Somewhere between DLC and sequel lies a certain type of release that always begs the question: is it worth it? Capcom's Street Fighter series is no stranger to such releases and their latest offering is an expanded version of Street Fighter IV. With ten new characters, new stages, new onlines modes and many other gameplay additions, Super Street Fighter IV takes the best fighting game from last year and expands upon it -- setting it up to most likely be the best fighter of 2010, and all for $40.
From the get go, players get access to not only all twenty-five characters from Street Fighter IV (including those that had to be unlocked like Akuma), but also the ten new fighters. Eight of these characters may be familiar to those who have followed Street Fighter over the years and then there are also two brand new characters. The list includes T.Hawk (Thunderhawk) and Dee Jay of Super Street Fighter II fame, as well as Dudley, Makoto, and Ibuki from Street Fighter III. Adon, the muay thai fighter that was first introduced way back in the original Street Fighter and was the second to last boss, is also here. Guy and Cody from Final Fight are here too. Finally, Juri, a Tae Kwon Do expert that works for SIN and Hakan, a Turkish wrestler and cooking oil mogul, round out the cast.
Of the new characters, I came to like several rather quickly, especially Juri and Cody. Juri has a variety of fast kicks that not only look great, but work quite well. Her reach is pretty good, her speed is excellent and the variety of angles she can attack with made her a lot of fun to use. In the arcade mode, she's portrayed as deceptive, confident, but easily bored. She's connected with Bison and Seth as you will find out during the last two battles of the arcade mode.
I enjoy using Cody partly because of the nostalgia factor with him being my favorite character in Final Fight (although his appearance and persona are much different here). But practically speaking, his special moves are easy to execute and he has a nice variety of high and low attacks. One of his special moves is throwing a small rock, great for a ranged attack that doesn't do a lot of damage, but can give you a quick diversion or make finishing off your opponent in the clutch easier.
Hakan looks pretty intense with his oily red skin and blue hair, but he's presented in somewhat of a comical way. His opening cutscene in arcade mode shows him being paranoid about a peasant trying to steal his secret olive oil formula. He reminds me a lot of E.Honda or maybe Zangief in that his moves are powerful, but short range. Hakan does have some quick attacks though like his oil slide move that his him sliding on his belly, tripping the enemy, spinning around, and then jumping onto his foe. Between him and Juri, I may like Juri better from a playing perspective, but I think Capcom did a nice job creating two new characters that are both interesting and fun to use.
Speaking of fun to use, Guy and Adon are both good choices for someone looking for speed. Guy is quick as he always has been since the Final Fight days and Adon combines speed with powerful smashing attacks from his knees and elbows. Some of Adon's moves showcase the best animation in the game as far as I'm concerned.
I've spent far less time with the trio of Street Fighter III characters: Dudley, Makoto, and Ibuki. Dudley is quick, but his strength lies in his boxing prowess. I never cared much for playing as Balrog, and Dudley feels too similar for me to spend a lot of time with him. Makoto's character doesn't interest me but some of her attacks are good, but with so many other better choices, I probably won't select her much. Ibuki, of these three, is the most interesting, but Juri has become my favorite female character.
Finally, T.Hawk and Dee Jay. T.Hawk can be a bear when controlled by the CPU, who often resorts to his spinning throw attack. I never thought much of him back in the Super Street Fighter II days, but he seems more intriguing here in SSFIV thanks to his mix of quick and powerful attacks. Dee Jay is similar -- I didn't use him much back in the day, but he's got a great two stage kick attack that works very well up close. His knee sends the enemy into the air and then he kicks them back from there. I also love one of his 'throw' attacks where he tosses an enemy up into the air while jumping on his back and kicking them.
Going from twenty-five to thirty-five characters adds a lot of depth to an already deep fighter. Not having to slug it out through dozens of Arcade Mode runs to unlock everyone is a nice bonus as well. Without a doubt, the additions of these extra characters is a welcome one, as are the other new features that Super brings. I would have loved to have seen a 'quick rematch' option for Arcade mode though, so I wouldn't have to wait for the character select screen and the stage to load up each time I lose.
A lot of the other changes with Super are cosmetic, like new backgrounds and a new costume for each of the original characters. Other more meaty changes are the addition of a new Ultra Combo for every character and several improvements and new modes for online. Each character now has at least two Ultra Combos that players can choose between during character selection. I thought it was interesting that you couldn't use either Ultra Combo at any time, but instead you can only choose which Ultra Combo you want to be able to use during character selection. Ultra Combos are as powerful and gorgeous as ever, but many of them require some tight control work that I'm more often than not able to pull off. Your mileage may very, especially if you have access to a joystick setup.
A good place to learn these moves is in Training, which is as robust as it was in the original SFIV, but there is now also a Challenges mode that takes you through a series of trials. These trials are setup for each character and help you learn all of their moves and gives you some ideas for combos.
In the online arena, Capcom added three new modes: Endless Battle, Team Battle, and the Replay Channel. Tournament Mode is scheduled for release in June and will be available as DLC for free. Changes to the Ranked Match mode have also been put in place that allows players to try out other characters without feeling the pressure of potentially reducing their rank. This is possible due to a new points system that includes Battle Points and Players Points. Both Battle and Player Points are affected after each Ranked Match. Battle Points are specific to a character while Player Points go towards your overall player level. At the end of a Ranked Match, if you win, you might be asked if you want to upload a replay of your fight for all other gamers to view.
Only one replay is allowed per player, but replays can be downloaded and saved to your hard drive. A built in replay system is a great tool for friends to share knowledge, but Capcom made it even better by allowing you to invite up to eight people to watch the replay with you. Players can discuss and analyze the video by turning on Button Input or enabling slow motion playback. Thanks to an icon next to each replay that shows you the person's Battle Point rank, it's somewhat easier to find what replays are going to be worth your time and which ones aren't. The Replay Channel includes filters for easily finding replays from certain categories too. If you want to watch replays with only boss characters, or Alpha characters for example, there's a filter for that.
Few games can bring a group of friends or even strangers together like Street Fighter which is the basis for the new Endless Battle Mode. Here, up to eight players can line up for battle. While two players are fighting, the rest can view the match and talk about it as it happens. Thankfully, there is a mute option on a per player basis. The winner stays while the loser goes to the back of the line, awaiting his turn for another crack at the action. For the impatient this mode may not offer much, but for anyone who remembers playing strangers and friends in arcades, this is a neat mode to get together on.
A Team Battle Mode is also a part of Super and allows up to eight players to split off into two teams to duke it out. One player from each side squares off with the winner moving on to face the next member of the losing team. Your teammates can watch you battle and whichever side beats all of the members of the other team first, wins.
Other new goodness that this Super edition brings includes the return of the classic car and barrel bonus stages from Street Fighter II. Just like all those years ago, the goal is to destroy a car within the allocated time frame using any moves necessary. The second bonus stage comes a little bit later in the arcade mode and has you destroying barrels that fall from the ceiling above. It's nice to see these bonus stages back, but they can get old in a hurry -- fortunately, after you complete the game one time, you can disable the bonus stages, making subsequent arcade mode play-throughs quicker.
The new stages or backgrounds in Super are impressive. A North American setting known as 'Skyscraper Under Construction' is pretty sweet and has players fighting high up in a construction zone. There is even what looks like an Andore (from Final Fight) in the background with a steel i-beam on his shoulder. The African map known as 'Solar Eclipse' is gorgeous and features some cute hippos that come out of the background and move up close to the fighters. The hippos are admittedly cute but don't let the flickering of their (relatively) tiny ears distract you. 'Exciting Street Scene' is set in Asia and features elephants and a taxi moving about while 'Volcanic Rim' features a massive exploding volcano. There is also 'Festival At the Old Temple' and the 'Deserted Temple' stage, as well as 'Crumbling Laboratory' which is a slick re-imagined version of the final stage where players square off against Seth.
One other part about Super that impressed me was the full color, highly detailed manual. You just don't see manuals of this quality very often, so I wanted to give it special mention.
In short, Super Street Fighter IV does exactly what Super Street Fighter II did all those years ago -- it takes an excellent game and makes it even better by adding exciting and deep content. Even for owners of the original Street Fighter IV, it's easy to recommend making the upgrade to Super.
With that, let's get to the summary...