Street Fighter IV is a bit like the proverbial bicycle, in that pretty much every platform has had a ride (yes, I know, the PC is still glaringly missing a version of Super Street Fighter IV). Hell, you can even play it on your iPhone. So when it was announced as a launch title for Nintendo's shiny new 3DS console, I wasn't surprised. What is surprising, however, is that having played it (extensively), this is now my preferred version!
Don't know what Street Fighter is all about? Let's take a moment and describe it. The latest version of the game that started the one-on-one fighting genre, no less, Street Fighter IV is the first game to successfully merge the classic Street Fighter gameplay (which is 2D in nature) with modern 3D graphics. Choose your fighter and battle head-to-head with computer (or human, in multiplayer modes) opponents as your attempt to beat all comers and be crowned champion. Super Street Fighter IV takes the formula and dials it up a notch, with new characters, while 3D Edition moves the whole package to your pocket and delivers the entire experience in "no glasses required" 3D.
All caught up?
So what's this new, 3DS version then? What's it's not is a "lite" version of the home console or arcade versions; in fact, it packs in more features than it's supposed "big" brothers.
For a start, the entire roster of 35 fighters from the console and arcade versions are available to play. If you were expecting a cut-down selection, stress not - even if your character of choice is a bit odd, they're here and you can play 'em. It's also packed with other features, leveraging almost every aspect of Nintendo's new handheld, which is no mean feat as there's plenty of new stuff to toy with. About the only features SSFIV3DE doesn't use are the cameras and the motion sensing.
One of the new, unique modes to SSFIV3DE is an over-the-shoulder "3D" camera, obviously included to highlight the "no glasses required" 3D feature of the 3DS console. It's amusing, impressive and ultimately a hindrance to your ability to play competitively. So, like me, chances are you'll try it out a few times, say "neat" to anyone nearby and then never touch it again. It's still a worthy inclusion, after a fashion, as the novelty of seeing a sonic boom coming at your face is worth the (fairly obviously) low development cost. Just don't anticipate playing it seriously, unless you're the type that actually punches yourself and claims to like it, and you won't be disappointed.
Another neat, outside-of-actually-fighting, addition is the gashapon-style collectible figurines you can accumulate. These are primarily purchased through a random selection mechanic (not dissimilar to the gashapon / capsule machines that litter Tokyo streets or your local mall), where you never really know what you're going to get. There's figurines for all the fighters in the game, each of which can be one of seven levels (more on that in a second). You can buy these using points you earn by playing the game, acquire them by trading with other players or you can use play coins (meta 3DS currency earned by walking around in real life with your 3DS in your pocket) to get ahold of them. What's the point? Well, aside from a manic need to collect them all, you can actually assemble teams of them to have battles with people you walk past in the street using the 3DS street pass system (hence the different levels of figurine - higher is better!).
The fighting, despite the obviously limited controls, is super tight. Yes, it takes a bit of time for experienced Street Fighter players to adapt to the "four face buttons and two shoulder buttons" control mechanics, but once you do you'll find your skills transfer perfectly to the pocketable pugilism platform. One additional feature worthy of mention here is the "soft" buttons; the bottom (touch) screen is separated into four "buttons", which you press with your thumbs. You can select which of your moves or buttons is mapped here, including special moves, ultra, and super combos. Yes, it does dumb things down a little bit but, if you're worried about getting your butt handed to you with a newbie as a direct result, you've got little to fear. You still need to know when to push the buttons, making timing, as always, the most important weapon in the arsenal of any serious title contender. What it does do is allow you to perform moves that were once almost impossible, such as a standing (no charge required) summersault kick, bringing these moves into the repertoire of those that are perhaps a little less adept than others.
There's also an extensive online mode available, allowing you to drop into games with players from all over the world. There's not a lot to add here, with things like lag (which is still problematic, when you encounter someone with a poor connection) and modes being identical to the console variants. It's good and being able to go toe-to-toe with someone in an epic Street Fighter battle while you're waiting for your Big Mac to cook is damn near the thrill that the now-dead arcade once provided.
Visually it looks amazing, easily eclipsing any handheld fighter on any platform. The 3D stuff, while nice, doesn't really add much and for the most part what you're looking at doesn't have much depth anyway. It's not a fault of the game, as to make it more "3D" would be a deliberate, garish "selling out" of the franchise. It's simply not the kind of game where, aside from the special 3D over-the-shoulder camera, there's much depth to oggle over. It also sounds the ticket, with all the wallops and crunches of the console versions that you'd expect.
Aside from the "i've done most of this before" feeling of deja-vu you get when you first play it, which is something most ports suffer from, there's nothing to dislike about SSFIV3DE. It plays great, is packed full of features (including online multiplayer), looks amazing and is, ultimately, the best version of one of the best fighting games ever made. It's the best fighting game you can fit in your pocket, period, and will likely stay that way for some time to come. If you've got a 3DS and like good games, this one is a no-brainer. Get it. Love it. Fight me. Go on, I dare ya.