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Games: ‘Street Fighter IV’ recaptures spirit of the original

Updating the classics can be tricky.

Lackluster sequels fill bargain bins around the world. However, some sequels take a good idea, tweak it and deliver gold. Luckily for fighting fans, "Street Fighter IV" falls into the latter category.

The new T-rated fighting game from Capcom keeps the game play and controls simple, while adding a few new moves and plenty of eye candy.

Fans of the popular "Street Fighter II" from the early 1990s will be happy to get reacquainted with lone wolf Ryu, agile Chun-Li, rubber-armed Dhalsim and others. But I’m sure they’ll also enjoy the new faces, such as masked wrestler El Fuerte and the really, really big Rufus.

Anyone familiar with the "Street Fighters" of yore should find the basic controls very familiar. And beginners should find them easy to learn.

Learning the controls is vital because simple button-mashing isn’t likely to launch many super combos or revenge-based ultra combos — which can be unleashed only after you’ve absorbed a bit of punishment from your foe. Although these moves are easy to activate, each character requires a different wiggle of the D-pad and press of a button. Luckily, these are outlined in the instructions and an on-screen control map.

The only real trick involves developing a sense of timing. And that’s easier to learn in "Street Fighter" than in some other games because you don’t have to wait for cinematics to run after you issue your command. You hit the button and BAM, you plant a foot in your opponent’s face.

The fighters still punch, kick, block, dodge and flip in a 2-D format, which helps keep the game simple and satisfying. However, the action unfolds in lush 3-D graphics.

The character renders and animations are excellent. My personal favorite is Rufus, whose blubber undulates as he hefts his immense bulk back and forth, up and down in a gravity-defying display of power. It’s weirdly awesome.

Rufus is just one clue that this game doesn’t take itself too seriously. Another is the sounds, which definitely lean toward retro.

The game offers a story-based arcade mode, head-to-head matches online and offline and a practice mode.

Battling a computer-controlled opponent can get very frustrating unless you’ve mastered the moves, or knocked the difficulty down to lowest levels. However, head-to-head competition is tremendously fun for players of comparable abilities.

"Street Fighter IV" doesn’t get too fancy. It’s simple, solid and fun.

Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 3
On the Web: www.streetfighter.com


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