The presentation is there in spades, but I really must be missing something in terms of gameplay...
Hours upon hours later, I'm still left wondering where all that praise came from.
Before I start ranting, I do have to say that there are a couple aspects of the game that I appreciated. The presentation of the entire package is top notch, from the cheesy-in-a-good-way soundtrack to the over the top cartoony visuals. The game has plenty of style, and it really helps seperate SF4 from the legions of other fighters out there competing for your money. There's also a fair bit of content to unlock, from Title/Pictures to deck out your profile with, to unlockable characters and a solid ranking system.
But in all honesty, that's where my praise of the game ends. There were so many things that I found frustrating about the entire package that it made it absurdly difficult to keep me invested in the game. First off, it's very obvious from the get-go that this is far from a balanced fighting game. No matter where she showed up in the Arcade ladder, C. Viper was always the hardest fight. I kid you not, fighting her on Round 1 proved to be a much harder experience than the fights from Rounds 2-5 against other characters, and if she appeared near the end of the ladder, good luck beating her. I had multiple people play Arcade mode and they all complained of the same issue. I haven't played an Arcade mode this broken since the boss fights in Mortal Kombat or Tekken 6. The poor balance also carries over to multiplayer. Simply put, there are some characters who are just plain better than others while other characters are garbage. When I play a fighting game I like to be able to jump from character to character and have a fun, even match. SF4 encourages the use of 3-4 characters and laughs at you for trying the rest.
Second, let's talk the actual fighting system. From what I've seen, there are games that are loaded with billions of combos to learn (SC4, Dead or Alive 4, and Tekken 6), and there are games that limit you to smaller numbers of combos that require work to string together properly and master (Mortal Kombat, Guilty Gear/Blazblue). SF4 seems to be aspiring to the latter, and yet not only does the game have nearly no combos to speak of, but they're a pain to string together the way the game intends you to. Playing through the games "Challenge Mode" highlights this perfectly. The timing to complete some of these challenges are beyond infuriating, and more importantly, there's simply no way the average player is going to pull these moves off mid battle. Which probably explains why the online modes consist of people simply spamming Hadouken's and spasticly throwing out random kicks and punches. In summary, despite nearly every review I've read saying the contrary, the fighting system just isn't accessible to newcomers and casual fighting game fans in general. Heck, I found Guilty Gear an easier game to start with. And even if you can take the time to master it, it isn't a particularly deep system either. In the end, this ended up being the games' biggest Achilles heel for me, and every other aspect of the game suffers for it. From what I understand in some reviews, the game is easier if you've played Street Fighter 2 or 3 extensively beforehand (surprise surprise), which apparently most of the people who own this game have. I haven't, so perhaps these issues are just my inability to get accustomed to a new system of playing. Say what you will, but if I can do reasonably well at Guilty Gear, I don't think I should be struggling with a game like this unless there's something inherently flawed with the game itself.
I actually found that the more time I spent playing Street Fighter 4, the more things I found I disliked about it, or that made me think about what other, better fighting games I could be playing. If you're a casual fighting game fan looking for something fun to pick up and play that you just might consider delving deeper into over time, Soul Calibur 4, Dead or Alive 4 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl are far better choices. If you're a more hardcore player that's looking for a deeper, more complicated fighter, Guilty Gear and Blazblue are always there. If you're simply looking for the most content/longevity, Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur 4 can keep you occupied till the next era of console gaming. There simply isn't anything in this game that hasn't been done better and deeper by many other games on the market, and with the presentation being the only attention getter here, Street Fighter 4 just doesn't have the legs to compete.
However, as sales and the release of Super Street Fighter 4 and the Arcade edition seem to show, the game is selling copies left and right while the critics continue to laud the multiple re-releases of this game. But after playing SF4, not only do I have no interest in a "SUPER" new version of this game, I no longer have interest in the series as a whole. Simply put, SF4 is a game that people enjoy because of the nostalgia for previous games, but all the nostalgia and slick presentation in the world can't cover up poor balance and a shallow, lackluster fighting system. It's time this Fighter retire, or at least get to work on bringing out a new bag of tricks to step up his game next time around.
And honestly people, stop buying these "new" version of the game. All it shows is that the developer held back content from you the first time so they could sucker you in with 'bargain prices', and somehow it keeps selling, critics keep raving and they keep making Super/Ultimate versions (Marvel vs. Capcom is next I hear). Unless you want bad fighter games being re-released every couple of months like Call of Duty games, stay far, far away.
+Sick graphics and sound design
-Pretty much everything else