Capcom has been very smart with its downloadable content in the last few years. Mega Man 9 and Bionic Commando: Rearmed have successfully revived old franchises, while repackaged titles like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 have benefited from some spit-and-polish. Street Fighter IV has also received a good helping of DLC, with a free Championship Edition patch and paid costume packs. Typically, Capcom will push free DLC for an update that doesn't alter the game drastically, and that's been the driving success that's helped place Street Fighter IV at the top of the fighting genre.
With that in mind, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition isn't for everyone. At first glance, it's the same game as the last retail release, right down to the opening intro, fighter-specific cut-scenes, and background music. For casual fans, the visual and stylistic leap between Street Fighter 4 and Super Street Fighter 4 just isn't there, and most of the tweaks are specifically under the hood.
The most noticeable additions are the four new characters: Evil Ryu, Oni, Yun, and Yang. Surprisingly, the former two aren't just palette swaps of Ryu and Akuma, with combos and special attacks that make main villain Seth look like a pushover. Yun and Yang join the Street Fighter roster as new recruits from the third game, and like Makoto and Ibuki before them, they translate to the Street Fighter 4 engine very well.
These new brawlers are welcome, but not above criticism. They all have backstories and cut-scenes and win-quotes, but they are conspicuously missing in-game animations for their Rival Fights. For an update that contains only four new fighters, that's a small but telling omission on Capcom’s part.
The remaining differences won't necessarily be apparent to the average gamer, but tournament players will definitely notice Akuma's amped-up Hurricane Kick and Makoto's quicker Dash Punch. This is a genre of tiny fractions, where, at the highest level, a sixteenth of a second change or a few points of extra damage can cause whole webs of implications. For a big list of most gameplay alterations, Event Hubs actually has a pretty complex round-up.
Once you go online, it's an entirely different story, as SSF4: AE packs a bunch of modifications and new features. If you purchase the Arcade Edition upgrade, you can play online against people with Super Street Fighter 4. Along with that, a restructured replay system lets you follow specific players, so you can analyse your best friend and figure out holes in their game. "Elite Channel" also comes with the update, a special section of the replay mode that only features bouts between the world's top talents.
However, if you only download the free "Update Kit," you won't be able to play against anyone who's "in" Arcade Edition. Instead, they'll revert to the original SSF4, and online points and stats will be collected with that version of the game. In a way, it's smart matchmaking that allows SSF4 and AE players to exist in the same space -- although it may annoy some players to constantly have to keep tabs on two different versions. At the very least, players who don't want to upgrade to AE should at least be allowed to play against the four new characters, but again, I'm nitpicking.
Now that Super Street Fighter 4 and Arcade Edition are being treated as two different games, everyone upgrading to the new version will be starting from scratch on the leaderboards. While older totals and player rankings based on the previous versions will still exist, everyone playing in Arcade Edition will accrue points separately from the "vanilla" Street Fighter 4 players. If you don't want to buy the AE upgrade, it impacts you the most, especially since fighting communities tend to naturally gravitate towards the newest version of a game.
Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition boasts too few changes to justify any significant amount of money. Even £10 is a bit steep for features you might not use, and the £30 retail disk isn't a terrific option when Super Street Fighter IV retails at far less second-hand or even brand new. Tread carefully.