Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Review
With the mainstream resurgence of fighting games led by Capcom's Street Fighter IV, the whole community has been revitalized. Sure, they still drive up to big cities to do local tournaments that cover both new and old games, but now there's a secondary community, one that plays online. That community might be the strongest with Street Fighter IV, and the reason for that is because Capcom keeps supporting the game with updates, new characters, and major changes. Unlike with last year's Super SFIV, though, which Capcom asked SFIV owners to buy flat-out for $40 - rendering their original copies of SFIV pretty much obsolete - instead, this new update is available either on disc or as a downloadable addon for Super SFIV. It's got the "Arcade Edition" tag. While Capcom sent us a copy of the disc-based version, I'll also look at it as it's packaged in its $15 DLC format.
The big thing added here in AE is a set of four new characters, bringing the total roster to 39. There's Yun and Yang from Street Fighter III, along with Evil Ryu and Oni (who is your perfect character if you thought Akuma just wasn't demon-like enough). Capcom also slapped on a nice round of polish and balance, bringing characters like Sagat back into the fore and making a ton of them actually viable, and that was apparent in the range of characters used with success in last weekend's East Coast Throwdown 3 event in New York. Of course, gamers also noticed that three of the four characters Capcom added are vastly overpowered; Yun and Yang dominated many fights, and Oni is so game-breakingly good that he was banned from being played entirely. Capcom did a great job evening out the existing roster, but overall, these new ones are just way off the mark in the balance department.
New characters are not the only things added in AE, though. New online functionality has been thrown in, allowing better control over recording and playing back replays of fights - both yours and your friends'. You can "follow" particular players like you would on Twitter and watch replays of their games, and you can browse replays of games by any elite players that are over a certain point rating. You can save your own replays and share them, too. Overall, these are the kinds of features I wish any competitive game would have, and the only thing I see missing is the ability to render and upload them - whole, not just 30-second clips - as video to a place like YouTube or some kind of Capcom-run video site. (I also want to see the ability to add voice commentary over the console's headset!)
I'm sure we'll see more of that from many games in the future, but for now, SSFIV AE is doing a great job staying ahead of its competition in online functionality. That said, the online netcode hasn't changed, so if you were having connection issues and laggy fights before, Arcade Edition really can't help you. After hearing from Capcom's Seth Killian on the matter, it sounds a lot like there's an element at Capcom trying to get a particular brand of netcode called GGPO into their 3D fighting games (it's been used for 2D fighting-type games and will be featured in Capcom's upcoming XBLA/PSN ports of Street Fighter III: Online Edition), but according to Seth, it's not a matter of just plugging in this new code. It's going to take a lot of work making it fit into Capcom's 3D engine, and while it won't be impossible to see GGPO powering the online play for their next flagship fighting game, chances aren't really spectacular; you might want to make your voice heard to the company if you care.
For novice players, there's never been a better time to jump in. With the enhancements and new fighters in Arcade Edition, SSFIV is now one of the best, least chaotic, and most user-friendly fighting games to jump into. The challenge mode trains you on how to fire off great combos, and while you won't really learn amazing stuff just by playing offline - and maybe not even that much in random games online - there are a lot of great videos of pro players and such for you to dive into. And even if your ambitions don't include getting all the way to the top of the leaderboards, there is still plenty of fun to be had at lower ranks, and it's always pretty easy to find a challenge. Of course, the challenge is sometimes really great, so do do try and spend some time practicing before jumping into the shark-infested waters of online play. It's not exactly scrubville out there.
With Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, Capcom has sidestepped their previous error of charging players $40 to stay on the cutting edge of Street Fighter online action by serving up both a disc with everything new players need, and separately allowing current players to get the DLC upgrade for a more reasonable $15. Capcom has added a nice touch in making balance changes to bring bad characters up to at least a somewhat competitive level, and while the new characters still need to be toned down a bit to be brought in line with the rest, I don't find them to be nearly as boring or weird as some players and reviewers have. If this is your first time considering a shot at Street Fighter, grab this as a $40 retail package, and if you have SSFIV lying around, I think the fifteen bucks to get online and get competitive again is a great idea too. And make sure to see Oni's Ultra combos. The only way they'd look more destructive is if when you punched it in, Capcom quickly shifted to some kooky anime video that showed the universe exploding as he finished someone with it.