Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition being touted by many as the highlight of the 3DS launch line-up. Eurogamer certainly enjoyed it.
But for some fighting game fans it represents a worrying first step towards oversimplification. Thanks to the optional Lite mode, 3D Edition allows players to perform special moves with a simple tap of the touch screen. And special moves which previously required a charge now don't. So, must we learn how to play the game all over again? Has Capcom deserted its loyal fans?
Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono's answer is an unequivocal no. Here, in an interview conducted before his star turn at the 3DS launch in London last week, the developer attempts to calm hardcore fears and offers us a glimpse into the future of the world's favourite fighting game.
Eurogamer: What was your first impression of the 3DS dev kit?
Yoshinori Ono: Before E3, Takeuchi [Jun, chief producer for Resident Evil 5] already had the kit and had been nagging me to come take a look. But because I had been so busy with the console editions I had been putting it off. In mid-May when I finally went to see the kit, I just went, "Wow." I knew then I had been missing out.
We took it back to the Street Fighter team and showed it to people. Of course the 3D element is a major innovation, but we thought that shouldn't deceive us in terms of the attractiveness of the 3DS.
We came up with loads of ideas. It gave me this excitement I used to have when I was younger, as a computer geek, and we used to overclock microchips.
I'd like to ask Eurogamer to correct a misunderstanding some people have. Back in Amsterdam, I did an interview with German press. I mentioned 3DS and Dreamcast in the same conversation. I wasn't saying 3DS is like Dreamcast.
What I meant was, when Dreamcast first came out it was such a developer-friendly kit. I was thrilled to see it because I saw so much potential in that. It's the same excitement.
I'm not talking about the fate of the hardware, by any means! This has to be a hundred per cent clear, because it became rather awkward for me to visit Kyoto after that.
Eurogamer: You've said the console edition of Street Fighter IV did a great job of rekindling interest in fighting games, but it didn't expand the audience for them. Is that what the 3DS edition is all about?
Yoshinori Ono: I did say the console version didn't quite grab the audience base I was hoping it would. But Nintendo hardware usually has a wider reach, from very casual gamers to hardcore gamers.
With 3DS we've provided two extra main features to help, especially the casual users, so they can now play the game more easily and it's more accessible with regard to special moves. At the same time, it has an improved online system. You can play the game more easily and you can play with other people with even more convenience.
With these features I believe we will be able to reach a much wider audience than we have ever done.
Eurogamer: Online, you can filter searches for Pro mode or Lite mode. Right now it's hard to get a game in Pro mode because players favour being able to perform charge moves with just a tap of the touch screen. Does this mean we will have to relearn how to play the game?
Yoshinori Ono: One thing I must make clear: these two different modes of playing aren't parallel. They're linear. For people who are used to playing the game with commands, good for them. They don't even need to think about Lite mode.
There are a lot of things you have to know to play fighting games. You need to know the timings, you need to understand the concept and at the same time you have to input a relatively complicated command.
We wanted to alleviate that entry barrier. So by removing the need to input commands, we first want people to learn how to play just from a timing point of view.
You'll end up in the same place. It's just a matter of entrance. It's just extending a narrow corridor for those people who were unable to get into it because of these difficulties. They will now be able to get in a lot easier because we have opened up our door.
It's a matter of flavour. People who've never played the game can try the Lite mode. If they get the hang of it, then we think they will naturally progress to Pro mode.
Eurogamer: Are you worried that those who play Street Fighter on a fighting stick will be unable to play the 3D Edition?
Yoshinori Ono: If you're used to the sticks it may not be as comfortable as it is for others. But there are trade-offs. If you're playing with the stick, you have to be at home and you've got to dedicate your time to it.
With the 3DS you can play anywhere, any time and with anyone. It's a matter of convenience. With a stick you have to bring it out. It requires a lot more work to do that.
If you're a really hardcore Street Fighter player, you probably won't even complain about the controls. I think the hardcore players will come up with their own way of playing 3DS Street Fighter in a hardcore way. I have no idea how, but they'll come up with something.
If you ask me have I targeted those hardcore players only, I'd say no. It is designed for the wide audience the 3DS will have. But, in terms of purely comparing it with the sticks, it will be a different experience.
I've spoken to some hardcore players already. OK, they might complain in the beginning, but they're hardcore players for a reason. They can't not play. If they've got a 3DS and they're not at home, they will start playing. They're already playing it and enjoying. I don't see it as a problem at all.
Eurogamer: Do you see a future when you'll be able to play Street Fighter on a home console and then transport your profile onto a handheld when you leave the home and continue playing? Is cross-platform play between home and portable consoles possible?
Yoshinori Ono: Yeah, I think we're probably three months too early to answer that question. But if you're going to be at E3, see you there.
Eurogamer: Very interesting. Do hardcore fighting game fans misunderstand the 3DS version?
Yoshinori Ono: This whole concept is prone to misunderstanding, especially by the hardcore elitists. We're not changing the game in any way. All we're doing is permitting some small things so players who've never played might enjoy the basic concept.
We want people to play against each other, even if it's just button mashing. But with the touch panel and the set moves you can almost play as if you know all these moves. This is the first experience we're going to provide. It's almost like a packaged gift to these people.
Once they get the feel of playing, naturally, they will want to improve. They will think, at this point if I do this I tend to win. Or, this person can't deal with this.
Then they will start to understand why Guile has so many frames he has to charge to do Sonic Boom. That is his strength as well as his weak point, and you have to add that to the strategy of playing this character.
If you just start taking about, if you want to play Guile you have to think about six frames of charges, people who've never played the game are not going to get it. They have no idea a strategy even exists in these games. They just want to play and beat their friends.
We want more people to feel the fun of playing fighting games with other people. After doing that they might start thinking about their play strategy. Really, for hardcore elitists, they don't even need to look at it. They can just say, yeah, we're too good to see that bit. Fine. Don't look at it.
But it's there for people who've never played a console or arcade version of Street Fighter. That's the misunderstanding I was scared of, that people were saying Street Fighter's changing itself to adapt to hardware. That's not true. We're just widening the entry.
Eurogamer: Is this the future for fighting games? Will they all, from this point on, include similar Lite modes?
Yoshinori Ono: To be honest, I don't know where this is going yet, whether the answer is Street Fighter x Tekken or Street Fighter V or Darkstalkers. But what I wanted to construct is a world where no matter what your gaming background is, or your experience is, you can play reasonably on the same stage together.
It might almost be like PC games. No matter what kind of PC you have, you can play the same game. You might be helped by these add-ons, such as extra equipment.
In the 3DS' case you might be equipped with the Lite mode and the touch panel. But once you're in the game it could be a Pro player against a six year-old.
If it was the arcade fighting game that result would be apparent in two seconds. The pro gamer would just thrash the kid and that would be the end of it.
But if the kid was equipped with all these things, he might last a minute. He might actually put up a fight without the pro gamer even realising. Once the game is over it's like, oh, he lasted a minute. Good on you. Shake hands and you find out he was a little six year-old.
This is the sort of world I'm trying to head to so everyone can play on the same grounds. It's quite exciting.
This concept is unique to digital entertainment. If this was real football, I could never stop Beckham's shot. Even if I was equipped with a powered suit I probably couldn't. But in a digital world, everyone could be enhanced. Stoic pro players who don't want any of that – fine. They've got their skills to rely on.
Some people may not get to that skill, or they just don't have the time. But they still want to play competitively, For those people we will provide these enhanced skill sets so you can put up a fight with people even like Daigo.
If I play Daigo normally he beats me in five seconds. But with all this help I can put up a fight. And for Daigo it's another challenge because he can then have this fame of beating all these people even with their enhancements. Whereas people playing with enhancements can say, I've lasted a minute with Daigo. OK, I used a little bit of help, but I did it. It's a win-win situation.
Eurogamer: Can motion control, such as Kinect, help in this regard?
Yoshinori Ono: The difficult part with motion control is you have to be physically fit. If we start making people compete on grounds of how fast they can move their arms, we'll have to start selling the game bundled with Red Bull.