Capcom's "Street Fighter" video game franchise has been around for twenty-three years - nearly a quarter of a century. The franchise's success is based heavily on arcade culture, centering around the idea of going to an arcade and whooping your friend's ass - using whatever video game character you've mastered - in front of a crowd waiting for their shot at the champion.
As video game arcades became an endangered species, the "Street Fighter" franchise responded by entering into hibernation. But after ten years of lying dormant, the "Street Fighter" characters made their comeback with "Street Fighter IV." This version of the game consisted of 2-D game play in a 3-D landscape, and represented a marked improvement over previous versions. "Street Fighter IV" was a tremendous success, and quickly put the franchise back on the map.
So, how does "Super Street Fighter IV" build upon the success of the last version?
More importantly, why should you pay forty bucks for what could be considered an expansion pack?
Quite simply, you should lay down the forty bucks because this time around Capcom has recreated the arcade experience through new online modes.
"Super Street Fighter IV" has three new online modes to choose from. The mode that was most appealing was the "Endless Battle." In this mode, eight players take turns fighting each other in a lobby. If you win a match, you get to take on the next challenger in the queue. If you lose, you go to the back of the line. What's great about this mode is the ability to trash talk. You can talk trash with the audience as well as your opponent, just like in a real arcade.
In addition to "Endless Battle" mode, there's a create-your-own tournament mode as well as a team mode. In tournament mode - which will be available as a free DLC update, post-launch - you seed up to eight players in a bracket however you want. Team mode, on the other hand, allows you to form a team of up to four players and take on another evenly matched team.
All three modes allow the use of the "Replay Channel" through which you can record matches and post "footage" for online viewing. Anyone in the world who plays "Super Street Fighter IV" can view the matches that you posted.
"Super Street Fighter IV" features ten additional characters over the previous "Street Fighter" iteration, bringing the grand total of playable characters to thirty-five. Eight of the characters are fan favorites from previous versions of "Street Fighter" while two are completely new. Juri is a small, fast female character with a Taekwondo fighting style. Hakan is a Turkish oil wrestler who gets a boost on the range of his grabs and a different set of moves and ultra combos - including slides - when he covers himself in olive oil during a match (an ultra combo is a special attack.) Of the two new characters, Juri was easiest to pick up and play. Hakan's oil fighting style is original, but a little awkward get a handle on.
All of the characters come with new moves, ultra combos and costumes - on top of what was offered in the previous version of "Street Fighter" - and are shipped unlocked. That's right - no more having to "earn" characters! Additional costumes will be offered as downloadable content. For my test run with the game, I chose a classic character, Vega, but with the new moves and ultra combos. While new, they're about as effective as the set in the last game, but the animations for the ultra combos are slightly more flashy than "Street Fighter IV."
What I really thought was notable about my Vega match, however, was the new stage I was fighting in: a swamp full of hippos. The hippos actually mocked the player who was losing the match (in this case, me), contributing immensely to the immersion of the game.
As I got my ass whooped - and the hippos mocked me - I had to agree that "Super Street Fighter IV" really is an improvement in every way possible.
"Super Street Fighter IV" goes on sale April 27th on Xbox 360 and Sony PS3.