If Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting tickled your quarter-popping nostalgia with its Xbox Live Arcade release in 2006, then Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix will light it on fire with a fierce dragon punch. The arcade classic's fast and fun one-on-one fighting translates brilliantly into HD Remix, seamlessly blending with the beautifully redrawn and wonderfully balanced cast of classic Capcom characters. The challenging single-player story mode and refined online multiplayer are both playable with the classic Super Turbo rules or in the entirely revamped Remixed mode. By tweaking the attack damage and move sets of each character, Remixed makes for a wholly refreshing gameplay addition that changes the way you'll play the timeless 2D fighter.
The straightforward concept of punching and kicking people on a 2D plane is easy to grasp, but the addition of complex combos, special moves, and devastating super combos brings depth to the satisfying gameplay. Because longtime fans have already known the mechanics of Super Street Fighter II Turbo inside and out since 1994, the alterations to each of the 17 uniquely powered characters' move sets within the Remixed mode gives them a fresh feel almost 15 years later. For example, attack enhancements encourage you to use moves that you might have otherwise ignored: Chun Li's ground spinning bird kick has a new movement arc, allowing her to escape corner traps or fireballs. Similarly, Guile’s flash kick now travels forward rather than straight up. Other notables include E. Honda's ability to dive through energy attacks, as well as Ryu's fake fireball and M. Bison's psyche-out sliding kick, both of which can dupe an opponent into jumping or opening themselves up.
With superior gameplay comes advanced AI, and casual players will be obliterated by the professional-level computer opponents on any of the three difficulties above beginner. You'll have to learn the speed and specials of your favorite fighter if you're going to stand a chance against the brutally tough opposition. The challenge is worsened because the controls simply aren't precise enough with a control pad. Sure, you can use the D pad or analog stick to brawl, but neither--especially the Xbox 360's lousy directional pad--is preferable to an arcade stick. Remix attempts to compensate for this by simplifying many of the attack inputs; some complicated super combos have been reduced from frenetic arcade-stick waggling to painless analog arcs. This accommodation is something you'll appreciate if you're using a controller or are easing yourself into the series for the first time, but veterans will probably be irked by the ease of executing some of the bigger attacks.
But it's this batch of dedicated Street Fighter nuts that will absolutely adore the deeply customizable Dip Switch settings. These allow you to tune the game's minutiae to suit your personal preference by enabling or disabling a seemingly innumerable list of options, in addition to regulating variables. For example, if you don't like the idea of your opponent tossing you again after a throw-induced daze, you can restrict it. The Dip Switch settings even go as deep as letting you adjust the percentage that dictates whether or not the first frame of an attack can be blocked or not. Obviously, these thoroughly thought-out features won't serve you any purpose if you're not rooted in the game's core mechanics, but picky players will love tinkering with the finer points of Street Fighter's foundation.
Even the most hardcore purist can't deny the smoking-hot widescreen, high-definition visuals. Each character sprite has been crisply redrawn by comics publisher UDON, who manages to make them look terrific. The stage backgrounds were also subject to an artistic overhaul; the memorable Brazilian shanty huts, moonlit Japanese dojo, and chicken-choking merchant are all radically repurposed with vibrant colors and wonderfully painted textures. As an added bonus, you can disable the 1080p bliss of the anime-style fighters in favor of their old, pixelated sprites if you're looking for a blast from the past. Adding to the phenomenal visual delight is an energetically enhanced soundtrack. A fusion of heavy metal guitar riffs and groovy electronica will pump you up with retooled versions of classic jams in the menus and during fights. While the clear star of HD Remix is the audiovisual upgrade, the smaller touches give developer Backbone a reason to gloat about its attention to detail--the annoying announcer from Turbo been kindly redubbed; Guile's laughable Turbo voice has been replaced by an older, better version; and the training mode lets you look behind the curtain and scope out the hitboxes that accompany the collision detection.
The three online multiplayer modes--friendly/unranked fights, leaderboard ladder matches, and bracketed tournaments--are packed with potential opponents, so at the time of this review you'll have no problem finding somebody to play with. There's no way to get matched up against similarly skilled opponents online unfortunately, so depending on your skill level you might get destroyed or struggle to find challenging opponents. Mercifully, the lag that plagued Hyper Fighting is practically nonexistent in both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. You'll find yourself totally engaged during your buttery-smooth matches, and completely captivated as the rotating roster of up to eight players puts you in the spectator seat between bouts. In traditional arcade fashion, you'll be booted to the back of the line while the next player tests his or her mettle against the current champ, but you'll never be bored because Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is almost as entertaining to watch as it is to play. The amazing combat makes for quick, entertaining matches that are filled with ecstatic cheering, intense comebacks, and shameful defeats.
It's hard to gauge whether the characters are as meticulously balanced in the Remixed variant as they are in Turbo, simply because there hasn't been enough time to test the tweaks. Still, the overload of edits are welcome additions to an already great game--and since you can drop back into the original Turbo at any time, you aren't forced to relearn your preferred fighter. The extensive alterations are wonderful, giving HD Remix the feel of a straightforward 2D brawler with all the sheen of a brand-new game that's capped off with Street Fighter's venerable depth and lavish presentation. Despite its minor issues, this is one of the finest iterations of Street Fighter to date, and one that any fan of fireballs and fisticuffs shouldn't miss.