oni's Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

Can you play Super Turbo? SHORYUKEN!

"Easiest with Dee Jay:
crossup j.MK, c.LP, c.LP, Machine Gun Upper (charge d, u + mash punches)"

That's what someone told me when I asked how to perform a 7-hit combo on a forum. I guess I should have known better? If that makes as much sense to you as it did to me back then, which is to say none at all, then read on, because this review is for you!

Before playing SSF2THDR (its full name is far too long to spell out, so I'll just call it HD Remix from now on), pretty much all I could do was throw a fireball with Ken and Ryu. The extent of my experiences with the Street Fighter franchise never really went beyond that, and I've also never been a fighting game fan in general, brief stints with Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive notwithstanding. I've always found the things far too convoluted and dense for their own good, with combo lists stretching on for pages and pages of elaborate button and stick combinations. I have neither the patience nor the desire to cram a move list the size of a phone book in my head before I stand a chance of being competitive. Which is why HD Remix came as such a relief. You see, most characters have only a handful of special moves to remember, and they're all fairly simple motions, such as quarter circle forward + punch. Not only that, but many of these moves apply to several characters, though the effect may differ in subtle ways. The net effect of this is that the game feels very welcoming to newcomers, provided you don't throw yourself against experienced opponents from the get-go.

However, as fans of the franchise will attest, this simplicity does not mean the game lacks depth, on the contrary. When you break down the game on a mechanical level, it has a pretty scary amount of depth. Advanced players count frames so they know exactly when to perform certain moves, and knowing how many invincibility frames certain moves have can, in some cases, mean the difference between winning and losing. The old paradigm "easy to learn, tough to master" definitely applies to this game. Playing the game against an opponent of similar skill level is almost guaranteed to deliver a fun match.

You don't need to be a seasoned Super Turbo vet to appreciate the attention to detail Backbone and Udon have put into HD Remix. The quality of the redrawn backgrounds and characters is fantastic, though the art style may not be everyone's cup of tea, I feel that it's a logical evolution from the game's original look and the aesthetic of the series in general. And really, when you're busy trying not to get Hadoken'd into submission, you don't have much time to look at Blanka's face.

What's most impressive about HD Remix is how well the online portion of it works. Online fighting games have a somewhat spotty record, with anything less than a very good connection on both ends usually leading to pretty broken matches. However, the net code in HD Remix is built to compensate for lag up to a point. When performing a move, the game will check if the opponent didn't block beforehand on his end, even though the lag might have delayed that action, the game will compensate for this and "count" the block. In somewhat laggy games, this means you can sometimes see health disappearing and almost instantly reappearing on your opponent's health bar, but it never feels like the game "gets it wrong", so to speak. As a result, you can jump into almost any game and have a pretty good experience, regardless of where your opponent lives.

If you don't want to go online or have anyone else to play with, you can play through Arcade mode, a regular series of fights against computer-controlled fighters. The difficulty on Arcade mode is pretty jacked up, though. Even on Easy mode, don't expect to cruise straight to the end, even if you know a thing or two about Super Turbo. The computer is definitely pretty vicious. But really, Super Turbo, or any fighting game for that matter, is all about the spirit of competition, so you're meant to be playing it against human opponents anyway.

The quality of the game used as the foundation for HD Remix and moreover the amount of care put into this remake is quite impressive. Backbone has succesfully rebalanced a classic fighting game and remade it to appeal to newcomers and veterans alike. Even if you think fighting games aren't your thing, HD Remix just might be the game to get you to care about one, as it was for me.
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