The fighting genre has always held a peculiar place in my heart. There were times when I’ve been completely enthralled by competitive battles and fast-paced button combinations. I’ve spent countless quarters at the arcade playing Tekken 2 & 3 and Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, countless nights playing the original Soul Edge, countless days of high school duking it out over Street Fighter Alpha 3, and literally 100s of hours on each iteration of the Super Smash Bros. series, though most specifically with Melee (including winning or placing in a few local tournaments featuring the game). However, there are other times when I find it overwhelming to keep up with the demanding amount of playtime required to be competitive in the majority of fighting games.
Thus, with the latest generation of Street Fighter gracing recent consoles, I was excited but never found the true fighting nirvana that I once experienced with other games (partly due to my lack of devotion to mastering the game but most notably due to the fact that I received the game as a gift for the 360 and found it nigh unplayable due to the 360’s horrid D-Pad and my unwillingness to shell out for a better quality controller).
Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition seemed to be a bit of a second coming of the installment for me. I’d experienced and enjoyed fighting on a handheld previously (with Street Fighter Alpha 3 for the GBA) and I hadn’t experienced Super Street Fighter IV aside from my time at trade shows. And, on the heels of the 3DS’s release, SSFIV:3DE also benefits from being the best piece of launch software available for the system by a landslide. Could this game renew my love for the fighting genre or does the experience suffer through the transition from console to handheld?
As is the case with any current and near future release for the 3DS, most people will be wowed by the stereoscopic 3D the system offers. This is the case with SSFIV:3DE, as well, where the 3D is implemented masterfully and brings life to the game’s 2D combat without causing the gameplay to suffer. From successfully adding depth to the traditional camera option to adding an over the shoulder 3D experience, I was impressed with the effect the 3D had on the experience. And though the 3D effect is certainly more noticeable for games with broader gameplay arenas (such as PilotWings Resort and Ridge Racer 3D), the effect presented in this game does an incredible job of making the game feel like a console experience (despite backgrounds lacking the amount of animation seen in the console iterations).
Aside from the graphics, SSFIV:3DE is solid in other forms of presentation. The music and voice acting is strong and menus are easily navigable and quick to transition. Also, all of the menus and animations/opening battle sequences can be quickly skipped to get you to battle extremely quickly; if you lose a match, it takes less than 15 seconds to get right back into battle and if you win, under 10.
One of the more difficult accomplishments for a fighting game on a handheld is the limitation of the number of buttons as well as their size and close proximity. Though I’ve enjoyed experiences immensely on systems with even less buttons (Street Fighter Alpha 3 for the Game Boy Advance was particularly lacking in available controls but was still a great experience because it had the same amount of depth as the console iterations in terms of the amount of characters and modes to choose from).
SSFIV:3DE only features one extra set of buttons compared to the Game Boy Advance (X & Y) and though there are enough buttons to match to each punch/kick, the shoulder buttons still present problems in terms of pulling off some of the more difficult combos and challenging moves. To make up for this, players are given the option to assign moves to each of four touch screen quadrants (challenging moves for simple mode and less powerful ones to the advanced mode). This may not sit well with some of the fighting purists and the hardcore fighting crowd but it does work well for the more casual fighting enthusiast (and I didn’t find them particularly unsettling to my own experience).
I also found it difficult to decide whether the DPad or the Thumb Stick was the preferred method of control. On the one hand, a DPad is optimal for fighting games on a console (unless you have money to purchase an arcade style controller) and it certainly feels easier to correctly register moves on the 3DS’s DPad for me but I found the lower location of the DPad and an unsettling squeaking made me not want to use it. On the other hand, the Thumb Stick is an incredibly well crafted feature of the 3DS (that makes the PSP’s thumb nub be put to shame) but I’ve never really found joysticks on controllers to be optimal for fighting games as I far too often accidentally add the smallest offset angle to my combinations to force my character to inadvertently jump forward to my doom. I guess these complaints are more tailored to one’s own personal experience but I found them enough to have a noticeable impact on my success.
Impressive Depth & Value
Aside from providing a near presentational lateral and solid enough controls to feel similar to its console counterparts, the strongest part about SSFIV:3DE’s features is its amount of gameplay modes, features, and utilization of the 3DS’s capabilities. In a time when 3DS functionality seems a little incomplete and rushed, SSFIV:3DE utilizes just about all of the selling points the 3DS is touting and does it extremely well. First of all, it was very important that all 35 characters would be available in the game and this is the case, along with all of their mini-cut-scene stories to boot. Also, each character contains all of their costumes from the beginning (as opposed to requiring players to purchase them as downloadable content on the console counterparts).
To go along with the vast choice of fighters, there are a number of modes to choose from including the classic arcade mode and typical local wireless versus and 3D versus. For players who are new to the series or want to improve their skills with certain characters, there is a trial mode that features 24 different combos for each character that can be completed to earn different titles for your player rank. Also in challenge mode are the Car Crusher and Barrel Buster bonus stages. A training mode is also available to give you more time for mastering your skills on incompetent targets.
Finally, the game also features a number of different connectivity options aside from local matches. First of all, players can play in an internet match and can choose from quick match (pairs you up with a random opponent), custom match (matches you with an opponent based upon criteria that you specify), and friend match (finds available opponents from your friend list). Battling is easy and quickly accessed via Wi-Fi internet and encouraged as well (battling against opponents via Wi-Fi or local wireless nets players with battle points and player points, which rank their performance with individual characters as well as their overall performance respectively). And, if you so choose, you can watch your friends battle via spectator mode or battle against opponents who don’t own the game via DS download play.
The game also has a very cool trophy/miniature RPG mini-game that utilizes the system’s StreetPass functionality. Figurine Mode allows you to collect up to 500 different fighter figurines in via different methods. First of all, you can purchase them through a slot machine using Figure Points that are earned throughout your gameplay experience. Secondly, they can be traded via local wireless.
It’s fun to collect figurines but the interesting part of the mini-game features the StreetPass functionality of the 3DS. By creating a team of 5 different figurines, you can allow your team to go into a simulated battle if StreetPass communicates with another 3DS with SSFIV:3DE in sleep mode. When battling, you can gain levels with your figurines and earn even more Figure Points based upon your teams’ overall performance.
Though the battles are done automatically without your control, there is actually quite a bit of depth involved with the figurine battle system. First of all, each character has seven different figurines, each of which has different attributes overall. Each figurine can gain levels from 1-7 and each level increases their overall stats (but no team can have a maximum level sum of over 20). Next, each is rated with its own HP, Attack, Super Combo Gauge and Ultra Combo Gauge. Depending upon these attributes, characters will be more or less effective against other characters.