Sandboxing Super Street Fighter IV

So I’ve had a Nintendo 3ds in my hands for the last week or so, thanks to a lucky opportunity that landed me on Nintendo’s press list. Along with the 3DS came a handful of games that i’m not really interested in–Lego Star Wars, Madden Football, Pilotwings–and one game that I’m painfully interested in. That game is Super Street Fighter IV.

Designing fighting games for a handheld console is always a tricky proposition for a few reasons, not the least of which is The Fact That Fighting Games Fucking Suck Without A Stick (the notable exceptions being games designed specifically for a pad, like Super Smash Brothers, and games with a handy input buffer and some forgiving motions, like Soul Calibur 2).

I maintain that the pinnacle of mobile fighting games is Treasure’s Bleach DS games, which play like a lovably broken Guilty Gear. Treasure realized that when you can’t count on having someone to play a fighting game with, the most fun you’re going to have is in training mode, and designed a game that was ridiculously fun to fuck with. Then they made it easy to guard cancel and do combo breakers, so when you actually play the game against someone it’s just ever-so-slightly “balanced” enough that you would continue playing in training mode next time you’re on the bus.

SSFIV is a bit harder to bring over to the portable gaming world, because the game is designed to be played with an arcade stick that costs at least four times more than the actual game. The only way Capcom’s core audience won’t be disappointed is if their expectations are lowered, and for a game that people devote their lives to, that isn’t really feasible.

Nonetheless, they did their best. SSFIV plays well on the 3DS, though basic stuff like hitting all three punches for an ultra or consistently hitting a dragon punch motion is still too unreliable to feel like it’s worthy of the Street Fighter mantle. Once you get used to playing semi pro football, it’s hard to go back to two hand touch, even if you’re just playing on a beach during a family picnic.

The one fun aspect of SSFIV3D comes from the ‘Lite’ control mode. You heard that right. The best part of the game is the Easy Mode. Allow me to explain.

Competitive games rely on different kinds of skill ceilings to make the game interesting. One skill ceiling has to do with the actual physical input execution: Starcraft players need high mouse accuracy and actions-per-minute to successfully implement strategies at the pro level. The faster you are, the more strategic options you have.

For fighting games, the motions required to perform a move is an integral part of the character design. Ryu has his fireball (projectile) and his dragon punch (anti air), Guile has his sonic boom (projectile) and flash kick (anti air). Guile’s move set is ideal for in your face pressure, since he has fast recovery on his sonic boom and can easily follow up a blocked boom with more normals, then yet another boom. However, Guile needs to hold back or down back for two seconds to perform the sonic boom, while Ryu doesn’t (his fireball is a quarter circle forward motion). Playing aggressively with Guile is all about making sure you’re somehow managing to get in and attack while holding the stick backwards to maintain charge for your sonic booms and flash kicks.

Ryu, on the other hand, doesn’t have to hold back. However, his projectile and anti air specials require you to move the stick forward and perform more complex motions–meaning it’s not quite so easy to go back to blocking when you want to attack. The end result is that Guile has special moves that would be great for nonstop pressure, but the required inputs make it difficult, and Ryu has moves that would be great for turtling, but his inputs make that difficult. The inputs are part of the game balance.

SSFIV3D basically eliminates this by making the default control mode Lite mode, which lets you map any move (normal, special, super, ultra) to any of the face buttons or one of four quadrants on the touchscreen. This makes things that used to be hard (standing 720s to do Zangief’s grab ultra) or impossible (walking forward then throwing a sonic boom) are now very, very easy. (Upon realizing this, I spent an hour trolling random online players with the World’s Most Annoying Zangief.) No-charge E. Honda combos? No problem.

All of a sudden, we’re back in Street Fighter Rainbow Edition, and it’s hilarious. The fun isn’t in playing the game like the Official Competitive Version, the fun is playing the game like everyone has a Game Genie. And training mode is the most fun part of the game, because you want to see what you can get away with that you couldn’t before. SSFIV is about trying to win the next Evolution World Championships. SSFIV3D is more about having fun stretching some of the rules. It’s probably not great for game balance (charge characters were already on top in SSFIV, not having to charge will only make them better), but who cares about game balance when you’re playing Street Fighter on the bus with a shitty gamepad?


Sent from my friend’s stupid iPad, seriously WTF is this

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