Super Street Fighter IV is more Street Fighter IV. This is by no means a bad thing - the first game was a brilliant revival of a long-dormant franchise; it was the first punch of a one-two combo (along with Aksys' BlazBlue) that made 2009 a great year for the classic 2D fighter. Make no mistake: More of a good thing is still a good thing.
The basics are all there from SF4. You have your classic Street Fighter six-button attacks, you have the auto-guarding Focus Attacks that unleash a splattering trail of ink on the screen, and you have the devastating Super and Ultra combos that can turn the tide of battle in a pinch. Not much has changed as far as the basic underlying structure of gameplay is concerned - some moves have had their damage tweaked, some combos have been adjusted, and the whole thing has had another pass to correct glaring balance issues, but for the most part it plays the same as it did a year ago.
Perhaps the biggest change to the game's core mechanics is that every character in the game has had their arsenal grow slightly with the addition of a second Ultra attack that you have the option of choosing at the character select screen. In the grand scheme of things it's a fairly minor addition to the game, but it's a nice little way to customize your character if you prefer what one Ultra brings to the table over another.
The underlying engine and mechanics haven't changed much, but what has changed is the game's roster - and it's changed for the larger. Super Street Fighter IV's ten new challengers swell the cast to an impressive thirty-five fighters, one of the largest in a Street Fighter game to date. Two of the characters are completely brand-new: Vaguely psychotic Tae Kwon Do assassin Juri and oily Turkish wrestler Hakan are making their debut in this game. For the most part, they fit in well with the series, with Juri suiting people who like quick, mobile characters and Hakan a slower grappler.
The real treat in SSF4 is the return of so many fan-favorite characters from old games. If you loved playing as upper-class boxer Dudley or young ninja Ibuki in Street Fighter III, and felt that your game was inferior for not having Cody and Guy from Final Fight (and more importantly Street Fighter Alpha), then seeing them in full, 3D, current-generation glory is a real joy.
What nits there are to pick are minor in the grand scheme of things. The animated intros and endings to every character's Arcade story mode are still fairly low-grade and no attempt seems to have been made to match the mouth movements to the dubbing, whether in-game or out. The Training and Trials modes still teach you the button presses to execute some of the more advanced attack strings (even if they made the perplexing and unwelcome choice to have to go to another screen to see the button inputs for the move at hand), but don't tell you how or when to use them.
But the complaints are fairly minor, and pale in comparison to Super Street Fighter IV's strengths: It's Street Fighter IV, but better. With the additional characters new and old alike, it's a glorious celebration of the classic fighting franchise - and even if it hasn't changed much, it's changed enough to be clearly head and shoulders above its predecessor. If you didn't like the first SF4, you probably still won't like this game, but if you did like it, then there's a lot more here to love.
Bottom Line: It's Street Fighter IV, but better. On the plus side, pretty much all of the additions and changes were positive ones, and the huge new roster is a ton of fun to play around with. On the negative side, it hasn't changed enough to win you over if you didn't like the original, and one could argue that it simply hasn't changed enough to be worth a buy, period. Still, at only $40 it's a lot easier on your wallet than a full-fledged game.
Recommendation: If you liked Street Fighter IV, you will almost certainly love Super Street Fighter IV enough to find it worth $40. If you didn't like the first game, it won't win you over.
Super Street Fighter IV is available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This review was based on the PS3 version.
John Funk unfortunately realized that playing Dudley isn't like riding a bicycle. On the other hand, Ibuki came back to him pretty quickly.