Super SFII Turbo HD Remix Review
It's been 18 years since Street Fighter II stormed into arcades and created a genre that completely took over gaming for a good while. Capcom has a long history of trying to recreate that magic but never really bringing gamers back like before. The initial release of Street Fighter III left something to be desired and happened too late, what with arcades having been in decline for years, and the eventual home releases did wind up being fantastic games but SFIII still missed its audience.
Capcom finally got their stuff together in the last couple years, though, with the release of Super Street Fighter II Turbo on Xbox Live Arcade and the announcements of an "HD Remix" version and a real sequel, Street Fighter IV. Now, HD Remix is in our hands and we can say that it's easily the best iteration of Street Fighter-anything in a decade.
HD Remix takes that original action of what many consider to be the ultimate version of Street Fighter II - "Super Turbo" - and includes 100% new, hand-drawn 2D graphics. Pack that together with modernized remixes of all of the game's music from the OC Remix community and a rebalancing of the characters that, at the very least, makes the worst ones a bit better, and it's a full package that went through way more development time than many Xbox Live Arcade titles that purport to do similar things. And we've seen them before: classic arcade titles with new sprite graphics but little else beyond the original game, and hell, even the new graphics wind up being unappealing.
Here, we're getting full 1080p HD sprites to replace every frame of animation and all of the backgrounds. Not all of it is quite as genius as the original art, but most of it is pretty damn good and the animations generally seem fluid - even if they can't ever possibly be as fluid as true 3D graphics at 60 frames per second (like SFIV will be). But the strange part is that this complete graphical re-do isn't even the game's best feature. Nope, it's the online play, which from my experience is the best of its kind ever seen in a fighting game.
Taking SFII online has never been this good. Even SSF2T on Live Arcade still had some noticeable lag between the time you'd hit a button and the time an attack was unleashed, but here it feels very close to the arcade original. Still, a bad connection between two players will involve some rather wonky fights as people expect someone to be in one place when they have since moved on, but it's not like Capcom can just erase latency altogether. But they have minimized it about as well as they can, and the end result is a smooth experience both on Xbox Live and on the PS3's PSN.
Well, it's smooth until you bust out your Hori Fighting Stick, get all set up with snacks, and get online only to find out that the other people playing online are pretty much ready to stomp you into oblivion. I literally did not win a single match, even if I did get close a few times, and while I'm a little rusty at Street Fighter, I have played it on and off over the years and can readily beat anyone I know in person at fighting games. But that's simply not good enough, so that means that if you're looking for a fun, casual fighting experience, it's just not going to be found here. Not that this is any kind of exception to a rule: the online components of most fighting games are filled with highly competitive, skilled players. If you're looking to get started playing this game (or get re-started after a long time since you last played), then be ready for a very steep learning curve.
Luckily, the AI will get you acclimated quickly - as in, it'll destroy you as well. It's a good thing, since it really does represent what you'll expect when playing over the internet. And the balance changes that have gone in have done a good job of bringing low "tier" characters somewhere near the middle tiers, and many little aspects of the original have been tightened up by a guy that is well-respected and has years of running Street Fighter tournaments over past years. Only intermediate and higher players will even notice the difference, but there have been plenty of under-the-hood changes to fight mechanics, and a lot of them can be seen in the game's new training mode that shows the hitboxes of various moves so that you can tune your fighting skills nicely. And if you still want to go back to the old Super Turbo, the original game is there with the new, smooth online play as well, but don't expect to find too many opponents over there.
From my experience, the online experience still has a few bumps and scrapes to get over. I got into a tournament on the PS3 version of the game but couldn't actually get into any fights; once I'd get scheduled to fight, the game would just time out and give me the win. Over and over - I won the tournament without even fighting, and this started with seven people in it altogether. As is with most online console experiences, it seems at least one round of patching could help, but either way this is still a very solid online experience when it works right (which is just about all of the time). And at some point I'd like to see Capcom try and reintroduce some kind of matchmaking or ranking systems so that novice players are more likely to find people closer to their skill level; at this point, the game seems to just toss everyone in the pool at once. These matchmaking systems haven't worked well for other games in the past, but I still think they do more good than harm. Either way, it can be amusing to just get wrecked by an expert every once in a while, but you improve much more when fighting someone closer to your skill level.
If you've been planning to come back to fighting games and are looking at SSF2T HD Remix to break back into the community, then by all means jump right in. Just be ready for a workout, as the competition is very tough and you've got a long way to go to beat these guys with any kind of regularity. And make sure you get some kind of fighting stick, as the D-pad on the 360 and even the PS3 just isn't quite enough - and hey, it'll still be very useful with SFIV is released early next year. This is absolutely the best Street Fighter seen in years, but just be ready for a beatdown and you'll be fine.