The Street Fighter series is usually one that's noted for its love/hate relationship with fighting fans. As there aren't too many fighting games out there, the genre has certainly seen a lot of spotlight, but tends to be criticized harshly for its flaws. Fans will praise the technical skill required to engage in tournament-level play, while those who enjoy games like Blazblue or Capcom Vs series tend to devalue the game based upon its inherently slow and deliberate gameplay. So with this in mind Capcom took a different approach to their beloved franchise, attempting to satisfy both the long-term and hardcore fans while drawing in a new audience that may have never considered the series worthwhile before. Fortunately for them, it worked.
Super Street Fighter IV instantly starts off on the right foot with its new characters, which add much more variety to the game. Capcom was very careful in picking both fan favorites, and in really highlighting the differences in the new characters. Older characters feel much like their past-iterations, though obviously altered for this games balance. They all still retain the feel that made them so popular though, Makoto for example is still an extremely combo-chain oriented character while Dudley retains much of the style and power that made him so iconic to the fans.
The newer characters, Hakan and Juri, on the other hand fill in gaps that may have been missing in the overall cast. Hakan is a grapple-oriented character who has the ability to alter the speed, strength, and range of his moves through self buffs. Very similar to Zangief in the style of his play, Hakan boasts a pretty decent amount of defensive and offensive capabilities though his weakness can be glaring against any character that can keep him at bay. Fortunately he's very easy to pick up and learn, and offers a lot of depth for anyone looking to master a very strange (but very fun) character.
Juri on the other hand is a completely different beast, able to cover a tremendous amount of screen at a very impressive speed. Boasting decent air combos, in addition to the ability to counter-evade and delay her 'fireballs', Juri presents players with the opportunity to combo in such a wide variety of ways that inherently seem overpowered. Fortunately her offensive capabilities are offset by her low health, but compared to Hakan she feels more ready and able to deal with a wide range of opponents. Together the pair round off a very nice package of characters added to the game, but independently Juri just feels better designed and more thought-out then Hakan.
In addition to a wide variety of characters, Super Street Fighter IV also offers improved online modes, including Endless Battle and the ability to watch replays. Arcade mode makes a comeback, featuring the classic bonus levels based around beating up cars and barrels, and features the ability to have other online players send challenges mid-arcade fight. The entire feel of the game captures the group-gaming scenario perfectly as a result, with players able to meet in a wide variety of ways. Being able to sit down with a group of friends (or strangers) and take turns fighting round-robin style is definitely a wave of nostalgia to the pre-internet days of gaming. On top of that, being able to see fights from around the world lets players breakdown exactly what went wrong.
Balance was another massive change made to the game, as the older characters received a slew of changes to the technical aspects of their attacks. Some characters got a major damage reduction, while others were given only minor alterations to the range and strength of their attacks. While it may be too early to tell if any of these changes have seriously altered the way tournament-level gameplay is done, it certainly helps for more casual individuals to enjoy the game a bit more as the goal is for all characters to be as close to balanced as possible.
Unfortunately the game does have one downside, residing directly in the controller. Be it the PlayStation or Xbox version of the game, neither controller really lends itself as well to the games mechanics as a fightpad or arcade stick does. Players competing online without the proper equipment may find themselves at a bit of a technical disadvantage, and while many who enjoy the game simply purchase the appropriate accessory to play, some many find this to be off-putting.
Graphically the game looks just as good as it did before, as Capcom has chosen to keep the very stylized art that Street Fighter IV brought to the series initially. The new levels look great, and are nice eye candy for anyone not taking part in the fight - it can be assumed those people have other things to look at than a hippo in the background. The game sounds great too, though undoubtedly few will take the time to sit and listen to all of the songs that play in the various stages.
Overall Super Street Fighter IV improves upon the original in every way, while at the same time taking the series in a very different direction. Catering to both casual and very serious fighting fans the game hits the mark perfectly, offering enough variety to persuade even the most die hard Street Fighter pessimist. Most importantly the game's online functionality is fantastic, with little to absolutely no delay occurring in fights that pit you against players from all over the world. The only major downside lies in the controller, which is completely subjective from person to person. In the end, fighting fans absolutely cannot miss this title and anyone who enjoys a bit of competition online should be right at home with Super Street Fighter IV.