The Nintendo 3DS is proving sluggish in sales after the first month. Perhaps people are not getting into the 3-D feature, or perhaps there is a perception that the games are not there yet. However, the launch lineup was not precisely slouching, and Capcom's frequent dedication to using a console to its fullest produced a worthy star for the lineup with a top-notch portable edition of Super Street Fighter IV, the latest in its long-running juggernaut of a series. Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is a combination of elements new and old that showcase what the 3DS can do, and it tweaks the series to produce the signature game of the 3DS launch lineup and potentially the best portable fighter ever released.
The basic gameplay in 3D Edition is about the same as always. No fundamental wrinkles change up the gameplay; its core remains the same six-button, special-move-heavy game that has attracted a heavy tournament scene, with no new characters or significant balance changes. This is probably for the better, since it means that the player can truly take the X360/PS3 game on the go and use it as a legitimate source of practice, though a few fans may be disappointed at the lack of core gameplay shifts or balance tunings. For those less aware of what comprised SSF IV, the biggest changes were simply in the introduction of most of the most popular characters from the entire Street Fighter franchise: over 30, along with continued development of the story arc.
SSF IV: 3D Edition ports the gameplay near-perfectly, with only one core modification: the addition of the assist buttons. The touch-screen has four buttons, which can be set to run various command combinations by player preference. Novices can benefit from triggering entire specials in a single button press, while advanced players can use the same buttons to trigger contextual commands like hitting all three punches at once. You could also use them to weave combos that are possible on the main console versions but certainly aren't feasible on the 3DS's portable controls.
The options and extras, however, represent the game's true value, including one option specifically meant to use the 3DS's namesake element. The new Dynamic View mode changes play to a semi-over-the-shoulder perspective, giving the player a full sense of depth. The camera twists whenever you turn around, meaning that the controls and gameplay are never affected by this in any sense. However, the effect makes the fight feel much more visceral than in past games, so it's a neat little showcase of things that are done well with the 3DS.
In terms of core play options, the game sticks to much the same base set as the console SSF4: local wireless or Internet online play, arcade mode, a set of practice trials, being able to freely play the two bonus stages, and the traditional training mode. There's also a versus variant that forces Dynamic View, but the stable core offers most of the variation that players could want.
One other segment, however, helps make the game last longer in the hands of casual fans: the new figure modes. The 500 figures depicting the game's characters can be unlocked by points earned through gameplay. Like Super Smash Bros. Melee, these are primarily earned using a slot machine-like minigame, using points based on rounds won. Casual players can trade up to 20 Play Coins (points that Nintendo awards for taking your system out for a walk) a day to earn these. That alone is not the point of the mode. Instead, you build a "team" out of five of the figures and store that for StreetPass. When walking around, if StreetPass triggers with another player of the game, your figures will battle theirs to earn extra bonuses. The game also offers bonus figures for typing in special passwords, some of which are sent as direct messages via the 3DS notification system. This combination could help the game last much longer in many players' hands, and it certainly doesn't hurt the game's fun.
SSF IV: 3D Edition's biggest strength may be in its presentation. All of the character models look excellent, and the game's use of 3-D shaders means that it's hard to tell apart character and battle animations from the console versions of the game; even Hakan's oil shine looks spot-on at a casual glance. Unfortunately, the cost of this comes in the backgrounds, reduced to simpler 3-D models and even 2-D cut-outs for people. This is fine in the normal view but looks rather subpar when using the Dynamic View mechanic or when the camera goes wild for super moves. The cut scenes are reduced to scrolling still frames and subtitles — and no, the anime cut scenes aren't shifted into 3-D.
The soundscape also holds up nicely. All of the sound effects and voices from the console version port over and sound just fine on the 3DS' surprisingly decent speakers. Put in headphones, and you can even enjoy the soundtrack.
Only one thing holds back Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition from being pure fighting perfection: the lack of the arcade edition content, with its four characters and gigantic stack of extras. Otherwise, 3D Edition is one of the purest, strongest examples of fighting game bliss in recent history, and it's a worthy addition to almost any 3DS owner's library. This is easily the best title in the 3DS launch lineup, and it's proof that the potential is there for the slow-starting system.
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