Of course Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is stupendously brilliant. It's yet another refinement of the Super Street Fighter II fighting engine, perhaps the greatest fighting engine ever created. In all honestly, Capcom could fart out a Street Fighter II game and we'd dive under the covers and take a big sniff. The question is, has the long, long wait been worth Backbone, Udon, OverClocked ReMix, producer David Sirlin and Capcom's time?
At first glance, the answer is a whole-hearted yes, and that's because the graphical upgrade is so striking, so shiny and crisp that you can't help but admire Udon's comic-book-style redrawn art. Anyone who's been paying attention to Capcom's drip-feed of assets will know what to expect - dark outlines, stark colours, beefy limbs, gorgeous backgrounds, revised, canon correct endings - Udon hasn't just given Super Street Fighter II Turbo an HD anime lick of paint, but chucked the whole pot on.
Cammie's England stage, with Northern Lights intact, is a highlight. Chun-Li's China stage, complete with chicken wringing bloke, stands out, and Sagat's Thailand stage looks like a work of art, but there are one or two missed opportunities. Fei Long's Hong Kong stage is as static as ever and Dhalsim's trumpeting elephants are quite possibly even more annoying than before.
As it should be though, the characters steal the HD show. Zangief's bulging biceps look brilliant, as do Guile's, and the bosses - Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison - are all upgraded for the better. HD Remix will leave no fan wanting in the graphics department. It's gorgeous, slick and, put simply, the best-looking Street Fighter game ever released on home consoles.
There were concerns that Udon's work would play havoc with the hit boxes that have stood the Street Fighter series in such good stead for 17 years. Well it hasn't. HD Remix, essentially, plays just like SSF2T did back in the day. Everything works just the way it should - the pace, the feel, the incredible control and perfect collision detection - it's all there, confidently in place even after all this time. If you're one of those lapsed Street Fighter players who hammered the SNES and Mega Drive d-pads till their thumbs bled back in the mid 90s, then, like riding a bike, everything will come flooding back to you in a wave of d-pad nostalgia.
First it's quarter-circle forward fireballs, or charge back then forward projectiles. Then, without knowing it, it's Dragon Punches, and Flash Kicks, and even three hit combos. And then somehow you're stringing six, seven, eight hit combos and finishing opponents with Supers before you can say Hadouken.
If you find yourself pulling off moves that, back in the day, you struggled with, it's for a good reason: Sirlin's rebalanced every character, tweaking this and that, righting a few wrongs (or, if you read internet forums, wronging a few rights) and, generally, making the more complex moves a lot easier to pull off. For example, Guile's Super is now charge down back, then down, down forward, forward, up forward and a single kick. In the original Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Guile's super was charge down back, down forward, up back or charge down back, down forward, down back and any up, and because of that complexity, was hardly ever used.
You'll find almost every character's more difficult moves have been tweaked so that they're slightly easier to do. Ryu's Super is now two fireballs and a single punch. Even Zangief's classic health bar destroying Spinning Piledriver, what was a 270 degree spin and a punch, is now half circle back, forward and punch or half circle forward, back and punch.
Sirlin's design philosophy is this: Street Fighter II should be more about anticipation, quick reflexes and good decision making than being able to input incredibly complex commands on demand. While this is certainly an admirable ideal, and, actually, a reality since HD Remix does level the playing field somewhat (experts can perform special moves at will anyway), it's still a relatively hardcore fighting game that's unlikely to attract anyone who hasn't dabbled in Street Fighter II before. This is no Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe.