10 Thoughts On … Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 07/07/2011 (DLC); 07/28/2011 (Retail)

Back when Street Fighter IV reinvigorated the fighting game scene in 2009, the balance between consoles and arcades became an epic struggle.

The game first splashed onto the scene in Japanese arcades, leaving many gamers elsewhere without a means to play the title. When the game finally launched on home systems, though, arcade players felt they were on the short end of the stick after seeing the mob of extra characters added to the gameplay on top of a “Super” release in 2010, which added even more.

Thus, when Capcom finally dedicated itself to release a Super version, the arcade scene’s “meager” character selection was rewarded with every piece of content found in the console versions, along with four new characters and other revisions. When gamers finally thought the arcade version had ultimately won, we find ourselves here today, looking at the third retail version of Street Fighter IV within three years.

It feels like the 1990s all over again!

Luckily, today, the most recent revision won’t cost you $50 for another cartridge. The digital option also makes SSFIV AE much more convenient than purchasing a whole new CPS board to upgrade to the Super Street Fighter II Turbo X Grand Master Challenge. While hearing there is a new version of Street Fighter IV to consider will illicit many moans and complaints, undoubtedly, gamers are in a much better position in 2011.

On the surface, SSFIV AE adds four new playable characters, tweaks the gameplay for balancing, bolsters the available online replay functions and makes a few minor adjustments and additions to further fuel online competition. For those still clinging to their copy of Super Street Fighter IV, the price of admission is $15, while, starting this week, a standalone retail version of the title will be on sale for $40. What does this mean for Street Fighter players of varying skill levels, and is this a good deal?

Before going into any commentary that breaks down the characters or gameplay, please note I am at a Street Fighter level a notch above casual. While I’m not a beginner, and I have won a few local tournaments, I am certainly not at the EVO professional level of play or anything like that.

1. Obviously, the main attraction here is there are now four more characters players can kick some ass with. Unfortunately, these additions aren’t at all original, implementing a few more Street Fighter III fan faves while injecting two more dark hado characters.

SFIII mainstays Yun and Yang allow players more high-energy rushdown tactics, while Evil Ryu and Oni (unlike Shin Akuma, which is when Akuma uses the full extent of the hado, Oni has lost all semblance of humanity, making Akuma a literal demon), provide more variations on Akuma and Seth’s high-risk, high-reward style of gameplay.

Personally, the character additions didn’t come off as highly interesting to me. Looking at the roster, I’m seeing what I call “Smash Bros. Syndrome” – instead of creating variety, the roster is loaded with characters that play similar, but with slightly different ticks (it won’t be long before anyone that can pilot an Arwing is found in Smash Bros.). Counting Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Gouken, Dan, Sakura, Sagat, and now Oni and Evil Ryu, SSFIV AE has nine variations of the fireball/anti-air punch discipline (and if you want to cheat, Seth has the shoryuken driver special). It seems at least two of these spots could have been better served by more original characters, but that’s just my personal opinion.

Still, for the most part, the new fighters offer up a surprising amount of options. I found it quite easy to roll into playing as Yun and Oni, while Yang could be effective with some finesse. On the other hand, in the time I spent with the game, I found little reason to come back to Evil Ryu, which is surprising considering Ryu is usually my main in Street Fighter titles, but this is explained in point five.

2. Clearly, for anyone following the game online, Yun has become a clear favorite in SSFIV AE, and that label is not just among the new fighters. In fact, in the hands of a skilled player, he is quite deadly; thanks to his speed, target combos, very useful super move, pokes and setups, Yun defines in-your-face gameplay. If you panic easily, a good Yun player will beat you to a pulp once the opponent gets his or her hands on you.

Yun is a clear starting point for any player first getting into SSFIV AE, as he can punish opponents without even implementing super or ultra moves. His dive kick is executed just by holding down and forward and pressing kick while in mid-air, and since beginning players (at least around my area) like to play footsie, they will benefit from Yun’s spin kick that delivers a second hit just by pressing roundhouse a second time. These basics are integral to Yun’s game because he can generate meter like mad, which really bolsters his strong EX game and allows for repeated usage of his super move.

While some will claim Yun is unstoppable, I wouldn’t go that far, as it does take a lot of patience to use him against a superior anti-air character. Also, while Yun is an offensive ball of fire, his defense isn’t the greatest, meaning when he gets punished, it hurts. I’m not overly aggressive in normal play, so it was quite an adjustment, and matchups against a character like Blanka were somewhat awkward for me at first when they weren’t normally an issue. In fact, even in Japanese arcade feeds, I’ve seen players use low-tier characters (as decided by arbitrary listings) such as Makoto and completely wreck a series of Yun players.

While the balancing of the game, mostly concerning Yun’s strengths, has been a major complaint by many online, it hasn’t been much of an issue at my level of play. Let’s face it – if you play competitively, you’ve had this expansion for weeks now. This overview is for people at my level on the fence about the purchase or those looking to get into the game with the retail package. On these grounds, yes, Yun has a very obvious advantage, but, at this level, his fullest potential won’t be unlocked without serious practice.

3. As I said earlier, Oni was another character I was able to get into right away, mostly due to his easy-to-execute offensive pressure and brutally strong combo potential.

His back plus medium punch, heavy punch target combo is an extremely easy tool to combo into and out of, making it very easy to punish a whiff. Oni’s fist slam special move keeps him safe while applying pressure, and the EX version of the move gives Oni another overhead and focus attack breaking option. Furthermore, his ultras are relatively easy to juggle into, making him especially dangerous in the corner.

Still, much like the other dark hado characters, Oni has relatively lower defense than the average character in exchange for his high offensive output. Also, some of his tools largely rely on meter, so some of his specials aren’t as reliable when the player has no juice to work with. Most notably, Oni’s fireballs are fairly ineffective when compared to other projectiles in the game. Much like Gouken, these fireballs can be charged, but this can be seen coming from a mile away and is easily avoided.

Overall, Oni is a flashy and dominating character, but this is only if players know the tools to set up an attack. In being flashy, he also has a handful of not-so-practical moves, so knowing what to use and when is key in controlling the character.

4. Even though Yang is a twin to Yun, it is kind of surprising how much differently he handles. I would say Yun still has an edge, but using tools similar to his brother, Yang can still be an offensive beast.

Yang’s mantis strikes are one obvious difference between the twins, as they execute similar to Fei Long’s chain punches. Yang’s dragon kick also has a forward roll before popping out, so his specials certainly allow him more breathing room than his brother, who constantly has to be airborne and in your face. Instead, Yang is much more flexible and can punish from nearly anywhere on the screen. His ultra moves are also more flexible and can combo easily, and Yang sports a fair amount of moves with invincibility frames, which are great for reversals.

On the negative, though, Yang, like everyone else in the update, doesn’t have the highest defensive properties. More importantly, though, it seems harder to do extensive amounts of damage in one string when compared to Yun. Arguably, Yang is more effective in meter usage, but he has to rely on it heavily in order to produce heavy-hitting results.

Yang has a number of ticks when compared to Yun, but I didn’t think he measured up quite as much. That is not to say Yang can’t be effective, as his range is dramatically better, but players will have to make efficient usage of their super meter to reap benefits from playing as him.

5. Earlier I said I had little reason to come back to Evil Ryu, but I think this is probably mostly due to the fact I’ve never been an effective Akuma player. As Evil Ryu, the main character’s fireball attacks are even more crucial, and the mixed-in elements of Akuma the character receives gives him a few more great tools to work with, to be honest.

While the added Akuma-style teleport added to Ryu’s moveset is practically worthless, having Akuma’s hurricane kick allows for easy juggles for a character that could already juggle like crazy, especially in corners. The best thing about this addition, though, is these hurricane kick juggles can be done without exhausting super meter. Furthermore, given the fact Evil Ryu is … well, evil, the hado increases his power to result in great damage, especially in combos involving his new axe kick maneuver. These juggles are crucial when you consider Ryu can combo his ultras into nearly any juggle situation for guaranteed damage. If Ryu, let alone Evil Ryu, pressures an opponent in the corner, it’s bad news, and the same holds true for Evil Ryu.

On the other side of the coin, though, Evil Ryu takes very heavy damage in return. Much like Akuma or Seth, playing Evil Ryu requires nearly flawless defensive play. Having the fantastic fireballs and shoryuken are great tools, but this requires Ryu to fully control the match in order to yield the most results. If an opponent shakes this control, the match can go downhill in a heartbeat.

In summation, Evil Ryu is a literal combination of Ryu and Akuma – the dark hado gives him an easy punish using the juggling short hurricane kick, but the massive swing in power leaves him very weak to attack.

6. One nice aspect of the Arcade Edition expansion is the ability for players to toggle back to the default Super Street Fighter IV version. Understandably, there isn’t much value in dropping $15 (or even $40) for the expansion just to switch back to SSFIV, but if you don’t like it, it does give you a failsafe if you have a friend that takes exception to AE’s new balancing.

These options also carry over online. Even though a player with SSFIV cannot play online against someone using AE, when going online for matches, players can choose to find opponents using only one version or the other to ensure they find a suitable matchup.

Even when one of the four new characters isn’t on screen, it is easy to tell what version is in play, as while in AE mode, a SSFIV AE logo flashes on the screen during the versus splash screen and just before the start of the first round. Changing the mode is as simple as going into the options and selecting the toggle, so, essentially, players should know upfront once they download the expansion that there is a way to go back without deleting the data.

7. Most of the other additions will only impact you if you are a true online competition fiend or just want to enjoy the variety of replay saves in order to improve your game. Players can now name their endless game lobbies, follow select players to be notified of new replay data, enjoy an “elite” replay channel filled with replays from the best in the world, and more.

When you first install AE and boot up the game, any time you first encounter a menu that features an addition, a pop-up window fully explains the features, and this list can be accessed from the options at any time. While some of these features may seem trivial, when you go as deep as the people who still play online, they actually mean a lot.

8. Downloading AE also adds new achievements to the game. Unfortunately, these are pretty unoriginal, but, nonetheless, they require players to fully explore the nuances of the new characters. The achievements include beating the game with each new character without continuing, reaching the new extra stage encounters on the highest difficulty and utilizing a few of the new online features.

What I was disappointed to see, however, was the fact that nothing was done for the new characters gameplay-wise outside of the barebones offerings. The four new characters are not equipped with challenges, which will be severely disappointing for those looking to learn the new characters’ combos and explore juggle/linking possibilities. You can still launch the characters in training mode, but there is no sort of guide or tutorial to ease players into the new characters.

9. Obviously, as an expansion, SSFIV AE utilizes the same assets as found on the SSFIV disc, so that is why I chose not to do a standard review. The graphics, sounds and gameplay structure are 100 percent the same from the previous entry, so there isn’t much to say on that. In essence, SSFIVAE isn’t going to do anything to sway your opinion if you didn’t like the presentation, standard gameplay mechanics, online structure, etc. of Super Street Fighter IV.

Still, the new characters look like they fit right in, with Yun having amusing animations with his skateboard before and after fights and Oni and Evil Ryu glowing with dark energy. With voice options, each character still gets the option of English or Japanese voice acting and, interestingly enough, Johnny Yong Bosch (former Power Ranger and voice of many anime characters such as Ichigo from Bleach) handles the English voice of Yang. Each character also receives a full intro and ending animation, just like the remainder of the roster, fleshing out why the characters are involved in the tournament. Well, Oni just kind of grunts and moans outside of pre- and post-fight quotes, but, he blows up a volcano. That’s cool, right?

10. So, is SSFIV AE worth the price of admission? Obviously, if you can’t get enough of Street Fighter, the answer is yes, and you’ve probably spent your $15 on it by now. The retail package will give players a convenient way to access the material if they do not have a way to access Xbox LIVE, but, at this point, with a major upgrade to the online functionality of SSFIV, such a purchase may be moot unless you just really want the new characters and balancing.

At least at first, I’m sure retailers will price SSFIV to be consistent with the new $40 price tag of the retail SSFIV AE version, but time will tell if it will just be cheaper to buy a pre-owned SSFIV and an AE download token. The price of $40 is still fair to fighting game fans in order to get one of better fighting games on the market, but the most casual of fighting game fans will likely be satisfied by the cheaper Super Street Fighter IV.

While the differences between Street Fighter IV and its Super counterpart are night and day, AE should be treated much more like it is an expansion, because that is essentially what it is. If you still occasionally pop SSFIV into your system, AE was made for you in mind, but if you’ve long since sold your copy of either previous entry, you’re probably safe in passing up the purchase and going over to your friend’s house. Hey, that’s how all my friends played Street Fighter II.



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