Wednesday, June 8

In case you haven't played it: Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition Review (3DS)

Despite what I've read in recent times, I don't believe the 3DS is a failure. I don't even think that the system launch was a failure. Sure the software lineup was fairly underwhelming, but when you sell a few million units in just over a month, you'd find it hard to argue that Nintendo has failed by any stretch of the imagination. Under-performed? Undoubtedly, but there have been many a console with a sub-par list of launch titles. Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition however, is one the undeniable successes of the Nintendo 3DS launch, being the most comprehensive iteration in the fighting franchise's recent history.

The Good
On paper - Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is undoubtedly the most complete version of the critically acclaimed title, Super Street Fighter IV. Featuring all of the characters (including most of the costumes made available as DLC for the home console versions), modes, and capabilities found in the home console versions, as well as new features like Lite controls, game-sharing and a Figurine mode. Not only does the 3DS launch with one of the best fighting games ever released, it does so with few compromises and new content. On paper, SSFIV:3D is an essential launch title and an essential purchase for fighting game enthusiasts.

 World's best fighter + fancy costumes = Winner! 

Faithful - Any portable fighter's viability is subject to the design of the console for which it is being developed. In the case of the Nintendo 3DS, players have three different control options: Lite, Pro with the d-pad and Pro with the circle pad (just in case you are wondering, one does not have to make a definitive choice between pads, you can switch between the two on a whim; or a slip of the finger). Each of these options make for responsive control schemes, each with their own limitations. Lite is explored in more detail throughout this review, however both Pro options afforded me the ability to perform all of my favourite moves with a minimum of discomfort. The only criticism I can make is that the shoulder buttons can be difficult to press in a heated encounter. The 3DS should be home to many a great fighter thanks to its ergonomic design. 

 The 3DS affords enough control methods to make these a regular occurence

High Fidelity - To put it bluntly, I was absolutely blown away by the high connection quality I encountered when I engaged in online competition with this game. Without exaggeration, SSFIV:3D offers the best competitive online experience when compared to its console and desktop brethren. At worst, I would notice a stutter before a fight commenced. For the majority of my online bouts however, I was not presented with a single hitch or instance of lag. Any missteps I made couldn't be attributed to anything other than my own lack of skill or finesse.

At your own pace - SSFIV:3D offers two methods of control for player to adopt, Lite and Pro. Lite controls allow you to macro any four moves from your selected fighter's arsenal to the touch pad, literally meaning that every character's most powerful moves are at a beginner's - or even a lazy veteran's - fingertips. Pro mode is for the purists among us who like to be responsible for delivering specials, EX moves, supers and ultras direct to our opponents without much assistance. Pro mode still allows players to macro certain actions like 3X punch/kick, throws, focus attacks and personal actions to the touch pad; which is handy considering that the shoulder buttons can provide impediment to some of the more sophisticated manoeuvres. The developers have done a great job of providing an entry point for new players, as well as catering to the hardcore community.

Meta-games - The addition of Lite controls has the ability to strip away some of the pretence from some of the more imposing characters on SSFIV:3D's comprehensive roster. The end result is battles that were not previously imaginable, with the rules that balance the game being thrown out the window. Guile can now defend himself from a flurry of hadoukens, Honda can escape from any corner with the touch of a button. Lite controls makes for an entirely different experience.

The Bad
Suspended animation - While SSFIV:3D is a superb-looking portable fighter, the charming background animations present in the home console versions have been removed from each fight locale. This may sound like a petty quibble, but those who have spent any great amount of time with the home console version of the game will be yearning for the laughing children witnessing the fight at the underpass, or the animals peppered across the landscape in the usually visually-striking level, Solar Eclipse. I would have savoured the chance to see these locations in all of their visual splendour, even if it meant removing a feature like 3D Versus which is a distraction at best.

No ne3d - Super Street Fighter IV's brand of frantic, though balanced action is not really enhanced by 3D graphics in any meaningful way. When I first played the game, I'll admit that I found the effect to have impressive depth. Upon sustained play however, I often found myself turning the effect off close to the beginning of a play session, as it is very hard to keep the 3DS level when you're under the pump. My preference would have been for the developers to abandon 3D and perhaps apply the system's processing power towards smoothing the animations and employing some of the home console version's more impressive visual effects.

Any takers? - Upon launch, it was hard to find an online competitor to battle using Pro controls. If I wanted to indulge the hardcore in me, I was destined to fight against those using simplified controls. Any of these battles were over before they began, as my opponents' command of their respective arsenals was too much for me to mount any kind of defence. Perhaps if the developers offer some incentive for players to remove the Lite training wheels we would see more people Fight Like a Man. This problem appears to have been rectified however, as I can now find a fight regardless of my orientation toward a specific control scheme.

The Ugly
Clutch plays - The greatest moments found in any fighting game are those forged in the midst of competitive play; when both players are locked in a close match and one is able to pull off the ultra, the super, or even special moves required in tense situations to grab the win. With the proliferation of Lite controls, the most vital and addictive element of SSFIV's gameplay formula can potentially be lost. Dexterity is no longer a requisite for success, it all comes down to timing and if not that, luck. You can choose to stubbornly stick to the ways of the Old Guard and adopt Pro controls and fight all takers, but rest-assured you will lose, and you will lose badly. Besides how can one prevail when a Flash Kick, or even a Spinning Piledriver is at every player's finger tips? Balance has been banished to memory, with convenience now king in the fighting game genre. What Street Fighter IV did to revive the fighter may just as easily be undone by the simplified control schemes formulated to pander to the casual, and the newcomer. Couple that with Marvel Vs Capcom 3's casual slant and I can't help but fear that Capcom is watering-down its storied fighting franchises to appeal to a wider audience: for better or for worse.

Simplified controls - Will this kill-off the figthing genre's revival?

So long, EX - Players who employ Lite controls may not even be aware that each special move has an EX variant. This is because it makes no sense to macro 3X punch or kick to the touch pad in place of a special or ultra, and it is damn near impossible to press all three attack buttons at the same time. Don't believe me? Then I challenge you to try it yourself. Lite mode not only cheapens the battle, but it dilutes it as well.

Reissu3d - As great as the game is, I must admit that my tolerance for paying full retail price for what is essentially the same game, multiple times has been reached; to the point where my enthusiasm for the Street Fighter IV product itself is beginning to wane drastically. There is no denying that this package presents great value to fighting game enthusiasts, but after Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV on home consoles and PC, Street Fighter IV on iOS devices and the incoming Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition for all major platforms, one can't help but feel as though the brand is being milked.

The Verdict
8.0/10.0 - Upon reflection, most of my criticisms of Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition stem from my fears about where the fighting game genre is headed as opposed to any particular flaws I came across in my time with the game. This is the best portable fighter since Tekken: Dark Resurrection. What you get here is the total package: the core product in Super Street Fighter IV; most of the extra trimmings afforded to the home console audience; new, worthwhile features that integrate functions of the portable console; and now that more people are playing it, the best online experience you can have with the brand. You also get 3D graphics if you're so inclined. Highly recommended, but those who have experience with the home console versions may experience an overwhelming sense of deja vu.

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