Version tested: 3DS
There are few actions in gaming more satisfying in themselves than the simple unleashing of a Hadoken. The eventual connection with an unguarded opponent is always a delicious bonus.
This feeling is the essence of Street Fighter, and something Capcom nailed two decades ago as Street Fighter II hit arcades and went on to enjoy global success on countless platforms. And it's a feeling that has been preserved in the series ever since, despite ever-changing layers of complexity piled on top, as the franchise – and technology – has evolved.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition poses a fascinating question, then: can the basic thrill of the quarter-circle-punch combination be captured – with direction-input removed entirely – in a single tap?
To find this version of Street Fighter's most significant new feature, don't waste your time cooing over the stunningly beautiful visuals on the 3D display. That's Nintendo's innovation. Capcom's far less eye-catching contribution is to turn the touch screen into a customisable series of hotkeys which provide access to the game's most complex moves with a single press.
It's a design decision that instantly opens up the experience as never before, while creating a workaround – not perfect, and possibly not to everyone's liking – for the limitations of the 3DS hardware.
Translating a game of Super Street Fighter IV's precision, subtlety and complexity onto a small handheld was always going to cause a headache. That Capcom's solution is so ingenious is credit to the obvious seriousness and gusto with which it has plunged itself into the project.
The lower screen is split into four customisable areas. Their functionality changes depending on whether you are in Lite or Pro mode, the former allowing you to assign any individual move all the way up to Ultras, Supers, and EX/Focus Attacks to any panel.
Whilst the very concept might be enough to cause the hardcore to foam at the mouth in rabid horror, it is of course not compulsory. However, the truth is some moves are quite awkward to perform on 3DS depending on your preferred character and button configuration.
Personally, I've had no trouble with characters whose special moves are performed using rotations of the Circle Pad. It's the charger-types that prove fiddly at first and require practice; although I did find my hit-rate improving noticeably as each hour rolled by.
Some of the trickiest moves I found were those involving triple punch/kick combinations, and the directional-double-tap dash (the latter is made a little easier by playing on a flat surface).
At first, using the touch screen to help me out here felt dirty and wrong. But I was surprised that, before long, incorporating the touch screen into more complex combos (rather than as a substitute for the entire combo itself) felt fresh and genuinely gratifying.
It's a new way to experience Street Fighter – aware of the limitations of the platform, yes, but also playing firmly to its strengths. What it also does is offer the absolute novice instant access to the game's most eye-catching and complex moves.
It's superficial satisfaction – no bad thing in itself, of course – but may also serve to seduce new players to scratch beneath the surface and learn how to do it properly via the game's excellent and wide-ranging Training and Challenge modes.
Speaking of content, what you are getting here is to all intents and purposes the same game that appeared on 360 and PS3. That means all 35 characters, rendered with terrific flair on substantially weaker hardware. The compromise is animation-free environments – a sensible trade-off given the exquisite attention lavished on the character models.