It's rare to expect a treasure trove of releases to roll out on the day of a system launch, especially when you're taking into account a handheld platform like the Nintendo 3DS. No portable fighting game has ever come close to matching the time I unconditionally devote on my console, until now.
To call Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition a technical achievement would be modest; what Capcom has achieved is just downright awesome. Not only have all thirty-five characters been faithfully reproduced, but every grunt, combo and alternate costume remains faithfully intact. Even the bonus rounds, training mode, and achievements have crossed over (including a few new ones that are handheld-specific). The experience is exactly what you've come to expect from its console cousins: pick your beloved characters and eliminate your competition. The acclimation period is brief, if not almost nonexistent, thus making you feel right at home whether you're a diehard veteran or a newcomer playing Street Fighter for the very first time. Since the debut of Super Street Fighter IV, Capcom has bridged the gap between the elite and the novice.
This is definitely the best Nintendo 3DS launch title.
This is wholly in part to more lenient controls, which take things a bit further in the handheld edition. Players can choose between two configurations: Lite and Pro controls. Under the Lite setup, you can choose to map any special move, Ultra, combo, or sequence of buttons to one of the four quadrants on the resistive touch screen. It's convenient for those who find the execution challenging (or perhaps are just too lazy to dedicate some time for the acclimation period). With the Pro scheme, you're restricted to assigning basic button commands or simultaneous button inputs (i.e. all three punches or kicks).
Since I am old-school and have a sense of pride to uphold, it's Pro mode 24/7 for me. I realize that sounds a little pompous, but you have to understand that there are a lot of players in the same boat looking to enjoy the traditional experience. I realize many players won't be familiar with the cast and will opt for Lite scheme. Why? Convenience, fun, and accessibility. This raises a bit of controversy among some of the hardcore players, but let's face it, the definitive experience still rests at the arcade or playing on a console.
That brings me to what will be the greatest appeal of Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition: online multiplayer. In similar fashion to the Xbox/PS3 editions, all the lobby options are intact, with a few exceptions. Features like voice choice or text messaging obviously didn't make the cut due to the online infrastructure of the hardware. This actually can be a blessing in disguise, since online experiences tend to be associated with rude behavior and negative messages that reek of saltiness. You can however, set preset comments like "Nice to meet you!" and "I can't lose." You'll note that the online version of Versus Mode functions a lot like the console ranked system, awarding players with BP/PP (Battle Points/Player Points) for successfully winning matches - and, conversely, deducting those points if they're defeated. In a nod to the Player Match format, players have the option to rematch or change things up with the character select screen. And if you disgusted with the competition, the quit option is just one toggle away.
It's unfortunate that the translation for every other visual nook and cranny came at the expense of something most fans hold dearly: the backgrounds. Every stage has been reduced to a static backdrop where the only action you'll see moving on-screen exists between you and the opponent. Of course, you can make things a bit more interesting by adjusting the 3D filter, which is an awesome sight to behold, briefly. Since I tend to play for prolonged periods of time, the thought of my eyes being exposed to the 3D filter really worries me. However, the Dynamic Mode, which shifts the camera angle to an over-the-shoulder perspective, impresses me even less. On paper, the concept sounds very cool, but in execution, it comes across as awkward and disjointed. After I had demoed this to a few friends, we all lost interest and opted for the traditional angle.
The one feature that intrigues me the most is the figurine collection. It's one of the most innovative concepts to come along in a long time, encouraging players to actually get off their butts and be outside. No, there's a real purpose here. New additions to your collection are rewarded after wins in arcade, versus and online matches. You can also trade with other players via local wireless connections. There's also the StreetPass feature, a new concept introduced for Nintendo 3DS titles. In this mode, you can select five characters to participate in virtual battles with other users. Successful victories earn you FP (Figurine Points), very similar to the point system featured in Ranked. I can't help but think of Tron where we're the Users, while Ryu and company represent the "Programs" - since this all happens behind-the-scenes, automatically, with periodic alerts after every encounter. To get the full effect of this mode, make sure to socialize at the mall or something every so often.
Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition has undoubtedly set the bar for future handheld installments to come. Not only has Capcom succeeded in developing a solid handheld translation - despite the static backgrounds - this release also makes the franchise more accessible to a new audience of mainstream gamers. Perhaps after they've had a taste of the handheld, they'll be willing to step up the next level and engage players on the consoles. It would be even more exciting if this found a place in the Evo Championship lineup (these days, anything is possible). If you're screening for potential purchases, this is definitely the best Nintendo 3DS launch title and should be picked up without hesitation.