by Declan Rabun
I still remember that spring day of 1993 at my friend Josh's house when I first played Street Fighter II on Super NES. A higher echelon of gaming competition was introduced to me invoking a fury in my soul. I loved it. Most players of the game can confirm the cocky satisfaction that fills you after vanquishing your buddy with a well-timed shoryuken. Street Fighter II was the revolution of mano-a-mano gaming and became the grand pappy of many, many many fighting games to come. Like a fried Twinkie, too much of a good thing can be monstrously destructive. The genre suffered a powerful decline earlier this decade partly due to consumers being bombarded by fighting games, sequels and updates. It seemed that every few months you had a new game with the Street Fighter or Capcom name: X-Men vs Street Fighter Ex, Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter, SNK vs Capcom, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Street Fighter 3 Double Impact, Marvel vs Capcom, blah blah blah. All of these were great, but it got heavy on the wallet, and doesn't include all the other miscellaneous fighting games from Capcom, SNK or Namco (Remember Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Samurai Showdown, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure?). I won't bother going into the 3D fighters, the point is made that there were a lot. Marvel vs Capcom 2 was truly the reason to buy a Sega Dreamcast in 2000 as it brought together all characters from five years of Capcom crossover fighting games. Sadly, we gamers later found that MvC2 represented the apparent end of 2D fighters, a depressing realization that set in as 3D gaming became the mainstream. Capcom even stated there would never be another numeric Street Fighter title. But Producer Yoshinori Ono changed the fate of world warriors when he pitched the revival of the series to Capcom bigwigs in 2006, it was a go with one condition: it had to be done proper.
Last year, Capcom revitalized the fighting game genre with Street Fighter IV. SF4 delivered tight controls, balanced gameplay and that oh-so-important pick-up-and-play ability. Fans of the old arcade days or newcomers could grab a controller and throw a hadoken in minutes. Under the hood SF4 had the mechanics that would satisfy hardcore gamers with focus attack cancels and link combos. Capcoms return to the playground reminded studios like Namco (Tekken, Soul Calibur), Sega (Virtua Fighter) and Team Ninja (Dead or Alive) who was boss around these parts. 3D fighters such as Virtua Fighter, Tekken or Soul Calibur were good and certainly filled the gap of fighters. By 2005 it was excepted that 3D fighters were the standard and 2D was virtually dead. Street Fighter IV may be rendered in 3D but plays as a traditional 2D game and even punishes the Button Masher. Tight gameplay avoids infuriating moments of loss due to mistakes or button spamming (I smashed more than a couple controllers due to these moments). SF4 requires patience and strategy to master and is most gratifying. Hours of training pay off when you show your friends who is king of the shoryuken in titan-esque victory.
So why buy SUPER Street Fighter IV? There's no real excuse not to if you are at all interested in the genre, that's it. While the game is essentially an expansion of last year's Street Fighter IV, it is packed with new content; tweaked gameplay offers even further balance to an excellent fighting engine. Ten new fighters of Super SFIV round out a cast of 35 mighty deities composed of the best of Street Fighter past. All characters have the potential to be beastly with practice leaving no Sodom, Birdie, Twelve, Rainbow Mika, Karin, or any other unattractive/imbalanced warrior left behind. Street Fighter Alpha 3 offered 34 characters back in 1998 yet many of the game's characters felt strained, uninteresting, and difficult to play. In comparison, one of SSFIV's new characters, Hakan - a Turkish Oil Wrestler with the skin of a hotdog is an interesting new grapple type fighter who can be dangerous at a distance and isn't just a humorous throw away like Alpha 3's R. Mika. New or casual players can easily take to the second newcomer to the game, Juri - a Tae Kwon Do Assassin sporting side boob, or rely on SF classics such as Ryu or Guile. Meanwhile, the more technical player can spend plenty of hours mastering Guy, Makoto, Hakan, or Cody. Rose, Adon and others who give a nod to the Street Fighter: Alpha series. The deeply under appreciated Street Fighter 3: Third Impact is represented by the likes of Dudley, Ibuki and friends. Everybody is here and feels right at home - that's 20 years of Street Fighter bliss.
SFIV also sports a refined online play along with classic car crush and barrel bash bonus stages that is just icing on the cake. All of this comes in a reasonable $40 package. I'm sure there's a few nay sayers out there thinking, "I bought the original, all of this should be DLC!" But before you get your tighty whities in a bunch, think about it: If all of this content was DLC, offered at the standard "slightly-above-reasonable" rate you would be paying far more than forty bucks. Capcom has announced SSFIV players will receive a Tournament Mode for online bracket construction in June, for free! In short, everything that made last year's release awesome is here and so much more.
Passionate is probably an understatement for my feelings towards fighting games, and I become thoroughly pissed when I see and play crappy games (looking at you Samurai Showdown Sen). Having followed the genre and this series in particular, I believe Capcom has pulled a resurrection even Jesus would be proud of. If you are a competitive nerd or just curious about fighting games, Super Street Fighter IV is the one game you must have.
Good: All the characters are great, you can potentially become a beast with anyone. Upcoming Tournament Mode is a free add on.
Bad: Classic stages like a Japanese rooftop or snow covered zen garden would be nice or background cameos besides Hugo.
Ugly: The animated intro/outro cinemas for arcade mode are still dumb, still unattractive. But hey, you can skip that (WTF are you playing arcade anyway?) Same goes for the illustrated menu screens, the main menu has Ken and Ryu locked in a grapple of bizarre sexual tension.