We got our first peek of Super Street Fighter IV a few weeks ago in Japan but didn't have a chance to get our hands on an arcade stick and bust some heads with the new characters. Since then, we've been harassing Capcom for some hands-on time and our wish was finally granted this week. Capcom reps stopped by our offices with a demo version of the game that--while bare bones in terms of modes and the full roster--let us try out some of the new roster additions.
The version of the game we tried featured several returning characters: Ryu, Guile, and Chun Li. There was also newcomer Juri, as well as returning favorites T.Hawk and Dee Jay. The new returning characters have all gotten the funky 3D-watercolor makeover the rest of the cast received in Street Fighter IV and fit in well. While there were no new stages in our demo, the returning stages in the demo had a number of tweaks to them that included changes to static background elements, the addition of more animation or tweaked detail, and some lighting changes.
Beyond the game's visuals, the meat of our demo focused on the gameplay. Our first test was with Juri who played pretty much like we expected--fast but not a powerhouse. The various special moves we saw demoed in Japan were easy to pull off and not too hard to chain together. She's a flashy character who can dole out a decent amount of damage if she's played aggressively and can keep an opponent off balance. However, the party ends quickly if she starts taking hits. The lithe fighter has a pretty glassy jaw, which makes it maddening to try to go toe-to-toe with the heavier hitters in the game, such as Guile and T.Hawk. Her super and ultra moves help even the odds but currently require some very specific setup to do the max amount of damage. On the other end of the spectrum is T.Hawk who felt pretty familiar. The burly Native American isn't very fast but hits like a truck. Hawk's modest array of special moves, air charges, and throws should be familiar to fans of the series.
From the look of things in the demo we played, Hawk's classic moves all seem to be back and performed with the same controller motions. It's interesting to note that it seems easier to pull off his storm hammer grab. His supers and ultras were all nicely flashy, as well as capable of doing a respectable amount of damage. So far, T.Hawk feels like he's made a good transition to the SFIV system. He still has the same strengths and weakness in balance that he always did, with the current notable exception of the easier storm hammer. Finally, Dee Jay seems to be in the same boat as T.Hawk, with a familiar feel, as well as the same pluses and minuses. We tried his classic moves, dread kicks, projectiles, and hyperfist, which all came off without a hitch. The sweatpants-wearing kickboxer's supers and ultras were the most forgiving of the three new characters we tried, although they didn't do as much as we would have liked. We tried each character's taunts, which were decent (Juri), bland (T.Hawk), and goofy (Dee Jay). The demo version we tried only had one taunt for each character, but the final game is set to include more.
While we weren't able to check it out ourselves, we got briefed on some of the new content we weren't seeing, such as the car and barrel bonus stages, which will stay faithful to those seen in the various Street Fighter II games. We're probably most excited about the various multiplayer options set to be included SSFIV, team and endless battles, as well as the replay channel and upcoming Tournament mode, which will be a free piece of downloadable content due to hit after launch. The new multiplayer modes aren't a perfect substitute for a proper arcade experience with mobs of people and machines, but it's likely the best we're going to get given the state of arcades in the US, so we'll take what we can get.
Super Street Fighter IV is still looking and sounding like a promising evolution of Street Fighter IV. As we said in our last look at the game, we're just hoping the price is right. The amount of content--both obvious and subtle--being put into the game is meaty, but its appeal is directly tied to its price. Super Street Fighter IV is slated to ship in the spring of 2010. Look for more on the game in the coming months.