Back in the 16-bit era, one of the running jokes was that Capcom could always put out a new game — so long as it involved adding an adjective either before or after Street Fighter II. Capcom even poked fun at itself when it released Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Cynics saw the continual refinements and updates as money grabs, while fans appreciated the fact that a game with an active player base wasn't being ignored. Of course, back then, the only way to get an update was to buy a whole new game. That's not the case with the console versions of Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition.
Unlike the PC version of the game, which is only available as a stand-alone purchase, both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition are available as DLC updates as well as stand-alone discs. This means someone who already owns Super Street Fighter IV doesn't have to drop $40 on a new game. Download the $15 DLC, and you're up to speed.
The core changes in the Arcade Edition update are the four new characters as well as the rebalancing of all the existing fighters. Although Capcom made some balance tweaks to Super Street Fighter IV when it shipped the Tournament DLC, the original Street Fighter IV roster made it into Super unchanged. With Arcade Edition, each character has been reviewed, if not tweaked, in an attempt to ensure parity and avoid scrubs. As a result, even veteran players may have to tweak their strategy a bit when hopping in for the first time.
New characters appearing in Arcade Edition are Evil Ryu, Oni and the twins from Street Fighter III, Yun and Yang. Of the four, Yun and Yang stand out the most, if only for their hyperactive play style.
Evil Ryu is essentially a combination of Ryu's simplicity with Akuma's speed and power. His attacks are direct and easy to pull off, with most dealing an impressive amount of damage. He shares the Raging Demon super with Akuma and Oni, as well as being able to execute Akuma's teleport move. Played aggressively, Evil Ryu can be an extremely strong character, though his Achilles heel is his defense. Evil Ryu takes damage easily, so if you cannot keep your opponent at bay, expect to see your health bar drop quickly.
Given his heritage, Oni feels similar to Evil Ryu; however, rather than being a combination of two characters, Oni is simply a super-powered version of Akuma. Much like Evil Ryu, Oni benefits players with an aggressive stance as his attacks cause a high level of damage. The trade-off with Oni is that his most powerful moves are complex, leaving him open to a devastating counterattack if you don't time things just right. Notable differences: Oni's Raging Demon super can be performed in the air (Evil Ryu and Akuma are ground-based) and Oni cannot teleport like Evil Ryu and Akuma.
Yun is known for his speed. With a strong stable of combos and a time-based super, Yun can deal damage quickly. While individual attacks may not be devastating, when strung together, even a series of small hits can remove a noticeable amount of your opponent's health. The quick attacks also have the advantage of building the super meter in short order. He is quite fun to play as a striking character that dives in with a combo, attacks and then quickly jumps back. While he may not be a tank like Oni, Yun still has quite a bite.
Yang may be Yun's twin brother, but his play style is slightly different. Both of Yang's ultras cause an impressive amount of damage when they connect, and he shares his brother's speed. Yang's medium punches are slightly weaker than his brother's, but his medium kick is slightly stronger. It's not a huge degree, but if you favor kicking combos, the advantage is Yang's. Among the moves shared with his brother is the fake Palm Strike. When performed with a light punch, the Palm Strike doesn't do any damage. It is there solely to bait your opponent so you can follow up with a grab or a counter.
Balance changes to other characters are too numerous to list, though most of them appear to be centered on lowering the power of top-tier attacks. Don't be surprised if a favorite character can't quite dish out the same amount of combo damage as before.
Online play appears to be largely unchanged from Super Street Fighter IV, with the exception of the match type filter and some navigation options. When going online, you have the option of searching only for Arcade Edition games, only for Super Street Fighter IV games or the combination of both. Preset lobby names can now be chosen in Endless, and the reply mode now allows you to follow a favorite player. Following makes it easy to see any new replays.
Strangely enough, there is one part of the game that didn't get touched by the Arcade Edition update, and that is the trial option in challenge mode. When you start up trial, the game automatically switches back to the Super Street Fighter IV rule set and character list. There are no trial options for Evil Ryu, Oni, Yun or Yang, which is a disappointment.
With that said, switching between Super Street Fighter IV and Arcade Edition isn't just something that's limited to the trial option. If you ever want to switch back to the old rule set, you can do so in the options menu. This is something that will likely only appeal to the hardcore, but it's nice to have available.
As for the differences between the DLC and the stand-alone disc, the only thing that matters is the amount of hard drive space you're going to use. Once installed, playing Super Street Fighter IV with the Arcade Edition DLC is no different than playing off the stand-alone disc. The choice of which to get is simply a matter of cost. If you already have Super Street Fighter IV (or can find it used on the cheap), then the DLC option is the way to go. If you don't already own Super Street Fighter IV, then grab the stand-alone Arcade Edition disc. Because you can always switch back to the older rule set, you're not limiting yourself with the disc.
One thing worth calling out about the stand-alone Arcade Edition disc is the manual. When most console publishers are scaling back on manuals, opening up the case to find a detailed 58-page instruction booklet was a welcome surprise. More publishers need to follow Capcom's lead here.
Ultimately, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition is a super-sized character expansion pack to an already impressive game. For 1,200 MSP ($15 USD), you're getting four new characters, a slew of balance changes and some tweaks to the online experience. It's not a revolution in play, but if you've already mastered Super Street Fighter IV, it does make the experience fresh again.
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