Written by contributing author John Rios
It's easy to doubt Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition. Longtime veterans of this series know what to expect when a home console game gets ported to handheld. Such titles are normally fraught with all kinds of problems and limitations; there are fewer characters, the control layouts aren't conducive to the gameplay, there aren't enough buttons to map all of the commands, and the overall presentations are watered down at best. The more you play those half-assed renditions, the lower your expectations become. But if you go into 3D Edition assuming that you'll be in for another disappointment, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. This game not only works amazingly well for a handheld fighter, but it gives its predecessors a run for their money.
You'll understand once you get to the character selection screen. It's huge. With 35 playable characters – a number the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Alpha series – it retains all the competitors from the home console version. Since everyone is available at the outset, you can get right into thick of things without having to worry about unlocking any characters.
All of the aspects from the console and arcade releases have remained unchanged, while the control scheme has been revamped to accommodate the 3DS's button layout. The basic attacks have been set to the 3DS's face buttons. While the setup mimics that of a true controller well enough, performing moves with the shoulder triggers – particularly on the left side – can be awkward. But if you're having too much trouble, the game lets you customize the commands and mapping. It's not just limited to the buttons either; if you're having a tough time performing your specials and Ultra Combos, you can set those onto one of four panels on the touch screen. Instead of fumbling around with the specific inputs, you can just press the corresponding section of the screen and dish out some punishment. It's reminiscent of the iPhone version of Street Fighter IV, but it's much easier to handle. The same goes with the analog stick, which works far better than the stiff directional pad. It might take you a few tries to get used to the controls, but its options and accessibility are impressive.
If you're still having trouble pulling off shoryukens, you can hone your skills in the obligatory training and versus modes. There's nothing particularly unique about them, but they serve as the perfect way to get accustomed with the gameplay mechanics. If you feel like testing yourself, give the challenge Mode a shot. You're given a set of trials for each character, and they steadily become more difficult and complex as you continue. It'll start off with something as simple as performing a special attack, but eventually you'll have to string together multiple combos and pulling off moves with perfect timing. If you can't muster enough patience for it, you can always indulge in the classic Car Crusher and Barrel Buster mini-games. They may not be as demanding as some of the challenges, but they're still fun.
Not everything in the 3D Edition is taken from the console version. You can fight with other gamers locally with only a single game cart, which is a godsend if your friends don't have their own copy of the game. It also uses the 3DS's StreetPass technology to interact with other gamers in the immediate area. You can collect figurines of the characters, create teams, and set them to battle other teams automatically. You don't have to be playing for this to happen; the two groups will collide in mock battles, and in turn earn experience points toward building the figurines' overall strength. While it's an interesting use of the 3DS's wireless technology, you'll get far more use out of Internet Match Mode. Not only can you challenge friends, but you can fight strangers as well. Depending on how well you perform, you'll be awarded bonus points and new titles for your gaming profile. Amazingly, there is little lag found in the online matches; if both participants are using halfway decent connections, the fights will be just as fast and precise as a local battle. It's a great demonstration of the 3DS's capabilities.
The 3DS' biggest selling point is its ability to render three-dimensional imagery, and Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition achieves that impressively. Rather than fighting along a 2D plane, the characters will appear more crisp and defined than their background. That's probably a good thing, considering how all of the stages are completely static. Veterans of the console versions will notice the bystanders standing motionless as opposed to cheering or taking pictures. It's understandable, given how much emphasis is placed on presenting the combat, the designers had to sacrifice something. Though motionless, the backgrounds are rendered nicely enough to take advantage of the handheld's graphical aptitude. Street Fighter IV's art style lends itself well to the smaller screen; the animation looks fluid and fleshed-out. There's even a 3D Versus Mode that switches the camera to an over-the-shoulder perspective a la Street Fighter EX. While it provides a more refined visual depth, it can be disorienting at times.
There’s really nothing new or improved in the audio department. To save space on the cart, the Japanese voices have been completely removed. It is a little jarring to be completely limited to American voices after two years of hearing Japanese on the console versions of Street Fighter IV. The soundtrack is comprised of Capcom’s typical energetic house-rock fusion tracks. Battle music is based on the stages, but there is very little variety in the tracks. Again, nothing new or notable here. The sound is well handled by the hardware, almost giving the illusion of 5.1, which speaks louder of the 3DS itself than the game.
Capcom actually pulled off something I never thought possible; they made a handheld fighting game that not only stands up to its big brother on consoles, but builds upon it as well. It has the entire roster of playable fighters, all of whom have retained their moves, abilities, and varied styles of play. The deeper combat mechanics haven't been watered down at all. The controls, though occasionally awkward by default, can be remapped to suit your needs. Using the touch screen as a makeshift controller is the perfect solution for newcomers and casuals who aren't familiar with the fighting genre. While the game makes interesting use out of the 3DS's StreetPass connectivity, you'll get plenty more out of the superb online multiplayer. In my opinion, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is the best launch title for the 3DS, by far.
Buy it if: You're a seasoned fight fan, a Street Fighter enthusiast, or are seeking online competition
Don't buy it if: You're not a fan of the genre
The Score: 8 outta 10 Blasters!