Arcades are so yesterday. Who goes to arcades anymore? Well, the Japanese still do, but we're sure you get our point. Not a lot of folk to go arcades anymore, and that means gaming genres predominate in arcades, particularly fighting games, have had to find homes elsewhere. Over the course of numerous generations several major franchise, such as Street Fighter and Tekken, have hadouken'd and supercharged their way comfortably to our home consoles. But that wasn't enough. During the last couple of years, multiple fighting games have branched into the portable arena, notably on the PlayStation Portable and to a lesser degree on Apple's products.
Portability of fighting games seems ideal; quick matches available on the go, allowing players to perfect their fight styles on the tram, train, in class, or when stuck in traffic. With the dawn of a new generation of handhelds, it would seem developers have latched onto this portable fighting horizon, notably with the Nintendo 3DS, of which is set to receive both BlazBlue and Dead or Alive titles, and has already opened its doors to Street Fighter. Headlining the system's disappointingly lackluster launch line-up is Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition from Capcom, a mobilized and 3D-ified port of the console and arcade release going by the same name. Those concerned that Capcom would be unable to replicate the quality of their high profile fighting franchise on the 3DS need not be worried, as SSFIV: 3D is nothing short of a delight to play and behold.
For this review, we don't feel it is necessary to go into the intricacies of character fighting styles and balance. If you'd like to know more about these, check out our original Street Fighter IV review, as well as our Super Street Fighter IV review. The reason why we've omitted such information is because, quite simply, SSFIV: 3D is about as faithful as a port can get. The greatest compliment of all that can be given to this release is that it retains all thirty five characters, all stages and all animated features found within the console release. This is a true port, devoid of any stripped features or content that many other console-to-portable ports sadly succumb to. So, rather than dwell on the full Street Fighter IV experience that we've already detailed twice over, we'd rather touch on the elements that make this Nintendo 3DS release unique.
The most obvious change is the way in which the fighter has been adapted to the system's control scheme. Basic character movement is mapped to both the slide pad and the d-pad, while all six attacks are mapped to the four face buttons as well as the shoulder buttons. For most part this control scheme is functional, though fighting veterans will likely face a learning curve while adapting to the awkward placing of the d-pad as well as using the shoulder buttons for attacks. Unlike a control pad, or the ideal arcade stick peripherals, the 3DS button layout is sadly the most uncomfortable manner in which to control SSFIV. On the plus side, all attacks can be remapped to the buttons of your choice, so if you're somebody who's play style is dominated by heavy attacks over light attacks you can map these to the face buttons for easier access. Control layouts are saved on a per-character basis, allowing players to map individual layouts to suit the different fight styles across the roster.
Additionally, this 3DS introduces accessibility options to ease in players unaccustomed to Street Fighter. Powerful combos, super moves, and ultras are mapped to four squares appearing on the touch panel, allowing the likes of Chun-Li's kikosho and Juri's senpusha to be activated with a quick flick of the thumb. Veteran Street Fighter players who frown on such cheap accessibility options need not worry, as enabling 'Pro' mode removes the shortcuts from main gameplay, as well as filters out on-line opponents yet to take off their shoryuken training wheels.
For online play, SSFIV: 3D thankfully retains a lot of the features that made the console versions so great. Filtering options and friend lists allow players to set up the exact kind of match they'd like to play, and skill scores prevent players from running into combatants well above their level (unless they, for whatever masochistic reason, want this). Network performance is more than acceptable on a stable connection, though unavoidable and unexpected wireless interference from either end can cause lag.
Expanding online play is local play, which as the name suggests lets players beat the hell out of one another through a local wireless connection. Download play, a common feature of many Nintendo DS titles, makes an appearance here, letting players who own a 3DS but not SSFIV: 3D download a temporary Ryu-only version of the game to share in on the portable fun. Lastly, a spectator channel mode allows players to tap into any local wireless games and take a gander at who has the upper hand. All three local options are welcome and perfectly functional, though it is disappointing that the spectator mode is limited to local wireless play, arguably limiting its usefulness.
The most significant addition to SSFIV: 3D's wireless component comes in the form of figurine battles. Here players can set up team of five character figurines, each with individual stats, and have them active during street pass. Street pass, the Nintendo 3DS's behind-the-curtains wireless feature, allows systems to connect with one another even while the lid is closed. In the case of figurine battles, separate systems with the feature activated will connect, and each players five character roster will battle it out with randomised results, of which can be checked next time the game is activated.
But there's more. Not only are players able to set up five character rosters, but they are also able to manipulate the strength and defence statistics for each of their fighters. Moreover, figurine points won from battles can be put towards a lotto system that gambles for new, stronger figurines ranked at higher levels. With the system keeping track of all collected figurines, and even listing how many are required until the set is complete, it has potential to create an addictive 'gotta catch 'em all' experience as players scramble to collect all the fighter statues, costumes, and skill levels to complete the whole set.
Sadly, the value of a feature like this is hinged entirely on the market penetration of the title. The fewer people who own SSFIV: 3D, the harder it will be to find players to connect to. In our experience we only managed to fight two figurine fights, and both with the same person. On the plus side, those commuting and spending plenty of time in highly populated areas are likely to get a good few hits, and system using street pass means that not only do you not need to be playing the game for it to be active, but you don't even need the game cart inserted. As soon as you set up your five figurine roster and enable street pass it will always be active and communicating, regardless of whatever else you're doing.
Going from powerful home consoles to the 3DS left a good few people concerned that SSFIV: 3D would be unable to live up to the original title's sleek presentation, but thankfully the game delivers. Stylish though simple menus are easy to navigate, and the HUD has been reworked to more appropriately fit the smaller screen and resolution. Impressively, character models and most special effects retain a high level of asset quality and polish, and while they have the expected downgrades of texture resolution and subtle physics on clothing, at a quick glance it wouldn't be difficult to mistake them for their appearance on more powerful systems. The most notable downgrade is in stage presentation, which have had all animations and dynamics removed entirely. Likely due to the limited time spent on development, as well as hardware restrictions, the static environments are certainly the most glaring visual flaw, though even in their static presentation still look quite nice. On the plus side, static environments free up system resources for a solid frame rate in both 3D and 2D modes.
Speaking of 3D, SSFIV: 3D's usage of the effect comes in two distinct flavours. The first simply adds a 3D depth to the standard side view that most fighting game players will be accustomed too. Though hardly anything extraordinary in it's own right, it is none the less a pleasant visual gimmick, with a sense of stereo depth adding extra definition and perception to characters, effects and backgrounds. The second flavour is an exclusive '3D mode', which places the camera behind your player during fights. An interesting novelty to see the depth created by one character standing far away from another, it is hardly an ideal way to fight battles due to the obscure perspective, and it is highly unlikely any serious Street Fighter fan will use it more than once.
When all is said and done, SSFIV: 3D doesn't add a whole lot new to the Street Fighter table. It is, after all, a mostly straight port of Super Street Fighter IV with only a couple of simplistic extras. The figurine battle is neat though somewhat forgettable, the 3D stereo effect is an attractive visual gimmick that isn't integral to gameplay, and certain control quirks and downscaled visuals stand in the way of it ever topping its console and arcade cousins.
But, quite honestly, that's besides the point, because what SSFIV: 3D ultimately aims to do is mobilize the full console experience. The characters are all there, as are the stages and even costumes. Arcade can be played to its fullest with all animated cut scenes, challenges and extras, and all the online and local multiplayer options are in as expected. Presentation is sleek and attractive, situating the game as likely the most visually impressive title currently on the platform. The emphasis truly is on bringing the 'complete' Street Fighter IV experience to a portable, and in that regard Capcom has delivered on every front, while still going the extra mile to include some gimmicks that utilise of what makes the 3DS unique.
This is Super Street Fighter IV on your Nintendo 3DS, in your hands, to be played whenever and wherever you want, granting fantastic value for money in content, polish and presentation. Capcom has set the standard and it is up to others to follow through. Now, where is Marvel Vs. Capcom 3DS?