Now that Street Fighter IV has successfully revived the Street Fighter franchise, Capcom is looking to keep the series going with a new expansion. The new game, Super Street Fighter IV, aims to build on the foundation laid by this year's SFIV by adding new content that includes more playable characters, improved online features, and rebalanced characters. We got a demonstration of the work-in-progress Xbox 360 version from producer Yoshinori Ono and have much to report.
Before we dive in, we should explain what Super Street Fighter IV is, and more importantly, what it isn't. This is not a downloadable add-on for Street Fighter IV. You may be wondering, as we did, why Capcom didn't simply release Super Street Fighter IV's additions as downloadable content in the same way that Fallout and Grand Theft Auto IV received massive updates by way of DLC. However, Capcom has decided that the new game will come on a separate disc. Ono explained that when Street Fighter IV was originally being developed, certain aspects of the game code weren't laid out in such a way as to support the features that are being added in Super Street Fighter IV. While Capcom had initially considered making SSFIV's content a download pack of some kind, it became clear that just tacking the new content onto the old game wasn't going to be possible. As a result, SSFIV will be released as a stand-alone disc that won't be sold at full price. But, the producer explained, before you get rid of your SFIV disc, be advised that SSFIV will offer current SFIV owners a bonus that Capcom isn't revealing at this time.
This is what you can expect from the new game: Super Street Fighter IV will offer a mix of content that's directly related to the Street Fighter community's feedback about Street Fighter IV, as well as content the team had originally planned to add in a future installment after wrapping up SFIV. The topic of new characters was an area where fans and the development team were both in sync. As a result, the game's original roster of 25 characters is being bumped up by roughly eight new playable characters. Our demo showed off two of them: a brand-new, original female character named Juri; and the returning character T. Hawk, who originally debuted in Super Street Fighter II. The remaining additions to the roster are still up in the air, and Ono stated that although the team is currently planning for eight additional characters, that number may change based on the course of development, as well as fan feedback now that word on the game is out. The current plan is to pull in more classic characters, as well as toss some new ones into the mix. From the sound of it, exactly how many classic characters versus how many new characters make it in still hasn't been finalized and may change, depending on fan feedback--so it'll be interesting to see the final lineup. It's also safe to assume that there will be new background stages for the new characters as well, although we didn't see any in our demo.
Based on what we did see in action, fans should be pleased. T.Hawk has undergone the same update that the classic characters did in SFIV. His 3D model is faithful to the look of his old 2D sprite, and his moves have also been carefully translated to 3D. His super and ultra combos have gotten a spectacular, special-effects-laden face-lift that make his typhoon grapples look painful (and satisfying) to see in action. But whereas T.Hawk is the same powerhouse we all know and love, Juri appears to offer an alternative for players looking for speed and finesse. Juri is a Korean fighter, a first for the series, who uses tae kwon do and relies on an extensive array of kicks that reminds us a bit of Kim Kaphwan from SNK's King of Fighters and Fatal Fury games. The amazingly flexible and sensibly dressed vixen is fast and appears to use a variation of the soul energy Bison and Rose use. In addition to the expected array of kicks, Juri uses the energy for projectiles and an enhanced radial kick that looks to be pretty handy at dealing with enemies in the ground or air. Her supers are painful to watch; one starts with her breaking her opponent's back with a mighty slam and then lifting him up to taunt him before finishing the move.
SSFIV will also make another less-flashy-but-key addition in the form of a comprehensive tuning to each of the existing fighters. The work will include balance tweaks the team members wanted to include based on their own experiences, as well as feedback from fans. Returning fighters will get new ultra combos in addition to those seen in Street Fighter IV, which will require players to refine their fighting strategies. This work will be key to SSFIV's online matches, which are getting some serious work done to them. While Ono wouldn't go into specific details--mostly saying that SSFIV will feature an online experience that is considerably enhanced over the one in SFIV--he dropped a pretty big hint that some form of a lobby system may be added. The only downside to all this is that SSFIV won't be compatible with SFIV online because of all the upcoming changes.
The visuals in the game haven't undergone a tremendous change from SFIV. The returning characters and stages we saw looked pretty much the same. Juri and T.Hawk are done in the same art style as the rest of the roster and fit right into the game. Even though the demo we were being shown on the Xbox 360 was a work in progress, the game was already humming along at full speed.
Based on this early look, Super Street Fighter IV is shaping up to be a smart evolution of the groundwork laid by Street Fighter IV's revival. The new content and gameplay tweaks seem like meaty additions that will offer fans a lot to tear into and master. While the incompatibility with SFIV is a downer, we're happy to hear that Capcom won't be selling SSFIV at full price (although our happiness will be directly tied to exactly how much it sells for). Super Street Fighter IV is slated to ship in spring of 2010 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Look for more on the game in the coming months.