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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Super Street Fighter IV (Playstation 3)

Last year's Street Fighter IV marked Capcom's long-awaited resurgence into the fighting genre, delivering the solid gameplay players have come to expect from the series along with a brilliant HD makeover combining hand-drawn artistic visuals with high-def polygons. Now, the company has released a new update, Super Street Fighter IV which adds copious amounts of new content in the form of ten new playable characters, tweaked the original roster to add balance while adding new online modes to make for a much deeper and more rewarding title. There's bound to be some complaints from those who purchased the original but, SSFIV offers more than enough new content to justify its purchase.

Building on the successful reinvigoration of its legendary fighting franchise, Capcom brings another solid upgrade to PS3 players in the form of Super Street Fighter IV. The new game adds new characters, gameplay modes and other upgrades to the series to create one a solid fighting experience. As in the last game, the classic fighting engine players have grown to love over the years has undergone a significant overhaul. Instead of the traditional sprite-based look that have become its trademark, new 3D polygonal characters have been implemented. However, they don't look bland and have been overlaid with a beautiful artistic brush-stroke look that makes each character look like an anime-character come to life. Most importantly, the gameplay still resides exclusively in the 2D plain, which previous attempts to change, is a very good idea. This approach means all the classic moves have been retained and so has most of the feel of the classic SF titles. Capcom's developers have done a superb job with the characters because their personalities and stylish attacks have transitioned beautifully to create a title that looks as good in 3D as it did in 2D. The game's backdrops, while not character specific as in previous titles, still have a cohesive and beautiful flair that makes the game's visuals look very easy on the eyes. With all this new high-definition detail in evidence throughout, the smooth character animations and frenetic gameplay have also made a brilliant transition, so that the game plays as smoothly and fluidly as the original games did, there's no doubt that this title is a long way from the clunky experiments like the EX series which were disastrous attempts to bring the series forward. Like the enhancements from an earlier era, SSFIV adds many new characters to the proceedings, but the changes from the last installment go deeper than that, with beefier attacks and more nuanced strategies that come about from the many new characters and the tweaks made to the original line-up.

One of the most appealing parts of SFIV was its impressive cast of characters. Capcom undercut this by making players battle the difficult boss character Seth to unlock most of them. This time around, not only are there more characters, but they're all available from the start. With 35 characters, including ten new ones, there's plenty of challenge to be had. Most of the familiar names such as Ken, Ryu, Blanka, Dhalism, Chun-Li and Sakura make up the list of old favorites as are expected returnees from SFIV such as C. Viper and Abel, and they look and play as you'd expect them to with some slight changes. SSFIV's added characters who've entered the new roster include a number of classic fan favorites including Dudley, Rose, Cody, and Deejay who players will probably remember from the older days. The game also includes a pair of brand new characters, who add unique styles to the game. These include a martial artist name Juri, who is quite strong in her attacks and the most memorable addition Hakon, who brings a cool style of oiled wrestling to the mix. Capcom's mix of new and existing characters provides plenty of diversity in attacks and movements, and this creates a much deeper fighting experience than SFIV. What makes playing these new/old characters so enjoyable is their mix of familiarity and the element of surprise when you find out how their moves have evolved. Each of them lends a unique personality and fighting style to the battle, and players should be able to find one of them that will suit their playing style.

After you're done selecting your character, you'll find that the battle system has been revised. The existing characters have been tweaked a little bit, so some of their moves aren't as hard to defeat. For example, some of the super combos won't inflict quite as much damage as before. Other moves, like the revenge attacks and focus attacks have also been changed to better balance each character. This makes for a more balanced series of battles and enhances the strategic play that players have come to expect. As veterans of the series know, there's a strong reliance on half-circle moves and button combos to perform special moves and this method remains consistent throughout the different characters' move sets. SSFIV takes this command structure in several direction, with the expected gauge meters determining when you can unleash the most powerful super attacks and combos. Each character's complete moves lists are conveniently available in pull-down menus, which makes them very easy to access instantly Players who need a quick refresher will be able to practice their moves using the game's extensive training mode, where you can set up opponents' stances and practice until you've mastered the game's intricacies in full. Playing against the AI opponents can also help you fine-tune your skills, which is especially true in the harder difficulty settings. This comes in handy in the online modes, where you face off against opponents who can be very hard to beat. The new game includes several enhancements to its online component including better match-making and other new additions to make for a more robust experience that stands head-to-head with the best in this legendary series.

While the first SSFIV game looked fantastic and updated the visuals for HD consoles, the gameplay and mechanics have retained center stage. Playing the game with a standard d-pad offers a fairly acceptable experience, with most buttons and actions mapped to the face buttons, with the stronger attacks mapped to the shift keys. You can definitely have a lot of fun playing in this mode, but in order to really enjoy the game and get the full experience, you'll need an arcade stick, which makes performing the circle motions and special attacks much easier, as opposed to the somewhat clunky interface otherwise. Most players who've played any SF title over the past two decades should have little trouble getting the hang of things, since SSFIV retains most of the control conventions players have gotten used to. One of the more annoying things about the first SFIV title was its end level boss Seth who delivered an almost unstoppable barrage of attacks taken from the other characters. It made completing the arcade mode a very difficult task. Fortunately, the level of difficulty has been taking down a little. This is probably the biggest change in the new game, and also one of the most welcome.

Another minor change comes between rounds, when you hear that annoying announcer from SFIV has also been swapped out for a more appropriately voiced one, which makes the battles feel more dramatic. SSFIV's interface is nicely designed this time around and its not as difficult to navigate through the menus. Even with all the changes and smart additions, some players might complain that many of SSFIV's features could have come in the form of DLC, but between the tweaked fighting system, ten new characters, added online modes, bonus stages, and numerous other changes, it would have required downloading almost the entire game again. The good news is that it arrives about 20 dollars cheaper than a standard release, so you need to factor this into things. Releasing it on disc makes the upgrade path simpler for a large number of players without online access. Super Street Fighter IV is definitely a vast improvement over last year's model, with an engaging cast of new and returning characters including numerous fan favorites that make it feel like much more than a cheap update. The added depth and strategy the new characters provide make for a much deeper and more challenging fighter that offers a more diverse and interesting lineup. As in last year's game, the appealing visual style remains intact and its gameplay is challening and enjoyable. This makes it an excellent game overall, and a satisfying purchase for any one who enjoys the resurgent Street Fighter franchise.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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