Two years ago I would have struggled to get enough people together for some casual games of Third Strike, yet now the European fighter scene is once again thriving and it's all thanks to the spectacular Street Fighter IV. What an awesome year it's been. Now we're on the verge of the next instalment in the SFIV saga, and fans are hoping for more than a mere update.
The stats certainly look impressive, as Capcom has drip-fed the new character information in addition to a host of new features and online modes. But compared to SFIV, just how different is Super Street Fighter IV going to be to play? Well, we've had access to a near-complete build for the last few weeks, and based upon first impressions the biggest changes to SSFIV are its tighter balancing, increased speed and greater diversity.
With three Alpha additions, three Third Strike favourites, two new creations and the last two SFII classics, Capcom has gone above and beyond with the revamped SSFIV roster. Loading up the new select screen is a real dilemma: do you check out what changes have been made to your main character, or do you take one of the newbies out for a test run? We suggest you resist fireball-spamming and opt for the latter, as each of the new challengers provides a refreshing fighting experience.
Fighting out of the Alpha camp are Adon, Sagat's former pupil and a master of Jaguar style Muay Thai, Guy, a practitioner of Bushin Ryu ninjitsu, and Cody, an apathetic anti-hero with a rough brawler style. I'll also cover myself by saying that these guys don't originate from the Alpha series, but instead go back to Final Fight and the first Street Fighter.
Anyhow, Adon keeps all his Alpha moves like Jaguar Tooth and Jaguar Kick, and can rapidly move across the screen to keep his opponent under pressure. He also retains his three Super variations, which all start out the same but finish differently depending on which button you press.
In addition to having his classic Jaguar Revolver as an Ultra, Adon's second Ultra, the Jaguar Avalanche, works spectacularly as an anti-air and combos perfectly off a Rising Jaguar focus cancel. His mix-up game also improves with meter as his EX Jaguar Kick acts as a very swift overhead.
But whereas Adon is pure rushdown, in comparison Cody is a defensive fortress. Just like Adon he makes the transition to SSFIV with his Bad Stone, Criminal Upper and variable Ruffian Kick intact, but he also gains the Zonk Knuckle special. This works similarly to El Fuerte's Quesadilla Bomb, and requires a punch to be held down while it charges. Once released, Cody will quickly dodge and hook his opponent.
Cody's Last Dread Dust Ultra is also the ultimate anti-Ultra, as he interrupts his opponent by kicking dirt in their face before going to town with a wrench and lead pipe combo. If you want to chip the competition to death, you can pick up Cody's knife to increase his damage and range.
But out of all the Alpha new bloods, Guy has the most versatility. The red-clad ninja makes it into SSFIV with his full repertoire of Alpha 3 specials, including his vertical Hurricane Kick, his Bushin flip and his Hozanto shoulder barge. He can also play mix-up mind games with his Bushin Run, which can either hit low or hurtle into an overhead kick, which hits from almost a full screen away.