Now, those of us who are deep into fighting games and have been following SF4 (I used sites like this one) more or less knew everything we were going to know about the game short of actually playing it. A lot of people hadn't seen the game to the extent that we already had, didn't know much, and weren't told much by the mainstream press, which treats arcade releases as though they don't exist. So I'm going to let you in on something I knew a long time ago:
Capcom's claims that Street Fighter IV was a "casual" or "introductory" fighting game were completely false. It's not even trying to be. SF4's design is certainly fairly easy to pick up on a superficial level and very difficult to master, but so is Virtua or Guilty Gear or any other game I could think of. More importantly, there is no real attempt made to reach out to a casual audience, which I'll get back to. It's just another fighting game, guys. Not the second coming. Not a utopian new age. A fighting game.
That's not really a bad thing: there's room in the market for an easy-mode fighting game, but it probably shouldn't be Street Fighter. If anything, this game has some of the toughest technical execution in the series: it's combined everything that was ever hard in Street Fighter and put it all in the same combo. Unlike, say, Guilty Gear, simple combos that get reasonable damage do exist. But the strongest combos really take the game out into some crazy territory: inputs regularly require inhuman speed and precision down to a sixtieth of a second. I am, I should note, loving this game. I love screwing around with the combo system and finding new things. Yes, this is hard stuff, but for many of us, that is part of the appeal.
As I said previously, nobody looked at things from the point of view of somebody who doesn't already play these games, and there's no attempt to teach. Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution had the best tutorial I've ever seen in a fighting game, and every game really ought to include something similar: if you chose to, you could learn the basics and systems of that game front to back. The tutorial didn't miss a single point. On top of that, you could go to character-specific tutorials that would explain the use of certain moves and combinations, giving the player an unusually solid basic knowledge of the character. It was a tutorial that honest-to-god taught, and it helped me tremendously back when I was learning VF. It's a shame it's not in VF5.
The trial mode, the closest this game has to a tutorial, just tells you "do this." with a list of attacks and combos. No demonstrations. No clues, no hints. They don't even tell you how to do the moves: they just put the name up on the screen and you're expected to pause the game and look it up in the command list, where you see the usual Capcom shorthand that new players may or may not know what the hell it means. People don't know how to do a fireball, here, man! You gotta think of this stuff! Even I had to go to Youtube to figure out what the hell was going on in many of the later combos, which run abruptly from basic combos to one-frame expert-level stuff about halfway through. No game that even has stuff of this level of complexity in it can call itself a "casual" game.
And even with Trial mode, it's just combos, you know? There's so much more to fighting games than just being able to rattle off a combo. Everybody thinks that Daigo parrying that Chun-Li super was by itself some kind of mechanical triumph, for example, and the truth of the matter was that a lot of people can do that. What was beautiful about it, what made the people in the room cheer, was that Daigo baited Wong into doing it. Wong got very uncharacteristically sloppy and desperate in a tight situation and walked right into the trap. It wasn't about tapping buttons, it was psychological. There are layers to this stuff.
Anyway, I consider this a really big missed opportunity for the genre. This game was a guaranteed million-seller, it's sold out everywhere-- a $60 videogame is sold out everywhere in this economy-- and it's going to get a lot of people into fighting games who weren't before. It's also going to turn away a lot of people who have already probably returned it.
I've argued before here that most people who play fighting games aren't really getting them on a fundamental level: it's like they're playing rock paper scissors and nobody told them about paper, or scissors. A lot of new SF4 players are going to bang their heads against the competition online, lose over and over again, and never get any idea what they're doing wrong: worse yet, they'll get the idea in their head that the people outsmarting them are "cheap", dishonorable players, and awful human beings in general. They'll get stuck in this thinking and they'll never get anywhere with the game. The community doesn't really help in this regard: every article that sets the issue straight, while factually true, is invariably written by some unbearable, condescending prig who regards his audience as not just mistaken, but a lesser life form, unworthy of the purifying light of his knowledge.
Not everybody is going to fish through internet forums-- helpful as they are-- to find this info. A strategy video series on the basics available for free download through the game would be a good start, but Prima is already out there charging $1 per video per character, and who knows if the videos are any good. Great, guys. Great.
In conclusion-- and I could have said this a couple paragraphs ago and been done with the post, forgive me for rambling-- Smash Brothers is a casual fighting game. The motions for the moves are all exactly the same, and they're all really easy. This is not a casual fighting game. It's got six attack buttons and six or so fancy special moves for every character and a rich, deep combo system. We shouldn't be telling people it's something it's not, though I'm sure the approach sold Capcom a whole pile of copies.