When you think of game genres that could benefit most from the groundbreaking auto-stereoscopic display of the Nintendo 3DS, chances are the one-on-one 2D fighter doesn't instantly spring to mind.
Regardless of this, in Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition Capcom has delivered what is arguably the most appealing launch title for the fledgling platform.
The pugilistic phenomenon that is Street Fighter surely needs no introduction - suffice to say it involves pummeling a series of rival combatants via a range of combos and dazzling special moves. That hasn’t changed here, but the way in which you view the ensuing carnage has.Changing perspectives
Although Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition showcases 3D rendered characters and backgrounds, the action remains firmly rooted on a 2D plane of movement, just as it was over 20 years ago when the original game made its arcade debut.
Capcom has done an absolutely astounding job of replicating the visuals of the home console edition on the less powerful 3DS. Although the backgrounds lack animation and the character models are less detailed, the look and feel has been entirely retained.
The impressive aesthetic package is augmented by the 3D effect of the screen, which adds a subtle element of depth to the combat. It's little more than a visual embellishment, but undeniably adds to the appeal.Get behind me
A more effective use of the 3D effect is delivered in a separate mode which places the camera over the shoulder of your fighter. Although this feature is great for impressing your sceptical mates, it's not all that practical when it comes to gameplay as it's noticeably harder to judge the distance of attacks.
In terms of visuals, mission accomplished. However, as any hardened 2D fighting game veteran will tell you, control is of paramount importance. It’s why dedicated players are willing spent over £100 on unique joysticks purely for games of this genre.
Unfortunately, it’s this element of Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition which proves to be the weakest link in the chain. Although the 3DS happily provides the six different attack buttons required for this highly esteemed series (three kick strengths and three punch strengths), the analogue Circle Pad isn’t all that well-suited to the incredibly demanding gameplay.Punching at thin air
The D-pad could have offered the ideal solution to this quandary, but it sits too close to the bottom of the unit to be of any real use. After a few minutes of play using the digital alternative you’re likely to suffer from hand cramp.
To mitigate this issue – and to make the game more accessible to newcomers, no doubt – Capcom has introduced shortcut buttons which sit on the console’s touchscreen. These allow you to automatically perform special moves and ultra combos without having to enter in the required pad and button combinations.
Purists will scoff at such a dishonourable mode of play, but in reality the shortcuts work well. They allow less experienced players to enjoy the game and attain a level of competence that would otherwise elude them, and after a while the temptation to ignore the shortcut commands and attempt the move manually is too great to ignore. Consider this mechanic to be akin to a set of training wheels rather than a cheap trick.Taking the fight online
Although Capcom has included several single-player options – including Story modes for all the characters and fiendish Challenge bouts to complete - Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition’s biggest draw is arguably its multiplayer options. Wi-fi online play is surprisingly solid and we witnessed no lag whatsoever, despite playing 3DS owners on the other side of the globe.
StreetPass support is also present, allowing your sleeping 3DS to automatically battle other players without even asking for your permission. The objective of this mode is to collect 500 different figurines – a task that helps boost the game’s longevity.
How deeply you buy into this element depends on how much you like amassing largely pointless digital trinkets, but it’s a neat aside to an already impressive package, and hints at what kind of functionality StreetPass could bring to the table in the future.Custom combo
The fact that Capcom has succeeded in cramming in all of the gameplay, characters, and content from the home console versions of Super Street Fighter IV into a portable machine is praiseworthy: to all intents and purposes, this is the exact same game you played on the 360 and PS3 – albeit with a very slight graphical drop and static backgrounds instead of animated ones.
The transition hasn’t been entirely without incident, though, and there are times when we hankered for the feel of a solid micro-switched Sanwa arcade stick in our sweaty palms, but the ability to utilise touchscreen shortcuts all but eliminates any potential frustration.
While it might not be the game that shows off the 3DS hardware to its fullest potential, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition is possibly the pick of the launch line-up and will keep you glued to your screen for many weeks to come.