Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition Version 2012 is the fourth version of Street Fighter 4 in as many years. It has no new characters, and the developer’s notes read like a foreign language even to other gamers. But even as newer titles arrive, SF4 remains one of the most popular series in the fighting-game community. The graphics may have stayed the same over the years, but each update has changed the fortunes of 39 characters and the players who pour hours into making them great. Read on to see how SF4 became what it is today from the perspective of the World Warriors who appeared in it.
Street Fighter 4
The first Street Fighter 4 premiered in arcades in 2008. After almost a decade of ignoring the genre, publisher Capcom and co-developer Dimps decided to keep the basics close to the franchise's greatest success, Street Fighter 2. They used that game’s cast along with four brand-new characters and demon warrior Akuma to create SF4's roster. The game introduced two new mechanics to the franchise: the powerful Ultra Combo that the player gained by taking damage and the Focus Attack, which will absorb one hit of most moves.
It's best to start with Ryu, as both beginners and experts favor him because of his fundamental tools that help him handle any situation. The lone traveler benefited from an easy-to-connect Ultra Combo and the ability to make his powerful Shoryuken safe using a Focus Cancel. If he uppercuts his enemy, he can stop the move with a Focus Attack, rush forward and keep attacking. If the opponent blocks, then he can dash back to safety.
The Muay Thai king had many of the benefits Ryu had along with terrific fireballs, amazing damage, and high health. Sagat placed at the top of high-level players' character rankings or “tier lists” and was dominant at Japanese arcades, where the nation’s best trained. Many players say, however, he wasn’t as overpowering as previous “top tiers” in the series.
Still, Sagat posed problems for other fighters. Chun-Li could handle him at close range with her superior normal attacks, but she couldn’t match the comeback potential his Tiger Destruction Ultra gave him. The First Lady of Fighting Games can dominate most of the round only to lose because of one mistake.
Other contestants like Vega had a rougher time. As one of the worst fighters in the game, the Spaniard relied on stabbing foes one strike at a time, had poor mixups, and didn’t have a reliable reversal move like the Shoryuken. A strong reversal can’t replace good blocking skills, but it makes people more wary of pressing their advantage.
Vega also had another problem: Zangief. The Russian grappler terrorized weaker foes with his nasty Double Lariat and life-crushing Ultimate Atomic Buster. Zangief was a strong force, but lost badly to Sagat. But towards the end of Street Fighter 4’s lifetime, Sagat did have someone to fear.
As a "glass cannon," Akuma has ton of great moves but little health. His Demon Flip special move had several variations that allowed him to create a never-ending “vortex” of guessing games, and later people found an effective combo loop involving his long-reaching Heavy Kick. Some theorized that Akuma was the only one who had an even or advantage match-up over Sagat.
But Street Fighter 4 wasn’t all about projectiles and uppercuts. Balrog plowed through the competition with his beastly jab, great normal attacks, and his ability to deal with fireballs using Turn Punch and EX moves that powered up a special at the cost of some super meter.
The pudgy Rufus was also a standout from the four new characters. He had trouble against fireballs, but his divekick let him quickly get in and pressure foes. His Space Opera Symphony Ultra could also combo off a variety of situations. Rufus, Ryu, and Balrog remained contenders throughout the series.
Following behind him is C. Viper, an example of how tier lists change over time. She was originally thought as one of the weaker combatants, but as time went on, dedicated players learned her powerful mix ups. The spy grew in prominence as more people attained the execution needed to master her unorthodox play style.
The original arcade version only had 17 characters, but the console release added a group of favorites from Super Street Fighter 2 and Street Fighter Alpha and made bosses Seth and Gouken playable. Fans enjoyed seeing their favorites, but they were rarely seen in high-level play. They weren’t bad – Gouken dealt brutal damage and had an effective fireball game – but they lacked the little things that top warriors had.
Next Page: Street Fighter 4 gets a major upgrade that gives fans different Ultras and new challengers.
Super Street Fighter 4
Street Fighter 4 became a great success, and Capcom released a console-exclusive sequel the next year with 10 new characters and balance changes to the whole cast. Meanwhile, the rise of Internet streaming groups like Team Spooky meant that you could watch high-level matches complete with commentary several times a week.
The most obvious addition to Super Street Fighter 4 is new Ultra Combos for everyone. While some like Ryu had finishers that were inferior to the original, others like M. Bison got weapons that helped out in specific matchups. For example, the Shadaloo dictator can use his new Psycho Punisher to squash fireball throwers.
The next major change was an across-the-board damage nerf. Most Ultras took less life, as did certain moves like Sagat’s Tiger Uppercut and Rufus's EX Messiah Kick. While E. Honda got some improvements, the heavyweight became one of SSF4’s best largely because his worst matchups became easier.
Less-fortunate competitors also got improvements. Guile was one of “vanilla” SF4’s worst, and not only did Capcom address his weaknesses, but it also shortened the time needed to charge his Sonic Boom. Guile became a defensive menace who could frustrate and outlast most of the roster.
Not everyone was happy. Gen made some noise with his “MK to Hands” combos and an invincible EX Oga wall jump that helped him on defense, but Capcom decided to take away those tactics without giving him much in return. Balance is a tricky thing: Taking away a strong tool from an underused fighter may keep it from becoming an issue later, but it isn’t going to please character loyalists.
A new game also means new characters, including the oil wrestler Hakan and the evil taekwondo expert Juri. These warriors had unique play styles that haven't been seen in the series before. For example, Juri could hold onto her fireballs and release them later, letting her ward off incoming foes, extend attack strings, or terrorize them in the corner.
The rest of the additions came from previous titles. First up were the last of the Super Street Fighter 2 “New Challengers”: Dee Jay and T. Hawk. The Jamaican kickboxer was a well-rounded, charge-based competitor who was decent even though Guile overshadowed him.
Before launch, enthusiasts pegged Street Fighter 3 boxer Dudley and Final Fight criminal Cody to be the new top tier because they had the versatile Ultras that SF4’s best had as well as answers to fireballs. They ended up being easy fights, however, for the likes of Chun-Li and M. Bison, who became better now that Ultra-Combo comebacks weren't as dominant. Then again, everyone in SSF4 had a few bad matchups.
“Average” could be used to describe a lot of SSF4’s additions, many of whom were meant to inject more dynamic play into the game. Guy runs a fast-paced offense that works great when you have momentum, but getting it is a problem. Even then, however, SSF4 was very well balanced, and you could play as most of the cast and win if you practiced enough.
The most memorable tournament match in SSF4’s lifetime involved someone with little hype surrounding him: Adon. In Evolution 2010, the largest fighting-game event in the world, Taiwanese player Gamerbee eliminated Justin Wong, who many considered the United States' best player. Gamerbee used Adon’s pressuring Jaguar Kicks and unusual quirks to edge out Wong’s Rufus.
Next Page: Street Fighter returns to arcades with new friends that players will get to know very, very well.
Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition
Most people had a lot to like about SSF4, but Japanese arcades were still playing the 17-character original. To address this, Capcom released Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition to those amusement centers and later home consoles, which added SF3 legends Yun and Yang and tweaked the roster even further.
Then the developers thought: Nobody likes overpowered competitors, but wouldn’t matches be more interesting if the game had a villain to rally against?
It’s impossible to talk about Arcade Edition without discussing Yun. The kung-fu teenager is a machine designed to whittle down the other player’s lifebar as efficiently as possible. Once inside, he had a plethora of ways to break defenses until he could activate his signature attack: The deadly custom-combo super Genei-Jin. His twin Yang was also dangerous, but didn’t have Yun’s pure offense.
Unlike previous new characters, the twins were obviously powerful and had advantages that others lacked. For example, previously Abel fought with frustrating mix-ups, but he had ho-hum reach, lousy defense, and suffered damage nerfs in this update. In contrast, Yun’s Nishokyaku dragon kick is a difficult-to-punish reversal, and he could approach easily with his Zesshou Hohou lunge punch and dive kick.
Not that Yun and Yang were the only top tiers in the game. By not suffering many nerfs and getting buffs in small-but-important areas, Fei-Long grew from average in SF4 to amazing in Arcade Edition. The Bruce Lee tribute could use his Rekkaken punches to bully opponents, especially in the corner where he could punish escape attempts.
Players searched for warriors who could challenge the top tier. Grapplers like T. Hawk and Zangief forced the low-health twins to think before they attacked, while Sagat rose in prominence again. Unfortunately, it’s tough to tell if they really had an edge: Yun player Kazunoko once posted a match-up chart in which the only person who didn’t have a disadvantage against him was another Yun.
Tier lists began to gravitate towards fighters like C. Viper and Makoto who could quickly stun opponents and never give them a change to fight back. Makoto disappointed many fans in SSF4, but here she feels more like the karate monster she was in Street Fighter 3: Third Strike.
The most-telling example of Arcade Edition’s balance comes from an exhibition at Norcal Regions 2011 between Street Fighter grandmaster Daigo Umehara and Dhalsim expert Filipino Champ. In the beginning Daigo used his famed Ryu, and the two fought on even ground. In this video, Daigo switched to Yun and easily smothered the yoga master. The only round Champ won was when he connected both a Super Combo and an Ultra Combo.
Outside of dealing with the top-tier terrors, a lot of the roster benefited from Arcade Edition, where Capcom improved so-so characters and weakened abusive tactics. Teenage ninja Ibuki received new Target Combos and other changes to improve her core game at the cost of her kunai projectiles becoming less effective.
While Ken has a strong close-range offense and Shoryuken-happy online warriors love him, most experienced players preferred Ryu. His Hadoken was better than Ken's in terms of speed and recovery time, and Ryu had to take fewer risks overall due to small differences between the two's moves. That perception changed in this version. Ken gained little tools that he lacked, such as the ability to combo into his sweep kick, while his rival had a key attack nerfed in his Crouching Medium Kick.
The final boss of Street Fighter 4 lost his stretching Jump Heavy Punch, which Zangief and others could do nothing against. In return, he got a boost to his laughably low health and tweaks to make him more aggressive. One of Evolution 2011’s biggest moments was when Korean player Poongko used his fearless Seth to squash Daigo’s Yun.
Later on, Capcom added Evil Ryu and Oni, though neither made the splash that the twins did. While Oni is based on Shin Akuma from previous games, he’s been changed drastically enough to be considered a brand-new character. His fireballs and Shoryuken are finicky, but in return he gets forbidden Marvel Vs. Capcom-esque techniques like the cross-up Demon Slash and a pseudo air dash. Oni and Evil Ryu disappointed fans who wanted more old favorites to return, but since I'm guaranteed to face them when I play online I'm sure the developers knew what they were doing.
People’s dissatisfaction with the top tier was clear. Still, one of my favorite moments when I went to CEO 2011 was seeing SeeDogPoo’s El Fuerte almost defeat Marn’s Yun. Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch the high-risk luchadore take on Goliath, even those who were playing their own matches. Did Capcom theoretically have the right idea?
Next page: Capcom makes amends in what could be the final update in the series.
Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition Version 2012
Now players are combing their way through Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition Version 2012, a free patch that came out in both arcades and consoles. Previous SF4 games have been criticized for rewarding safe defenses over aggressive play, while Arcade Edition tilted the balance too much towards offense. Version 2012 will hopefully create a better harmony between the two approaches.
The nails that stick out are the first for Capcom to hammer down. Yang received a laundry list of damage reductions, smaller hitboxes on certain moves, and the removal of a post-knockdown invincibility glitch. His brother received a similar treatment, though they will likely remain threats.
On the other hand, Evil Ryu and Oni benefit from additional tweaks. More than just Ryu with some of Akuma’s moves, Evil Ryu had damaging combos and a useful Wheel Kick special but wasn’t scary enough to warrant having very low vitality. The fallen hero gets a slight health boost and attack buffs like the ability to cancel his hop kick into a Hurricane Kick.
Some buffs amount to giving World Warriors like Ryu, Rose, Balrog, and Guile back things they shouldn’t have lost in the first place. Most agreed that in SSF4 Rose’s Soul Satellite Ultra worked too well as a risk-free escape move. Arcade Edition nerfed it, but also weakened other moves and added horrible fights against the twins on top of it. Version 2012 made Soul Satellite a bit better and undid nerfs dating back to the original Street Fighter 4 – not that I’m complaining.
This may also be the end of a journey for characters like Blanka and Gouken, who Capcom has spent years tinkering with. The beast man received a number of good and bad tweaks over the years, and now he can combo his Lightning Cannonball Ultra off his overhead attack. Overheads will hit people who block while crouching, which otherwise guards against any ground attack, and connecting with one of the strongest moves in the game afterwards will make people wary of being too defensive.
Another is Hakan. The Turkish wrestler is great when his attacks are powered up with Oil Shower, but had trouble getting and staying oiled up. Arcade Edition made the oil effect longer and easier to maintain, and now in Version 2012, he’ll start the match greased up.
While everyone is happy to see their favorites get improved, inevitably people will argue who will be the best in this version. Sakura was bad in Street Fighter 4, but over the years she got boost after boost so that she has something to back up her safe, stun-happy offense. The schoolgirl started to turn heads in Arcade Edition, and now may be her time.
Before Arcade Edition, Cammy revolved around using her Cannon Strike dive kick low to the ground to counter mashing and throw attempts. Capcom increased the height she had to jump before she could use regular Cannon Strikes, forcing her to use the EX version to sting her foes. The developers improved her normal attacks, however, to compensate her for the loss. With the twins influencing the balance less, players now see that the British agent is as strong as ever.
Cody was popular in his SSF4 debut and hit like someone stole his girlfriend, but he had plenty of room for improvement. He gained more traction as he got better normal attacks to catch people who try to mash their way out of his offense, and Version 2012 grants him improvements to underused attacks like his knife weapon and Bad Spray.
Could it be Dan? Don’t sleep on him: Even in the first SF4 Dan was still better than he had ever been before. Don't underestimate anyone!
In the end, people don’t want their character to dominate the competition. They just want to have an honest shot at winning with someone they like. Hopefully Version 2012 will give them that chance.