I remember playing the heck out of Street Fighter II, then Championship Edition came out, and then Hyper after that. The arcades have always been the proving grounds of the next evolution in the Street Fighter games, a series that isn't afraid to have multiple sub-sequels before having a full-on sequel.
Last week, and again this week for the full retail release, we're seeing the final evolution of Street Fighter IV arrive to consoles. What was Street Fighter IV, and then Super Street Fighter IV, is now Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, thanks to $15 DLC or a $40 full retail copy. Cash-in? Some may see it that way, but the legion of Street Fighter fans out there, myself included, see any well sculpted addition to the franchise as something positive.
A New Challenger x 4 -- And More
First off, Street Fighter IV is a hell of a game. It was made even better with the Super version, and now once again with the Arcade Edition. However, the first game is still more than fine for most fighting gamers out there. The changes in Arcade Edition are both obvious and also very subtle. The biggest, noticeable difference is the inclusion of four new characters: Yun, Yang, Oni, and Evil Ryu, giving players a staggering thirty-nine characters to choose from. Yun and Yang are actually from Street Fighter III, while the latter two are just remixed versions of existing characters.
Yun and Yang are twin brothers, Yun is the one with the hat, Yang prefers the long spiky hair look. Both characters are 'lightweight' and swift, using a mixture of short, quick jabs and kicks with moderate reach. They're clearly not of brute strength, but in the right hands (read: not mine) they can be a fast offensive force.
Oni and Evil Ryu are about what you would expect given their names and appearances -- Oni plays a lot like Gouken mixed with Akuma, and Evil Ryu plays a lot like Ryu with a dash of Akuma. While visually impressive, I don't foresee either character taking over as a favorite, but they're a welcome addition to the roster nonetheless.
New playable characters is an appealing addition to anyone, but the other changes are less noticeable for the average gamer. The Replay Channel has been enhanced; honestly this is not a feature I used previously, but the word from Capcom is that it now supports following five separate players, making it easier to find their shared replays. My Channel Advanced allows you to distribute your replay data to up to fifty players, and Elite Channel hosts replays of skilled players with a rating of 3000PP or more. If you're bored, watching some of the Elite replays is pretty incredible.
Another major change to Arcade Edition is with gameplay balancing and tweaking. I do not have a complete, official list from Capcom, (Update, 6/28 - Capcom has provided me with links, see the bottom of the article! -Steven) but if you Google around, you can find several sites that list a huge list of changes that effect just about every character in the roster. One change I was really happy to see was Abel's Tornado Throw had its damage decreased -- I've been slammed with that throw more times than I care to remember. Frankly, while there are numerous changes, you really have to be in tune with SSFIV to notice them. I think it's safe to say the changes are for the betterment of the game, which is great, but only veteran SSFIV players will notice.
The Arcade Edition is also compatible with SSFIV for online play. Players can search for Arcade Edition only matches, but they can also join in standard SSFIV matches as well, although without the gameplay balacing found in Arcade Edition nor the ability to use any of the four new characters. If history is anything to go by, the community will pick up Arcade Edition well and you should have no trouble finding matches to join.
SSFIV Arcade Edition is really suited for the hardcore Street Fighter fans. More casual Street Fighters, myself included, aren't likely to make full use of the new content, but your mileage may vary. The important thing is that the core game is still rock solid and enjoyable, the question is whether or not these specific updates are worth your dollar.
To the summary...
Update 6/28 by Steven:
Links to balancing and tweaks found in Arcade Edition provided to me by Capcom, and info on the new characters:
All other changes: