Hands-on / Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

Last week we brought you our impressions of Street Fighter IV. A glorious beast of a game, SFIV combines familiar and fresh gameplay with awesome graphics to appeal to gamers new and old. It could be huge. But there is another Street Fighter on the way. One that is ready to step out of the shadow of its big brother. That game is Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and it may well offer a surprise challenge for supremacy.

So let’s start with the basics. The beating heart of HD Remix is Super Street Fighter II Turbo; the last and arguably best of the original SFII cycle. Developers Backbone have been ultra-reverent to the original, with the only changes being some minor balance tweaks. Our time with the game revealed that Akuma has been neutered a little, as has Dhalsim, and Ryu can now do a fake fireball (a trick I fell for every single damn time). Every character has been fiddled with slightly in this way, but it’s mostly under the hood stuff, to my untrained eyes anyway.

Much more obvious is the graphical overhaul. All the backdrops and sprites have been given a beautifully clean, crisp and colourful HD polish. Udon Entertainment, creators of the Street Fighter comic series, have taken care of this aspect of the game and (despite a bit of fanboy controversy early in the development process) it’s hard to see it as anything other than a triumph. Everything is hand-drawn, a painstakingly time-intensive process, but one that immediately justifies itself when you lay your eyes on it. It may not have the wow-factor of SFIV, but it does the job perfectly and far outstrips anything we’ve seen from a 2D fighter before.

The only drawback to the graphical remix is the animation. In an attempt to stay true to the original, Backbone have not added one extra frame. On the backgrounds it’s not so much of a problem, indeed it adds to the charm. But it’s a different matter with the sprites. Balancing in fighters is like a house of cards and smoothing the animation could have brought the whole thing tumbling down. But with such sumptuous characters its hard not to want for the odd extra frame. Whilst by no means a deal breaker, it’s an obvious weakness.

Our time with HD Remix was restricted to local one-on-one fights, but the final retail package promises a few extra goodies. You’ll be able to play the game in “Classic” mode, with the original graphics and music. There’s a training mode with hit-boxes highlighted on the characters, designed so you can identify the areas of your enemy that are vulnerable to attack. Taking the game online will bring all the leaderboards, stat tracking and rankings we have come to expect. In addition to this, expect the “Quarter Match” mode that accompanied the release of Hyper Fighting and a new 8-player tournament mode that sounds like it could be great fun. If it all runs smoothly that is.

Which brings us to the last question mark hanging over HD Remix’s head. Online crippled the release of Hyper Fighting on PSN and XBLA. It was often laggy to a game-ruining extent. Capcom have attempted to see this problem off with the Beta test that ran this summer, but that wasn’t without its problems either. Online is where this game will be played most, and its effectiveness will make or break HD Remix’s success. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to tell how this pans out until the game appears later this month.

If the online aspect of HD Remix does hold up then SFIV has a lot to worry about. As exciting as a new iteration of the series is, it’s hard to see what it offers that HD Remix doesn’t. The golden age of fighters has come and gone, very little can be done to the formula now. All that SFIV attempts to do is transplant the gameplay from these games into a flashy new 3D engine. No bad thing, by any means. Indeed I loved every second with it. But HD Remix is essentially a cleaned up version of a game from slap bang in the middle of that golden age, and you can have it for a fraction of the price, without even leaving your sofa. It’s gonna be an intriguing fight.