The n00b's perspective
I had no idea of the huge following it's accrued over the years, and I couldn't understand the hype around it. So, I bought it yesterday to see what all the fuss what about having never dragon punched may way to victory, set someone on fire with blue flames or even imagined a green Brazilian monster.
I have to say, it's quite a game. It's completely different to all the other fighting games out there, it's simple (most characters only have around 10 combos, which when Tekken has pages and pages of combos to memorise, seems pedestrian in comparison), funny yet sophisticated, and hugely stylised (well, in this version any way).
My first venture was into the game's training mode, which is easily one of the best ways to get a simple grasp of your first hadouken, hurricane kick etc. but you really need to play against the AI at least before you can start to fight properly - believe me, when you play an actual fight, you won't have time to be decoding the near-gibberish command list for Blanka's ultra move (I had to google how to do it, I'm sorry but + PUNCH doesn't suffice, how the hell do I ?!)
You can then either brave the game's online mode with (I assume) people so good at the game it surpasses reason, with a few unfortunate n00bs like myself thrown in for their amusement, or you can try arcade, time attack or challenge mode to prepare you for the human-controlled opponents - challenge mode, though I haven't used it just yet, seems a good opportunity for n00bs to pick up some combos, as from what I've seen in an IGN Strategize video, what you do in that mode is perform attacks as prompted, an efficient way of learning to perform combos on demand.
While doing this, you can try to get some of the game's achievements, which all seem (to me at least) geared towards the veteran players, with achievements like "beat Arcade mode on the hardest difficulty" - yeah that'll happen, I can't even do medium yet.
Aside from these modes, Street Fighter doesn't offer much else, but if you're buying a fighting game, it's because you want to introduce someone's face to Chun-Li's foot as some kind of realistic explanation for the completely ridiculous size of her thighs, but hey maybe you're into that sort of thing.
Even though the game has difficulty issues, which are admittedly to with me rather than the game, the game's graphics are stunning (the focus attacks, and the black paintbrush-line effects they create are gritty but beautiful), I've grown to love the game's completely insane characters (it's super dynamic cooking time...), and this game is more balanced than any other fighting game I've ever played - when you lose, you don't want to throw the controller, it feels fair that you've lost, rather than the Dead Or Alive 4 boss which caused a special type of anger within me.
If you haven't played Street Fighter before, this is the best place to start, but be prepared to train up before you brave the online community, and for £30 at most places online, the game couldn't be better value.