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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


SSFIVAESuper Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition (Playstation 3) 

Capcom’s latest SFIV release is the most polished yet with an expanded roster of playable characters, tweaks to its balance and several under-the-hood enhancements. Its got the same great engine that made the last two releases, so it looks excellent and the game’s replayability remains very high. It’s got plenty of depth with such an extensive roster of characters and brings plenty of online fighting action thanks to its extensive online community support. While it doesn’t offer a significant change in the underlying gameplay, SSFIV: AE still delivers the deepest and most enjoyable fighting game in the current series yet.

As you might expect, Capcom’s been busy refining their now-classic Street Fighter IV and the latest iteration is superb in most areas. Casual players probably won’t notice some of the more subtle changes, but the game’s differences will be noticeable by hardcore players. The game’s most important new addition is the inclusion of four new characters, each of which brings a unique style to the game. Fans of the under-raterd SFIII will be happy to learn that the twins Yun and Yang comprise half of the new roster. With their varied and flexible move-lists and deep strategic play, they make a perfect addition that adds strategic fighting to the game and give more balance to play. Capcom’s other additions give some power in the form of Evil Ryu, who’s an amped up version of SF’s standard-bearer while the boss character Oni, Akuma’s evil form has also come aboard as a playable character. The complete roster comes in at an impressive 39 characters, which lends the game plenty of variety and tons of depth. It will take lots of time to master all of them, but most players will probably focus on 1 or 2 favorites and really learn their moves. As usual, each players extensive move list includes standard attacks. There are also special moves and super attacks. These include focus attacks, personal moves, super combos, revenge attacks and others that can be uses in certain situations. Focus and Super combo attacks also have different levels of damage depending on how full the gauge is. Players can choose which personal move they’ll use before each round. Most of these special attacks can be performed by filling up the power-gauge and unleashing the attack. Another key strategy is using the block and counters moves, which help to reduce damage from blows. Learning the timing of these defensive moves is critical, and while you can succeed without knowing everything or counting frames, practice and patience should make you a more effective player.

Once they boot up the game, players will find the standard modes of play included with SSFIV’s solo training, arcade, tournament, challenge, versus and, endless battle modes from the previous games being carried forward this time around. There’s also the network battle from the older titles, plus the team mode for this mode as well. One of the more interesting features this time is the ability to switch between regular and AE modes on the options screen. This allows players who own either game to compete against each other. SSFIV’s extensive replay mode is also included, but is now enhanced, SFIV: AE include numerous under the hood updates that add more depth to its online community. These changes mainly to its replay features. You can now save and view up to 50 different battles, change the name of each battle, label them and search has been made easier. Other improvements have been made as well which add to the game’s depth, There’s a new elite replay mode that allows you to view fights featuring the world’s best players. This is helpful when you’re training or looking for some new techniques to master. You can also follow specific players and see any new fights they’ve uploaded and the ability see the opposing player’s name and ranking during battle in the endless mode. Other updates include changes to the online battle mode that give you the ability to change lobbies easier and locate people in your group. Character balance changes have also been made, making the battles feel much more like they’re on the level. This is especially true during the boss battles, which are still difficult but not nearly as intimidating as they were in the last few games. Aside from that, the revisions and changes are somewhat small and don’t really change the way SSFIV plays compared to the last few games.

In order to really appreciate how solid and polished SSFIV:AE edition really is, you can compare it to the dreadful Mortal Kombat revival released a few months ago. MK was a terrible game that failed on so many counts, but the contrasts are illuminating. While the fights in MK are clunky with rigid, tedious moves lists, SSFIV’s battles flow naturally and smoothly. The moves meld into each other and make you feel like your playing an intuitive, natural fighting experience. The chaining moves and gradually branching upwards special attacks give players a great sense of freedom and expression. SSFIV’s numerous gameplay modes, extensive online support and great sense of community make it feel like a professional fighter. The cynical MK revival on the other hand, feels sloppy, tedious and its biggest new feature is the damage that appears on the fighters. Its unbalanced gameplay makes Mortal Kombat feel like little more than an outdated button-masher overlaid with HD graphics. The finesse, strategy and skill in the Street Fighter IV games make them feel more natural and deliberate, with a balanced fighting style that rewards skill, not rote memorization. When you see both approaches in action, the differences are striking and help to emphasize how much better Capcom’s fighting game franchise has become with each iteration, even in the year and a half since it first came on the scene. It’s little wonder that it has inspired so much devotion and loyalty among hardcore players. While the slight changes in this release are probably not going to win over any new converts, you can definitely appreciate the care and intelligence that has gone into almost every aspect of its design. SSFIV: AE is obviously aimed at the fighter who loves a good challenge, and its increased depth and challenge makes it one of the most-polished fighters on the market, with some of the deepest and most challenging gameplay mechanics Capcom has offered. Its slightly lower than average price tag gives players access to an extended roster of players, new online elements, improved balance and numerous additional features that make Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition well worth the investment.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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