In the interest of disclosure, I am playing Street Fighter 4 on PS3 with the standard controller in default configuration. You may see some ranting on messageboards across the 'net that you really should play this game with some $80 (or more) fighting stick. Since I spent the majority of my time learning Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo and currently play Street Fighter games the most on Playstation 2, I would just play worse than I already do if I used some fancy joystick.
I am not going to include a complete history of Street Fighter here for the uninitiated - Wikipedia does an adequate job in that regard. If you are reading this and don't want to browse the Wikipedia article, suffice it to say that this game revivied arcades upon its release. It is a fighting game where you play best two out of three knockouts against a variety of opponents leading to a bout against the 'boss' of the game. There are several characters to choose from, all with a mostly different set of moves than the other characters. Most of the early matches are against the other playable characters. The characters have a wide variety of punches and kicks involving single button presses, and special moves that involve particular controller motions plus a button press or combination of button presses.
The plan on Sunday was to 1) run errands, 2) have lunch, 3) play SF4 and finish with two, possibly three characters. My friend had picked up SF4 specifically knowing that we would have a chance to get started on it together, and I might be able to do some things that he may not, and vice versa. The thinking was that we would have somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours, and that we should at least be able to complete the game with Ryu and Ken, since we both know those two characters well. We opted to start with Ryu, even though we might have done better with Ken. My unbridled optimism made me think that we might have also finished with Chun-Li in that time, assuming we had finished quickly with the first two and hadn't unlocked Dan. The sad truth was that we only finished with Ryu in that time. It's not because the game was massively more difficult. The moves that we learned and used for years are still there. The crazy parry mechanic that was in Street Fighter 3 is gone, but the new Focus Attack gave the computer an effective way to counterattack some tactics that we probably tend to overdo anyway. Since the focus attack uses up some super meter, it's not like the parry that can be done over and over again - so we didn't feel so cheated when the computer did it to us.
One of the reasons I did badly against Blanka and E. Honda was that the distance on the crouching roundhouse was not the same as what I had gotten used to for most of the other SF games. When I tried to zone them away with slow fireballs, hoping that they would jump over and be hit by my crouching roundhouse, I often missed because I didn't get close enough. Perhaps I need to dash in to get there in time. Rufus was actually our biggest stumbling block collectively, as he changed up his tactics a lot and kept us way off guard. Since he's a new character, we didn't know what to expect or even how to block some of his moves. When he popped up on the VS screen, I thought 'at least he'll be easy to hit...' but I would be grossly mistaken. He was all over us like fat on a marbled steak. Seth, the last character, took us fewer continues, but I don't know if it was because we learned or because he was actually easier than Rufus. As a boss, he seemed more like a boss from one of the other company's fighting games, mostly because he had a moveset that was just good moves borrowed from other characters. All togetether, it took more than twenty continues, and after I left, my friend let me know that he had finished with Ken with less than ten continues. (Seven?) When we finished with Ryu, it unlocked Sakura. When he finished with Ken later, it unlocked nothing. :(
The graphics are great, even on standard definition TV. The music was inoffensive unless you left the game parked on a menu where you had to listen to a short loop of something over and over. A lot of the stage music was yet another remix of the classic tunes from Street Fighter 2. I was not dissappointed. The control was, even without an expensive fighting stick, exactly what I expected. Honestly, I would really enjoy a Sega Genesis 6-Button controller converted for PS3, or perhaps one of those UDON Street Fighter game pads for PS3. The only thing that I couldn't do reliably was the double fireball motion for the Super and the Ultra combos. Multiple button presses were easy as pie. I hope that the reviewers that wanted the big expensive joysticks weren't compensating for something.