Title: Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
Format: XBox Live Arcade
Approximate Time Spent playing at time of writing: 800+ hours
(My raptr stats show over 400 hours playing it, but I’d been playing this for 9 months for a huge amount before I even created my raptr account, plus lots of offline play, so I think this is a pretty good estimate, given I know from my save file that I’ve played the original Street Fighter 4 for 154 hours in roughly the same pre-raptr time span, and I know I played this game far, far more than I did SF4 in the same period)
Modes of play: Single Player, Offline 2 Player Competitive, Online 2 Player Competitive
Street Fighter, and most fighting games in general, test almost all kinds of videogaming skills to the extreme. They test pure execution really highly in the forms of special moves, combos and even in just accurate movement & control of your character. They test knowledge skills to the extreme in terms of learning all of your characters options, and they test strategic and tactical skills in different character match-ups and situations by remembering all the viable options your opponent’s character has available and what your effective counter-options may be, sometimes moment by moment – and then they test your reactions & execution again in terms of actually being able to apply that knowledge successfully in an instant. It’s all wrapped up together, and as I mentioned in my ‘Splosion Man Review, SF2 HDR is very close to the absolute ‘sweet spot’ for me in terms of the mixture and distribution of more ‘physical’ execution type of skills that are tested vs the more ‘mental’ decision-making, knowledge, strategic, tactical & yomi type of skills tested.
It’s for this reason I became hugely into Street Fighter, and all fighting games in general, even as a pre-teen. I’ve enjoyed probably over one hundred different “Vs Fighting” titles by now, including just about every version of Street Fighter ever made. But living in the UK and no-where near to any arcade, my competitive scene was always ridiculously small – usually there was only around one or two people I knew at any point in time I think back to who could actually viably compete with me at any particular fighting game I was into. But I wasn’t a ‘bedroom champion’ at any stage, because on rare occasions I’d get to dip my toe into higher level competitive play at arcades from erratic visits mainly from family holidays. On top of that, for a short time at University from 1994, I even had a local arcade with a few fighting games available – albeit it was prohibitively expensive for me to play too much on; and I was hamstrung by having played my whole life up to that point on gamepads rather than joysticks. Around the same time my first forays onto the internet was usenet groups like alt.games.sf2 back in 1994, and I was to become even more aware of the higher level of play possible at these types of fighting games.
As I became older, I was able to make my trips into the higher level ‘scene’ for fighting games more frequent – in particular things colalesced around a long holiday I made to Japan, where I found my taste in fighting games started to become more particular. Whilst I’d been a fan of almost every 2d fighting game when played at the low levels I was used to, when I got the chance to play against better and better opponents, I started to realise when things got really competitive I enjoyed playing Street Fighter 2 more than all the others. Suddenly I found my interest in fighting games pointing backwards rather than forwards, but I wasn’t quite sure really why at this point. After that fateful trip to Japan I also resolved to learn to play on an arcade stick in order to increase my potential skill-level; in particular at games that required frequent multi-button presses such as Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike.
As internet gaming grew, I was always hugely frustrated by the lack of fighting games taking advantage of it. Whilst I played on a few online PC games like Ultima Online, and Dreamcast games like Phantasy Star Online, it wasn’t until the first really viable online console – the XBox – came along, that I felt I was really playing arcade-style titles online. I was just overjoyed to be playing these types of games and – things like Mech Assault and Halo 2 were a revelation in terms of the possibilities, even though they weren’t really to my taste. But seeing the potential, it grated me even more that there was no real decent online play for fighting games. Despite a few early forays with games like Street Fighter Anniversary Edition, Capcom Vs SNK EO, it wasn’t until the middle of the XBox 360s life in 2008 (& GGPO on the PC) that we got the first taste of what an online fighting game with decent netcode could look like. Super Street Fighter II HD Remix was released during this period. Finally, the competition I’d been waiting for all my life had been unlocked for me – but would it be all I’d hoped for?
As a single player challenge game, this incarnation of Street Fighter isn’t the strongest at all. The experience has been stripped down further than even the usual Arcade mode by removal of high scores. The AI blatantly ‘cheats’ too, so whilst it’s interesting to play against, it doesn’t always help you learn the game competitively very much – as you are also testing as much your ability to find holes in the AI as you are the rest of your applicable Street Fighter skills. There are difficulty settings, but they don’t have a great deal of effect. Worse still, there’s no interesting Achievements to go for – unlike, say, in the XBLA version of Street Fighter II Turbo, which had some very fun Achievements in the form of 1 credit “1CC” completions and perfect no-round-loss and highest difficulty beaten Achievements. These are sorely missed from SF2HDR if you’re an agoner looking for an interesting single player fighting game challenge.
Competitive Gaming Design Review:
I used this game as one of my previous examples in Competitive Gaming 456. I’m going to repeat what I said there for reference here:
The online gaming system is actually what lets this amazing game down. Even though it’s close in skill-tests and design goals to being my ideal competitive fighting game, playing the basic online ranked match is more like playing “Super Akuma Fighter 2: Lag Turbo-Button Remix” at times. Of course this is all Crapcom’s fault for not bothering to patch Akuma for balance reasons (even though the game’s designer and the player community have called for it) and for leaving it with a barebones ranked mode – much like almost all XBLA games. The only way to play around it at all, as I did when I played Ranked, was to self-matchmake on ping time by only EVER joining matches – never hosting – so that you can see the ping time before you join a match. Otherwise, if you host, you are pretty much guaranteed some idiot in Mexico playing you with a 500 ms ping, and no amount of good net coding (and this has one of the best!) can deal with that, and you have no option not to play them either if you don’t want to take the loss for quitting. Even using this method, you’re still playing with the odds that your opponent won’t be using the broken Akuma or cheating by using turbo features on their joystick/pad. And there’s no skill matchmaking that is EFFECTIVE as covered here. The ranking system is, however, really excellent, but working within these parameters it doesn’t always mean too much. However the fact that luckily most of the actually good players don’t use Akuma or turbo really helps – so at least if someone is highly ranked on HDR, you can pretty much guarantee they actually are a really good player (at least with the character or characters they use in Ranked match), unlike with many poor systems. Unfortunately the ranking system also only gives you one score across all characters – so basically assumes you only use your best character in ranked mode, which won’t always be the case (or the preference) for everyone.
Your only real option, instead of focusing too much on the online ranked mode available, is to play as part of the community, and use your friends list to arrange matches against other players around your skill level, and play in tournaments etc.
If this game had proper in-built systems, I wouldn’t have needed to run my online tournaments at all for example!
Competitive Game Review:
Why have I played for over 800 hours at a game that, by my own standards, doesn’t really live up to the online competitive gaming designs I wish for? Well, it’s because, taken on it’s best merits, the actual fighting gameplay is the best there is for my tastes. As I alluded to in my introduction above, whilst I can and do enjoy almost any fighting game ‘at my level’ as a casual fan, it’s Street Fighter 2 that I kept returning to and kept wanting to play and improve at, getting ‘serious’ or ‘hardcore’ at if you like – and I realised over time that this was because of the slightly different type of skills it tested compared to almost all other fighting games, and the fact it had pretty good character-choice balance and viable variety. HD Remix tuned these qualities even better for my taste in this direction, and so it’s absolutely the iced version of the Street Fighter 2 cake for me.
If want an in depth review of what changes were made from the basic Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (ST), you can read on Sirlin’s site the exact improvements and changes that were made, and often why – what a wonderful resource that is a fantastic antithesis of how most games are designed behind a veil of mystery in the majority of cases, for no good reason. Overall, HDR is so much better in all the aspects that I care about, it’s rendered the original ST completely defunct. Whilst you can debate a tiny amount of the individual changes as to whether they had a net overall positive effect (eg: Ryu’s fake fireball), I agree with the vast majority of the changes and they make for a better, more interesting and streamlined play experience with overall much better character balance when compared to ST, and even better gameplay balance for my tastes towards the mental aspects of play that I enjoy, slightly away from the execution tests (eg: some move inputs are easier to do)… however make no mistake about it, HDR is still an extremely high execution-skill based game!
However the execution in SF2 HDR is mainly about doing single special moves or timing single button presses extremely well, in stead of doing lengthy combination strings found in most of today’s fighting games. This means that these are more likely to be more interactive contested ‘game’ skills in the average game of SF2, as opposed to non-interactive un-contested skills such as performing a combo (landing the first hit of the combo – that is the only ‘contested’ part in most fighting games). It’s mainly because of this that, out of all fighting games I’ve ever played, Street Fighter 2, and especially HD Remix has the most emphasis on reactions, mind-games (yomi), spacing (zoning), poking and counter-poking (footsies). Since these are all the best parts of fighting games to me, it’s no wonder HD Remix is the gold standard for me in terms of gameplay mechanics. When you get in a good fight (offline or online) against someone close to you in skill with a local or low ping connection between you – this is as good as fighting games get for my taste. Can it be improved for my tastes even further? – oh yes, most definitely. But as even Capcom haven’t bothered with improving anything at all since HDR, not even something as simple as a patch, I suspect I will be waiting for a Fantasy Strike Fighting Game to be released before I ever see anything else even close to this good again for me.
Note that when I mention the great character balance of HDR, I obviously do not include Akuma (Gouki, Demon) in the discussion. He’s been agreed by all competitive players to be “broken” and is banned from all tournaments of this game I’ve ever heard of – just as he was in the original ST. The problem is that Capcom have been too lazy to ever do a balance patch, or at least a patch to remove him from competitive modes of play in the game – an incredibly pathetic decision by Capcom.
HD Remix is a great demonstration of exactly the direction I wish fighting games were moving in; simplifying move inputs, improving character choice balance and having a low emphasis on combos rather than adding more execution complexity or sheer number of options. Yet, despite constant PR noise to the contrary, fighting games in general are still moving in the completely opposite direction by adding in more and more complexity, turning away more and more people other than the hardest of the hardcore fans, and in doing so, I feel Capcom and other developers have already wasted this chance to really revitalise the fighting game genre. Yes there’s been a new ‘blip’ in fighting game popularity, thanks to online play, HDR & SF4 but it’s not anywhere near the potential I feel games such as this really have.
Interactive Story: Neutral. Street Fighter has extremely strong characters but the stories don’t exactly work or even make any sense beyond giving you a flavour and some extra incentive to play it as a challenge game.
Toy/Experience: Positive. Just playing around with the excellent movement of well-drawn characters and trying to perform special moves and combos gives a lot of fun to many people in and of itself. Some people have criticised the change in art style from the original SF2 style to HDR. It’s a shame that whilst the old sprites are there, the old backgrounds are not (again, thanks to Capcom being idiots), so that ‘half way house’ solution isn’t really acceptable to anyone. Personally I like both the old art, and the new art. Some characters I think do look a bit better in their original art, some, like my main, Dee Jay, look vastly better in HDR. The HDR artwork is also a lot more consistent (no crazy style differences in the ‘new challengers’ from Super SF2 or new moves), and in general of course, the new high res graphics always make it look much much nicer on a big HD TV, which is the main point. Musically, of course, the original tunes are still there, and some of the remixed tunes are slightly worse, but some are much better too – especially notable to me is the remixed Fei Long stage music.
Grind: None whatsoever. Brilliant!
Simulation: Not really! Street Fighter would be more aptly named “Street 2d space controller” and does not really resemble or accurately simulate a real fight in any respect.
This “HD Remix” took one of my favourite games of all-time – Street Fighter 2, and actually managed to improve it to be the best version of Street Fighter that exists. In some ways I was very lucky that I was already a very good player of SF2 and more than able & willing to push through the barriers that it’s weak competitive gaming design put in my way (& I loved it so much that I even tried to reduce the barriers for others by entering tournaments, running my own tournaments and helping to build a European XBL community). But despite everything it doesn’t do great, it’s still the best fighting game that currently exists for my tastes in skill-tests between opponents. Simply put, it’s the best, around!