The demo of Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition was one I couldn't get enough of, and was a standout title in the 3DS launch lineup. If you bought a 3DS, chances are you bought SSFIV3D. But if you're actually on the fence for some reason, maybe my review will help you decide.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition is a pretty faithful port of the console version, although naturally when bringing a console title to a handheld, certain concessions must be made. But they're really minor, and Capcom added a few features as well. You can still choose from 35 fighters and fight on 22 stages. There's an arcade mode where you work your way through various opponents (plus optional old-school car-wrecking and barrel-smashing bonus stages) before facing off against your rival and then the final boss. Then there's two separate versus modes. In both, you set the characters, handicaps and other settings for the bout, but one is in the traditional side-view and the other is in the new dynamic view. You can also play arcade mode in the dynamic view as well, which puts the camera slightly behind your character in order to enhance the 3D effects. From the side, the depth is a bit shallow, but in dynamic mode, it looks great. Especially when certain throws and special moves are used that see characters thrown right at you!
The graphics are seriously impressive, and if this is a launch title, we can only expect things to get better from here. Yes, the backgrounds are now static, but what did you expect on a handheld? The character models are more than detailed enough to make up for it. In fact, the only thing that bothered me was that on some stages, in dynamic view, they don't shift the angle of the background characters, so you can tell they're just flat cut-outs. All the fighters are well-animated, and movement is smooth. Music is good, and the voice acting... well, it doesn't suck. Mostly. There's 2D anime cutscenes in arcade mode to introduce the character and their "story" and then one to wrap it up. They're very limited with the animation, though. I much preferred the in-game model introduction scenes, and not just because they were in 3D. Actually, it's worth noting how unfortunate it is that the title sequence is also 2D. Shame, considering how dynamic the animation is.
The controls are right up my alley. Yes, you can use the analog nub or D-pad to move around and the buttons to punch and kick, but the touch screen also contains four large buttons to activate special moves and combos. As someone who isn't as adept at fighting games as most, and often has trouble pulling off the special moves, being able to tap one of the four touch screen buttons with my thumb and perform an impressive flurry of punches or kicks was very, very welcome. Of course, if you're a purist, you can shut this off and use only the button combinations to show off your skills. Or you can also customize the touch screen to use the exact combos you prefer. And when playing online, you can choose to only play against people who are using the touch screen in the same way you are. That way you don't get spammed by someone using the pre-set combos while you're trying to pull off the button presses.
As far as online play, it's surprisingly easy to take the 3DS online, set up a lobby and fight someone. When I would enter lobbies, it wouldn't let me fight anyone in them, but if I created my own, someone would very quickly enter and off we'd go. I experienced no real noticeable lag when fighting, and could only blame my constant losses on my own lack of SSFIV skills as opposed to technical difficulties. Random battles contain no real communication, so there's no need to exchange friend codes or anything. Just go online and start a fight. If you do want to fight one of your friends, and you've already exchanged codes, you can open a lobby and invite them to fight, but that seemed to take a lot longer. Not sure whose fault that was, but it did eventually work.
There's also local multiplayer, and you can share a limited demo of the game to play with someone who doesn't have a copy through the 3DS Download Play feature. But SSFIV3D's most unique addition is in the Street Pass mode. Playing the game earns you Fighter Points, which can be used in a virtual slot machine where a press of the button earns you a figurine of one of the game's characters. Each figurine has different levels and stats, and are collected randomly. You then select six figurines and set them as your team. When your 3DS connects briefly with another one, the handheld's Street Pass feature exchanges the data for the teams. So the next time you play SSFIV3D, you can check and see how the battle went down. It's actually kind of cute, with the little figurines smashing up against each other until one is knocked off-screen. If you emerge victorious, you earn more points to buy more figurines. You can also trade figurines with friends as you try to collect them all.
I sort of miss unlocking new characters or stages as you play through the game. Earning new icons and titles isn't really enough of a draw for me to play with every single of the 35 characters. Especially since I usually lean towards Fei Long in his alternate hot pants costume (if you make them white, it's like he's fighting in his undies!). But there's still a lot of variety, and the online play and figurines offer quite a bit of replayability. SSFIV3D really is one of the 3DS's strongest launch titles, but I think it would've been just as strong even if it had released months later.
The reviewer played a copy provided by Nintendo and completed arcade mode with a half-dozen characters, sampled versus mode, and humiliatingly lost a handful of online matches with friends and strangers. On the other hand, he was much more successful with the figurine mode!