Guess who’s back? Back again? And again? And again?
The fighting genre is cyclical, like many other things in life (perhaps everything, although it’s probably unwise to introduce philosophical wonderings into an article relating to huge, muscle-bound superhumans with names like T Hawk and Balrog beating each other to a pulp). Growing up in the 90’s, Street Fighter II was just as renowned as your Sonics and Marios. So was SFII: Champion Edition… and Super Street Fighter II… and Super Street Fighter II Turbo.
[image1]It may be 2011, but Street Fighter has come full circle with the same pattern of retreads we saw over a decade ago (as well as with Street Fighter III, but really, who cares about that?). Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is, predictably, another version of a controversial other version of the original version. I swear, if I didn’t play games regularly, my head would explode trying to understand some of the stuff we do for our favorite pastime.
We may not be off to the most glowing start for a review, but hey, calling out Capcom on their endless repackaging of the same game is pretty much required for every entry in this franchise. I’m not holding that too much against SSFIV:3D, though. In the interest of full disclosure, I have actually never played a match of any version of SFIV before this one, despite always wanting to get a copy. Fortuitous, perhaps – a blessing in disguise – because I imagine if I had gotten into the game prior to the 3DS launch I might be mighty sick of it and take out my frustrations with Capcom on a great fighting game.
The 3D edition is a full-bodied package, containing every character introduced in Super, along with the new Ultra Combos, in its pint-sized little cart. You’ve got all the low-budget (if not no-budget) anime cut-scenes, all the trial mode combo challenges, all the over-the-top voice acting from the announcer, all the crisp grunts, screams and “Hadoukens!”. For a console game shrunk onto a cartridge, SSFIV:3D is just as beefy ever.
[image2]More so, in fact, thanks to the addition of a handful of additional features, the least of which is of course the biggest billed: 3D. Like all 3DS games I’ve seen thus far, the 3D effect is excellent – the characters really pop and it undeniably induces giddiness the first few times you toss your opponent around in 3D during an Ultra Combo. This game would, however, be an excellent example for the “3D is gimmicky” naysayers to hold up while they sit hunched over in their scrooge chair by the fireplace. While there are many games and apps out there right now and on the way that definitely prove 3D to be far more than just a gimmick, SSFIV:3D is not one of them.
And why should it be? This is a 2D fighter, after all. We shouldn’t think of the 3D as a missed opportunity – just gravy ladled onto the already impressive graphics. This version looks almost as good as its console counterparts; with the exception of a few jagged edges when the camera gets up close and personal with the characters and less detail in the backgrounds, it’s honestly hard to tell the difference. Capcom threw in a “dynamic camera” mode as well in which nothing changes control-wise, but the camera shifts to an over-the-shoulder view to emphasize the 3D. You’ll try it a few times for the novelty (it does pop a bit more), but quickly go back to the regular view as the dynamic camera is just a little too annoying. Ironically, the funky camera placement actually makes it harder to judge distances, despite having a stronger 3D effect.
The most significant change is the "Lite" control option added for the touch screen, allowing you to map up to four moves to its different quadrants. Yes, this includes Super and Ultra Combos, enabling the most damaging and tricky-to-pull-off moves at the flick of a thumb. I can only imagine how much of an affront the existence of Lite controls is to an SFIV vet, and at first I sympathized completely, despite my noobness. I quickly realized, though, that the Lite controls are an indispensable blessing for this version.
[image3]Which is, inevitably, indicative of its only real flaw: handheld controls. Unlike the previous iteration, you can’t just grab an arcade stick controller for a more comfortable and accurate experience. Here you’re stuck using the 3DS controls, with the added issue of the shoulder buttons being even clunkier and harder to incorporate into combos on a handheld system than a conventional controller. This is why the Lite controls are so vital: even if you know all the moves and have great dexterity, you’ll still screw up a double quarter-circle turn plus all three punch buttons in the heat of battle most of the time with those damn shoulder buttons.
And if you really think it feels like cheating, you always have the option to turn Lite off and go it the old-fashioned way. You can thankfully specify your search for an opponent to one using Lite, Pro, or either control scheme when fighting online. Speaking of which, online matches are a breeze to get into, and with one minor exception every match I played was absolutely smooth and lag-free. With no shortage of players to be matched with, even pre-US launch, it’s incredibly easy to get addicted to the online multi-player in SSFIV:3D, even for a beginner. I’ve never had as much fun getting my ass kicked by random Japanese people.
[image4]Lastly, SSFIV:3D makes for a pretty good early example of the virtues of the 3DS’ StreetPass functionality. Added to the new version are collectible figurines of each character, which you can buy in random gumball machine fashion with the BP you earn from fighting in single- and multi-player. While you can always head to the gallery and check out the figurines you’ve collected, they double as a fighting squad you can put together for StreetPass. The figurines have variable stats, and by making a personal lineup you can drift by strangers and have your team fight it out in mock battles against theirs. When you open your 3DS back up, you can see the results of all your fights and the extra BP you earned to buy even more figurines. It’s not an integral feature by any stretch, but it’s a bit more entertainment than you might expect at first glance (unlike the dynamic camera, for instance).
So here’s the deal, which I’m sure most of you probably figured from the beginning: SSFIV:3D is an excellent fighting game, especially for a handheld, and just about the best 3DS launch title. But if you already own Super on a console, gimmicky 3D and a small smattering of new features doesn’t come close to warranting yet another purchase of the game. If you don’t own any version of SSFIV, or boycotted Super the first time around, 3D Edition is a solid choice.