SUPER STREET FIGHTER IV ARCADE / Capcom / PC
 
 
Alright, first off, version differences: this version includes all possible characters including the ones that were previously DLCs - Yun, Yang, Oni and Evil Ryu. There's also various ongoing balance patches. If you already own Super SF4, the handful of characters and online play stuff doesn't really merit upgrading unless you're a really hardcore competitive player. If you don't already have any version of SF4, however, this is the most comprehensive one to get. The only thing it downgrades is that the catchy Indestructible seems to have been removed :(
 
                                                 unexpected homoeroticism at the main menu
 

If you're entirely new, SF4 feels like a hybrid of Super SF2 and the Alpha series (a little zippier than traditional SF2 without descending into the full-blown over-caffeinated spasticness of Alpha - though they did bring in that guy shouting into a tin can as narrator), with just a sprinkle of SF3's characters and gameplay conventions mixed in for seasoning. It's also some gorgeous eye candy (especially on the PC), with a unique and colorful combination of 3D cel-shaded character models with the traditional 2D playfield, allowing the game to quickly cut to some elaborate close-up cinematics when you pull off a really big move. The music and sound work in general are also quite good. It manages to be a real visual/aural treat while still maintaining enough play depth and balance to satisfy the competitive scene; maybe not *quite* as deep as the best of the KOF games or even Street Fighter 3, but definitely up there among the better of the bunch.
 


The game really seems to have been designed with an eye mostly toward competitive play; if it has any real weakness, it's that the single-player experience suffers a bit for that. There's just not much to do other than tune up on the computer for practice. Each character does get a little anime clip story at the outset and end of their campaign, but it's pretty short and subpar stuff (the animation quality is surprisingly lacking in these clips considering the sparkling polish of the rest of the game.) Single-player seems more to have been included just to give you something to do while waiting in lobby for a match. And the training mode, like pretty much every fighting series except Virtua Fighter, is a simplistic afterthought; it's just good ol' Dummy Dan standing there uselessly while you do whatever, forcing you to pause the game to look at a command list. While it does show you some useful combos in the Challenge mode, it doesn't really make an attempt to teach you the underlying philosophies of competitive play or how to bring everything together in battle into a cohesive strategy. That would have been a lot to ask back in the 90s, but I think for a 2010 release we're getting to the point where fighting games should start being expected to do this.

One other minor issue is that the game seems to be optimized for arcade sticks. To do the character's biggest and best super moves, you have to mash either all three punches or kicks together at the same time, and there's just really no comfortable way to configure that on an Xbox 360 pad or similar.

SF4 isn't the best choice if you're going to mostly be flying solo, but as a competitive fighter it might be the best yet at striking a balance between flashy visuals and big combos with the balance and intricate craftmanship required to produce an enduring and popular competitive/tournament game. Popular opinion seems to agree, as there's still a very active user base playing online as of mid-2012.
 
 
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