Adding a third dimension to a popular 2-D classic doesn't always work, and a "Street Fighter" instalment just wouldn't be worthy of the moniker without a character on the left trying to pummel a character on the right.
So Capcom chose to give Ryu and his cohorts 3-D makeovers while maintaining the side-to-side battles in "Street Fighter IV" ( Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3), a game that brilliantly strikes a balance between rich graphics and good old fashioned button-tapping cathartic fun.
If you burned through rolls of quarters back in the '90s playing "Street Fighter II," you'll feel right at home with "Street Fighter IV."
The series' strength has always been its accessibility, and the latest instalment is no different.
New players can at least get in the action and score some blows by aimlessly mashing individual buttons, but a mastery of blocks, focus attacks, supercombos and special moves will ensure your fighter is left showboating over your opponent's beaten body.
In an era in which video game players too often have to yield control to scripted cut scenes, "Street Fighter IV" boasts responsive controls that never take the player out of the game.
For instance, players can charge focus attacks by simultaneously holding down the medium punch and medium kick buttons. The longer you hold the buttons, the stronger the attack, but the charging process can telegraph your plans.
A quick forward or backward dash cancels the attack, which could leave your opponent second-guessing your intentions the next time.
Another new feature, the revenge gauge, provides some comeback hope for down-on-their-luck fighters. The meter inches up each time your character absorbs a blow, and once it's at least half-full, a character-specific button combo initiates an ultra combo attack to inflict maximum damage.
The game offers 16 characters out of the box, including a dozen from "Street Fighter II" and four new faces: El Fuerte, a Mexican wrestler with a passion for cooking; Crimson Viper, a businesslike female agent; Abel, an amnesiac lost soul; and Rufus, a portly kung fu fighter whose gelatinous animations would not have been possible in the 2-D days.
Nine additional characters can be unlocked through single-player mode.
Online matches are just as fluid as local play, providing the Internet connections of you and your opponent are relatively decent.
An arcade mode setting allows you to play locally while waiting for an online opponent, but it can be annoying to have a rubber-game battle interrupted by a promised matchup that never materializes.
The game offers a training mode, but it could be a bit more intuitive. Instead of offering a tutorial that begins with simple attacks and progresses up to advanced moves, fighters must pull up an options menu to adjust settings such as counters, blocks and stances.
Simple yet stunning, "Street Fighter IV" resurrects a genre that deserves a place on today's modern consoles.
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