It's not too often to see a fighting game steal the spotlight for a system's launch, but that's exactly what Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition does on Nintendo 3DS. Between keeping true to the original game and finding a way to become more accessible than ever, Super Street Fighter is not only one of the best 3DS games at launch, but one of the few fighting games I'd genuinely recommend to anyone. Just keep in mind some sacrifices had to be made to get this in portable form.
By and large, Super Street Fighter IV leaps to the Nintendo 3DS intact. All 35 fighters from the console versions have been brought over, including characters that were added later on. Variable costumes and colors are also included, giving players a very robust cast of characters from the start – don't expect to unlock anyone as you play. In terms of its core concept, Super Street Fighter is exactly what you'd expect – pick your character and face off against your opponent. You'll feel right at home whether you played a previous version of the game 20 years ago or 20 minutes ago. Quarter-circle forward, quarter-circle back, fireballs, spinning kicks and more - Capcom's juggernaut series is at once intimately familiar while still feeling fresh after being around for two decades.
The 3DS version captures that spirit reasonably well, but the gameplay is a bit different. Super Street Fighter IV uses six attack buttons – three punches and three kicks. The 3DS has six face buttons, but two are on the shoulders. Particularly since this is a portable, pressing the L and R buttons isn't always comfortable or convenient. Capcom has crafted an interesting solution, splitting the touch screen into four buttons, which are fully customizable through two concepts – Lite and Pro controls.
The Lite scheme allows you to use these buttons to execute full combos and special moves. Suddenly the more challenging attacks are a breeze, and the game will let you know when these maneuvers are available by highlighting them. Pro mode restricts you to simply assigning basic buttons or simultaneous button presses. The idea here is some players will still want the feel of a traditional Street Fighter experience, without special move shortcuts.
In my experience, Lite is the way to go. I realize these "quick execution" buttons do change the concept of a fighting game dramatically, but something more important is gained – accessibility. Despite not being familiar with many of these characters, I was able to pick up and play with relative ease. That pick-up-and-play concept is not only remarkable for an established franchise that thrives on complexity, it's also refreshing. I want to be able to play this game with any 3DS owner I know. Lite mode allows for that. And, honestly, if I really want the authentic experience, I can shut off the touch screen controls entirely or simply play on the console, which ultimately is the better hardcore fighting experience for a number of reasons.
It's impossible not to compare SSFIV 3D Edition to its console-based cousins. Though characters and moves have made the transition intact, the game's graphics are a slightly different story. Character models are quite good, and you'd be hard pressed (particularly with the smaller screen) to notice many differences. It's the backgrounds that have taken a hit. On an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, I can see animated characters moving around behind my fight, and some levels even had some elements that reacted slightly to the on-screen action. All of that is not the case here. Characters are static, lacking even the most basic actions. It's not that you'll entirely notice during the heat of a fight, but all the same it's a disappointment.
Challenge and Training modes, as well as the ability to replay bonus games, have been brought over, but more important is a rather significant addition involving character figures. As you progress through the game, or earn PlayCoins with the 3DS's built-in pedometer, you'll be able to purchase small, collectible figurines. These items feature combat statistics and, much like you might in a game like Pokemon, you're able to assemble five of them into a battle-ready team. When your system is in Sleep Mode, the 3DS will automatically connect to other systems in proximity for battle. Results are tallied, points and experience are awarded, and you continue to upgrade and purchase more figures.
Collecting and battling these figures is nothing like the main game. Unfortunately the idea is probably a bit better in concept than it is in reality. The menus are a bit clunky and despite having a ton of detail, the mini-game doesn't offer deep enough gameplay to really make a lasting impression. It's certainly something I'd love to see evolve in future Street Fighter (or Pokemon) games though.
Online play is a core part of the Street Fighter IV experience, and Capcom has made sure its 3DS version does the same. In running through several rounds with the final version, I found it easy to find opponents, though keeping a stable connection proved to be a bit of a challenge. We'll see how things fare when the game officially launches, but I'm a bit worried, particularly given some of the immense struggles Marvel vs. Capcom 3 fans have faced. Here's hoping Capcom learned its lessons.
Though some Super Street Fighter online concepts like tournaments or team battles didn't make the leap to the 3DS, players will be able to send a demo of the game to other friends. Gamers with the limited version (Ryu vs. Ryu only) installed on their 3DS will be able to play each other, even if neither owns a copy of Street Fighter. Another cool, yet standard, function will allow challengers to request a match even when you're playing Arcade mode.
THE 3D EFFECT
Let's just say this up front – you don't need 3D in a 2D fighting game. It doesn't change gameplay. I think that's a pretty obvious fact. Capcom, however, knows this and has actually added a curious mode to the game, called simply 3D Versus, that simply shifts the game's camera slightly off the shoulder of one of the fighter's shoulders. By doing this, the 3D effect is much more noticeable. It's certainly a cool trick, and will definitely be something to show your friends, but after a few rounds you'll go back to the traditional presentation.
It's also important to note that displaying the game with 3D on does impact the smoothness of battles. Though by no means choppy, there is a definite difference in animation and movement when switching between 3D and 2D.