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Super Street Fighter 4 stands on the shoulders of giants and makes the very best of the view. Better balanced, more characters and improved online make this a surprisingly compelling update to an already impressive reemergence of a classic game.
Although not every family will want to engage with the full contact delights of Street Fighter, provided the on screen antics don't lead to living room conflict there is a lot of clean sporting fun to be had.
It's been eleven months of hard analysis of thousands of online games, not to mention revisiting all those design decisions. But the result is a more focused outing for Super Street Fighter 4, taking the already high bar of Street Fighter 4 and quite literally making it super.
There are an impressive ten new characters this time - 35 in total. Most of these come from the annals of Street Fighter history, but two are totally new - Turkish wrestler Hakan and Tae-Kwon-Do practitioner Juri. The trick here though is that these additions are well balanced and side step any repetition of what has gone before in the first game.
Seasoned Street Fighter players will be used to this, but newcomers will be impressed by how different each fighter is. Their different abilities, attributes and moves mean that you have to play each one as an individual. And this takes time to get right.
Playing an evening with friends I was pleased to see all the characters were unlocked from the start, and we could get straight into the fighting. We also liked the greater emphasis on offensive play compared to Street Fighter 4's tendency to favour the defensive player.
The biggest change in Super Street Fighter 4 though is not the new characters - the re-balanced combat is squarely centre stage. In our family this caused more than one disagreement as the pecking order of father, son and sibling was thrown in the air. It took us a while to work out where the new lines of power lay, which moves we would now reach for and which we had to be defended carefully. We got it slowly.
As time went by those usual tricks of simply repeating our favourite moves simply didn't arise. We soon realised that we had to engage more deeply with a range of attacks and defences to make progress - the game essentially made us play it properly.
Although we play locally mainly, there are times when the others are out and I just want to pour a whiskey, turn on the 360 and put in some practice. Here I found Street Fighter 4 online updated too. Three modes are available, Ranked, Arcade and Endless. As you play you add or lose Player Points as well as slowly increasing your Battle Points. These figures not only map your progress but more importantly tell you about the player you are fighting online - both their proficiency and experience
I found the new Replay Channel was a great way to unwind after a session. Here, you can save, name and rate up to 150 matches to watch back at any time. I liked the slow-motion option that lets you pinpoint the moments of missed opportunities or perfectly landed punches. I also sometimes save fights to show friends when they are next around.
Other local modes have had less play from me, but still offered a distraction from the main game. Time Trial and Survival modes have been replaced by Character Trials, which challenge you to pull off increasingly difficult combos across each of the characters. Infuriating but very more-ish.
Although we are now used to the visual style of Street Fighter 4 and the fact that this is no cash-in return, Super Street Fighter 4 still manages to impress. Not only has the care and attention continued to be lavished here, but some very hard design decisions have been grasped that make this a very interesting game.
This is unlikely to be the final iteration of the franchise, but it has a real chance of going down as a classic version of the game that continues to be the darling of the fighter genre.
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