I've been in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition's training room for about an hour, but I reckon I've learned enough for a montage. A montage of me making coffee and filling in Post-it notes with guides to Guy's advanced moves. I'm going to break a man's will with this eight-hit combo.
Street Fighter IV is an unusual prospect for us PC gamers, but that doesn't make it any less brilliant. SSFIV: Arcade Edition is widely regarded as the best fighting game on the planet; thanks to the PC's power, we get the best version of it.
Hubris. My online opponent, playing as Abel, has sensed my eagerness and blocked the opener to the combo – two jumping kicks – effortlessly. I mutter something offensive under my breath and try for a third time. I'm plucked from the air with an outstretched arm, whipped over a shoulder, and smashed into the ground. It's a humiliatingly well-timed move – the kind of timing you develop when someone tries the same thing three times in a row. Time to reassess.
This is the 'Super' 'Arcade Edition': the silly extra words in the title represent a decent amount of tweaks, including 14 extra fighters since 2009's SFIV. Granted, that roster includes Yun and Yang, who enter battles on humiliatingly hip roller blades and skateboards, but they are the most requested fighters since their SF3 debut. It seems Capcom are only restricted by their imagination and their vocal fanbase. Elite players will also appreciate the balance tweaks and online modes that make Arcade Edition the most fully-featured fighting game ever.
This is a serious e-sport, and comes with an infrastructure to match. There's always someone to spar with in the online modes, whether it's a competitive rank-obsessed player or a casual button masher.
Hand cramped like a crab due to too much play? Take a break and visit the replay channel to watch top players go mano-a-mano. Street Fighter works well as a spectator sport, thanks to the unpredictable fights, the purity of one-on-one matches, and the constant visual rewards. You'll probably learn something from stalking the pros, too. Over time, my opponents' defences have become tighter and my list of moves wider, but Street Fighter is still primarily a battle of wits. The timing-based inputs are generous and the flow of battle intuitive. It's condensed, competitive, accessible and visceral – just how fighting games should be.
A perfect victory then? No. SSFIV:AE uses Games for Windows Live and requires an online connection to save progress. Depending on your experience with GFWL, that's either a point-blank Hadouken to the face or a harmless but unnecessary taunt.
The newest additions to the roster also bring caveats. Unlike the other characters, Yun, Yang, Evil Ryu and Oni don't get a set of trials for the challenge room or a story cinematic. The latter is just lazy, but the four missing trials are a painful omission: a list of combos gradually increasing in difficulty is a valuable tool for newbies to learn.
These are minor issues in an outstanding package. Note that playing with cursor keys, or even a pad is good for curiosity and severe handicapping only. A sturdy fighting stick is essential.
Remember the tingly sensation when you first saw Daniel-san's crane kick? Balboa vs Drago? McFly's Biff-spinning punch in Back to the Future? Street Fighter IV is that feeling. Buy it, learn your Ultra, and get online. Have no fear. You're going to love the result.