With 3DS looming ever larger, Capcom's Yoshi Ono details reasoning behind touch controls and features in the machine's most anticipated "launch period" title.
You can always rely on Yoshinori Ono to provide entertainment at an otherwise dry and deathly boring press conference. At Capcom's Tokyo Game Show address, he spent a substantial portion of the time heckling Keiji Inafune. I bet that’s secretly why he left.
Ono was the highlight of the 3DS presentations in Amsterdam at the end of January, and his game is one of the only truly exciting titles in the enduringly vague launch line-up. Granted, it’s a game we’ve all played before, but the prospect of a full-blooded, online-enabled beat-‘em-up on a handheld – especially a Nintendo handheld – is still enough to raise eyebrows.
The producer went into greater detail about the multiplayer, DS Download Play, StreetPass functionality and the thinking behind adding touchscreen combo shortcuts at a separate presentation later in the day, after we’d had a chance to actually play the game and see the dynamic 3D viewpoint for ourselves.
It's been said that a console can never be taken seriously in Japan without a Street Fighter game, so SSIV3D’s presence in the launch line-up will be an encouraging one for Nintendo. It’s impressive how little trimming Capcom has needed to do to fit it onto the console – the major tragedies of the conversion are the dynamic stage backgrounds, which are now static (though still gorgeous). The overall art style has barely suffered at all.
In every significant way, it’s is the same game that it’s always been. The roster of 35 characters hasn’t been pared down for the handheld (they all have three costumes each included, by the way), and nor has the selection of game modes.
“All the game modes that you’re familiar with if you know the Street Fighter series will be available in the palm of your hand on 3DS, so please assume that everything you’re used to is included,” Ono says.
It’s reassuring to know that SSIV3D has everything that the other console versions do – aside from moving backgrounds, which is a minor shame – but what does it have that we aren’t already familiar with? There’s a new over-the-shoulder viewpoint called Dynamic Mode, designed to show off the 3D effect, but trying to play a 2D fighting game in such an unfamiliar way is a total headfuck. I’m much more comfortable in the side-on Classic Mode, where the 3D is a nice but non-essential aesthetic touch.
There are also Super shortcuts mapped to the touchscreen, letting you unleash a combo with a single touch rather than a complex series of thumbstick moves and button presses. But the circle pad is, rather surprisingly, good enough to accommodate the precise quarter-circle movements that you need to pull them off the old-fashioned way, if you like.
The touch-screen shortcuts aren't there because the 3DS isn’t capable, they’re there to make things easier for more casual players.
“If you remember Super Street Fighter for the Super Nintendo, there were a bunch of old guys who’d get sore thumbs trying to pull off the Supers,” jokes Ono. “That’s the kind of guy we’re trying to help with the touchscreen controls.”
It’s not mandatory, though – you can turn off the touchscreen shortcuts whenever you like. Just like the Dynamic Mode viewpoint, it isn’t forced upon you. “For online versus battles, you can choose to only play against people playing in Pro mode, without the touchscreen,” Ono explains.
The inclusion of online and offline multiplayer isn’t exactly a revolution for fighting games, obviously, but it is for a handheld one. The idea is that it should be as easy as possible to find someone to play against: Friend Code faffing and menu screens are kept to an absolute minimum, says Ono.
"For online versus battles, you can choose to only play against people playing in Pro mode, without the touchscreen"
“In online versus battles, you will not have to worry about going through a complicated selection mode or screen to find a suitable partner. The game will find one for you on the Internet – it will be seamless. Online versus battles will be global, so you’ll be playing against the strongest fighters from Japan and America.”
This was tested with an online match between Nintendo Europe and Capcom Japan, he says – unsurprisingly, Capcom Japan won. Local wireless play is a similar setup to Pokemon – it’s easy to play with people who are near you. There’s also integrated DS Download play so that you can fight with people who don’t have a copy of the game, albeit with only one fighter and one stage. “There’s a technical limitation to how much data we can provide via download play,” says Ono, asked why the selection is so restrictive. “If you want to play Chun Li, you’ll have to buy the game!”
Ono hopes that Download Play will convince players holding themselves back from a purchase (possibly because 3DS games are going to be FORTY POUNDS.) “When we created this feature, we had in mind that we wanted a lot of people to play – this will let plenty of people give it a try. And I think once people try it, they’ll buy it.”
“We’ve put a lot of effort into StreetPass"
SSIV3D also takes advantage of the 3DS’s always-on connectivity option, StreetPass (which still sounds to me like something the government might give you when you retire), with a trophy-collection minigame. “We’ve put a lot of effort into StreetPass – it’s a worthwhile feature,” claims Ono.
“You just select a good combination of figurines, set them, and more or less automatically you’ll be battling against other people.”
He added: “What I didn’t mention earlier today is that you can exchange, trade and download these figurines with each other – it’ll be something to enjoy for a long time.”
It reminds me a little of the Super Smash Bros trophies, except they’re tradeable. This kind of passive connectivity could be an effective way of keeping the cartridges firmly lodged in slots, so to speak.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition has no problem making itself at home on Nintendo’s new console, but it’s indicative of a mildly troubling trend for 3DS launch titles. With the exception of Kid Icarus, many of the most impressive games to be released in the 3DS launch period are ones that we’ve seen and played before. I’d wager that it’ll be E3 time before we see some genuinely new ideas.