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Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition Review

By Matt Cabral, 3/31/2011

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Mario and Link may be absent from the Nintendo 3DS’s launch line-up, but there’s plenty of third-party publishers looking to pick up the slack--and our dollars. This, of course, means plenty of quick-cash-in ports such as EA launch party crashers Madden and The Sims 3, as well as too-familiar fare like yet another Bust-A-Move title nobody asked for. But while the lackluster line-up has spawned no legit system sellers, a few titles have emerged as must-haves for early 3DS adopters. On top of that tiny list sits Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, a surprisingly solid port of Capcom’s console fighter.

Sporting all the modes, stages, characters (all 35 of them), their costumes, and even some goodies its console cousins can’t claim, SSFIV3DE is absolutely crammed with content. This includes online options as well; simply select “Quick Match” and you’ll be exchanging blows with across-the-country competitors within seconds. You can also pick fights with your friends (locally and online), and even create custom matches through an intuitive interface that never keeps you from the fist-to-face action for very long. Online or off, this is a full-featured version of SSFIV that’s lost little in its transition to the handheld.

While its content remains faithful, SSFIV3DE obviously has to make some concessions with its controls. The 3DS, while boasting more inputs than any previous Nintendo handheld, is still a far cry from a fight stick or even a gamepad. Capcom’s done an impressive job addressing the platform’s limited button real estate, though. For starters, all the face and shoulder buttons are utilized, as well as the new circle pad (the d-pad can also be used in its place.) Additionally, players can map inputs to four virtual buttons on the lower screen, which can then be triggered with your finger or stylus; this is a fantastic inclusion for seasoned fans looking to duplicate as pure an experience as possible. Even better, though--especially for newcomers--is the ability to assign Super and Ultra combos to the touch screen. This means, for example, that first time Street Fighter players can unleash a devastating Shoryuken with just a tap of their thumb.

This convenience will no doubt sound like sacrilege to fans who’ve been playing Street Fighter since its quarter-munching arcade days. Understandably, anyone who’s invested hours and blistered their thumbs learning multi-button moves will feel cheated going against some punk who wouldn’t know Blanka from Shrek. However, this feature is entirely optional and can be turned off when playing online. So, while the most skilled players may want to avoid it, it’s a welcome workaround for first time fighters just discovering the franchise. Even players like myself, who’ve been high-kicking as Chun Li for well over a decade, but still can’t boast tournament-level chops, should appreciate its inclusion.

Regardless of the speed and skill behind players’ flying limbs, everyone will agree SSFIV3DE is a stunning graphical achievement for the 3DS. The beautiful hand drawn design of the console versions make the leap to the 3DS with nary a hiccup. Visuals are vibrant, character animations silky smooth, and environments drenched in detail. The only real noticeable difference is some slight reduction of activity in the backgrounds; they still look great, but things like cheering crowds from the consoles’ stages may now be scaled back to a group of static spectators.

Of course, you can’t talk about visuals on Nintendo’s buzzed-about new platform without addressing the 800 pound, three-dimensional gorilla in the room. SSFIV3DE is an eye-popping achievement without the 3D effect, but it can’t be denied that it also looks damn cool with the 3D slider turned all the way up. You will lose some frame-rate speed when enjoying the jump-off-the-screen tech, but you won’t find a launch title that looks better with an extra dimension. The 3D adds subtle, but noticeable depth without shouting “look at me!”, but if you want a more in-your-face effect, SSFIV3DE also includes a “Dynamic Mode”. This adds considerably more depth by placing the camera over the shoulder of your fighter. Like the one-touch combo controls, it’s a polarizing addition purists will likely shun. That said, it’s important to note it’s not merely a gimmicky feature tacked on to show off the tech. Sure, it changes the game, but it’s still entirely playable, and those who give it a chance may even have difficulty returning to the flatter display.

If being able to play a faithful version of SSFIV on the bus or in the dentist’s office isn’t enough of a draw, Capcom’s also included some neat functionality using the system’s share-with-strangers Street Pass feature. Players can collect mini Street Fighter figurines in the game by trading in earned points, then passively battle other players’ figures when they stroll by them at the mall. Your little pugilist playthings can even be leveled up and assigned attributes. You won’t be missing much if you decide to ignore this feature, but avid collectors and completionists will find it an addictive little meta-game.

The 3DS launched without a killer-app (sorry, Steel Diver, but piloting slow submarines doesn’t count as fun), but SSFIV3DE comes damn close. Whether or not you’re a fighting game fan is of little concern, as it serves as an impressive showcase of what Nintendo’s new hardware is capable of. It essentially puts a PS3/360 game in the palm of our hands. For longtime fans, it’s a new way to experience an old favorite; for newcomers, it’s a great introduction to the genre; for everyone else, it’s an effective way to shut up friends who ask why you blew $250 on a 3DS.

Overall: 9 out of 10



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