There was a dark time in the landscape of fighting games. The genre was stagnant for what felt like ages before Capcom unleashed Street Fighter IV onto the scene. The home console release back in 2009 was equivalent to Third Impact, honestly. It was a mega-ton that bombarded the entire FGC (Fighting Game Community) and got people to pay attention to a genre of games that was, frankly, not great at the time. It is no secret that Street Fighter is the fighting game. Few other names command as much attention or have the gravitas that it does. That’s why it is surprising to see the approach that the experienced developers over at Capcom have pushed out V as they have.
Street Fighter V Review
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of other fighting games besides Street Fighter but, honestly, in regards to the competitive scene and name recognition? Only Mortal Kombat comes close. (Sorry. Smash Bros. doesn’t count.) The “tried-and-true” release methodology of Capcom before Street Fighter V was to launch a vanilla version then milk it for all it was worth with subsequent releases. IV was no stranger to this as we got the original version of the game in 2009 (2008 for arcade/location testing) followed by Super (2010) and Arcade Edition (also 2010), 3D (for the 3DS in 2011) followed by Ultra in 2014. Each version added more features, characters, balance changes and so on but to say that IV was played out by EVO 2015? An understatement.
Game: Street Fighter V
Developer: Capcom, Dimps
Platforms: PC/PlayStation 4
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
A code was provided by the publisher for this review.
Capcom’s approach was, to say the least, anachronistic in this modern age of game releases. Games as a service, though, now that’s the ticket. “Street Fighter V will be a platform,” said the Blanka-obsessed Yoshinori Ono. I have to think a big part of this was influenced by the fact that Sony stepped in, like some mighty hero shaking out dollar bills from his cape, and not only boosted production with much-needed funds but also got those clamoring for a new game one far faster than normal. Between the race to the bottom of mobile gaming, free-to-play models dominating market think and MOBAs and their business models ruling the day it’s no shock that even a franchise as long in the tooth as Street Fighter might finally shake up the distribution model a bit. It’s a welcome change, honestly, though the idea was better than the execution upon it in these early days.
Not only is V a platform which Capcom can build for years to come but, in turn, it is also an attempt to wrangle in folks who are lapsed fans or brand new to the genre entirely. I know /r/Kappa, and their ilk, bemoan the ’15ers (those who jumped in the last year for example) and beyond but the community should grow. There should be a game that is not only possessed of the depth that veterans crave but feature an on-ramp for those looking in from the outside to easily get acclimated with the game and the genre it inhabits.
WE’RE GOIN’ IN
It is a huge step in the right direction with facets from IV being eliminated entirely along with many of the mainstay characters being altered in ways that allow for more direct inputs, a visible stun meter and, one of the biggest changes to the series in ages: No death from chip damage. What does this all mean? Well, for one, us old-timers who aren’t quite as dextrous across our gamepads and fight sticks have a better chance to compete with all those youngbloods out there with things like roll choice which enables one to deal with 50/50s and vortex mix-ups far easier. There’s more of a window for buffering moves as well and, frankly, the game is more lenient than its predecessor in many regards. Some might view that as a bad thing, but most will see it as a Godsend.
That no Chip Damage bit, however, is one of the biggest fundamental changes as it alters the entire way the game is played. People go for the throat now as, well, you have to. There is tossing out an Ultra and letting that last hit destroy despite their opponent blocking and, instead, makes for quicker matches and more burst damage. The scaling is different this time around, and it makes for compelling gameplay that, frankly, I find FAR more interesting than IV (even though I loved it).
The bread-and-butter for every character can be found in their Skills. The augment to those skills can be found in the V-System (Variable). This consists of V-Skills, V-Triggers and V-Reversals. V-Skills will are further definition of each character’s design (such as R. Mika taking out the microphone and cutting a promo). V-Reversals are combo-breakers and offer a way to not only expand on your current meter but build offense when your back is against the wall. V-Triggers, however, are where the real difference between IV and V becomes apparent. Popping a V-Trigger is different for each character, but the idea is that they are enhanced in some way. Zangief gains armor during his Cyclone Lariat for example, and Necalli becomes a Dark Hadou-powered madman for the rest of the match. Each character differs but, best of all, the true nuance of this game shines with the V-System and, in particular, V-Triggers.
OLD FAVORITES AND NEW FRIENDS
The cast of characters assembled for this first iteration of the new Street Fighter V platform is smaller than in years past with just a scant 16 on the roster. This isn’t a return to the Alpha or New Generation days, however, where novelty dominates the list. The mainstays are all present here from Ken and Ryu to Dhalsim and Zangief. Some of my personal favorites from the Alpha line, however, have made their way back in such as both my fighting game waifus, Karin Kanzuki and Rainbow Mika along with Birdie and Nash to start.
The new characters, though, are where the game truly shines. F.A.N.G is an odd duck with his Drunken Master style of movement and poison projectiles/traps. Necalli is a berserker infused with the murderous energy of the Darkest of Hadou while Laura, the Brazillian Bonita, is capable of devastating jiu-jitsu throws that would make Zangief take notice. The new additions are rounded out by the purveyor of whirling dervishes and noted dank meme master, Rashid. He’s about as fast (or faster perhaps) than any other character in the history of the series with mix-up and combo potential that feels unlimited. This is a strong roster to start with, and more characters are coming down the pipe starting at the end of March and Alex. The Machine-Gun Headbutt is back, baby!
NO ARCADE MODE?
This idea of the game being a platform to expand upon meant that Street Fighter V released in February as, well, a skeleton of what it will become. Gameplay is stellar (with some balancing needed for sure in some spots) but when it comes to available modes? There isn’t a lot to hang your hat on. CFN (Capcom Fighter’s Network) is a significant step towards providing a singular solution for stat-tracking, replays and so on but there is no proper arcade mode. There is no Shop in the game at the moment so all that fight money (the game’s in-game currency), a pittance of a story mode (character art by Bengus) and not much else. Multiplayer lobbies are limited to two players at the moment (fixed in the coming March update — expanding to eight) along with color variant unlock gained via Survival Mode.
That is fine if players can stay connected for the duration that is fine though I’ve run into numerous instances of getting towards the end of a run in Survival and I’ve been disconnected from Capcom’s servers. The always-online requirement is a double-edged sword. That dreaded disconnect can even happen when fighting locally against players in the same room. Strange. It is odd to think that a genre born of the arcades, forged by folks who put quarters up to call “I got next!” is now moving towards such a modern way of doing things. I suppose that is another conversation for another time revolving around the grass roots of the FGC; it’s unwillingness to bend, etc.
Capcom’s attempt to make Street Fighter more accessible to the masses is a noble pursuit, but the in-game means to onboard folks feels half-finished at this point. The beginning tutorial doesn’t do much in the way of actually educating those new to the genre in how to play them. Challenge Modes will go a long way in helping complete the learning curve for those newbies out there but to release with most of the tools missing feels like a big misstep. No matter how many staged PR events featuring Lupe Fiasco and Daigo Umehara you put on it doesn’t change the fact that there were no shortage of folks who felt that this game wasn’t a full release at launch and, really, paying full price for a promise of what’s to come doesn’t sit well with traditional console gamers. It is going to be a struggle to get new blood in until the game feels more feature complete, for sure.
Netplay has been fairly consistent throughout my scrubbin’ it up on the Internet though I still run into matches where, frankly, that rollback variant they use just isn’t enough to overcome the disparity in lag. There are ways to filter and choose between platforms (There is cross-play between PC and PS4!) and only allowing certain latencies in but, overall, the online experience is vastly improved from the earlier Beta periods and the week of Launch.
STREET FIGHTER V REVIEW: OUR VERDICT
Street Fighter V is a game full of big changes for a developer still steeped in the ways of the old. The engine is superb and gameplay is outstanding and those who really only care about online play or locals will find a lot to love with this latest entry into the lauded franchise. More features are being brought in subsequent months but to launch in such a skeletal form felt a bit uneven. Street Fighter V plays better than nearly any other version I’ve experienced since the Alpha days but those new to the genre might be hesitant to invest in the game right now considering how lacking in features it is.
Whether folks will invest in a promise of what is to come or not remains to be seen. So long as Capcom stays committed to updating this platform consistently? V will have a long healthy life ahead of it.