Review by discoinferno84

Reviewed: 03/31/11 | Updated: 04/04/11

I can see clearly now...

It’s easy to doubt Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition. Longtime veterans of this series know what to expect when a console game gets ported. Such titles are normally fraught with all kinds of problems and limitations; there are fewer characters, the control layouts aren’t conducive to the gameplay, there aren’t enough buttons to map all of the commands, and the overall presentations are watered down at best. The more you play those half-assed renditions, the lower you expectations become. But if you go into 3D Edition assuming that you’ll be in for another disappointment, you’re going to be in for a surprise. This game not only works amazingly well for a handheld fighter, but it gives its predecessors a run for their money.

You’ll understand once you get to the character selection screen. It’s huge. With 35 playable characters – a number the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Alpha series – it retains all the competitors from the console version. Since everyone is available right from the start, you can get right into the fighting without having to worry about unlocking anything. All of the original World Warriors are back, along with Abel, Rufus, C. Viper, and the other newcomers from Street Fighter IV. The lineup is further diversified with characters spanning the works of The New Challengers, Alpha 3, and Third Strike. You’ve got Dudley’s gentlemanly boxing, Juri’s evil Taekwondo, and Hakan’s ridiculously epic oil wrestling moves at your disposal. With so many characters at your fingertips, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to discover your favorite fighter.

You’ll need to practice, though. Each warrior has a unique moveset and varied playing style. The essential moves are standard fare for any fighting game; you can perform light, medium, and heavy punches and kicks. Depending on the commands and button inputs you use, you can perform all kinds of special moves, ranging from flaming projectiles and kicks to counters and devastating uppercuts. The stronger the attack, the longer it takes to perform. But if you’ve got a good sense of timing, you can use the different moves in tandem and set up combos. If you press the medium punch and kick buttons at once, you can charge up and unleash a Focus Attack. Not only does it deal out extra damage, but it lets you absorb and counter an oncoming attack. If you rack up enough hits, you can store up energy and perform faster, multi-hit versions of regular moves. Or if you prefer something a little more over-the-top, you can save all your power for your Ultra Combos. Those typically result in a brief animation sequence involving lots of flashy pyrotechnics, impossible acrobatics, and lots of body oil. That’s the beauty of Super Street Fighter IV; regardless if you’re an offensive or defensive player, there is something to accommodate you.

While these aspects have remained unchanged from the console version, the control scheme has been revamped. The basic attacks have been set to the 3DS’s face buttons. While the setup mimics a controller layout well enough, performing moves with the shoulder triggers – particularly on the left side – can be awkward. But if you’re having too much trouble, the game lets you customize the commands and control mapping. It’s not just limited to the buttons, either; if you’re having a tough time performing your specials and Ultra Combos, you can set those onto one of four panels on the touch screen. Instead of fumbling around with the specific inputs, you can just press the corresponding section of the screen and dish out some punishment. It’s reminiscent of the iPhone version of Street Fighter IV, but it’s much easier to handle. The same goes with the analog stick, which works far better than the stiff directional pad. It might take you a few tries to get used to the new control layout, but its options and accessibility are impressive.

If you’re still having trouble, you can hone your skills in the obligatory Training and Versus Modes. There’s nothing particularly mind-blowing or unique about them, but they serve as the perfect way to get accustomed with the gameplay mechanics. But if you feel like testing yourself, you can give the Challenge Mode a shot. You’re given a set of trials for each character, and they steadily become more difficult and complex as you continue. It’ll start off with something easy, like performing a special attack. But you’ll end up having to string together multiple combos and pulling off moves with perfect timing. If you can’t muster enough patience for it, you can always indulge in the classic-style Car Crusher and Barrel Buster mini-games. They may not be as demanding as the rest of the game, but they’re still fun.

Not everything in the 3D Edition is taken from the console version, though. You can fight with other gamers locally with only a single game card, which can be a godsend if your friends don’t have their own. It also uses the 3DS’s StreetPass technology to interact with other gamers in the immediate area. You can collect figurines based on the characters, create teams, and set them to battle other teams automatically. You don’t have to be playing for this to happen; the two groups will collide in mock battles, and then earn experience points toward building the figurines’ overall strength. While it’s an interesting use of the 3DS’s wireless technology, you’ll get far more use out of Internet Match Mode. Not only can you challenge friends (there’s only one Friend Code set to each handheld, which is a giant step up from the regular DS), but you can fight strangers as well. Depending on how well you perform, you’ll be awarded bonus points and new titles for your gaming profile. There’s amazingly little lag involved with these matches; if both participants are using halfway decent connections, the fights will be just as fast and precise as the regular battles. It’s a great demonstration of the 3DS’s capabilities.

But if there’s anything that’ll steal the show, it’s the graphics. The console’s biggest selling point is its ability to render three-dimensional imagery, and this game pulls it off in an impressive fashion. Rather than fighting along a 2D plane, the characters will appear more crisp and defined from the rest of the stuff in the background. That’s probably a good thing, considering how all of the stages are completely frozen. Veterans of the console versions will notice how the innocent bystanders are just standing still as opposed to cheering or taking pictures. It’s understandable; given how much emphasis on presenting the combat, the game designers had to sacrifice something. At least the objects in the backgrounds, from the simplest of floors to the most developed buildings, are rendered with enough detail to show off the 3D effects. Street Fighter IV’s art style lends itself well to the smaller screen; the animation looks fluid and fleshed-out. There’s even a 3D Versus Mode that switches the camera to an over-the-shoulder perspective a la Street Fighter EX. While it provides a more refined visual depth, it can be disorienting at times. If you get tired of everything popping out of the screen, you can always turn things down and play things the old-fashioned way.

Capcom actually pulled it off. They made a handheld fighting game that not only stands up to its console version, but builds upon it as well. It’s the entire roster of playable fighters, all of whom have retained their moves, abilities, and playing styles. The deeper combat mechanics haven’t been watered-down in the slightest. The controls, though occasionally awkward under their default settings, can be remapped to suit your needs. It even uses the touch screen as a makeshift controller, which is perfect for newcomers who aren’t familiar with the fighting genre. While the game makes interesting use out of the 3DS’s StreetPass connectivity, you’ll get plenty more out of the superb online multiplayer. It might take a bit to get used to everything, but it’s worth the effort. One of the best console fighting games in recent memory just went portable.

Rating: 9

Product Release: Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition (US, 03/27/11)

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