If Pilotwings is an attempt to capitalise on the not-inconsequential power of Nintendo nostalgia, then Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is an effusive comment on the power of the device itself. For every 3DS skeptic won over by the cosmetic depth of Wuhu Island, or by the lifelike fur of Nintendogs' virtual pets, ten more will be converted in the 2.96 seconds it takes Ryu to deliver an uppercut to Ken's fat, gloating chin. For a handheld port of a recent console title, SSFIV3D is surprisingly fully featured, and uncommonly robust.
From the brief anime openings that reveal why Zangief wants to punch everybody, to the brief anime endings that reveal why Zangief just punched everybody, this is practically identical to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game. You'll still hate cheap polymorph Seth by the end of it, and you'll more than likely still fight 300 variations of Ken every time you brawl online. In terms of content, little has been added, aside from a couple of gimmicky modes that take advantage of the 3DS' improved social features.
Download Play is the least dramatic of these, but it's likely to prove the most successful. If another console is around, SSFIV3D owners can transfer a demo version to compete against their sudden rival via local wireless. Players are limited to a single character, Ryu, and the training stage, but it's a great way to initiate a quick scrap with a nearby friend.
The game's much-touted StreetPass features, on the other hand, feel fairly inconsequential. Using points earned through regular play, you can purchase tiny figures of the 35 combatants, and form them into various teams. Pass by another player and your little guys will automatically have at it, the stat-determined winner acquiring yet more statuettes for their trouble. There's an element of randomness – figure types and levels are decided by the whim of a roulette wheel – but it's ultimately too lightweight a collection metagame to bother the likes of Pokémon. SSFIV3D is one of the few games thus far to take advantage of StreetPass; it's just a shame its implementation is so trivial.
Of more note are the four shortcut buttons that now dominate the 3DS' lower screen. In Lite mode, any Special, Super or Ultra move can be mapped here, and executed immediately with a convenient thumb tap. There's no getting around it: this makes Street Fighter considerably easier to play. In a way, it also breaks the balance of the game. Charged moves can now be pulled off immediately, overpowering certain characters (Guile, for example). Issues of heresy/accessibility aside, it's worth noting that Lite mode is entirely optional. Switch to Pro and you need to perform special moves manually. If you're not sold on the concept, think of Lite as a super-easy mode that benefits more casual players, and Pro as a concerted effort to address the drawbacks of brawling on a handheld system.
It's not just the obvious inability to connect an arcade stick, though that's likely to be a sticking point for some. The 3DS is a compact machine, with a dinky d-pad and tiny face buttons that make extended play a literally blistering prospect. Without the touch screen, and to a lesser extent the robust, malleable slide pad, SSFIV3D might be more difficult to recommend.
As it is, though, it's surprisingly easy. The 3DS' first fighting game happens to be a version of one of the genre’s best, and it's lost little in the conversion to a portable system. Token additions, such as the cute-but-unworkable Dynamic (3D) View, bulk out the package, but it's what's stayed the same that's the real triumph here. SSFIV is just as vibrant, fluid and confident as ever – and it's just been unshackled from your TV.