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Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition

Street Fighter

It’s tough being a fighting game fan. You wait years at a time for the next installment of your favorite series, glumly watching it be released into arcades that probably don’t exist anywhere near you. You eat up every last little detail you can glean from the console version previews, be it the new characters, tweaked move sets, or updated graphics. When it finally comes out, you spend the entire day trying everything out, learning the basics, getting your ass kicked by the bosses, unlocking all the bonus content, and hopefully duking it out with a friend. If you’re into the competitive scene, you’ll inevitably spend months practicing with a character, perfecting your grasp of all the gameplay mechanics and their inherent strategies. That accomplished, you can finally live with the satisfaction of mastering your favorite fighting game…

Then a new edition gets announced.

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Now you’ve got a problem: Do you stick with the title you’ve grown to love, or do you jump to the newest version as soon as possible? Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition makes things even more complicated by being available as either DLC or a physical copy. If you already own the last game, choosing the download would be the obvious choice; you spend fifteen dollars upgrading from Super and call it a day. That raises another issue, though. Since DLC is only compatible with the system on which it’s installed, the only ways to get a local multiplayer going are if everyone comes to visit or you haul your console wherever it’s needed. If you opt for the actual disc, you’re shelling out the full price for a game that – aside from the additions – you’ve basically already played. While any seasoned fighting fan should be accustomed to such an concept, it’s hardly ideal. It’s even less appealing when the game in question doesn’t quite improve upon its predecessor.

You’d think Capcom would be satisfied with Street Fighter IV by now; not only has it been ported to all the major platforms, but the Super version was such a drastic improvement that another update seemed unlikely. The most prominent feature of the Arcade Edition is the inclusion of four new characters: Evil Ryu, Oni, Yun, and Yang. While the first two don’t seem impressive aside from their flashy attacks – both have move sets that blend together those of Ryu, Akuma, and Gouken – the latter pair are far more interesting. Yun and Yang round out the rest of the returning cast from Third Strike, offering much more fast-paced and combo-focused strategies than what you might expect. If anything, they’re overpowered; in a game built upon relatively slower and purposeful gameplay, these two almost run circles around the others. For those of you that have played the last game to death, these guys will seem utterly broken. That doesn’t mean your old favorites are completely outclassed, though. Every character has been tweaked and modified, from slightly altered hit priorities and timing to the complete reworking of certain combos. Most gamers won’t notice it the rebalancing, but hardcore fighting fans are going to have to forget some of their old tactics and learn them anew.

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It takes a lot of work, though. Going through the Arcade Mode a couple of dozen times won’t be enough. You’ve got spend at least a few hours in Training Mode. It retains all of the extensive options found in the Super version, including the various displays and movement recorder. It might not seem like much at a glance, but it’s invaluable when you’re developing strategies. Or when you’re trying to complete the Challenge Mode, for that matter. Finishing all of the character-specific trials can be remarkably difficult even when you’re already well-versed in the gameplay mechanics. You don’t need to beat it – your only rewards are some trophies and bragging rights – but it can help you learn some of the finer points of your favorite fighter’s move sets. If you’re too lazy to do so, you can always fall back on the car and barrel mini-games. They’re hardly the most compelling features, but they still have their charm.

You won’t get the most out the experience until you spend some time playing online. Street Fighter IV has some of the best multiplayer in the fighting genre, and the updates in this installment make it even better. You and random strangers can slaughter each other for hours on end, be it in quick brawls or ranked matches. You can even choose between the Super and Arcade versions of the characters, which is a great way to bring the fans of both titles together. The video features have been revamped as well; when you’re not sharing the footage of your fights with everyone else, you can watch the Elite Channel and learn some new strategies (and subscribe to the replays) from the best players in the business. Not only is it a great way to get a better perspective of the game, but it also makes for far more entertaining matches than you’d see from a regular opponent. Even if you’re not into the high-level competition, the gameplay remains as smooth and entertaining as it has been in the previous versions.

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The same goes for the graphics. Since Arcade Edition is just an update as opposed to a brand-new game, the visuals and designs remain largely unchanged. The character models retain their fleshed-out designs and movements, from the simplest punch to the most extravagant Ultra Combo. The new fighters steal the show, though. Even if their move sets and playing styles are based on those of pre-existing characters, Evil Ryu and Oni have a presence unlike any of their opponents. Not only are their bodies wreathed in flames, but they literally glow with energy. Evil Ryu’s demonic eyes, pulsing scars, and tattered costume underscore just how far he’s fallen. Yun and Yang are equally interesting, but for different reasons; their slick, fluid animations and stylish costumes make them stand out from the rest of the cast. Combined with some updated pre-fight dialogues, individual victory quotes, animated intros and endings, these latest contenders make the game even more engaging than before.

It might not be enough, though. If you’ve played and loved Super Street Fighter IV, you probably see little incentive to buy yet another update. It’s totally understandable; given the profits Capcom rakes in on DLC content (and their unbridled passion for rereleasing older titles), this new edition seems a bit self-indulgent. Despite their crazy designs, two of the new characters are basically mash-ups of fighters you’ve already played. Yun and Yang are far more fascinating due to their focus on fast-paced combat and combos, but they’re too overpowered. On the other hand, every fighter has been altered and tweaked in some way; the roster has been rebalanced to the extent that veterans of the Super version are going to have to relearn some of their old tricks. Since the gameplay mechanics remain as complex and demanding as ever, there’s a lot of stuff to cover. The new online replay features not only help in that process, but provide tons of entertainment for casual fans as well. That’s what really matters; regardless if you choose to make the jump to the Arcade Edition or not, Street Fighter IV is always worth playing.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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