The tenth floor of the St. Regis hotel offered up a Street Fighter IV journalist-only tournament, complete with an open bar and enough pizza to satisfy the great E-Honda.

Upon entering the hotel room you are greeted by a loop of Street Fighter II playing on a large wall mounted plasma, two linked arcade units, and plenty of journalists trying to cram in as much practice as they can before the tournament officially kicked off.

The controls were fluid and familiar for the most part. I was the first to step up and try out one of the new characters (Abel) however, I wasn’t “able” to pull off very many of his moves, and with limited practice time, I quickly switched back to the familiar Ken/Ryu approach.

In terms of visuals, the game was flat out beautiful, and there was no need to jog your memory for a comparison to the original, since it was looping on the plasma just a few feet behind you (a stroke of PR genius).

The arcade unit itself is set to be distributed in Japan, and while those in the US can purchase the Japanese version right now on the AOU website, Chris (head of Capcom PR) told me that they are working to bring it to the US on a larger scale. In terms of completion, Chris shared with me that the current build we were playing was about 55% complete, with the major differences over the 50% build being primarily UI related.

GameTap’s Jared Rhea was kicking ass and taking names early on during the practice period, as he and his Street Fighter counterpart (Zangief) proved difficult to dethrone. My money was on Jared to win it all.

As the night went on, the arcade joystick became one with pizza grease, and the competition grew stiff. I managed to make it to the third round of the single elimination bracket before getting my ass handed to me by Mike Jones.

While I didn’t take away the 1st place trophy for best Street Fighter IV journalist in the US, I should have won something for moving the arcade unit at least six inches each time I performed a move — they really should have bolted that puppy down.

Unfortunately, my predicted winner lost in the final round to Dan Boutros — and it broke my heart to hear Jared’s first hand account of a “combo gone bad” later that night at the Will Wright party. Dan was then treated to a special guest match up against the games producer, Yoshinori Ono, where he once again emerged victorious.

No one walked away empty handed, as Capcom gave us all a sweet SFIV grab bags direct from AOU. All-in-all, it was a fun filled event, and thanks go out to Capcom for putting it together.

[flv width=”480″ height=”320″]http://ripten.com/sfiv-tournament.flv[/flv]