IV's Championship Mode is mysteriously absent, but we're promised a new Tournament Mode as a free download in June.
The tiering has enjoyed a concertina effect, with the so-called weaker characters moving up the tier list and the established powerful characters remaining pretty much where they were. There is much enjoyment to be had from discovering what new toys Capcom has gifted your favourite character, and the developer deserves praise for improving the balance of what was already considered one of the best-balanced fighting games ever. As it was in IV, anyone can win with anyone if they're good enough.
Once concerns over the the rebalancing of your favourite character have been quelled, enthusiasts will no doubt check out the ten new characters who raise Super's roster to a gargantuan 35 (all, thankfully, unlocked from the start). The addition of Jamaican music lover Dee Jay and native American Indian T. Hawk mean all the fighters who made their debut in Super Street Fighter II are now playable in Super IV. The appearance of Ninja girl Ibuki, young tomboy Karate master Makoto and English pugilist Dudley will please Street Fighter III fans. And Guy, Cody and Adon join Sakura, Dan, Rose and Gen in the Alpha camp. They all play similarly to their previous incarnations, so Super II, III and Alpha vets will have no trouble picking up where they left off. Guy has an El Fuerte-like run, Cody can throw stones, Dudley has his rose attack from III, Ibuki has hardly any health, Makoto can KO you in the blink of an eye, and Adon... well.. Adon's just demented. But by virtue of Street Fighter IV's mechanics, some tried and trusted strategies are redundant. There's no parry system, for example, so Ibuki, Makoto and Dudley players will need to readjust.
The new characters taken from the Alpha and III games have more complex fighting systems than those taken from Super II. Take, for example, Makoto. Her Super, Tanden-Renki, only appears to turn Makoto red, and her Dragon Punch move, the Fukiage, appears at first glance useless. But Tanden-Renki significantly increases her damage output, and the EX Fukiage sets up her opponent for a juggle. She can cancel her dash punch (Hayate) into her Super, which again does no damage, but if you're quick enough, you can link in another attack. She can combo from her grab and choke command grab (Karakusa) into her first Ultra, the devastating Seichusen-Godanzuki, if you're fast. In the right hands Makoto can do an insane amount of damage very quickly. The same can be said of many of the new characters; they're hard to master, but the rewards are spectacular. Dudley's an exception, though. An ape could win with Dudley.
Not all of the ten new characters have been lifted from past Street Fighter games. Two are brand new. Juri, the first Korean to feature in a Street Fighter game, is all about the kicks. She's a quarter circle based character who has blistering speed, does decent damage, and has some interesting moves, like a counter, called Kasatushi (quarter circle back and punch) that quickly shifts her body to one of three positions dependant on the button used. Really, though, the counter is just a mix up in her incredible offensive rush down style. Her Senpusha (quarter circle back and kick) is a great multi-hit whirlwind kick style move. Shikusen (quarter circle back and kick in mid-air) is a brilliantly useful move that bounces her opponent off the wall and sets them up for easy extra hits. The EX version almost guarantees connecting with her second Ultra, Kaisen Dankairaku; her evil purple eye glows, she caresses her victim's face with her hand, then she breaks their spine with a kick. Snap.
Juri plays a bit like Sakura. Her health bar is almost non-existent, so playing defensively is a recipe for disaster. The timing on her basic combos, like jumping hard kick, crouching medium kick, Senpusha, is forgiving. Cancelling her Senpusha into her Super is equally easy. And she has almost Ryu-like juggling potential with her EX Shikusen. It's easy to see why Juri is producer Yoshinori Ono's favourite character.
Also making his Street Fighter debut is Hakan, a Turkish oil wrestler with red skin and silly hair. He looks like the love child of Hellboy and Wario, but plays like the love child of Zangief and Blanka. Like Zangief, he's all about the grapples. He's slow, has a low jump, but takes and dishes out loads of damage. His Spinning Piledriver motion command throw, the Oil Rocket, is brilliant. The same command with a kick does a delayable grapple called the Oil Dive. Best of all his specials is his Oil Slide; Hakan slides along the floor, hitting low, then, if you press a punch just before the point of impact, follows it up with a Body Press.
Oil is more than just an aesthetic touch. It's central to Hakan's mechanics. A Dragon Punch and kick input triggers the Oil Shower, which sees Hakan lift two bottles above his head, presumably kept within his greasy trousers, and pour oil all over his body. This changes the properties of his moves; he's faster, does more damage, and the range of his throws is extended. So, every free second you get, you need to do the Oil Shower, just to make Hakan viable.