didn’t exactly have the highest quality ‘Arcade Mode’ either, but it was undoubtedly superior to what is found inside Super’s Arcade.
On the plus side, Super Street Fighter 4’s ‘Arcade Mode’ features the return of the car smashing and barrel breaking mini-games from the Street Fighter II days. These brief acts of destruction are a nice little distraction that can be selected in Challenge Mode once you clear them for the first time in Arcade. Also in ‘Challenge Mode’ is the returning ‘Trial Mode’ from Street Fighter IV (Time Attack and Survival were oddly removed). This new and improved ‘Trial Mode’ still tasks you with completing various combos per character, but you now have the option to skip around from trial to trial whenever you please. While some of the later combos are a bit impractical, ‘Trial Mode’ can still help you learn the basics of a certain character and improve your overall execution. Practice sessions can be extended into the final area of SSF4’s single player component—‘Training Mode’. ‘Training Mode’ is unchanged from vanilla Street Fighter 4. Choose your training dummy, configure his actions to whatever you want, and go to town.
All this single player stuff is fine, but what really makes a good fighter is its competitive modes. Fortunately, SSF4 delivers on that front. Local Versus Mode is present and, as always, going head to head with a friend in the same room is good fun. When this option is not available, however, you’ll want to hop online and explore SSF4’s much improved online component. The game contains three main ways to fight online: Ranked Matches, Team Battle, and Endless Battle. Ranked Matches work similarly to how they did in the original Street Fighter 4. Simply search or use the returning Arcade Mode Fight Request feature to find an opponent and duke it out for points. The major change to ranked fights is that every player now has two point values to keep an eye on. Player Points (PP) reflect a player’s overall wins and losses, while Battle Points (BP) fluctuate per character only. For example, if a great Blanka player wants to oil up and try out Hakan online, he or she doesn’t have to worry about losing any BP accumulated with Blanka. All 35 characters have their own BP value; only your Player Points will fall if you go on a massive losing streak with a new character. This new system is a nice little touch since it has the potential to create more character diversity online, instead of an endless spree of Kens and Ryus.
‘Team Battle’ is exactly what it says on the tin. The host of a session can create a room for 2 vs 2, 3 vs 3, or 4 vs 4 online battles. Teammates then select the order they wish to fight in and the matches play out single elimination style. Non-combatants are able to watch their teammates’ fights, so you are free to (de)constructively criticise/trash talk as you see fit. ‘Team Battle’ is cool, but it’s best suited for when you have a group of friends online to invite since, like all team based games, your pals are easier to get along with than random people on Xbox Live. The third online mode, ‘Endless Battle’, is the most interesting of all. Session hosts can create an ‘Endless Battle’ lobby for up to eight players. Once the room fills up, the first two players on the list will go at it until a winner is decided. The victor then stays for the next game and the loser is sent down to the bottom of the list. The objective is to see who can accumulate the most consecutive wins before being dethroned by one of the other players. Your number of wins and losses are tracked in that particular Endless lobby but, unlike ‘Ranked Matches’, there are no points on the line here. Like ‘Team Battle’, players who are waiting for their turn to fight are able to view the matches in progress. ‘Endless Battle’ is nice because it’s much more stress free than standard ‘Ranked Matches’. It can also be used as a learning experience as you try out new characters and watch how others play. Capcom have also promised a ‘Tournament Mode’ that will be made available for free later this summer.
Super Street Fighter IV’s online also features standard issue Leaderboards and a much improved Replay Channel. By entering the Replay Channel, players are able to watch any of the most recent ‘Ranked Match’ uploads by browsing through an entire list titled “New Replays” or by narrowing the list down to a specific generation of characters (Originals, Alpha, Boss, etc.). Most impressively, the Replay Channel records all of the player’s own recent matches in a ‘Battle Log’. This is another great learning tool because after any heartbreaking loss you are able to replay the match through the Battle Log and analyze what went wrong. Any replays, whether they be your own or someone else’s, can also be saved for future viewing.
Earlier I mentioned that the presentation of ‘Arcade Mode’ is pretty abysmal. Fortunately, this is not the case with the game as a whole. Despite being identical to a year old game, the graphics in SSF4 are still very impressive. Character models and stage backgrounds (especially the new stages like Solar Eclipse) are highly detailed and definitely have a high level of polish about them. The ink effects of the focus attacks and some of the flashier ultra combos such as Guy’s Bushin Muso Renge are among the highlights of the game’s technical achievements. Menus are also slick and easy to navigate. Super sees absolute improvement in the sound department for two main reasons: firstly, the cringe inducing Indestructible theme has been completely removed and secondly, you can now choose to play the awesome character themes during versus and online modes instead of listening to the normal stage music. This is especially nice because some of the new characters’ tunes (Cody and Juri’s themes for instance) are particularly good. Voice acting is solid yet appropriately corny and, like the original, you can toggle any character’s voice between English and Japanese.
Super Street Fighter 4 isn’t a groundbreaking achievement—it’s an updated version of a year old game. Still, it’s also one of the best 2D fighting games available in terms of gameplay and available content. It’s also cheaper than the original despite an abundance of new features. If you were interested in Street Fighter 4 but ultimately passed, then you should look into Super. If you loved SF4 and want more, then you should look into Super. If you have any interest in the fighting game genre at all, then you should look into Super.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
New Modes, New Characters, New Music, New Costumes, Cheap Price.
Veteran players can still be beaten (occasionally) by frantic button-bashing.