Capcom's work with Guile is typical. Across the roster the Japanese company has resisted the temptation to nerf powerful characters (Sagat and Ryu), and instead tried to make established lower to mid tier characters more viable. The goal is to enable a concertina effect, where as many characters as possible are crunched together in the middle of the tiers. Hopefully, you get a roster so wonderfully balanced that every character can win against any other character, if he or she is in the right hands.
Hundreds of hours of hands-on time would be needed to eke out all of the tweaks Capcom's implemented, but we have noticed a few juicy morsels. Ryu's medium Dragon Punch, for example, now juggles. His hard Dragon Punch now hits twice. But it's the new Ultras that got us all excited. We spent hours going through all the characters, selecting the second Ultra before the beginning of each fight, and allowing each other the time and space to enjoy them. Some of the new Ultras are truly spectacular. Ryus's Metsu Shoryuken is a devastating three hit Dragon Punch akin to Gouken's meaty Ultra. But get this, as he performs it, the stage bleeds to white and the background music fades out, leaving only Ryu's imposing fist smacking his opponent's shaking chin. It's superb.
Elsewhere, Zangief's Siberian Blizzard is perhaps the most bone crunching of the new Ultras. It's a tricky air throw that asks you to perform two 360 motions and press all three kicks. It sees him spin insanely fast, break his opponent's limbs, then land in a reverse pile driver stance. Ouch. We won't spoil the rest. Seeing them for yourself free from spoilers is a joy I wouldn't deny you. For us, unravelling the beauty of each one was like opening presents on Christmas day.
So, what of the ten new characters? Well, we've already gone over Juri, T-Hawk, and Dee Jay in our last hands-on preview. Here, we'll concentrate on the final seven characters, which take Super Street Fighter IV's playable character roster up to 35 (all unlocked from the start). Three have been re-imagined from the Street Fighter Alpha series: Guy, Cody, and Adon; and three have been taken from the Street Fighter III series: Makoto, Ibuki, and Dudley. And, finally, there's a completely new character - Hakan, an oil wrestler from Turkey.
The III and Alpha characters work as they did - many of their established combos work here, although Street Fighter IV's slower speed does change things quite considerably, and the lack of a parry system will make redundant many mastered strategies. Jailbait Cody once again can pick up a knife and link quickfire stab attacks. Makoto is an interesting one – a complex fusion of her Hayate special move and crouching light kicks. Budding ninja girl Ibuki can, once again, chuck throwing knifes in mid air. Her tiny health bar, however, forces her on the offensive. English pugilist Dudley feels particularly powerful, and his crouching roundhouse launcher is undoubtedly one of the most devastating moves in the game (although he appears to have lost his rose attack). Guy is almost as useful - his target combos are devastating, and his Ultra is gorgeous. Adon, well, I don't really know anything about Adon. Like, at all.
As for Hakan, well, it's hard to know what to make of him. He's definitely the most bizarre character in the game, and one of the strangest in the illustrious series' history. Some have already dismissed him as a "joke" character, similar to Dan. But, like Dan, Hakan is actually quite useful, and an interesting proposition. He looks like the love child of Hellboy and Wario. He's got red skin, and, yes, that is his hair. He plays like a cross between Zangief and Blanka, with 360 motion command throws, and attacks that slide under projectiles. But what makes Hakan completely unique is the use of oil.