I’m not sure this game really merits an introduction. The game which is almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the 2D Fighter back into the mainstream has received an upgrade. Street Fighter 4 is now “Super”, baby. But, what does it mean to make a fighting game “Super” anyways? Is it improved? Are all the things we loved better? Are all the things we hated augmented? Is it merely different?
As someone who thoroughly despised the original SF4, Super Street Fighter 4 is definitely an upgrade in my eyes. Some of the good things are better, while some are the same. Some of the bad things have been improved upon, while others have been left alone. For better or worse, Super Street Fighter 4 is still the same game as before.
If you haven’t hopped on board yet, Super Street Fighter 4 is a “2D Fighter” presented in three-dimensions. There’s a huge cast of characters from various games in the series mixed in with a decent amount of newcomers. Each character has their own set of normal moves and special moves. Players get a “Super” meter, which allows characters to do an extra powerful Super move, or use 1/4th of the bar to do an “EX Special”, giving one of their special moves a boost in some way or another (it might come out faster, hit harder, be invincible on startup, etc.). Each character also has a “Revenge Gauge”, which builds up as they take damage, allowing them to release an “Ultra” attack which deals more damage based on how much the Revenge Gauge has been filled.
(S)SF4‘s other big innovation is Focus Attacks. Hold down two attack buttons (specifically, medium punch and medium kick) to begin charging the attack. If an opponent is hit with a Focus Attack, they will slowly fall to the floor while being vulnerable to a combo (called “crumple stun” in fancy shmancy fighter talk). Focus Attacks can be manually canceled by dashing forwards or backwards, and they can also absorb one hit of damage. This allows for neat little gimmicks like using a Focus Attack to take a fireball to the face then backdashing out of the Focus Attack, leaving us much safer than if we just jumped over it. Lastly, normal and special moves can be canceled into Focus Attacks for 1/4th of the Super bar (called “Focus Canceling), allowing for advanced combos.
In the grand scheme of things, Super Street Fighter 4 doesn’t shake up the core gameplay very much. Each character can now select from one of two different Ultra attacks at the beginning of a fight. All returning characters have had some subtle tweaks for balance, and damage across the board has been lowered, especially on Ultra attacks.
Ten new characters have been added, bringing the roster number up to a whopping thirty-five. And, thankfully, all characters are available right from beginning, with no need to unlock anyone (Dear Capcom, please do this all the time. I love you!). The only thing we unlock is the ability to play the Bonus stages at any time, turn bonus stages off for 1-player, and the option to change individual character voices between English and Japanese.
The majority of the old game modes still remain. We have the 1-player Arcade Mode (with new storylines, endings, and rival battles for every character…if that matters to you), the multiplayer mode with local and online options, Training Mode, and the Challenge Mode. Unfortunately, the Time Trials and Survival Modes have been removed from the Challenge Mode, but the Combo Trials are still around. These are fun, but just as before, combos that require specific spacing or setups can be difficult to do, as we’re given no indication whatsoever of this.
The main draw to any fighting game is the competition, and the online multiplayer is so greatly improved from its predecessor that it’s virtually a different experience. For one, we now have the option for to do lobbies with multiple players (called “Endless Battle”), and also a “Team Battle” mode where the players in the lobby are randomly divvied up into teams and duke it out.
Beyond just the options, the netcode is lightyears ahead of where the original SF4 was. It no longer takes over thirty seconds to generate a list of matches, and finding a match that’s virtually lag free is a surprisingly real possibility. Lag is still dealt with by input delay (bad news for fighting games), so the prospect of finding playable matches online is a huge deal.
Ultimately, there’s only one major gripe I have with (Super) Street Fighter 4, and that’s the issue of its alleged ‘beginner-friendly’ gameplay. To be blunt: it isn’t. It’s touted as being easy for beginners because special move inputs are ridiculously easy to do. However, this doesn’t do much to make the game easy to get into for a beginner.
SSF4, more than any other fighter, forces players to rely heavily on link combos. This means that two moves combo together, not by canceling the first move into the second, but rather because the move is just barely fast enough that you can peg them with a second move just before they can recover and block.
This is a pretty advanced strategy in most fighters, but it’s the crux of SF4′s gameplay along with using Focus Cancels. To give an example, one character’s bread and butter combo is: Medium Kick, cancel into a dash, Hard Punch (a link, so you have a 1/60th of a second window to press Hard Punch at the right time; too early and the move won’t come out, too late and your opponent can block it), cancel the Hard Punch into a special move, then use a Focus Cancel and immediately dash, linking the special move into a crouching Hard Punch before canceling it into yet another special move, followed by a third one which hits them one final time.
Keep in mind that this is not some wacky, exotic combo. This is a combo you will actually need to pull off with this character to play him effectively (see this video at 1:57, only this guy repeated the first half of the combo). It’s an extreme example, but every character uses these concepts in their routine gameplay. How, pray tell, is this beginner friendly?
What I think the ‘beginner-friendly’ term actually means is: ‘friendly for casual players who will never take SF4 seriously’. Don’t get me wrong – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. However, I believe the term beginner implies a willingness to improve their skills, rather than just brag to their friends that they can do a Hadouken with Ryu. If you are a beginner, don’t be fooled: Super Street Fighter 4 will feel easy to play, but the game is extremely complicated, and it’s something you should be aware of before you buy the game thinking you’re going to get back into Street Fighter, hop online, and school a bunch of cats on Xbox Live/Playstation Network.
That being said, if you are willing to make the commitment to improve, there’s never been a better time. Vanilla Street Fighter 4‘s egregious netplay made it very difficult to hone your skills unless you lived near an arcade with a SF4 cabinet, or a group of people who played it consistently. That time is now over, and Super Street Fighter 4 can now be enjoyed with competition, no matter where you live (don’t quote me on that).
If you’re not a huge fan of the competition and just want to chillax with your friends, you now have a huge addition to an already large roster, and some new ultras to play with. This game was enough for me – a player who seriously hated the original SF4 – to embrace the game. If you haven’t made a decision about (Super) Street Fighter 4 yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.
The game certainly looks nice. What else should I say? I enjoy watching the Ultra combos, among other animations.
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The gameplay is fun, and the typical aspects which make Street Fighter fun are there. Just know that there are few 2D fighters more difficult to reach a high level of play than this one.
SSF4 brings many remixes of old character themes, but I think some of them are just a bit too crazy on the distortion guitar.
Super Street Fighter 4, like any fighter, can last as long as you enjoy playing against other people.
Super Street Fighter 4 delivers the experience that Street Fighter 4 probably should have. Still, it's better late than never. The true Street Fighter 4 experience is here.