Review: Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (Wii U eShop / SNES)

Work in progress or fighting masterpiece?

Street Fighter II hit arcades in 1991 but amazingly, by the time 1993 rolled around, players had already experienced three upgrades to the core game: Street Fighter II': Champion Edition, Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting and Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers. The last of those titles was arguably the most significant upgrade since the original, offering four entirely new fighters, improved visuals and rebalanced gameplay. Super Street Fighter II was ported to the SNES in 1994 (the same year that Super Street Fighter II Turbo hit arcades, but we'll get onto that later) and came on a whopping 32 megabit cartridge. Despite the enhancements listed on the packaging and the alluring promise of new characters to master, it wasn't the comprehensive improvement over Turbo that many had hoped for and at the time many felt that the Street Fighter craze was on the wane.

Super Street Fighter II is now available on the Wii U Virtual Console alongside the original game and Turbo, which might lead you to assume that it's the most obvious choice if you're looking to secure yourself some pugilistic action. In many ways, that's true; the introduction of four fresh faces means that there's more to the game, as you have a quartet of new techniques to master.

Cammy, Fei Long, Dee Jay and T. Hawk certainly add depth to the roster — depth that was badly needed back in 1993, when players had become tired of using the same characters over and over. Each fighter has their own stage as well, which lends the game even more visual variety; in addition to the four newcomers, the existing cast has also been slightly upgraded. Ryu now has a more powerful flaming red fireball which requires a half-circle motion to execute, while Ken's flaming Dragon Punch is more powerful than the one performed by his friend and rival. Not every character receives new skills — it's important to remember that some had already been granted new moves in Turbo — but on the whole everything feels slightly more balanced and refined this time around.

Although Super Street Fighter II lacks Super Combos — these would come in Super Street Fighter II Turbo — it does have a new scoring system which rewards you for landing the first blow, stringing together a series of hits or recovering from the onslaught of your opponent. Add to this additional game modes — such as Group Battle and Time Challenge — and you've got a package which is more diverse than its SNES-based forerunner.

There are areas where Super is noticeably lacking when compared to Turbo, however. Although the arcade version used Capcom's CPS-2 board and benefited from better visuals, the SNES port looks very much the same as Turbo — which means it looks great, but not quite as sharp and detailed as its coin-op parent. The sound is actually worse, with character voices coming across as muffled and indistinct, which makes landing those special moves less satisfying than it was previously.

Possibly the most irksome drawback is that Capcom has scaled-back the pace of the game following Turbo. It's not as slow as the original Street Fighter II but is nevertheless hard to stomach if you're used to the breakneck speed of the previous outing. This issue would be remedied with Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but that was sadly never ported to Nintendo's console — which is a shame, as it also introduced the aforementioned Super Combos, powered-up specials, air combos and the iconic character Akuma, and is perhaps the best iteration of Street Fighter II ever produced.

Conclusion

Despite the presence of four new fighters and some excellent gameplay modes, Super Street Fighter II doesn't manage to overshadow Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting. The faster speed of the previous title — tied with the better sound and a stronger nostalgic bond — will have many players avoiding this sequel altogether. Turbo was, for many, the game where Street Fighter II reached its peak; by the time Super came around the SNES was about to give way to 32-bit systems and the popularity of one-on-one fighters was starting to diminish. Of course, such historical footnotes don't make the game a failure, but they do explain why Super is held in slightly lower regard than Turbo among some SNES players. Of course, the other annoyance was the fact that Capcom quickly launched Super Street Fighter II Turbo in arcades, which is arguably the game most SNES owners would have preferred.

Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, Super is arguably one of the best fighters available for the SNES and is well worth investigation if you're keen to discover what the fuss is all about. The multiplayer modes are especially good, and it has a bigger selection of characters than both Street Fighter II and Street Fighter II' Turbo: Hyper Fighting. The reduction in speed is a real shame — and somewhat puzzling when you consider how well Capcom nailed it in Turbo — but it's still an exceptionally enjoyable brawler with plenty of depth, appealing visuals and excellent two-player potential. Whether or not you choose this over Turbo is a matter of personal preference; there are areas where one succeeds while the other slips. Regardless of your choice, you're unlikely to be disappointed.

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