Excellent expansion or unnecessary update?Edit
If someone were to walk up to me and ask what fighting game they should buy, my answer would be Super Street Fighter IV. In standard Capcom fashion, the company has updated a celebrated fighter, in this case Street Fighter IV, and added a whole pile of features and playable characters to make a improved product. With a bigger online suite and a bunch of other tweaks, this is the better version of Street Fighter IV, meaning it's one of the best fighters around.
Because Street Fighter IV's mechanics are well known at this point, the question of whether or not you really want to pick this up comes down to the new content it offers. There aren't any major changes to the basic fighting system. There's still the Super Combo Gauge that lets you pull off EX moves and supers. The Revenge Gauge lets you smack opponents with Ultras, of which there are now two per character. These give you more of a reason to go back and test out the original 25-member cast of Street Fighter IV (all included here), because Abel now has a delayable grapple Ultra and Guile can toss a gigantic Sonic Hurricane.The appeal of the game is its masterful blending of accessibility with complexity. Anyone can pick up a controller and enter in the charge moves and quarter/half/full circle motions to initiate special moves. The Focus Attack system introduced in Street Fighter IV is still here, and initiated simply by holding down two buttons. Because this is more of an expansion that an entirely new product there aren't many surprises, but it's still some of the best fighting gameplay around.
Once you get comfortable with the basics and can pull off a character's special moves, you can turn your attention to stringing them together for combos and digging into EX Focus cancels. Because every character's moves are pulled off with similar inputs, it lets you concentrate on how to use them in a fight, minimizing frustration without sacrificing depth. Being prepared is also important, which requires getting familiar with each character's techniques so you know what to look out for. There'll be some learning to do if you decide to pick up Super Street Fighter IV, because the game has 10 new characters to select. Two of these characters, Juri and Hakan, are completely new to Street Fighter and a lot of fun to play around with.
Juri's a quick fighter and comes with a few useful abilities like a mid-air diving kick and a fireball that can be stored for later use, letting you launch it into your opponent when they least expect it. Hakan, on the other hand, is more bizarre. A Turkish oil wrestler who can power up by initiating a move that dumps oil all over himself, Hakan's strength is in his grapple moves -- one at close range and another where he dives from afar. Hakan makes up for his slower speed with a stomach slide that shoots him swiftly across the screen. The other eight new additions, Makoto, Ibuki, Guy, Cody, Adon, T. Hawk, Dee Jay and Dudley, have appeared in previous Street Fighter games and all come along with unique fighting styles that set them apart from the returning cast. Some particular standouts are the rock-tossing Cody and the nimble boxer Dudley, though anything could happen with character rankings once Street Fighter fans worldwide pick up the game and start experimenting with combos.With a giant roster of 35 characters, you should have no difficulty finding someone you like. The good news in Super Street Fighter IV is that everyone's unlocked from the beginning. That means no annoying marches through Arcade Mode trying to unlock Akuma and Gouken. Just load up the game and you can pick anyone you like. Should you decide to still check out the Arcade Mode, you can see new animated and often absurd storyline cinematics for the newcomers, take part in Street Fighter II-style Car Crusher and Barrel Buster mini-games, as well as face off against a Seth who seems a lot less cheap than he was previously. You can also turn on the fight request system to get pulled into matches against others. Because you don't need to unlock characters, there's less emphasis on plowing through Arcade and much more on heading online.
Most of the online portion of Street Fighter IV has received an overhaul in this new Super version. If you remember, when Street Fighter IV was first released, only Ranked and Player matches were available online. The point system in that game was also problematic, because it encouraged players to only use their best fighters in Ranked contests and punished experimentation. Capcom sidestepped that issue in Super Street Fighter IV by implementing two point systems.You'll gain Player Points for victories in online contests and lose them when you're defeated. On top of that, you'll also be rewarded with Battle Points allocated to a rating for the specific fighter you're using. So if you're really good with Rufus but want to check out how Adon works, your Player Point rankings will take a hit should you lose, but your Rufus Battle Point rank won't be affected as you test out Adon against others. This lets you get a sense of overall skill (Player Points) as well as your best fighter (Battle Points). Both Player and Battle Points are tracked on the game's online leaderboards, letting you see how you stack up against others and delivering a better ranking experience to players who take their status in the community seriously.
There are two additional modes alongside the ranked matches. Team battles allow for 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4 setups where players take turns beating each other up to see which group has the most talent. There's also the Endless Battle mode that effectively recreates an arcade experience. Up to eight players can enter into a queue and watch as two of them engage in battle. The winner stays in and moves on to the next person in line, while the loser is kicked to the end of the queue to wait for another turn. The cool part is that everyone can talk to each other the whole time, commenting on the fight, trash talking, or sharing new techniques. While there's the potential for someone with a rotten attitude to ruin the experience, you can always mute them, and with a group of friends this can be a great way to learn new moves and mechanics and foster a friendly, competitive atmosphere.Another way to watch others try out moves and combos you may not have seen before is to check out the impressive Replay Channel. In the New Replays section you'll be able to browse a huge array of matches from around the community. Because the participants' Battle Point ranks are highlighted next to the characters they're using, you can get a sense of which matches will be better than others, and can then save them to your hard drive for future viewing. While watching, you can turn on input data, send the match into slow-motion, and turn on the damage numbers to get a better idea of what each player is doing. Should you find a replay that's really good and decide to save it, you can then invite up to eight friends into a viewing lobby where you can all watch and comment on the match, trying to figure out how the combos worked or making Mystery Science Theatre 3000-style verbal jabs. It's a great way to learn new techniques and an excellent resource for Street Fighter fans used to going to YouTube to scan for the best matches.
What's missing in Super Street Fighter IV is the Championship Mode, which was a downloadable extra for the original Street Fighter IV. It's not a huge loss considering the additions of Team and Endless Battles, but it's still an odd omission. Capcom has promised a Tournament Mode will be made available for free on June 15th, 2010 as a download that'll include support for 4 or 8 person bracket tournaments, which should be a nice bonus to look forward to down the line. Super Street Fighter IV still supports Versus mode for offline competition, a highly customizable Training Mode to hone your skills, and a reworked Challenge Mode, minus Survival and Time Attack, that walks you through basic character moves and more advanced combos for each fighter. This means Super Street Fighter IV is equally accommodating for both hardcore players and total newcomers, and costs only 40 American dollars on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Even if it doesn't have the same kind revitalizing effect on the genre as its predecessor, Super Street Fighter IV is an easy recommendation. It's the superior version of one of the best fighting games around, offering a huge cast of 35 characters along with a far more developed online suite compared to the original version. The gameplay is fast, fun and easy to dig into, and deep enough so that you're always discovering new ways to chain combos and improve your skills. Whether you're a franchise veteran or a total newcomer, you can't go wrong with Super Street Fighter IV.