Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is probably a game that Capcom should have made a long time ago. Or, at least, the mentality behind this game should have been employed long before this point. With a series of intelligent updates and a real attention to detail, it feels like HD Remix was done by a group of people who understand the source material and treat it with an appropriate amount of reverence. The end result is a game that raises the bar for modern remakes and updates of classic games.
HD Remix is, as the name implies, an updated version of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Super Turbo was the last in the Street Fighter II line, and it's a game that built upon (and repaired) a lot of the changes made in the previous game, Super Street Fighter II. Super and Super Turbo essentially rebuilt the Street Fighter II experience with new moves, new characters, and newer, more powerful hardware underneath the hood. Some of the changes were positive, but there was definitely a downside, too. A new announcer and a lot of new character voices appeared here, and some of them were downright awful. Also, the CPU opponent got way more difficult, to the point where you could only really enjoy the game if you were playing with a similarly skilled human opponent. On top of all that, the Street Fighter II series had already been around for three years by the time Super Turbo was released. I don't know what you were doing in 1994, but I was sort of done with Street Fighter II and getting into other fighting games, so I never really gave Super Turbo much thought.
OK, that's probably a bit more history than you actually require. The key thing to know is that HD Remix rebuilds and rebalances Super Turbo, and the changes all feel intelligently designed. The look of the game has been completely overhauled by the comic book artists at Udon, resulting in crisper, better-looking characters and backgrounds. You've never see a chicken get choked so clearly until you've seen the updated version of Chun-Li's stage. The dude getting drunk in the background of Zangief's level has never looked better. Of course, the fighters themselves have also been redone. For the most part, they look great. The animation, however, throws the whole thing off a little bit. In order to keep the game running like it should with the same timing that players are used to, the developers didn't add a bunch of new frames of animation to the game. The result is that you see characters who should move really smoothly, like a Guilty Gear game or something. Instead, they animate just like they did back in 1994. This is, actually, the right move. Smoothing things out would ruin the gameplay. But it still looks a little odd in spots. If the new character art really bothers you, you can disable it to go back to the original sprites. You can also disable the default 16:9 view and take it back to the original 4:3 design. But there's no option to restore the original background art.
The audio has also been carefully overhauled. In places where it made sense to keep the original Super Turbo voices, they've been kept. In cases where the Super Turbo audio was terrible--like the stupid announcer or Guile's voice--that speech has been replaced. This actually fixes my top complaint with the original games. Guile now says "sonic boom" the same way he did in the older Street Fighter II games. And the announcer sounds like a new recording of a guy doing everything he can to sound like the old Street Fighter II announcer, not the guy from Super. It's all in the way he says "sevennnn!" All of the music has been remixed, too. The new music is pretty good, mixing up some of the styles of the source material to form tracks that sound enough like the old music to get by. If you like, you can disable the new music and return to the versions from the original Super Turbo. The voices won't revert back to the originals, but since they constitute an improvement across the board, that's not a big deal.
While the most obvious changes to HD Remix are purely audiovisual in nature, there has also been a lot of work done to the characters themselves, the way their moves behave, and even the way some of them are performed. This was done in an effort to rebalance the game and make more characters viable in top-level, tournament play. If you're not already up on things like how many frames it takes for Sagat to recover from a tiger shot, or the properties of Ken's dragon punch, you probably won't notice most of the changes. Some of them are far less subtle. Honda's jab torpedo can now travel through and destroy projectiles, giving him another way to close the gap between him and his opponent. Ryu can now do a fake fireball, which may entice your opponent to jump in. Moves that required three button presses can now be done with two to help make the game easier on a gamepad. While you might not notice all of the changes, the outcome is a great game that feels more balanced and more entertaining from top to bottom. That's something that players of all skill levels can appreciate. It's what Super Turbo should have been all along.
Of course, all of this would be for naught if the online side of the game didn't work. So the best part about the game is that the online has the ability to work incredibly well. I'm playing with a fairly standard DSL connection at home, and most of my matches felt perfect. Of course, you'll always run into some laggards from time to time, and in high-ping matches, the game acts completely crazy. You're better off using the custom match option to find games, which lets you see a player's ping before joining up. I routinely encountered ping times under 100, and occasionally as low as 30. These matches felt A-OK.
In addition to the basic ranked match, you can also get a group together for unranked matches. There's also a tournament option that lets up to eight players collide in a bracketed tournament, though you don't actually get to watch any of the other matches in the tournament. There are also some other smart but minor things in play here, like the way the game doesn't show you what character your opponent is picking ahead of time. This prevents players from trying to create specific, advantageous match-ups by waiting for the other player to choose a fighter.
In recent history, re-releases of old arcade games has been a trend, but it's also been a real non-event. Most of these games received a quick coat of fresh paint, which usually made the game look worse. Things like online play are only included in their basest, most simplified form. HD Remix makes most of those older releases look like cheap cash-ins. It may cost more than most arcade updates available for consoles today, but with the number of important changes being made and its extreme attention to detail, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix sets a new standard for downloadable arcade games... even though I still think Blanka's face doesn't look quite right.