That Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition even exists on 3DS at this early stage in its lifespan is a minor miracle. That it features a full roster of 36 characters, flawless online play, street pass mode and looks absolutely sensational, then, is something else altogether. And for as much as I’ve waxed lyrical about the device's inherent magical 3D effect, Capcom’s debut therefore, is a special kind of voodoo. I dread to think how many chickens had to be slaughtered to get this release out in time.
While some have accused Nintendo's own Pilotwings Resort as being a glorified tech demo masquerading as a full-price game, that’s not an accusation that can be levelled at Capcom. Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition (SSF) is a bona-fide top quality release.
As ever, SSF follows the series' traditional blueprint with a single player tournament mode complete with throwaway endings for each character, backing up its various other modes. But the real meat and bones of the game lies in its multiplayer. And surprisingly for a Nintendo hand-held - and I don't mean this disingenously - online play works brilliantly well. Thanks to Nintendo doing away with game-specific friend codes in favour of one single machine registered code, it's now easier than ever to get online and with the absense of trash-talking and having to actually communicate with the general public, it's all the more pleasant for it. I fought numerous opponents online with no lag or disconnection issues. The car and barrel bonus games from Street Fighter 2 Turbo also make a welcome return in what’s a nice retro touch.
Controls-wise, the circle pad, thanks chiefly to its more optimal position, is a better alternative to the traditional D-Pad. It feels reasonably slick and responsive and makes it easy, in my case, to follow the Ken flowchart to the letter. Many people have complained that the charge moves are more difficult to initiate and that it’s impossible to play anything like as well as when using an arcade stick, and while they might be right, anyone that plays to that sort of level really shouldn’t be playing Street Fighter on a hand-held. Longer play sessions do tend to give you the much-maligned DS claw though. I also felt that the D-Pad was a bit too small for the precision and accuracy required to play Street Fighter and its position in the bottom left hand corner means that it's difficult to hold the 3DS firmly while playing and you constantly lose the 3D sweet-spot and usually end up resorting to having to turn it off.
Still, while I personally just about managed with the controls, Capcom saw fit to utilise the touch-screen to contentious effect. It’s divided up into 4 areas and it’s possible to assign a special or super move to each of those 4 areas. So in the heat of the battle all you have to do is tap the associated touch-screen icon. This is clearly a concession to the 3DS's hand-cramping controls and newbie audience but actually turns out to be a welcome addition because it really helps maintain the flow of fights. Again, the purists will be up in arms about this, but they'll no doubt be too snobbish to lower themselves to play this version in the first place.
What’s also new to the 3DS version is the almost-over-the-shoulder camera angle that further reinforces the wonderful 3D effect and really showcases the dazzling special effects. It doesn’t improve the gameplay one iota, and again purists will defer back to the traditional side-on camera angle, but as far as showing off exactly what the 3DS is capable, it's very much a welcome extra. It’s also the first 3DS game I’ve been able to play with the 3D slider set to full.
Technically Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition ticks all the right boxes. Graphically it’s hugely impressive. The online just works – which is a genuine compliment and not a back-handed one. There’re plenty of game modes to add extra longevity and the new and novel additions such as street pass and challenge mode serve only to flesh things out further. All-in-all it’s the complete package and a real surprise when you consider how stripped down hand-held versions of the series have been in the past – particularly the iOS versions. It’s just a shame that the controls don’t quite live up to the rest of the package, and that’s something that’s completely out of Capcom’s hands. A sterling effort then, and with the developer hitting its stride right out of the gate, I can’t wait to see what comes next. Viewtiful Joe 3DS. Please make it happen.