Street Fighter V – PlayStation 4
Platform: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Nerd Rating: 7.5/10 (Work in progress)
Reviewed by: theWatchman
The Street Fighter series holds a special place in my heart. It’s not just because it’s the premier fighting game franchise, single-handedly responsible for establishing the entire fighting game genre. Street Fighter holds its place in my heart because the symbolic nature for my friendship with my buddy Sean.
I met Sean during my years of working retail for Software Etc. (which later was renamed GameStop in the early 2000’s) Sean and I worked well together and were on friendly terms, however it was an off-day spent playing Street Fighter Alpha 3 that cemented us into a life-long friendship.
From that afternoon, we began hanging out regularly and soon expanded our circle into a little GameStop employee clique and began playing fighting games every Saturday night. Even after interest in our little fight club started to wane, and life and its various obligations began establishing a larger presence into our time, it was Street Fighter that would continue to be a common thread in our friendship. It was the release of Street Fighter IV that led me to save some money during some very hard times while I was living in Chicago, so I could get an Xbox 360 and play together through the magic of Xbox Live. Street Fighter has been there through all sorts of ups and downs in both of our lives.
So early one morning, in late 2014, when news leaked that Street Fighter V was to be revealed during the PlayStation Experience event that took place in Las Vegas that year, I was euphoric. No amount of annoyance brought about through the course of the 8 hour day spent at my soul-crushing, 9-5 job, could erase the giddy smile from my face that was firmly entrenched by the knowledge that a new Street Fighter game was coming, and thus, the world was an okay place after all.
And now here we are. Approximately fifteen months and three beta tests have passed since Street Fighter V was revealed to the world, and the simple question on everyone’s mind is: is Street Fighter V good?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not so simple, because it depends on what it is that you’re looking to get out of your Street Fighter V experience.
At its heart, Street Fighter V is a very different beast from its predecessor, Street Fighter IV. (or Ultra Street Fighter IV, which was the final official upgrade to the game) SFIV was designed as a way to revive and reinvigorate the fighting game scene, which outside from a few notable exceptions, had grown pretty stale by the mid-2000’s. It also was tasked with the mission of attracting new players to the fighting game community, which it did by revisiting many of the aspects that had made Street Fighter II so popular. Gone was the highly technical parry system from Street Fighter III, along with the polarizing cast of newcomers that had replaced familiar faces like Blanka, E. Honda etc.
The system that Capcom did implement for Street Fighter IV was the Ultra Combo, a sort of “revenge” meter that would fill as a player took damage. Players still had the customary “Super meter”, which had different levels which were built through offensive attacks and could be used for performing “EX moves” (more powerful versions of normal special moves) or let it build all the way up, resulting in the ability to perform a “super combo”. Although the two meter systems were designed as a way to balance offense, while also allowing the ability to come back through the Ultra Combo to keep fights interesting. The result was a fighting engine that encouraged speed and offense, but at times could be considered cheap.
I know that this is an inordinate amount of time to spend talking about the systems of the previous game in the series, however it’s important to have an idea of the nuances of the previous game to understand just how different Street Fighter V feels.
The gameplay of Street Fighter V has been designed as a more competitive game that eases new players into the complexity of the fighting game genre, while still retaining enough complexity for the truly devoted Street Fighter fan to explore for the next several years. Capcom has also taken a keen interest in using Street Fighter V as a vehicle for expanding into the E-sports arena.
The most immediate change one will notice is the removal of the aforementioned Ultra combo meter, in favor of an entirely new system called “V-trigger”.
Each of the 16 characters within Street Fighter V has a small V-gauge that builds up during the course of a fight. Players can use this meter in two ways: One, they can use it while blocking an assault from an opponent to do a counter by quickly pressing forward and all three punch or kick buttons. (I sort of liken this to Killer Instinct or Mortal Kombat X’s Combo Breakers) This immediately breaks the opponents attack and leaves them open for a counter offensive. Second, and this is the more common usage, players can utilize what is called a V-trigger. This mechanism has different effects for each of the characters. Ryu for example, will channel electricity through his hands for a short period of time, which can be used to charge up his fireball attack. Nash uses this as a way to quickly teleport and set himself up for a quick combo, etc. This V-gauge system is also used as the method to explain another new mechanic, the V-skill. This move is also unique to each fighter and does not require any meter to utilize. By pressing both medium punch and medium kick together, the fighter can use that V-skill, which can range from a Street Fighter III-esque parry for Ryu, extra hit-absorbing armor for Zangief, or an upwards air dash for Chun-Li. The V system all works in tandem to provide an interesting, new layer of depth to the familiarity of Street Fighter’s flow. Best of all, it doesn’t feel like a cheap, overpowered ultra-move; instead settling in as a completely integrated and natural part of gameplay. The traditional Super Combo meter, now dubbed “Critical Arts” is also included and can be utilized in the same ways as it could in previous versions of the series.
Aside from the new systems integrated into the combat, the flow and that certain intangible “feel” of Street Fighter V has also changed. The combat has a more methodical flavor to it than Street Fighter IV did. That’s not to say that the game is slow, but rather measured; thoughtful even. There is still plenty of fast-paced action built in to the engine; however the game rewards a chess-like level of strategy to your matches.
Street Fighter has always done a great job of incorporating “normal” into the arsenal of moves, and Street Fighter V pays even more attention to these essential tools. Each character has a number of different options at their disposal and learning those properties and ranges will become essential for success. It’s kind of odd to say, but hard punches and kicks seem to have more of a weight behind them. If you get nailed by something unexpected, then you’ll leave yourself wide-open for a potentially devastating combo. This all coalesces into a much more tactical experience that has its own unique and intangible “feel” to it. The combat has a more methodical flavor to it than Street Fighter IV did. That’s not to say that the game is slow, but rather measured and much more defensively oriented than Street Fighter IV.
Adding to this different feel, is the redesign of some of the character’s special move inputs. These changes range from how Chun-Li’s Wind Kick works (it’s now a fireball motion which results in her moving forward a few frames and bursting out the kick.) to complete overhauls like Vega, who now is no longer a “charge” character. These changes take a bit of getting used to, but they serve to keep some of the returning characters feeling fresh and interesting.
Where Street Fighter V falters is in its current lack of extra modes.
Right now, the most complete modes are Online. (Which is going to be its bread and butter anyway) Versus, and Survival.
There is a small story mode that is attached to Street Fighter V, however with only 4 matches to each of the stories currently included, the feature acts as more of a placeholder for the real story mode which will be coming in March. Capcom also plans to follow this up with what they are calling a cinematic story mode, along the lines of the story modes included in 2011’s Mortal Kombat revival and it’s follow up, Mortal Kombat X, which released last June.
Street Fighter V also features a potentially nifty mode called Capcom Fighters Network. This will let you take a look at the world rankings for everyone playing the game, track players of interest, and search out different replays from people. It’s a useful addition, however it’s not quite complete as of yet. Things like promised fighter stats continuously stand at zero and the omission of a win-loss record is a definite oversight. Again, these are things that are coming if you are willing to wait a bit.
Other modes, including the in-game shop, where you can purchase new costumes, are completely closed off until Street Fighter V’s March update as well.
What eases the pain of this waiting is the service-based approach that Capcom is taking with Street Fighter V. All of these above mentioned updates are going to be available for free once they are released, and the company has pledged that we will never see multiple versions of the game released like we saw during the history of the series. So that means no Super Street Fighter V Turbo: Hard Fist Edition.
Capcom has also planned out their first season of DLC fighters that will be releasing starting in March with the return of Street Fighter III icon, Alex. The good news about these editions is that players can actually purchase those fighters through “Fight Money”, the in-game currency of Street Fighter V. Although, those who don’t want to build up those virtual funds can also spend some cold, hard cash to buy those extra fighters as well. If all goes according to plan, we will see Balrog, Ibuki, Juri, Urien, and Guile, in addition to Alex by September of this year.
Street Fighter V’s main course lies in its online mode, where you can hunt for suitable opponents in either Ranked Matches, which gives you League Points which determine your position on the world-wide leader boards, and Casual Matches, which still offer experience and Fight Money, but don’t factor into your ranking. The initial launch in February saw some dicey situations with the servers, however things have stabilized after several weeks of fine tuning, and the overall experience is much smoother. The wait times to get into a bout are pretty low and you can turn on a fight request while you’re honing your skills in training, or engaged in any of the other single-player modes. The most annoying aspect of Street Fighter V’s online game comes from the lack of a character select screen when you get connected to a match. When you initially begin the game, you are asked to create a user profile which includes your favorite character. This acts as a sort of auto select whenever you get thrown into a fight. For example, I select Ryu as my favorite. I turn on the fight request while I’m in Story mode with Cammy: Every time I get connected to a match, I’m auto selected to play as Ryu. I understand Capcom’s desire to streamline the online component of Street Fighter V, with the goal of getting you in a fight as quickly as possible, however sometimes I want to mess around with another character. Yes, I can always go into a menu and select someone else as my favorite character, but what’s the point of excluding the character select screen if I just have to go into another menu anyway? In my mind, it feels like more work to do it that way, as opposed to the more traditional character select screen method prior to a match’s start.
Street Fighter V’s graphics are lively and do a wonderful job of expressing Capcom’s fantastic character designs. Watching a replay in slow-motion unveils the dedication to providing the beautiful rendition of Street Fighter ever. Fabric moves and flows as you move, hair whips around, and facial expressions even change after taking a brutal hit.
Street Fighter V’s soundtrack matches the title’s visual flair. As one would expect, the OST features a number of remixed versions of songs that we have heard for twenty-five years, however a few of these tracks are reaching their apex here. The theme songs for Ken and Ryu are of particular note, featuring the best depth and complex layers that either of those two songs have ever had. Other tracks and remixes help capture the essence of their characters – especially Karin, Nash, and newcomer, Rashid.
So the question remains: is Street Fighter V worth purchasing?
The answer is that it depends on who you are as a player.
If you have been playing Street Fighter or other fighting games for a while, and are looking for the next step in competition, then yes, Street Fighter V’s depth of play and vast pool of international competition, along with the learning curve associated with its change to a defensive play-style, are more than worth your time and attention.
If however, you’re more of a casual fighting game fan, then the severe lack of single-player content will not be enough to satisfy you at this moment.
The changes implemented throughout Street Fighter V‘s combat engine have set the stage for the next several years of the Street Fighter Franchise. However, it’s an absolute shame that Capcom decided to rush the release, because as it stands now, Street Fighter V can’t be considered a completed title.
So please consider this score as a review in progress. As more pieces of what should have been included in the launch of Street Fighter V are released, I will update the score as needed. Until then, Street Fighter V can be compared to a fighter in training. It has many of the fundamentals down, but still needs that extra something for everything to click.
Street Fighter V is also available for PC.
Nerd Rating: 7.5/10 (Work in progress – will update once more content is available)
Share This Post