Super Street Fighter II: HD Remix

Here Comes... A New Challenger!

Greasy joystick knob, butcher-shop screen, sticky, clacky buttons. I first played Street Fighter II in a neighborhood restaurant, at the age of 8, while waiting for a fresh, hand-tossed pepperoni pizza. I stepped up, selected the sole female character and was disappointed almost instantly. Other characters could throw fireballs. Chun-Li? She could only kick really fast.

Some undetermined time later, I pop into a lonely import gaming store – a store that's surely destined to fail – and find an update to the fighter. I die quickly, finding that the difficulty and speed are too much for my casual focus. Forward yet again. I'm older, in a convenience store, and find another iteration of the game. This time I play as the boss. Older still, I find a glitched Red Belt version that lets me throw homing fireballs that are impossible to evade, all while infinite-jumping into the upper regions of the screen. I'm at the end of my latest Nintendo Power issue, and the month's contest features shots of the 4 new characters included in Super Street Fighter II. I trace the figures endlessly while my cousin enacts Ryu's fireball charge during the game's new opening scene.

In the space of about 1/10 of a mile, in the span of but a few years, I played countless versions of Street Fighter. Was there ever any doubt that I would purchase Udon's 'roided-up Super Street Fighter II: HD Remix?

Aside from being a very Capcom-esque jumble of acronyms, HDR is an interesting exercise in revitalization. There's no disputing the visual pop of the game's newly drawn sprites and settings (even if some of the background elements don't quite gel together), but the project's slavish devotion to replication has prevented HDR from being a real graphical bounty. Biggest gripe? Background characters still have their three-frame range of motion. 10 years later and the crowd still looks like they're dancing a nifty jig.

Environments aside, the beefed-up fighter sprites are marvelous. The care that went into creating strong, consistent character modelsheets is readily apparent, and my first instinct was to play around with every available fighter, just to see their fashionable new look. Surprise! Udon tweaked Balrog's (or Boxer, as the scenekids call him) face a bit to make him look more like Mike Tyson. For a laugh, you can turn on “Classic” sprite mode, and see the 1993 sprites blown up to HD size. The difference between HD Sagat (who looks like he could fit in with the Punch Out! folks) and classic Sagat (a pretty decent interpretation of a lean Muay Thai fighter) is worth the price of admission.

You can also die a little bit as you see how radically different our concept of muscular fighters is now. Video game fitness training has obviously progressed in these last few years.

There's a funny pitfall about revisiting franchises: for the aged, there is a certain sense of expectations that, when not met, take one out of the experience. While playing HDR, I stopped to wonder where my score counter was. Halfway through the game, I was clamoring for my car-punching minigame. When I finished a round, I was disappointed when the background didn't launch into hyperspeed at the press of a button. Those aren't really strikes against the game itself, as much as they are problems of nostalgia and random bits of Street Fighter forming a gestalt experience on my part.

Now here's the hard thing about HDR: it's a 10 year old game. I don't mean that in a derogatory way. I'm not wishing that the team added in regenerative health and quick-time events, or added a turn-based kart racing minigame. What I am saying is that authoritative, encyclopedic knowledge has been amassed by the Street Fighter community. Entire tomes have been written on such arcane topics as “wakeup”, “tiers” and “hitframes.” As a casual fighting gamer, I'm so far behind that I might as well be 8 years old. The online multiplayer component, buttery-smooth as it may be, is every bit as brutal and potentially demoralizing as its arcade cousin. I'm consoled by the fact that I don't have to do the turn of shame away from the machine after getting my ass handed to me. I can instead take my headset off and quit to the main menu.

Still, the act of learning is appealing in its own right. At its core, HDR is a game about options -- about employing a library of moves in a way that locks an opponent into a set of controllable situations. It's about understanding and managing space, and learning from excruciating defeat. It's also surprisingly balanced. A great deal of care went into slightly changing the play mechanics to ensure that characters were given good options to control their playfield. Damage was cut back, attacks were given a bit more range, all in an effort to create a more enjoyable, sustainable experience. And oh, it is an experience. At its best, HDR recreates the excitement I felt when stepping into my favorite arcade. As waves of 90s-fighter nostalgia showered over me, these 10+ year old characters felt somehow fresh.

Is this a full-scale revitalization? I doubt it. While there's a respectable amount of online activity at the moment, I can't see HDR being a multiplayer staple. Most likely, the uber-tough framecounters will slowly, but surely, consolidate their massive knowledge and employ it against the online masses. Most likely, I'll play on and off until it becomes apparent that the only people left are the folks jockeying for the top 10 spots.

Such is the way of 2D fighters. Even HD Remixed ones.

Comments

I love the game. Question for anyone that plays it. Can any of you pull off Bison's super move? Try as I might I just can't do it. I'm playing the PS3 version.

It’s funny I was never really any good at any of the Street Fighter genre games, however I had some friends back in junior high and high school who excelled at them. So I actually have fairly fond memories of these games from the mid to late 90’s, mostly because during breaks and lunches we’d crowd around the arcade machine that was in the 7-Eleven-like convenience store near our school, I watched in awe the furious battles that ensued on screen.

I haven’t picked up the new SF remix, I tried the demo and yes I still suck – never was very good large button combinations needed. I think I will check out street fighter 4 when it comes out, I heard they are newbie-ing(slowing) it a bit and thought this might allow me to have some fun at least as a rental.

Picked it up. But I have not seen a lot of players on XBL. This is disconcerting, as I was hoping to see a few after the showing Soul Caliber had.

@Baron Of Hell.

Rarely. I too am using the PS3 version.

I hadn't played a fighter seriously for a long time, and I'm having a lot of trouble getting back into the D-pad (no arcade stick here, folks). And that has something to do with my one knock against the game: the training mode is incredibly bare. I've had trouble with it, and my even less-accustomed friends have trouble with it also. I get that this is "really for the hardcore" or whatever, but then why have a training mode at all? Clearly the tournament players aren't spending much time in there. It's like having an easy mode that isn't easy. Clearly part of the game is trying to appeal to and bring in new players, but I think it does a fairly poor job of it.

On a much smaller note, the more complex stick movements listed in the Command List (Z-motion, I'm looking at you) are a bit misleading for d-pad users.

I picked it up (fighting games always sucker me in. I've got almost no skill for them whatsoever but I can't resist multiple endings) and I still suck. I play it on the 360 and use the analog stick. I feel like I get a really good response from it and I'm able to pull off the moves better than I ever could in the past. Mainly play local or solo.

I'm not really hyped for SFIV yet, ... I'd really like to see a release of the final itieration of SFIII on Live. Or disc based. Whatever.

We need more goodjers with this so I have some opponents who won't flatten me in 4 seconds flat.

I really suck in fighters, yet I love them. I tried a couple of rounds online and while I got beat, I wasn't that much worse off than the other guys. Maybe I just got lucky. It seemed to me that everyone knew a couple of moves per character and just repeated those, just like back when I was a kid on the Amiga.

What a great game though. It looks and sounds so good, I don't mind being beaten.

I think the key to fighters is to focus on fighter until you mastered it. I haven't won a match yet but my skills have improved greatly with Bison. Still can't do his super though. I might move on to Zangief who is surprising easy play with the thumb stick.

Baron Of Hell wrote:

I think the key to fighters is to focus on fighter until you mastered it. I haven't won a match yet but my skills have improved greatly with Bison. Still can't do his super though. I might move on to Zangief who is surprising easy play with the thumb stick.

Verily, the Baron speaks truth. Pick a character and make him/her your own. My time with Tekken Tag and Soul Calibur were spent honing my skills with one or two characters (Brain Furty and Lei Wulong in TTT, and Yoshimitsu in SC). Every so often, the guy who collected the tokens from my local arcade would forget to lock the cabinet back up and I was able to play for free with my fellow players. That was great for training purposes.

I never got anywhere near the upper tiers of the people I played with, but dang if I couldn't obliterate any hapless casual players that stumbled into the arcade.

I was never able to get the hang of the Street Fighter series. I was decent at the Marvel Versus Capcom games, but I was led to understand that the versus series were dumbed down with respect to the SF series. Too many buttons, for one thing. Memorizing combinations on six buttons was too daunting for me. And the whole business of frame-counting is not something I could ever do.

I often battle Brain Furty on Monday mornings.

what the devil is frame counting? Is... is it what I think it is?

(mental image of guy pausing Ryu in mid-jump, over and over again, so his younger brother can outline where he is on the TV with a sharpie)

I used to compete in tournaments for the original Street Fighter 2, later moving on to the Champion Edition. I quit playing after that. Having said that, I'm sure I'd stink at SF2 now. I think that's why I'm reluctant to pick this iteration of the game up. It's like asking a 40 year old with two blown knees and a bad back to get back on the football field and run for 500 yards in a game. It's probably best for me to just look back at SF2 and say "Oh I was the man at that game!" rather than pick it up now and be beaten senseless by a 10 year old who's been playing the game for 2 hours. Live on dreams o' mine! Live on!

Gah! I haven't braved the wilds of online multiplayer. The singleplayer mode has been quite dispiriting enough thank-you. Coming from someone who'd finished the SNES version with every character on every difficulty, you'd think I might have retained some of that skill. But age and the 360 D-pad conspire against me. I can't even get past the second stage with the difficulty set to easy.

I can't escape the conclusion that this game is no longer for me.

I humbly don't understand how gamers hone skills in fighting games. Are there usually visual clues as to when you can block, parry or counter? Is there an interaction between fighters or are you just shuffling forward / backward to get the enemy in range.

Street Fighter 2 on the SNES was the last one I played. I would turtle, waiting for an enemy to advance within range or find a move that worked for me and anything outside of that was just random flailing of my fingers. I felt like I was leveraging a crutch move, rather than ever really getting better.

Help me understand. Please.

All of this makes me wonder why on earth I picked this game for my January Horizon's Broadening Project '09. I'm going to get creamed, and it's going to be awful. I'm really looking forward to it.

Irongut wrote:

Help me understand. Please.

Apparently you're supposed to ... uh... count frames or something. I guess you could do that while you duck and cover in the corner?

Irongut wrote:

I humbly don't understand how gamers hone skills in fighting games. Are there usually visual clues as to when you can block, parry or counter? Is there an interaction between fighters or are you just shuffling forward / backward to get the enemy in range.

I'm hardly the authority on this, but from what I understand it's a huge series of mindgames that rely on probability.

For example, if I'm up against a Guile and he's doing a low block, I know his immediate follow-up options are the Flash Kick or a Sonic Boom. Instead of walking up to him, or throwing a fireball, I might do a light Dragon Punch in the hopes that the player will spaz out and blow the charge he's built up (with a bonus payoff if he whiffs a Flash Kick, leaving him wide open).
Guile is supposed to be a very defensive player. He's built on backcharges and whatnot, so my goal when fighting him should be to stay out of his poke range, stay clear of his standing/sweep fierce kick and Bazooka Knee, etc etc. I should be pushing the player to take risky moves so I can counter accordingly.

That's the "know your enemy" part of it. The other component is controlling vertical/horizontal space (which is apparently the major foundation of 2d fighters). I have a habit of jumping in with a fierce punch/kick to close space -- it's a result of old habits and Marvel vs Capcom blandness -- which is just about the stupidest thing you can do in a fight against a human. I'm locked into the kick. My opponent can * block and punish me on landing if I'm not fast enough, *do a Dragon Punch move, * jump and kick ME out of the air if his moves have better range/attack priority, *do a standing fierce attack, etc etc. The reason why fireballs are spammed like nobody's business is because they're pretty effective at controlling a character's ability to progress. Poor players will just block them, leaving the attacker open to advance into throw range.

Wow. That was a lot of words on something I suck at. But anyway, the two concepts there are pretty much the building blocks. After that you get into tick-throws, move-buffering, wakeup attacks, invincible frames... it gets pretty damned detailed.

Oh, and Clemenstation? Frame counting is basically knowing the length of time/amount of animations an attack takes to go from beginning to end. For instance, Bison's Head Stomp is supposed to have a few frames of invincibility at startup. Time it right and you can push through someone's attack.

Thanks for that explanation. It gives me better insight into what's going on.

Word. I seem to recall seeing just that (the head stomp trumping other attacks). Nice synopsis.

Wow, after playing a few ranked matches online I felt like I needed a real arcade stick, stat. I felt completely retarded the few times I tried to pull off a fireball and had it turn into a flurry of light punches and spastic movement, while my enemies would tactically and without fail proceed to flawlessly kick my arse.

I still love the game though, but I'm thinking it's going to be a fun, little recreational title, er, for the time being. Or maybe I'm just too old to be good at fighting games anymore. I'm thinking it's a little of both

Swat wrote:

Wow, after playing a few ranked matches online I felt like I needed a real arcade stick, stat.

I just ordered an arcade stick the other day and of course the next day my 360 red rings.

Falcon's more reliable my ass.

What stick did you get Sinatar?

Horii EX2.

Nothing fancy, but it was within my price range and was only the only ones I could find that I could get shipped to Canada.

I ordered the Horii EX2 and returned it after a week. Maybe I've gotten used to console controllers and crosspads but I wasn't able to get moves out nearly as fluidly with the EX2. I gave it a full week of playing HD Remix with it but I just couldn't even pull of fireballs reliably. Even gave it to my brother-in-law, who's a a pretty hardcore SF2 player and he couldn't really use it well. Maybe I got a defective unit or something, but I'm going to wait for the SFIV stick.

Speaking of SFIV, just saw the new 1Up show footage of SFIV. I'm pretty psyched.

I play Street Fighter 4 and its really edited old stages with new graphics and with some new characters.