May 20, 2010

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Super Street Fighter 4 (360/PS3)
Capcom, April 27
By Glenn "Corkscrew Cross" Given production@hippopress.com

Capcom punishes small TVs with a screen-busting roster of fighters in Super Street Fighter 4, its price-slashed upgrade of the 2008 flaming fisticuff engine.

Two years ago I rejoiced that Capcom had finally decided to eschew the practice of forever pre- and suf-fixing their fighting game sequels with increasingly inane Engrish and hyperbole. Alas, no good marketing strategy lasts forever. Frankly I was surprised that the house of Ken and Ryu would even bother releasing physical upgrades to their reinvigorated franchise. Fighting games seemed like the ideal platform to shill downloadable characters and moves as well as pushing game updates onto the primary title for a fraction of the cost of pressing and distributing DVDs. Cutting out the cost of distribution seemed the ideal path for a moderate-sized niche of the gaming market to tread; Capcom proved me wrong.

With the addition of “Super” to the title you’re getting a lot more in a Street Fighter game than previous upgrades have delivered. We get a handful of new stages and music. The return of arcade challenge modes like car and barrel smashing are cute nostalgic diversions from all the slapping and fireballing. Most notably, pre-fight selectable Ultra Move options for each fighter further allow players to customize their characters’ fighting style with specific flashy cutscene attacks. All your DLC costumes from SF4 will also carry forward, and returning Street Fighters are rewarded with two unique color choices per character. Deeper changes have been made to super-finicky aspects but unless your OCD brother is gonna flip out that Ken’s Dragon Punch is two frames faster you are probably not going to care. Ten new combatants have been added to the series’ regular cast and SSF4’s potentially bloated roster of 35 fighters is available from the get-go. The majority of the character additions are returning cast from prior entries. Super Street Fighter 2 proffers up oversized grappler T.Hawk and cross-up devotee Dee Jay. Kickboxer Adon, prison brawler Cody and orange jumpsuited ninja Guy traipse in from the SF Alpha series while Street Fighter 3 brings dandy boxer Dudley, karate girl Makoto and superflous second ninja Ibuki. Brand new are the taekwondo fighter Juri and Turkish Oil Wrestler Hakkan. Wait, what?

Yeah I just Googled Turkish Oil Wrestling and it’s a real thing. Suggestion: make sure when you look it up that you have your safe search filter set to Nun.

While the dumptruck of new brawlers is a welcome addition, some are dubious entries at best. Did we really need another, let alone two more big wrestler types? Did anybody remember that Cody was a lame character to bring to Street Fighter in ’98? The hohumery of some of the returning kickpunchers is slightly offset by their instant accessibility. But that begs the question, if I don’t need to unlock anything noteworthy, why play offline at all? You can still jump-kick, trip, rinse, repeat your way through most AI difficulties and it won’t be long before you’ve burned through the training room options and hanker for a serious ass-whupping. Online player ranking insures that when you are surgically dismantled by your opponents’ 14-hit combos they will only be moderately better than you are and the sting of loss will be partially offset by the soothing balm of learning! Ranked battles have been supported with expanded online options as well. Eight-player Team Battles, Endless Battle (which nostalgically simulates old-school arcade quarter queuing) and the Replay Channel join the existing multiplayer modes. Watching other player matches via the Replay Channel (as well as recording and uploading your own) is wonderfully enjoyable in a very specific nerd manner but its usability is seriously hampered. While the potential of this YouTube-ish collection of bouts to flourish in an ad hoc social media network environment is tantalizingly close, it is unrealized. The lack of search and filter mechanisms paired with blunt force navigation of videos torpedoes any meaningful use as a training tool and reduces the feature to a mere side note. 

Super Street Fighter 4 is a concrete upgrade to the series that is inescapable for devotees and a wide open gleaming door to awesome for new players. While I am sad that I will not be able to filter my replay channel down to a greased up wrestler bear-hugging a girl with freakishly enormous thighs for 128 straight bouts, the $40 budget price goes a long way to soothe that personal aching. After all, I can just Google more Turkish Oil Wrestling. AGlenn Given