In a world where downloadable content keeps games fresh long after their shine has started to fade, fighter fans may perceive the retail release of Super Street Fighter IV as a way of double-dipping into the pockets of series devotees twice in consecutive years. But that's not the case here. While the game expands on the solid base established by its precursor, Street Fighter IV, brawlers who dismiss this as merely a lick of paint and a roster update will do themselves a major disservice by passing on its excellent features and gameplay.
6260493NoneDee Jay can't catch a break against T. Hawk.
Some of the changes, such as the introduction of a second user-selectable ultra combo per character, new online battle modes, and fresh animated cinematics that bookend each storyline, are obvious, but plenty of work has also been done under the hood, away from prying eyes. Each character has been rebalanced to maintain a level playing field; for example, Sagat's Tiger Shot damage has received a minor reduction, while Ryu's fierce Shoryuken now lands two hits instead of one. For a game as ferociously contested online and offline as Street Fighter IV, these fine adjustments are just as important as introducing new fighters to the already well-populated roster.
Super Street Fighter IV adds 10 new playable characters: eight from previous Super Street Fighter, Alpha, and Street Fighter III games, and two brand-new ones. This brings the total roster up to 35 playable characters. The game's complete character roster--which is now available in its entirety from the outset and no longer requires multiple completions of Arcade mode in order to be unlocked--includes the 12 classic world warriors: Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Blanka, E. Honda, Zangief, Guile, Dhalsim, Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison. All of the Street Fighter IV characters return: Cammy, Fei Long, Sakura, Dan, Rose, Gen, Abel, Crimson Viper, El Fuerte, Rufus, Gouken, Akuma, and Seth. New additions to the lineup are ninja schoolgirl Ibuki; young martial arts entrepreneur Makoto; Muay Thai kickboxer Adon; heavy-hitting Native American T. Hawk; Final Fight characters Guy and Cody; beat-crazed dancer Dee Jay; and gentlemanly pugilist Dudley.
Turkish oil wrestler Hakan and taekwondo Shadaloo agent Juri also make their debut. These two handle very differently from each other. While the comical appearance of the bright red Hakan and his body-oil-bathing routine are a bit strange, it does give him a competitive advantage; he uses heavy hits and slides in tandem with his grapple abilities to send opponents crashing into walls or looping in orbit around him like a hula hoop. By contrast, Juri's speed makes her nimble and deadly, perfectly suited to chaining together midair combo kicks, while her twirling EX Senpusha provides wide-reaching antiair defence.
Whether this is your first foray into the series or you're a seasoned vet, there is plenty of help available to get you up to speed with the characters and their abilities in Training and Challenge modes. Training is a free spar area to practice your moves with an AI-controlled opponent, while Challenge walks you through 24 must-know attacks and combos per character. While last year's game forced you to complete a challenge before being allowed to move on, accomplished and impatient players can now work their way through sequentially or skip the basics to tackle more difficult tests. The Survival and Time Attack modes have unfortunately been removed, but they've been replaced by the fun and nostalgic car and barrel destruction bonus stages, which can be played in isolation or woven into Arcade mode.
The game's story loosely holds your hand as it guides you through the fighting tournament the characters are taking part in. The attractive anime-style cutscenes in SFIV have been refreshed and give you another glimpse behind the gloves at the usually ridiculous motivations of the combatants. In true Street Fighter style, cutscenes ask as many questions as they answer, and though the characters' relationships with one another carry on from previous games in the series, first-timers and returning fans should have no trouble following along as the shallow story unfolds and steers you through the short Arcade mode.
You would be this angry too if you had such a gnarly sunburn.
All of the gameplay mechanics introduced in SFIV (such as focus attacks and rival matches) make return appearances, and you can now choose one of two ultra combos per fighter. This grants the choice between a ranged attack or close quarters combo to suit your play style. The ultras are listed only by name, and while they're easy to distinguish for all of the returning characters who were in SFIV (since all the new combos are marked in purple as Ultra II), expect some experimentation to work out which one you want to use for less frequently played characters.