In the world of fighting games, Street Fighter II is kind of a big deal. Not only did it create an entire genre of gaming — one that had little representation and acclaim beforehand — but it also went on to generate over a billion dollars in revenue worldwide and sell over 24 million console copies to date. With all that in mind, Capcom has just released Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade, which is a completely redrawn, 1080p version of the last major arcade Street Fighter II arcade title. With there already being an online Street Fighter Xbox Live Arcade game and Street Fighter IV busting through shelves in less than 3 months, is HD Remix really worth your time and 15 virtual dollars?
Yes, it absolutely is. HD Remix does nearly everything that a remake should do; it updates the visuals and audio to make them look comparable to most new games, it fixes many of the gameplay flaws that plagued the original title, and it maintains the feel of the classic version that people have known and loved for years. Super Street Fighter II Turbo was the latest and most refined entry of the SFII games, as all of the series’ bugs and glitches had been fixed by that point, the character roster had been more than doubled since Street Fighter II, and Super Combos — extra-powerful special moves than take away a chunk of your opponent’s health — were introduced for the first time. HD Remix betters this by adding several all new features to the mix that will give both hardcore fans and casual fighting game players something to cheer about, including stellar online play and a remixed arcade mode.
Despite all of the additions, HD Remix is still a Street Fighter game at its core, and the basic battle engine is just as exciting now as it was when II was introduced in 1991. The main gameplay difference between this and the previous Xbox Live Arcade Street Fighter title, Hyper Fighting, is the aforementioned Super Combos. A meter appears at the bottom of the screen that you have to fill up by doing various special moves and combos during the round. Once it is full, you can attempt your character-specific Super Combo maneuver, which does massive damage to your opponent if landed correctly. There are also 5 new characters added to this version since Hyper Fighting, including series favorites Cammy and Akuma, and a few new backgrounds and moves have been inserted into the game that fit in with the original areas seamlessly. HD Remix also has a stronger emphasis on combos than earlier SF titles, and a skilled player must be able to chain multiple attacks together mid-battle if they hope to succeed against some of the more difficult opponents you will face.
Pulling off these chain attacks and combos might be a tad difficult at first when using the standard Xbox 360 controller, though they should become easier over time. You are able to map the various punches and kicks to any of the buttons that you want from the menu, and doing so is advisable if you use the fierce attacks frequently as they are mapped to the Bumper buttons by default. I played extensively using both the analog stick and the D-Pad on the regular Xbox 360 wireless controller, and both offered about the same level of accuracy and ease of use with a bit of practice. I was able to execute all of the regular and special moves without issue 95% of the time, but some of the more in-depth combos and Super Combo finishers were a bit more difficult to reliably pull off with the standard controller, especially during a heated exchange. The more you play with the controller the easier everything will be, but it will never be as smooth or accurate as using an arcade stick. If you are hoping to take on the competition in Versus mode and ascend the online leaderboards, you should consider investing in an arcade controller, as my ability to pull off the more complex maneuvers was significantly improved once I switched over to using my arcade stick.
The best way to adjust to these controls is in both of the single player Arcade modes, the first of which offers a Classic mode that is similar to the progression and balance of the original arcade release. The other option available here is the HD Remix mode, which tinkers with the difficulty a bit and makes some key move and combo alterations to the characters. All of these modifications were carefully balance-tested using some of the best Street Fighter players in the world with the hope of providing a more well-rounded experience to players without upsetting hardcore fans. The game is challenging overall for both newcomers and series vets regardless of which mode you choose, as the AI will find crafty ways of rejecting your moves and working around your carefully orchestrated attacks no matter which of the 4 available difficulty levels you play on. Luckily, you are given infinite continues, so no worries about running out of virtual quarters as you make you way toward M. Bison.
You must take on 12 battles in Arcade mode to reach one of the character-specific endings, all of which been changed a bit from previous incarnations to include additional story elements and newly drawn graphics. The only disappointment here is that no new extra modes have been added to this release aside from HD Remix. An offline tournament mode, an endless survival mode, or even minigame versions of the Street Fighter II bonus rounds would have been nice additions to round out the package and give players more to do offline.
In addition to Arcade mode, the game offers a full online multiplayer suite that includes Player matches, Ranked matches, and Tournament mode while also offering an offline Versus mode that lets you rumble with a local competitor. The Player matches are unranked, let you change any option, and allow you to enable Quarters mode, which allows 6 people to enter the same lobby. 2 of those people will then be chosen to exchange fists while the other 4 can chit-chat and watch the brawl through a live feed. Once the match is over, the winner stays on and the loser gets added to the bottom of the list as another person from the lobby is chosen to take on the champion. It’s a noble attempt at recreating the competitive spirit and social aspects prevalent in Arcades of old, and is a fun way to play if you are looking to meet and smack talk some fellow fighters online.
Ranked matches don’t let you configure any options and require that you win 3 out of 5 rounds against a random online opponent. The downside to this is that you are not given the option of rematching this player, as both fighters are booted back to the main online menu post-fight. Tournament mode is unranked and puts you in an 8-man elimination bracket that mimics the style of many of the professional fighting game tournaments, and is a fun online diversion. There is also a ton of statistics available for your perusal, with leaderboards in a number of different categories for all of the modes.
I am happy to report that, over several hours of play testing on multiple days, I never once incurred any instance of lag. This is especially noteworthy because Hyper Fighting on Xbox Live Arcade was plagued with various lag issues. Every game I played in every online mode here ran perfectly, and there was no difference whatsoever between the online games that I played and the offline ones.
Of course, no article about HD Remix would be complete without proclaiming how incredible this game looks in motion. Any argument about how 2D gaming is dead should be instantly silenced by one glimpse of SSFIITHDR, as the playing the game feels like you are controlling a big budget anime flick in both its level of detail in the art and smoothness in the animation. Each fighter maintains their signature look from the original arcade while also gaining new definition in their muscles, wrinkles in their clothes, and a stunning new level of detail all around. Ken’s hair tussles in the wind as he jumps around, Dhalsim’s skin stretches as he sends his arm flying across the screen, and everything from the characters’ stances while fighting to the expressions on their faces as they pull off moves shows the magnificent level of care and attention that Udon put into all of the art.
The backgrounds are equally impressive, as newly vibrant colors replace the drab hues of the older release and all new details that were never visible before, like individual store-front items in Chun-Li’s stage, the interwoven dragons that beautify Fei-Long’s level, and the organic-looking leaves adorning the tree in Blanka’s stage, complete this visual package. Another surprise here is the lack of any load times, which are hidden in the transitioning menus between battles and never slow you down despite the enormous amount of high def art on display. All of the above results in one of the most graphically impressive games of the year, and it stands right next to Castle Crashers as one of the most beautiful 2D games of all time from both a technical and artistic standpoint. The only nit that I can pick with HD Remix is that the background animation isn’t as smooth as the character animation. While these background movements (like the Elephants in Dhalsim’s stage and the characters cheering in Ken’s stage) were always a bit jerky, they are a little distracting now when everything else moves so smoothly.
The sound in SSFIITHDR was given similar treatment, with new remixed music tracks that add new sounds to the traditional Street Fighter themes and effects taken from the original arcade sounding better than ever. All of the songs available here by default are modified versions of the arcade song tracks, yet updated enough with newly overlaid beats and modified musical sounds that make them sound fresh and different. You can also switch the music over to the non-remixed arcade soundtrack from the Options menu, which is another welcome addition. For those who haven’t grown up with this music, you will find a suite of catchy music notes that aurally tie into the nationalities of the characters and backgrounds that they were intended for. Ken’s music is a mixture of American pop and rock beats, while E. Honda’s tune uses traditional Japanese instruments and sounds to make a song that fits his bathhouse stage perfectly.
The sound effects and voices are clearer versions of the legendary arcade sounds, and are overall as great here as they always have been with the lone exception of the announcer who has been inexplicably replaced. While the new guy does an okay job, the sound of the original announcer was as memorable as the various character voices and will be missed here. Aside from that, the punches sound like they were taken from a 70s kung-fu flick and are very impactful, the screams are blood-curdling, and the character taunts and yells that are spewed mid-fight are as memorable as they ever were. “Hadouken” has never sounded so good.
Despite its absurdly long title, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is a fantastic update to one of Capcom’s finest fighters and it makes the arcade classic even better with its new incredible visuals, nicely updated music, timeless gameplay, and terrific online. With Street Fighter IV on the horizon, this is a perfect way to relive the fun of the original series to get you in the mood for the next step. Please, Capcom, make more 2D remakes just like this.