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Super Street Fighter IV preview - - Preview

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The name almost says it all. Those who are unfamiliar with the world of gaming might not immediately get the fuss over the Street Fighter franchise from Capcom, but those who have spent time with a console controller in hand like know that the 2D side-scrolling fighting genre would not be what it is today without the Street Fighter franchise.

Capcom, with the release of Super Street Fighter IV is about to take the genre to the next level. Nope, that doesn’t mean that the graphics are different and will blow viewers away (though they are very good for a 2D fighting game) … and no, there is no deep storyline that will have players twisting and turning and trying to figure out the nuances and undertones of the personalities of the characters.

What will turn the genre on its ear and reset the bar for all future games is the robust tournament system that SSF IV will feature.

Make no mistake, the game looks great. Capcom even unveiled the Arcade Fightstick panel, which looks like the controls of an arcade machine, but has the button alignments corresponding to the PS3 and 360s.

What it all comes down to, though, is the tournament mode. It is the most robust system seen. The online match-making has been optimized to create a briskly paced combat vehicle for two players. Of course, there is the team battles, but the new heart of this game will be the online tournaments. The basic tournaments are for four to eight players. The settings can allow for single or multiple elimination, change the number of rounds per bout, the environment and even create a blind draw so that players cannot see which character their opponent will use until too late. But that is merely the beginning.

A ninth player can host (as a host only) an eight-player tourney … or co-host with another player for a 16-player tourney … or bring in a third player for a 24-player tourney. Companies can host tourneys and hand out prizes as rewards; in all, this is, without doubt, the most robust online tournament capabilities ever presented in a game. And while the tournament mode will not be included in the initial box, it will be available on June 15 as a free download (the game actually releases later this month).

One would think that would be enough … but one would be wrong.

There will be a replay system in place for players to search out classic battles between other players, view them and even save them for studying tactics. Others can be invited to view the videos and players can save replays to a My Channel folder. Someone taking their time to connect? No problem, start without them and they can hop in while the event is in progress.

There are some new art styles in the game, and custom costumes will be available as well.

During a mini-tourney held onsite as part of Capcom’s Captivate 2010 media event, the event worked off a hotel Internet connection, which was less than stellar … Ok, it was slower than one of Hawai’i’s trademark sea turtles crawling across a shoreline … but the fights went off without a hitch or even the glimmer of lag that would usually be associated with slow connections.

SSF IV will certainly raise the benchmark for the way online competitions are held. The game may be a reflexive exercise, but there is little doubt that the challenge and the graphical design and gameplay features make this an appealing product.

The world should get ready to rumble – Super Street Fighter IV style!

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Michael Lafferty
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