In 1991, Capcom released Street Fighter II. With its roster of playable characters, each with their own story, style, unique strikes, and attack combos, it quickly became the paradigm for fighting games. Over more than twenty years, the franchise has delivered titles right across the quality spectrum; from lows like 1995’s Street Fighter: The Movie, a game that used characters from the Van Damme / Kylie Minogue cinematic epic, to 1999’s benchmark Street Fighter III: Third Strike.
After a nearly twelve-year break, Capcom's Street Fighter series returned with Street Fighter IV, and Capcom once again ruled the world of fighting games. Graphics, gameplay, and online – Street Fighter IV got everything right. For those not familiar with the game (and we’ll assume there are a couple out there), it's light on story and heavy on everything else. You choose a fighter from a roster of martial arts masters, soldiers, villains, and monsters. You get familiar with their fighting style, learn their techniques, and then battle it out in your living room, online, or in tournaments around the world.
As in previous Street Fighter games, "Arcade" is the title's story mode. Here you get a brief introduction to your character, in the form of a short animation and voice over. After half a dozen fights, including a face off against your character’s rival and a couple of bonus rounds, you get another quick cut scene and the credits. It’s all over pretty quickly depending on the number of rounds you choose to fight or if you put a time limit on each round. Of course what balances the brevity of each story is the thirty-eight other characters, all waiting with stories of their own.
If you are finding the fights a bit tough, or if you get sick of fighting on the easiest difficulty setting, there is a training option where you can practice your moves, or the trial mode which challenges you to perform twenty-four of your chosen character’s techniques. A lot of the game’s appeal is the time it takes to get familiar with each character, master their unique moves, and choosing which you like. There’s all kinds of martial arts, boxing, speed, power, magic, or technology to choose from – it’s up to who you want, what style you prefer, and which moves work best for you.
Street Fighter IV was fantastic. Great looking, beautifully animated, easy to jump straight into and start mashing, while the incredible depth and challenge of the game was there for anyone willing to put in the hard yards.
After Street Fighter IV, last year we got Super Street Fighter IV, a game that took a bit of flak for forcing fans to buy the same game just to get a few extra characters and some gameplay tweaks. It’s a criticism that Capcom has worn ever since the franchise started, although they seem as unconcerned about it now as they were back in the nineties. And why not? Because many fans disagreed with the critics and found that Super Street Fighter IV’s ten additional characters, extra ultra moves, and better balanced characters were well worth the purchase price.
So, this year sees the release of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. And once again we get to look at what’s been added, what’s been tweaked, and if it’s worth buying your third Street Fighter IV game in three years.
The first thing you’ll notice are the four new playable characters. With the inclusion of twins Yun and Yang, the demonic Oni, and a flame shrouded Evil Ryu, the number of playable characters is now at thirty-nine. All four of the new characters are powerful additions to the roster, with Oni and Evil Ryu firing off various ranged attacks and Yun and Yang possessing an enormous amount of speed and power. If you’re new to the game then any of the four new characters will be able to get you through a lot of fights without too much training or finesse.
The new characters - which strangely seem to be about the most powerful in the game - aside, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition has made an effort to balance the strengths of the other thirty-five. While this won’t make the slightest bit of difference to new players, for veterans it means characters that in the past have been impossible to use in online battles or tournaments are now much more playable. However, if you prefer the way Super Street Fighter IV played, there's an option for that; while this turns off the Arcade Edition characters, it also means you can limit online opponents to those playing with last year’s version of the game.
Online has also had some other work done. While fighting and finding opponents is unchanged, you now can also find and follow the world’s top-ranked fighters. There are also many more options when it comes to recording and watching clips of you and your friends’ fights.
In the end, if you worship at the altar of Ken and Ryu, you’ll have Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition already. If you’re simply a casual fan, with Super Street Fighter IV already, there is no reason to get this as a stand-alone game, considering that the only noticeable additions are the four new characters which you can just download as DLC for Super Street Fighter IV. But, if you don’t own a Street Fighter IV game, you need to get your lazy butt off the sofa and buy it now. Especially since we’re quickly running out of time before the next Street Fighter game comes out - with a slightly longer title and a few additions to the roster. But then, aren’t we always?