The presentation by a charmingly exuberant Yoshinori Ono was the highlight of Nintendo's 3DS conference in Amsterdam last week, an event which was otherwise often dreary and overlong. And, despite a warehouse-load of competition, the Street Fighter producer's game was arguably the highlight of the entire event.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition makes a terrific first impression in three key ways: it retains the look and feel of the original commendably well; the 3D effect, while fundamentally superficial, adds a sense of immersion unique to the series; and its subtleties are handled with ease in a convincing demonstration of the system's excellent analogue control nub.
With 3DS pricing coming as a Spinning Bird Kick in the teeth to many, gamers will quite rightly expect an awful lot of bang for their buck at a John McEnroe-shouting-are-you-being-serious 40 quid a pop.
Happily, Capcom has clearly seized the opportunity of 3DS with the enthusiasm Ono displayed on stage, and is offering up what promises to be a pleasingly faithful translation of the masterful fighter.
What you get on 3DS is pretty much what you get on home console: 35 playable characters, all the costumes and stages, the cinematics and online play options. Plus there are enough format-specific tweaks and additions to show Capcom has treated this version with care and respect.
3D will be a gimmick rather than a game-changer in many titles for the system, but it's a stunningly impressive one deployed artfully here - whether you're in-game or just navigating through menus.
Nintendo's new handheld is obviously a bit weedy next to beefcakes like PS3, 360 and, indeed, an SF arcade cabinet, so aesthetic sacrifices were inevitable. Backgrounds are static and while that effectively makes them cardboard cutouts, they're very pretty ones. The beautiful art style makes each stage a visual treat enhanced by the enticing depth of 3D.
As anyone who's seen a few stereoscopic 3D movies will attest, there's good 3D (Pixar's subtle use of it is particularly lovely) and then there's Clash of the Titans.
Clearly developers using the visual effect as an aesthetic rather than gameplay tool will be similarly artful/shamelessly ghastly. Fortunately, Super Street Fighter IV falls into the former camp as it sleekly sucks you into the action.
It looks knockout on the small screen with the glasses-free wow factor that's only possible on Nintendo's handheld right now. The only niggle I had with it was that during particularly furious play the console can shake and wobble in your hands as you smash out combos.
As you've probably read a million times, you have to be looking at the screen dead-on for the 3D effect to be maintained. A minor tilt either side and the illusion breaks – as it did a few times during particularly aggressive bouts.
It's a minor quibble, and certainly not in the same league as problems you will encounter in games using the gyroscope and 3D simultaneously, where your gaze has to follow the screen around exactly. Which is 'a bit awkward' to say the least, as well as making you look a complete tit.
There's also a '3D Mode' offering an alternate, over-the-shoulder view of the action to enhance the 3D experience. It looks smashing but in practice – at least in the few matches I tried using it – it baffled me into uselessness as my instinct was to direct moves in the direction my character was facing rather than doing it properly. It'll get easier, I expect.
When playing the game you can use either the d-pad or the analogue nub. Personally, I find that the d-pad sits a little low for my liking and not therefore comfortable, but the nub works a treat and I had no problems wading in with special moves and combos.
To make the game more accessible the touch screen is divided into four customisable commands. By default these are set to unleash special moves, Ultras and Supers with a single touch, but can be tailored however you like – mapping three punches to one button, for example.
To ensure fairness in online fights, Capcom says matchmaking can filter between Lite (using the touch aids) or Pro (traditional gameplay). Speaking of which, I didn't get to try it out but local and online multiplayer is included, plus – brilliantly – a game sharing feature that allows friends to download a single stage and character (Ryu) for free to compete online and even offline (Ryu vs Ryu) as a teaser.
Other features include a Spectator Mode and a weird trophy-gathering meta-game called Figurine Mode, which works via 3DS's StreetPass feature. Once enabled, this pits character figurines against each other when two handhelds are within range – the results of which you see the next time you play the game.
There's a wider debate to be had about whether Nintendo is taking gaming forward in any meaningful way with 3DS or whether it's really just a very snazzy, expensive gimmick tacked on to a well-established set of features and ideas.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition itself is indeed an established set of features and ideas with a snazzy gimmick tacked on. But however many dimensions you experience it in, the prospect of a tip-top version of the game on a Nintendo handheld is surely reason enough to be excited – and for me it looks the pick of the launch line-up.