The match-levelling Ultra moves, charged by taking a beating, are far from a simple noob-friendly win button. Yes, you can use them as a basic "Get out of jail free" card if you like, and there's not a damn thing wrong with that, but a little experimentation reveals a whole lot more to them.
Ken's is hard to effectively land. Ryu's leaves him wide open if it misses. All of them can be blocked or avoided with fast enough reactions, and some can be cancelled into from a normal move, or even a special, with a sound understanding of the game. (Indeed, some need to be in order to have a hope in hell of being any use against a decent player) It's classic Street Fighter. Seemingly broad strokes which reveal a multitude of tiny detailed brush flecks upon closer inspection.
The same goes for the new focus attacks. Chargeable to either absorb a single hit or unleash a mighty unblockable strike, their uses when backed into a corner or pre-empting an attack are obvious. But once you learn that you can dash out of them to essentially run "through" fireballs? Or that a fast player can deactivate a charging focus using a sneaky double jab? Then you're really having fun.
New characters? You'll love them. In fact after a day or so you'll be so bonded that you'll barely even see them as the new guys at all. Abel's unapologetic brawling is useless at range, but a visceral joy to use when up in your opponent's face. C. Viper feels a little out of place at first thanks to her super jumps and ground-pounds, but that's exactly why she adds so much to the game. El Fuerte is weak, but so radically different in play mechanics from any other character in SF history that you'll be enjoying yourself with him too much to care.
And that's exactly the thing. For all the talk of character tiers, differing levels of play and carefully balanced game depth, Street Fighter IV is about the sheer enjoyment of controlling your character and moving them around the screen; running, jumping, dodging and beating lumps off your opponent (or even vice versa). Everything about Capcom's design here seems engineered with the simple aim of putting smiles on faces and invoking cackling laughter from groups of friends.
It's the instinctive, razor sharp controls and the solidity of the characters' weighting. It's the crunching sense of impact with each and every hit. It's the speed with which the focus and tone of a fight can change, and the freedom for improvisation lavished upon the player at every turn. It's the sheer, staggering amount of personality infused throughout the game, by every perfectly-judged animation, facial expression and line of dialogue. This is an ultra-optimised version of Street Fighter that looks, sounds, plays and feels just like we always thought Street Fighter II did when we fell in love with it in the '90s. But better.