So, after putting my spleen very much on ‘vent’ mode (what else are blogs for?) following my initial experience with Street Fighter IV, I nevertheless stuck with it and have been playing on and off all week - which for me means about 6 hours total, admittedly what hardcore players would have got through in one evening. Despite being absolutely impenetrable and damningly frustrating to begin with, it’s actually a very good game.
None of the ranting I did last week is any less valid now - the difficulty scale in arcade mode is stupendously badly judged; characters pull off too many clever moves in the easiest mode, making it completely unsuited to learner players, and the ending character Seth seems to have been designed by a 6 year old with little imagination and a rampaging power fantasy. Online play suffers from the same matchmaking problems that most other games do for the beginner to average player, in that statistically the chances of meeting another similarly unskilled player are almost zero - because by nature the majority of people online at any one time are those that play a lot, and the matching window seems way too big (my first match at zero BP was against someone with almost 700 - leading to my score staying stubbornly at a big fat zero).
Nevertheless, provided you eschew arcade mode and go practice on the more reasonable modes before going back - Trial, Survival and Time Attack - or practice in 2-player mode with other learners, you do begin to pick up on what works and what doesn’t. And, it’s actually really fun to do that.
At first, I thought SF4 wasn’t really very much like SF2, which I loved all those years ago. The timing didn’t seem to be as important, there seeemed to be little strategy except to beat out as many specials as you could. Well, after spending a bit longer with it, I can say I was wrong. The timing and strategy are all very much present, they’re just a little different to SF2, and it takes time to adjust. It’s all slightly faster for a start, and many of the characters moves have changed so you have to learn how the new ones work. Super and Ultra moves are blockable just like any other attack, although like regular specials you do lose a bit of health even when blocking - so they’re really not as unbalanced as they first seem when all you ever seem to see is the other player juggling your limp body with them. They’re a little difficult to pull off under stress, but not that bad except for a couple of characters (like Vega and Guile - I’ve never managed to pull off their supers yet). Like in SF2, picking up on clues about what a character might be about to do based on how they’re setting themselves up is key, and takes a while to learn - I’m nowhere near there but I’m starting to pick up strategies for each opponent now.
2-player is still the most fun, just like it was in SF2. My wife and I spent one ‘training’ evening picking the same characters each round so that we could practice pulling off the various moves while both being on the same page of the manual (and watching what the other person did). Turns out she’s better with Chun-Li than I am! 😀But then I was always a Ken man.
I’ve done the odd 30 minutes on arcade mode still, and unlocked Cammie (gratuitous butt shots ahoy), Sakura (really awesome actually), Dan (big girls blouse), and Rose (haven’t tried her yet). Still wimping out on Easiest with 1 win (Seth is impossible otherwise), but I can at least get a few perfects now and it’s all good practice. One thing I like about SF4 is that I can pick it up and play it for very short periods, so it fits into little windows of time in the same way Geometry Wars always did, so that’s good.
So all in all, SF4 is a slow-burner - in fact for the first couple of hours the main source of its fuel is your bitter anger & frustration. If you start on arcade mode, you will absolutely hate its guts and probably end up putting it right on eBay like so many others. Capcom deserve all the criticism they get for not realising (or caring) just how ridiculous the game is to new players. However, underneath the stupid difficulty curve, and beyond one of most cheating, derivative boss characters in history, there’s actually a good game that with time, may well equal or exceed SF2, particularly in VS mode. If only they hadn’t placed it behind a velvet rope with a ‘members only’ sign on it, more people might have stuck with it.