Released: 26 November 2008
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Also Available For: PlayStation 3
In 1987, Capcom released Street Fighter onto the arcade scene; this oft-forgotten one-on-one brawler may have been criticised for its repetitive gameplay and dodgy controls but it certainly laid the groundwork for probably one of the most recognised fighting games ever created. Thanks to game’s special moves, pulled off using directional inputs in conjunction with button commands, and the introduction of a six-button cabinet, Street Fighter gained a modicum of intrigue on the growing arcade scene that exploded with the release of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991). Expanding the playable roster to eight, Street Fighter II changed the genre forever through the accidental introduction of combo moves and gave Nintendo a much-needed edge in the “Console Wars“ of the nineties with its blockbuster release on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Street Fighter II was so universally popular that it revitalised the arcade scene and was bolstered by a number of revisions and expansions that increased the number of playable characters, special moves, and vastly sped up the gameplay. By 2008, there had been at least five of these revisions as Capcom desperately milked their popular title for all its worth, but the idea of giving the title a whole new gloss of HD paint came at the suggestion of Backbone producer David Sirlin, who spearheaded the game’s development, although sacrifices had to be made to keep the digital release small. In addition to a slick graphical aesthetic courtesy of artists at UDON Entertainment, the game also included an overhauled soundtrack by music tribute website OverClocked ReMix and even saw a limited physical release on the Xbox 360. In keeping with the success and popularity of Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix was met with largely unanimous praise; reviews lauded the new graphical style and arcade-perfect controls, though the lack of additional options was noted as a downside. While it wouldn’t go down in history as the definitive version of Street Fighter II, this HD re-release ensured that Capcom’s influential fighter lived on through another console generation.
The malevolent M. Bison, ruler of the criminal organisation Shadaloo, is sponsoring a martial arts tournament for the world’s best fighters. Twelve such fighters join the fight, battling each other for the right to face M. Bison’s four Grand Masters, with each of them having their own motivations for personal vendetta against the dictator.
I should preface this review by pointing out a couple of things; the first is that I first played Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix on the PlayStation 3 after buying it on a whim (I think, or at least hope, it was on sale at the time), most likely because I realised that I didn’t currently only a version of Street Fighter II. The second thing to note is that there’s a very good reason for that and it’s simply that I’m not a fan of the series; I’m much more of a Mortal Kombat (Various, 1992 to present) kinda guy as I prefer the simplicity and brutal nature of that franchise to Street Fighter’s more intricate mechanics. I owned a cracked version of Street Fighter II for the Amiga as a kid, which fooled me into thinking I was somewhat competent at the game (infinite health will do that to you), but this didn’t translate when I played versions on the Mega Drive and PlayStation 2. Hell, I struggled with the later games in the series despite desperately wanting to get into it since they all look so appealing and everyone always raves about them, but for the life of me I just cannot seem to click with the franchise and always end up feeling frustrated and defeated as a result. I only say this because my enjoyment and opinion of this game, and the entire series, is thus inherently soured; I can’t be anything but biased against it despite my best efforts, but I went into this new playthrough of Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix hoping that maybe things would be different as I do have a lot of fondness for the franchise.
As any gamer will be able to tell you, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is a 2D, one-on-one tournament fighter in which players pick from a roster of sixteen playable fighters and either take on either the computer in a series of battles in a bid to get to M. Bison and his four Grand Masters or go head-to-head with another player, either on or offline. The game’s controls are exactly as you might expect from a Street Fighter II title; you have three types of punch and kick, ranging from a weak, strong, and fierce attack, with each assigned to different buttons. X throws a jab, Y a strong punch, and the Left Bumper a fierce punch while A throws a shot kick, B a roundhouse kick, and the Right Button launches a fierce kick, though all of these controls can be fully customised to your liking. Combining these button inputs, and directional controls, will allow you to pull off various move combinations to dish out greater damage or pull off your character’s special moves, which are helpfully listed in the game’s pause menu. In Street Fighter II, you hold back to block incoming attacks and use up to jump; you can also throw and grab your opponents, sometimes in mid-air, to deal a ridiculous amount of damage. While you can hit buttons to recover from throws, getting stuck in an enemy’s grasp is basically a death sentence and will see your health whittled down in the blink of an eye; you can also be stunned if you take too much successful damage, which can be catastrophic. Fights are decided in rounds, with the default set to best two out of three, though you can change this to as little as one and as many as five (and rights may go to a sudden death final round in the rare instances of a double knock-out). You’re also battling a timer, though you can again disable this option, and can increase the game’s speed on a scale of one to five (with five being the fastest, which also seems to equate to attacks dealing more damage). Finally, you can set player handicaps for player-on-player fighters and choose from four difficult settings to challenge the game’s two arcade modes.
For me, these difficulty settings are a joke; I played with the game speed set to five and on the ‘Easy’ difficulty and still struggled to get past even the first few fighters even with the timer disabled. The computer is an absolute unrelenting machine, making use of combos, frame damage, and cancels to land strings of attacks you have little hope of blocking or counterattacking. The computer is somehow able to hit through your moves at times, grab you in the middle of attacks, and even hit you out of mid-air with low attacks and projectiles, making for an uphill battle right off the bat. As mentioned, you can pull off special moves with each character, though I find these difficult to figure out even with the helpful move list as the require complicated half-turns, charging, and diagonal inputs on the control stick. I find even some of the easiest moves, like Ryu and Ken’s Hadoken, inconsistent to pull off, though projectiles such as this will cancel each other out, which is extremely useful when fighting against spam-artists like Sagat and his constant barrage of TIGER! TIGER! TIGER! shots. As you fight, you’ll build up a little Super meter and, when it’s full, you can try and pull off your character’s Super move, but these are even more complicated to execute and the computer is an expert at blocking and negating all incoming damage. I couldn’t tell you the difference between the ‘HD Remix’ and ‘Classic’ arcade modes as I was barely able to scrape through the ‘HD Remix’ arcade on the lowest difficulty; ‘Classic’ thus seems harder but that might also be because I changed the rounds to win to one, which seems to put the computer in a hyper-aggressive “pinch” mode. Consequently, I can’t say if the classic bonus stages are present in this mode; they weren’t in the ‘HD Remix’ arcade mode I played so, from my perspective, the entirety of the game was geared around tournament fighting, fighting with friends, or desperately trying to get to grips with your character in the game’s training mode.
Graphics and Sound:
Graphically, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Street Fighter II looking better than it does here; the slick UDON aesthetic really makes all of the fighters and their stages pop out and makes the most of HD overhaul the game has received. Every character has their own eccentricities, loudly announcing their special moves and pulling off a couple of victory poses when the fight goes their way in addition to being followed by a shadowy double whenever they execute a Super move. Little touches such as every character’s unique fighting pose, being able to hit off Vega’s iconic claw, M. Bison tossing aside his cape, and characters like Chun-Li being able to spring off the sides of the screen help to make the game more immersive, and this carries over to the stages as well. Some stages have destructible elements such as crates and barrels to smash your opponent into, and all of them include some kind of animation in the background, from cheering crowds to roaring elephants to fighting cages being lowers and boats rising and falling. The remixed soundtrack is a joy to listen to; memorable tuns such as Ken and Guile’s themes sound great, though the fight announcer remains merely serviceable. Although the game lacks a memorable introductory sequence, each character has their own ending, which you’ll get to see even on the easiest difficulty; rendered using text and static artwork in the style of the UDON comic series, the only thing letting these down is that you can’t unlock them to view anywhere else in the game.
If you’re a purist and prefer the classic look of the original games, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix has you covered; you can enable not just a classic option for the in-game sprites but the music as well. Unfortunately, the sprites really don’t benefit from this; they appear large, garbled messes against an otherwise pristine background and hearing the classic arcade-style move announcements and music doesn’t make this any better to look at. It would’ve been better if the game had the option to switch everything to an optimised pixel-art aesthetic but, as is, it’s a garish reskin that’s probably not going to appeal to fans of the original releases. One area where the game does get some credit, though, is in the inclusion of palette swaps for each character; each button corresponds to a different palette for each character on the character selection screen, which adds a touch of variety to the game as your opponent’s randomly pick different palettes for each bout, though you can’t switch between different styles of fighting like in other Street Fighter games. The game does run as smooth as butter, though; I noticed no input lag or slowdown, even on the highest speed setting, and I’m sure an accomplished Street Fighter II player would appreciate such a smooth presentation to the game’s action. Every bout also ends with with the victory taunting the loser, who’s left a battered mess, and I’ve always found these jabs entertaining; a helpful countdown gives you ten seconds to continue fighting, which will reinvigorate your fighter and return you to the character selection screen to challenge your opponent again.
Enemies and Bosses:
Being a one-on-one fighter with sixteen characters to pick from, every fighter in Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix will inevitably be your enemy at some point and each offers a slightly different, if also similar, level of challenge. It’s not uncommon to have to switch to a different fighter depending on your opponent as it’s some fighters are better geared towards dealing with certain opponents, though I find it better to stick to one fighter (Ken) and power through with an attack that favours fast-paced button mashing and aggression over any kind of actual strategy. Some fighters, like Zangief, E. Honda, and Balrog are slower, much heavier characters who rely more on grapples, powerful punches, and slams; you can sue faster characters, like Chun-Li and Cammy, to negate their power but this isn’t always a guarantee as they’re still able to close the distance despite lacking projectiles thanks to diving headbutts and screen-covering uppercuts, for example. Dhalsim is a pretty unique fighter in that he has super stretchy limbs to attack from afar, can teleport about the screen, and will set you ablaze with his Yoga Fire and Yoga Flame attacks, making him quite the slippery opponent. Similarly, Chun-Li is extremely quick on her feet, able to flip around behind you and send fireballs your way at a higher speed than Ken or Ryu, who are equally formidable thanks to their Shoryuken and throws. Other fighters, like T. Hawk and Fei Long, present their own challenges thanks to their bulk and lightning-fast speed so it’s recommended that you spend a bit of time playing as each fighter and seeing what they can do before you head into a fighter.
Some characters, like my favourite (but not to play as), Blanka, fall back on the unpredictable; not only can Blanka barrel across the screen in a cannonball roll but he can also fry you and chow down on your head if you get up close. Others, like Guile, require more patience to execute their special moves; you’ll need to hold back to charge up before pressing the attack button, for example, but they can catch you unawares because of it as they lure you in for the kill. None exemplify this more than M. Bison and his four Grand Masters, who act as the game’s bosses. Things start off pretty simple against Balrog; while he can deal tremendous damage with his charged-up punches, he’s slow and not too difficult to get around. Vega, on the other hand, is the exact opposite; he flips and whoops about the place, dancing around you and slashing with his claw and easily catching you in a German Suplex or a horrendous rolling throw. Vega can also scale the cage in the background to dive down at you and has a great aerial game, which can make him a tough opponent, but I’ve hit a brick wall with DeeJay just as often as Vega thanks to the former’s aggravating Capoeira style. Things really get serious when you face off against the walking mountain of muscle that is Sagat, the former Street Fighter champion; this absolute spam-artist of a bastard will relentlessly throw projectiles high and low, lure you in to knock you flying wit his TIGER!UPPER-CUT!! and flies across the screen with his TIGER!KNEEEE! attack, all of which make him easily the most formidable of the four Grand Masters on Easy. M. Bison represents the game’s final challenge but is nowhere near as spam-happy as his chief lieutenant, though he’s no less dangerous as a result. M. Bison likes to bounce off your head, land multiple hits with his bicycle kick, and send you careening through the stage statues with his Psycho Crusher attack. On higher difficulties, his challenge only increases with a heightened aggression, but you’ll need to get to M. Bison within twenty minutes if you want the honour of being absolutely obliterated by the game’s secret boss, Akuma, a psychotic variant of Ryu who fills the screen with fireballs and leaves you lying with his destructive Shun Goku Satsu Super move.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As it’s a one-on-one fighter, there’s nothing to help you out here except for the Super meter; land hits, blocks, and reversals and you’ll build it up and then it’s just a question of mastering the button inputs and landing the move through your opponent’s block to hopefully score an impressive finish to your fight.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix has twelve Achievements on offer, though I’m not holding out hope in earning any more than the paltry one I got for limping my way through the game’s arcade mode. You’ll snag an Achievement for earning five perfect rounds in a row (achieved by not taking a single hit, so well outside my skill), landing a Super Finish (possible, but most times when I tried it the computer obliterated me as I was trying to input the combo), winning a round in fifteen seconds (I was thoroughly slaughtered on every attempt), and landing ten throws in a single match (also not outside the realm of possibility, though I have trouble executing throws). In addition to a bunch of Achievements being dished out for online play, there’s also Achievements for beating Akuma in arcade mode and for landing Ryu’s Super Finish on Sagat, all of which is probably very doable and appealing for more accomplished Street Fighter II players. Other than that, there’s not much on offer here beyond some run of the mill online modes (including ranked matches and the like) and player-on-player play, though you can input a button code to play as Akuma if you fancy it.
Look, okay, I’m sorry I’m not a more accomplished Street Fighter II player. I’m sorry I haven’t master frame-perfect combos and move cancels and all that nonsense. I’m sorry that it was a constant fight against not only the computer but my desire to rage-quit the game and just relegate this to a Bite-Size review, but I’ve just never got on with Street Fighter II. Having said that, I don’t think I’m wrong to say that the difficulty curve here is pretty unforgiving; you can’t just pick up and play Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and expect to be good at it; button mashing works, to be sure, but only on occasion and some rounds will fly by in the blink of an eye without you even landing a single hit if you’re not using a bit of skill. Consequently, as always, I struggled with Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix; I was able to make it through the ‘HD Remix’ arcade with Ken after numerous losses, but I couldn’t make a dent in the ‘Classic’ mode and the experience is so draining that I’m not sure when or even if I’ll go back to try and get at least one more Achievement. The fact of the matter is that no game should every require you to go into it as a master, or even a high-intermediate, player; that’s what difficulty settings are supposed to be there for, to incentivise replay and the building of confidence and skill. Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix opts instead to whack you over the head with its unforgiving arcade-style difficulty and force you to earn every win, no matter how cheap. On the plus side, the game looks, sounds, and plays great; I might suck with the combos and special moves, but everything runs super smooth here, it’s just a pity that it’s such a barebones release. It can’t be denied that there are better versions of Street Fighter II out there, and compilations that allow you to sample the length of the series, but this is still a pretty decent conversion and representation of one of gaming’s most successful and influential fighters…I’m just hopelessly bad at it and that apparently will never change.
Have you ever played Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix? If so, what did you think to it and how do you think it holds up against other versions of Street Fighter II? Which version of the game is your favourite, or which one did you play the most back in the day? What did you think to the game’s graphical overhaul and lack of additional features? Which fighter was your favourite, or least favourite? Have you ever beaten this game on the hardest difficulty? Are you an accomplished Street Fighter II player and, if so, how much of a noob do you think I am? Which fighting game franchise is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, your memories of Street Fighter II, and your opinions on the franchise in general, feel free to share them below or on my social media.