It is hard to believe that one game could absorb audiences for nearly two decades, but Capcom’s revered Street Fighter II series is still played religiously amongst hardcore fighting fans. With SF IV right around the corner fans have been salivating for something to get their appetites whet with anticipation and Capcom’s latest downloadable entry will certainly fill that bill. Nearly a decade in development by pro-gamer turned developer David Sirlin and Backbone Entertainment Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (that will be the last time I type that name out) is a re-tuning of the popular arcade game that has captivated gamers for so long. Everything from the new hand-drawn visuals to the soundtrack remixed by a community of gaming audiophiles feels like fan service. The big question is did they manage to make the game more fun than it already was.
For casual fans of the genre SSF2THDR is simply a prettier version of the game they likely played years ago in arcades; and that is part of the beauty. They can still hop in with friends and enjoy the tweaked visuals without worrying about the subtle changes to the mechanics. For hardcore players there is a lot in the way of changes here. Chun Li has been greatly improved, Dhalsim has been ’nerfed’ in some aspects and overall there are a plethora of changes that will take frame-counters months to uncover and master. For the most part all of these changes were made to balance the game even more so than it already was, but it will only be a matter of time before someone starts complaining that Sirlin ruined the game because their favorite character is no longer a powerhouse.
This version of the game is certainly a package aimed at tournament players. There are dip switch options that resemble those found in arcade machines; the training mode allows you to show invisible hit boxes to learn when to execute various moves in the correct time as well as a host of other tweaks and extras that cater to the hardcore Street Fighter players. Backbone has also opted to include the original game within the package allowing you to compare the two side by side to better notice the difference. There is no doubt that SSF2THDR is chock full of content, more than worth your fifteen bucks, but if you are a casual player most of the goodies will go to waste as they clearly were not designed with you in mind.
Playing the game will return like riding a bicycle. Dragon punches still work the same, albeit with some tweaked timing, and the traditional fireball motion quickly becomes second nature by your second match. If you have a choice of system I highly recommend the PSN version simply for the superior d-pad for fighting games. The Xbox 360 controller was just not designed with 2D fighters in mind, and even with the new and improved red controller (with a more responsive d-pad) the game takes extra effort and moves do not come as smoothly as they do on Sony’s console. It is also worth noting that the PS3 version does not support trophies whereas the 360 one does have those addictive Achievements. Either version is incredibly well done so if you only own one there should be nothing holding you back.
Visually the game has been completely redesigned by the folks at Udon Comics, and the results are spectacular. Even though some characters look as if they have been juicing in the off-season (I am looking at you Sagat) the amount of detail is astounding. Animations have been left pretty much intact from the original game, which tends to look awkward from time to time, but it was done to keep the feel of the original game so it is forgivable. There are some sequences of slowdown here and there, but never enough to hinder gameplay. The stages have also received a facelift and sport some amazingly detailed distractions. The whole game has been remastered in high definition with a color palette that literally jumps off the screen on just about any HDTV.
Outside of the new pro-tutorials the game sports pretty much the same modes you would find in a Street Fighter game. Of course there is the online mode, which has been tweaked to perfection thanks to input from the creator of GGPO. For anyone who hasn’t experienced this system it is hugely popular amongst old-school fighting game fans who want the arcade experience online. With fighting games lag causes a huge concern when it comes to timing certain moves. GGPO has remedied this with a unique algorithm that offers nearly lag-free gameplay across a peer-to-peer network. Backbone obviously designed the final code, but the input from the GGPO creator shows because all online matches we played ran nearly as smooth as local ones. This is easily the best online fighting experience you can have on the consoles.
All of this doesn’t come without some issues though. For starters some of the presentation feels a bit rushed thanks to some minor bugs here and there. However, my biggest complaint is that the AI in Arcade mode is about the cheapest foe I have encountered since the original MK series. Granted these games were designed to play against a human opponent, which is where I intend to spend most of my time, but playing through Arcade mode really made me realize that this game was designed to eat my quarters. The computer amazingly can perform moves with precise timing even on the easy difficulty making traversing through single-player a chore. It almost feels like they should have omitted it as the rest of the game feels like a training ground for tournament play, so it is likely most gamers will skip Arcade mode altogether.
HD Remix is a superb edition of a timeless game complete with nearly flawless online gameplay. It is hard not to recommend this game to anyone who enjoys the genre and especially those who frequent the tournament scene. If you are simply a weekend warrior there are certainly better options that will offer you more bang for your button-mashing buck. If you love the series and take it seriously there should be no hesitation; for fifteen bucks SSF2THDR is an absolute steal for either console and the new tweaks will re-ignite your love for the game. Capcom has once again revived a classic and made it relevant for the next generation of systems. Now we can only hope SF IV will be the successor the series truly deserves.