Street Fighter got off to a pretty average start - the 1987 original was nothing particularly special, with a slightly quirky punch button (you literally punched a big rubber button to perform attacks - in select locations), one of the few things distinguishing it from the other games of the era. Fortunately, one of its redeeming features was a unique one-on-one fighting mechanic - this helped ensure it was successful enough for a sequel, a sequel that would redefine the arcade game as we knew it forever.
Street Fighter II changed the landscape of the arcade. Suddenly arcade games were hip and street with a whole new audience of wannabe thugs, would-be gangsters - and me. I've been playing Street Fighter for 16 years. I paid $350 for an import copy for the Super Famicom. I own more than 20 copies of it across various systems. I have two arcade cabinets with two copies of the game - Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting and the original version of this very game - Super Street Fighter II Turbo. I know and love my Street Fighter. So it is with much trepidation that I await both next year's Street Fighter IV, and with much interest that I have followed the development of this remake.
The most significant and obvious change to the 1994 original is the handsome graphics - Udon, the Canadian art powerhouse behind numerous comics, manga and videogame graphics famously re-drew every single frame of animation from the original title in gorgeous HD resolution. Contentiously, Capcom elected to retain the original limited number of frames of animation - resulting in visuals which are both faithful to the original title and also oddly out of sync with their modern visage; that there's so few frames of animation per move really stands out now that the graphics are truly current.
The most significant stated reason is that they didn't want to mess with the tight gameplay, which Capcom believes is very closely tied to the exact frames of animation shown, which give the truly hardcore the information they need to precisely time their moves against those of their foes. Another rumoured reason is that Microsoft's strict limits as to the size of XBLA downloads impacted this decision making - as it stands, SSFIITHD weighs in at over 300MB. Who knows how large it might have been with even more of the awesome Udon graphics? The Street Fighter fanatic will be happy but those who are less in love with the series will be confused when they see it in motion.
The gameplay is still as tight as ever - there's even a remix version with rebalanced gameplay for those who'd like to see several of the original balance problems resolved. This new version does feel tighter, adding extra moves (such as a super for Akuma), as well as making several of the original moves (like Guile's super or Zangief's spinning piledriver) easier to pull off. The changes are fairly specific so if you're not a hardcore player of the series, you'll probably not notice them. For those of us that are, however, debate as to the validity of each of them or the right of the developer (Backbone) to make them will keep Street Fighter forums alive until at least the release of next year's Street Fighter IV.
One of the major features of this new XBLA game is the online multiplayer, as evidenced by the lengthy beta test earlier in the year. Unlike that version of the game, the final retail version seems pretty solid - only occasional lag spoiling an otherwise tight online experience. Unfortunately it's been very hard to find people to play against, with online matches very few and far between. Whether this is because of a bug or some sort of regional lockout is unclear - hopefully either way there will be more matches to be had in the near future.
Unfortunately the audio, in my experience at least, is extremely buggy. Perusing the official forums, it seems that this might be related to the recent release of the New Xbox Experience (NXE) - whatever the cause, the sound is very poor on my Xbox. 80% of the time special moves are executed in complete silence, with the rest of the audio seeming very flat and missing substance. The new music, too, is decidedly uncool - fortunately you can revert to the original soundtrack, although that doesn't fix the missing sound effects.
The game has numerous other small bugs too, such as not registering when you score a "perfect", Zangief's super only working on one side of the screen, health bar glitches in multiplayer and so on. Very few of these glitches affect the actual gameplay (and if they do, not by much) but the overall effect is very much that the game lacks polish. Hopefully a patch will be forthcoming that fixes the worst of these, along with the audio, but as yet there has been no word from Capcom.
So, if you're not really a Street Fighter fan, chances are this won't convert you - it looks nice but still plays largely the same as the original. If you are a Street Fighter fan and you own a 360 (it's exclusive to the 360 outside of America), you've got nothing to lose by downloading the trial. Just keep in mind that the d-pad on the 360 controller is probably the worst thing since cancer (seriously, it's that bad) and that the game has a few issues that really do need resolving. If you're lucky enough to have a decent controller, however, don't let the bugs stop you getting on board - it's solid Street Fighter action to its very core.