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Super Street Fighter IV Review4
by Jeff Gerstmann on
Super Street Fighter IV is a great fighting game that uses just about every feature the 3DS offers.
SSFIV on the Nintendo 3DS has almost all of the features found in the console versions of the game. There's a trial mode to let you bang out combos, you can set a player icon and title, you can fight through the arcade mode and get interrupted with online fight requests, and so on. Even the achievement system from the other versions make it over here via a custom list of medals that you can unlock. It has all 35 of the characters, and they even get a couple of the alternate costumes that required an extra purchase on the 360 and PS3. You can play through the arcade mode and get the same type of intro images and conclusions that you saw on consoles, and, well, you get the idea. The only missing features come on the online side, where you can match up against other players and fight them, but the tournament options and large lobbies found on consoles aren't here.
New features are also included, like 500 character figurines that you can unlock via a spinning wheel. Each of these figures has a level, number of hit points, and other statistics associated with them. It's your job to assemble a strong team of five figures, which make up your StreetPass team. Then, at least in theory, you just walk around your hometown with your 3DS in sleep mode, and whenever you encounter another player that's doing the same thing, you'll exchange team data and a completely passive battle will occur. When you launch the game, any StreetPass battles you've engaged in are posted to a log, and you'll earn additional figure points--which are used to purchase more figures--for winning those battles. You can also earn figure points by simply playing the game in any other mode, or you can exchange a Play Coin for one spin of the figure-unlocking wheel. It's a basic system, but it integrates quite nicely with the handheld's various passive features.
Super Street Fighter IV is best played on a six-button controller, with all six buttons on the face of the device. The 3DS, by default, sets things up like they were on the Super Nintendo, with your hard punch and kick buttons on the shoulders. It's less than ideal, but usually works well enough. The game also puts four large buttons on the touch screen that can be assigned in a variety of ways. In the default "lite" control scheme, special moves are mapped to these buttons, so your super or ultra combo is always a button press away, as are two special moves. You can configure exactly what you want on those buttons, so if you'd rather have push-button access to all three speeds of Ryu's fireball, that's an option, as well. The configuration is saved on a per-character basis, letting you set up each fighter just the way you like. You can also enable auto-blocking, which works as advertised. If someone throws an attack in your direction and you're not in the middle of attacking or recovering, you'll block it. The catch is that the damage is temporarily shown on your life meter, almost as if you absorbed the blow with a focus attack. The life slowly restores to your meter, but if you're hit with an actual attack, all of that potential energy is drained. This helps keep players honest and prevents the auto-blocking from getting too powerful.
In the pro control setting, you can only place multi-button combinations onto those touch screen buttons. By default it'll let you pull off a focus attack or push all three punch or kick buttons simultaneously. But the rest of the game plays as it did on consoles. You'll have to execute all of the moves on your own, something that isn't too tough to do with the system's D-pad, though my big left hand certainly cramped up a bit after putting some serious time in with the game.
The big control problem in the 3DS version of this game is that the lite mode breaks the rules of the game, allowing for balance-changing situations that would be impossible under normal circumstances. Specifically, charge moves--Guile's flash kick, for example--can be executed without them charging first. Without the need to hold down for a moment before rising up into a flash kick, Guile can follow his sonic boom projectile in and, if the other player decides to jump over the projectile, Guile can flash kick them right out of the air, no questions asked. This gets frustrating when you take the game online.
When you attempt to find an online opponent, the default option lets players with either control scheme intermingle, and you don't know ahead of time if the other player is using auto-block or which attacks they have mapped to the touch screen. But it's easy to tell once a fight has begun, as players flash whenever an auto-block is performed. I've played quite a bit of Street Fighter over the years, but the way moves can come up without being charged is forcing me to unlearn the rules of the game, something that'll probably make me worse at playing the game on consoles in the long run. And even though dismantling these players isn't all that hard once you know what to expect, it's just no fun to fight Guile after Guile, knowing that they just intend to execute standing flash kicks whenever possible. Now, you can filter your searches to ensure that you're only matched up with pro mode players, but in my experience, almost no one is playing that way. I found exactly one taker when searching specifically for pro mode players... and he quit after I beat him once. Frustrating.
Visually, SSFIV looks great and makes good use of the platform's 3D option. The backgrounds sink into the screen effectively, giving a great sense of depth while also not causing the same sort of swimmy stomach that some 3D games can. Of course, the impact of 3D on your constitution will vary, so if you don't want to deal with it at all, you can always disable it. While the backgrounds do look great, they're also completely static. All of that movement from the console versions of the game is gone, so the hippo won't walk up to you over the course of a match, and you can't dragon punch the wing off of that plane. Even without those animations, though, the game still looks great. In an attempt to emphasize the 3D capabilities of the display, Capcom has included a "3D view" option that gives you a sort of over-the-shoulder camera angle on the fight. In a game that places such value on knowing how much space is between you and the other fighter, playing around with the camera angle seems like a misguided feature that detracts from the experience. But it's optional and worth looking at once or twice, just to see how the 3D makes it all look.
Getting into online matches quickly and easily is probably Super Street Fighter IV's strongest component. It even seems to be faster and more reliable than its console counterparts, with none of the "unable to join session" errors that plague Capcom's other fighting games, but once a rush of domestic players get their hands on the system, it's anyone's guess about how that will change. It's just a bit disappointing that most of those online matches are slightly marred by the way the lite mode allows players to perform tasks that would be impossible under normal circumstances. But even with that caveat, the numerous features and options make Super Street Fighter IV one of the best games available at the launch of the 3DS.