Perhaps more due to the era when it was released SF4 has developed the largest competitive scene in SF history. I believe thats down to a number of reasons. The long gap between SF4 and SF3 generated hype in itself, a bit like the wait for Half Life 3. Even for longer for some as many people who played SF2 back in the arcade never even new SF3 existed. SF2 is one of those games that has a special nostalgic place in peoples hearts like Mario or Doom. Due to the internet, youtube and websites like this, its easier game to learn how to play and take your skill levels to a higher level.
The execution barrier for simply stuff like special moves is easier than earlier games.
There seems to be less random stuff in the game. Look at Super Turbo
Ryu’s air tatsu being 50% of the time unblockable with certain set ups or C.LP, C.LP xx Super comboing only 50% of the time or Zangiefs standing 720 only working 50% of the time.
Random damage and stun values.
A tournament standard of using Turbo 3 speed settings. Which skips frames and potentially sallows players inputs?
Tick throw loops. Difficult to set up and preform but mindless in the way for certain characters its always their best option.
Super Turbo runs nice and smooth but the impact freeze is massive. SF4 impact freeze is no where near as obvious or distracting.
To land a jump in combo you have to hit incredible deep, otherwise you will likely get thrown. Why is there more blockstun on jumping attacks than hitting attacks and why does that only apply to characters standing and not crouching.
You often hear SF4 being critized for having reversals that are too easy to do, yet Super Turbo never gets stick for having throws that are easier to tech/soften than SF4.
Compared to Third Strike
SF4 actually has a fireball zoning game. Which I think is a core part of the SF series.
3rd Strike balance is considered overall quite bad.
Whiffing normals to build meter is rather dumb IMO.
Why are characters feets so out of preportion to there heads.
Don’t get me wrong. I like previous games too, but just like SF4 they are far from perfect.