It's been two years since Capcom rejuvenated the Street Fighter series with Street Fighter IV, one of the best fighting games to be released this side of the 21st century. Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition--which comes as either a standalone package or as a downloadable update to existing versions of Super Street Fighter IV--is the latest iteration of the game, adding four new characters, tweaking the online experience, and introducing a raft of character balance changes. For Street Fighter IV fanatics and competitive online players, Arcade Edition is essential, because its additions make it the most complete and well-rounded version of what was already an excellent brawler. For everyone else, Arcade Edition's core-focused changes won't add too much to the experience you're already having with last year's Super Street Fighter IV, so it's a version you can safely skip with the knowledge that you're not missing out on too much.
With Super Street Fighter IV, Capcom made some significant changes to the original, adding in 10 new characters and selectable ultras, as well as overhauling the game's online features. Arcade Edition isn't as ambitious in scope, so the game feels and plays much like its predecessor. (Check out our full review of Super Street Fighter IV). The most apparent additions are the four new characters Arcade Edition brings, bringing the game's total roster up to 39 fighters. Street Fighter III veterans Yun and Yang skateboard and rollerblade their way back in (respectively), while Ryu gets a villainous makeover as Evil Ryu. The last new character slot is filled by Oni, an even nastier version of Akuma.
While Yun and Yang might superficially look and play similarly, the only thing they truly share is their similar rushdown style of offence. Both characters are effective for getting into an opponent's face and pressuring with fast strikes. For players not used to Yun and Yang's aggression, they can be tricky to fight against (particularly online, where the twins have become favorites). Evil Ryu plays like a mix of Ryu and Akuma, with additional moves like an Akuma-like teleport and a wicked axe-kick. Oni, on the other hand, is a mixture of Akuma and Gouken, sporting a ridiculous number of projectile attacks and easy combo potential. Both of the dark hado characters also pack a mean punch, dishing out high damage and making them dangerous characters in expert hands. The trade-off, however, is low health. In fact, all four of the new character's offensive strengths are balanced out by relatively less staying power, particularly Evil Ryu and Oni.
Because Evil Ryu and Oni are essentially souped-up versions of characters like Ken, Ryu, Sagat, and others, Yun and Yang are the most interesting additions to the roster. Those wanting to brush up their skills on the newcomers, however, might find the early going tough because none of the new characters have been incorporated into the game's Challenge mode. Challenge mode--a series of trials set for each character that effectively taught players different combos--was the best way to get to grips with an unfamiliar fighter in the previous incarnations of Street Fighter IV, given the paucity of other training options within the game. Without challenges for the four additions, you'll have to look elsewhere for advanced tips on how to improve your game.
As for the other 35 fighters on the roster, they've all experienced some changes as part of an overall tweaking of the game's balance. Some of the changes are quite noticeable (Akuma and Ryu's air hurricane kick, for example, has had its jump arc modified to make it tougher to run away with, while Guile's flash kick damage has been nerfed), while most have had subtler tweaks made to attack damage, recovery, hit boxes, or frame counts. The majority of these changes only really affect high-level play, and for casual or moderate players, their favorite characters will still handle much as they have previously, and the overall gameplay experience will feel very similar to Super Street Fighter IV.
Unlike vanilla Street Fighter IV and its Super incarnation, online play between Super Street Fighter IV and Arcade Edition is not mutually exclusive. In Arcade Edition, you can choose to either play other Arcade or Super players online, with the game letting you choose which version to look for (Super owners, however, won't be able to play you online if you're set to Arcade Edition). "Downgrading" to Super will also turn off the balancing that Arcade Edition introduces, which could be a handy fallback if you're not happy with how your favorite character has been changed. Online play is seamless, with only matches with players from the other side of the world experiencing any sort of lag.
Arcade Edition comes in two flavors--either as a download via the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live to upgrade an existing Super Street Fighter IV copy or as a budget-priced retail box that includes the entire game. For Super owners, Arcade Edition isn't a dramatic overhaul of the game, and its worth really depends on how competitive you want to stay when playing online. But for those who haven't picked up Street Fighter IV, the low price point of the boxed version of Arcade Edition makes it a great entry point into this outstanding fighting game. Street Fighter IV is a tight, fun, and competitive brawler with a healthy online community, and Arcade Edition is the most complete and comprehensive version of it yet.