Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
It’s been a long and bumpy road for the World Warriors to make the jump to High Definition. Originally announced last year, it seems as if Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (STHD) has been in development forever. In the beginning the title was supposed to simply be a face lift for Super Turbo (ST), a game many consider not only the pinnacle of the Street Fighter II (SFII) series, but also the best fighting game period. After a number of delays, fan outcries over leaked art assets and a lukewarm Beta test, STHD is finally here.
Street Fighter has often been a benchmark for its 2D graphics and animation. In their respective days you’d be hard pressed to see anything that rivaled SFII or SFIII. Comparatively though, the SFII games look quite dated when put up against modern titles, like the Guilty Gear XX series. STHD was primed to change all of that with brand new art provided by Udon, the folks behind the Street Fighter comic series. While Udon have done an admirable job in preserving the essence of the old games, STHD will not become the benchmark for High Definition 2D sprites with titles like BlazBlue and the gawk inducing King of Fighters XII on the horizon. With that said, STHD’s graphics certainly aren’t bad. Characters are crisp and colorful, many of which have also beefed up again for their return to the ring. There are some frames for specific characters that look a bit wonky and some questionable anatomy, but most importantly it still looks like SF II, just much sharper.
Not content with only updating visuals, STHD features a remixed soundtrack of classic tunes. Depending on your fervor for the classic Street Fighter music, the remixes run the full gamut of great to unacceptable. The most successful being the menu music, which will get you pumped for Street Fighter as soon as the game loads. For those finding them to be unacceptable, have no fear, the original music is only a few menu options away.
The next big change to STHD is the all new Remixed mode, featuring tweaked gameplay to create an all new SFII experience. Spearheading this all new mode is long time competitive player turned game-designer, David Sirlin. Along with the input of many other tournament players, the development team at Backbone has attempted to balance the game better. In the old version of ST, some characters dominated (O. Sagat, Balrog, Dhalsim), while some were absolutely terrible (T. Hawk, Fei Long, Cammy). By tweaking various moves’ start up frames, priorities and other attributes, many characters are now viable.
In addition to tweaked movelists, Sirlin decided to make STHD more inviting to the new Street Fighter players by simplifying certain move inputs. In the original game a number of inputs for certain special moves were quite difficult to execute, Sagat’s Tiger Knee being the most notorious. Now instead of the old command, a Tiger Knee is simply executed using a standard Dragon Punch input. Beyond simplified commands, the timing required has been loosened up allowing beginning players a larger window to execute certain specials or super moves.
Once you’ve gotten yourself acclimated to the new bells and whistles of STHD, you’ll most likely want to jump online and play some matches. Online you have a number of options including ranked matches, leaderboards and 8-man tournaments. The popular Quarter Match from Hyper Fighting on the Xbox360 makes its’ return under the guise of Friendly Match. While Quick matches and Scoreboard matches will for the most part get you in game smoothly, it can be extremely difficult connecting with a friend over PSN. The game uses an invite system much like Soul Calibur IV, once you accept the invitation the game will attempt to join the sender. On separate occasions and fairly regularly, the joining screen would run for a minute or so, followed by a boot back to the Friendly match menu. The game didn’t even provide any error message or possible explanation for the failed connection.
If you do succeed in getting in a match, the game will regularly lag briefly at the beginning of each round. After that, things run quite smoothly except for the occasional hiccup here and there. Even if you do experience some lag, it’ll rarely be of the huge game ruining variety. Unfortunately for STHD, as you play more and more rounds online, other bugs will start to show up. The most offensive of which, in my own experience featured glitched health bars. Sometimes the bar will boot up in all red, being the color your health depletes in during a hit. Even worse, the health bar might get to a certain point and cease to update visually after a hit. You and your opponent will still be dealing damage to one another, but the life bars will fail to represent that damage.
The most disappointing thing about STHD is that it’s features are very bare boned. Street Fighter home ports have rarely added a lot of new features, with the exception of Alpha 3’s World Tour mode. In addition to new sprites and tweaked gameplay, you can still use the classic sprites and original gameplay, however, inexplicably you can’t select old backgrounds to complete the retro experience. Another perplexing omission is offline tournaments. The game has an 8-man online tournament built in but you can’t run one offline. Even the online tournament feels extremely shortchanged without any options to customize it, lacking the double elimination style tournaments which are a staple of the competitive Street Fighter community. To be fair there are some cool features, such as a brief introduction to Street Fighter mechanics for beginners and the ability to turn on visible hit boxes in the training mode, but the former is far too short to be useful and the latter will only appeal to the most devoted of players.
With all this time in the oven STHD should have exceeded expectations. The final product however is a mixed bag, with a lot of good ideas and a fair amount of poor implementation. The new graphics and tweaked gameplay could help usher in a number of new players, but the glaring bugs and gimped feature list will annoy the seasoned Street Fighter veterans. Fortunately for everyone, Street Fighter’s core gameplay still prevails and that is really all fighting games are about.