Super Street Fighter IV accomplishes the rare task of bringing more of the bang for less of the buck.

User Rating: 9.5 | Super Street Fighter IV PS3
The announcement of Street Fighter IV three years ago turned the world on its axis, spinning it wildly like a wayward Tatsumakensenpyyukyaku (translation: Hurricane Kick). Its release in 2008 emitted a massive explosion of nearly 3 million copies worldwide. That's pretty impressive considering that fact that this was the first new Street Fighter game in nearly a decade following Street Fighter 3---Third Strike. Now, in the two years since Street Fighter IV's release on the home front, the subsequent update comes as no surprise. What is pleasantly surprising, however, is the impressive amount of content that surpasses the antiquities of the original release--nestled comfortably at a very reasonable $40 price point. Super Street Fighter IV is not so much a love letter to its existing fanbase, but rather a readily accessible fighter for anybody wanting to dive in to the franchise and throw their Hadokens for the first time. In some ways, the game has improved significantly over Street Fighter IV, making it even more welcoming to both newer players and veterans.

Not content with the already vast 25 character roster that currently exists, Super Street Fighter IV has sent out the invitations to at least ten more willing combatants-some of them new to the series, others returning from previous installments. The new characters include Juri, a cold-blooded S.I.N. liaison that draws on the power of the Feng Shui Engine installed in her eye, and Hakan, a Turkish Yagli Gures oil wrestler and perhaps one of the more interesting and bizarre fighters you'll ever see. (Brave the unsettling mental image of a smaller framed Zangief slathered in gooey oil.) The returning characters who are new to the Street Fighter IV scene are three from Street Fighter Alpha (Adon, Guy and Cody), Street Fighter 3 (Makoto, Ibuki and Dudley), and Super Street Fighter 2 (Dee Jay and T.Hawk). Each character handles exactly as you remember them from the games in which they come from---only this time, they've been fine tuned to adjoin with the complex and streamlined mechanics of Street Fighter IV; meaning they have Hyper Combos and Focus Attacks to play with. Speaking of which, each character can now select between two Hyper Combos before a fight-similar to the system in Street Fighter 3, but limited only to two instead of three. Street Fighter IV's existing roster have at least one brand new Hyper Combo at their disposal, granting them much more variable flexibility during matches. Hyper Combo gauges are built up when a character takes damage, and regular Super Combos typically fill up when you're the one dishing the hurt out. Focus Attacks are consolidated attacks that take some time to charge up, but when they land, they have the protensity to stagger an opponent's defense parameter long enough for you to quickly follow up with jugular fisticuff when their guards are temporarily down. In either case, it needn't matter too much whether you're getting your butt kicked or likewise kicking someone else's in due process---it is possible to mete out a comeback victory even when you're teetering on the threshold of a humiliating defeat. The nice thing about Street Fighter IV was that it introduced these new fighting strategies to breathe new life to existing characters that you've used so many times before, so it never really felt like you were playing the same character from Street Fighters past. Yet they were still the characters you remember with many of their memorable moves and strategies firmly in place. Super Street Fighter IV is no exception, and the inclusion of new Hyper Combos for all the World Warriors is a nice touch.

As far as gameplay modes go, Super Street Fighter IV offers an interesting range of ways to play offline and, most notably, online. Per usual, you have your Arcade Mode where you select one character to fight against a predetermined set of opponents, as well as an offline Versus Mode for local play and a Challenge mode to test your fighting game skills with individual characters. A new feature has been added to the Arcade Mode-known as a "Fight Request"--- where you can receive invitations out of the blue to take part in online matches while you're busy throwing your foot offline. This is a wonderful way to cut out the middle man whenever you want to partake in online competitions-doing away with simply waiting in the lobby for any openings. Just play offline to your heart's content until someone hands you the invite, and you're good to go. You can also host tournaments with willing participants---even those in which you cannot actively participate. (You can, however, arrange the tournament brackets between players at your own discretion, whether the parties therof appreciate it or not) Rather than bore you with the details, you can also take part in Endless Matches, Team Battles and the traditional one-on-ones. It's also possible to watch matches between players, offering commentaries other than the blarings of Super Street Fighter IV's new announcer, who sounds more robust than before.

A new feature known as the Replay Channel allows you to upload replays to the network for the viewing pleasure of interested eyes all over the country and the world. Likewise, you can also watch replays of matches between other players, and they are updated regularly given the overwhelming Street Fighter IV community that blossomed since its advent. Of course, needless to say, the purpose of watching replays isn't simply for enjoyment-it is an opportunity to study potential opponents-their strategies, typical character usage, and their manner of play. As the old saying goes; knowledge is power, and the Replay Channel provides heartily in that regard. But there's nothing wrong with just watching recorded matches for the fun of it.

Making a triumphant appearance for the first time since Street Fighter 3 Third Strike are those much renowned Bonus Stages. During Arcade Mode (or later on through the Challenge mode), you'll have the opportunity to unleash your pent-up rage on an automobile in a gas station (a nod to Final Fight-play as Cody when you're doing that and watch what happens.) as well as bursting some barrels that drop from the ceiling. Both stages are obvious throwbacks to the ones found in Street Fighter 2, and are a nice bit of nostalgic fervor to veterans who remember them. But, if you'd rather not be bothered by these tests, the option to do away with them entirely during Arcade Mode is available.

The graphics haven't changed since Street Fighter IV, but that isn't saying they aren't every bit as gorgeous as before. New fight arenas have been added, as well as some new music and the removal of the controversial "Indestructible" theme song. The existing characters have new anime openings and endings-which unfortunately you cannot view at your own leisure anymore as there is no option to view unlockable content like you could in the original game. Still though, there are unlockables to be earned in the long run-such as new fight taunts and colors for individual characters. You can even import costumes that you downloaded from Street Fighter IV for use in Super Street Fighter IV in addition to purchasing new ones. Other options include customizable character voices (i.e. Japanese and English), arranged BGM for certain characters and reasonable difficulty settings. (Seth is still challenging in Medium difficulty, but no longer nearly as brutally unforgiving as he was in the original release.)

What more can I say what hasn't already been said? Super Street Fighter IV accomplishes the fairly rare task of delivering more of the goods for a fraction of the price. There's simply no excuse not to consider adding this to your collection if you're a fan of the games, or already own a copy of the original game. At any rate, you certainly owe it to yourself to experience one of the finest Street Fighter games to date.




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