Street Fighter is a franchise that is not only responsible for bringing the fighting game genre to prominence 25 years ago, but also breathing new life to it with the release of Street Fighter IV eight years ago.
Now that the genre is flourishing with success of numerous franchises and brands, Street Fighter V takes a huge risk to carve its own path and take its brand into a totally new direction that might change how gamers view this franchise in the years to come.
Street Fighter V is the first mainline Street Fighter game that has not debuted in the arcades and is built from scratch to function on the home console market.
The game looks to ditch the iterative approach taken by Street Fighter II, III and IV and presents itself as a platform that can expand and upgrade itself in the coming years.
Capcom seems to want the Street Fighter brand to be disassociated from the reputation it had developed of releasing 3-5 upgraded retail versions of the same game, and now with Street Fighter V, the company looks keep the promise it made when it released Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and offer all game material through a single retail disk release.
With Street Fighter V, the developers have made this game a platform with which they can fine tune gameplay and add new modes with free updates and add DLC characters that be can bought but also be earned by spending time playing the game itself.
This can be done through earning the new in-game currency named “Fight Money”, while real world money can be used to purchase the “Zenny” currency.
Both Fight Money and Zenny can be used to pay for future DLC characters, giving players option to spend money on future content or earn it for free.
However, it is unfortunate that while Fight Money is earned by completing offline single player modes, the players have to be connected to Capcom’s server while going through the singleplayer modes to gain Fight Money.
The system doesnt reward players with any Fight Money if they are either offline or disconnected from the servers.
This change in attitude is not just limited to content delivery but continues into how the game is played.
While the basic fundamentals carry over from Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter V makes subtle changes to the formula by making the meat of the experience more user friendly without compromising on the gameplay depth.
The simple additions of visible stun gauge, less stringent special move executions and combo timings and allowing use of PS3 fightsticks under its legacy controller support, makes the game much more approachable for beginners and new comers.
Another way how the game differentiates itself from its predecessor is in the additions of new blocking animations that make it easier for players to see if they have blocked low, medium or high.
These new animations are not limited blocking. Street Fighter V includes animations for throw whiffing which effectively undoes option selects and vortex techniques that were so prevalent in high level play in Street Fighter IV.
Furthermore, by making character movement slight bit slower, eliminating invincibility frames from backdashing, adding recoverable chip damage to blocking medium and hard normals, and reducing chip damage of blocked supers has made gameplay in Street Fighter V more spacing focused and based on forward momentum.
However the most noticeable change in gameplay comes from the system changes where the game replaces Street Fighter IV’s focus attack and Revenge gauge system with Variable or V-System.
While the game keeps the EX/Super meter, the V-System introduces the V-trigger gauge, which acts similar to the Revenge/Ultra gauge as it fills up when the character takes damage and gets reset at the beginning of each round.
However, the way that it is utilized is completely different from the comeback mechanic of Ultra combos as its usage is made up of three systems; V- Skill, V-Reversal and V- Trigger.
Each character has a V-Skill that can be used by pressing Medium Punch and Medium kick simultaneously. These are totally unique to each character and can range from Ryu’s ability to Parry to Cammy’s Spinning Knuckle attack.
V-Skills build up the V-Trigger gauge whenever they make contact with the opponent. Depending on the fighter, the length of their V-trigger gauge can vary from 2 to 3 bars and each bar can be spent on performing V-Reversals.
V-Reversals replace Street Fighter IV’s Focus Attacks and are character specific counter attacks that are basically Street Fighter V’s version of Alpha Counters and can be performed by pressing forward and all three punches or all three kicks, depending on the character.
Players can chose to power through opponent’s initial attack without taking any chip damage by using one bar to employ a V-Reversal or completely deplete a fully filled V-trigger gauge to activate V-Trigger.
V-Trigger can be activated by pressing Hard Punch and Hark Kick simultaneously and offers a character specific ability ranging from a powered up state to versatile set of evasive manoeuvres.
This combination of Character specific V- Skills, Reversals and Triggers adds more depth to every characters’ move set and makes each of them unique in their use.
Speaking of characters, Street Fighter V offers players a selection of 16 characters in its retail release version. Of these; 4 are completely brand new characters, while 12 are returning street fighter veterans.
The returning character roster is a blend of the beloved fighters from Street Fighter II like Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Cammy, Dhalsim, Zangief, Vega and M.Bison as well as fan favourites from the Street Fighter Alpha series that include R-Mika, Karin, Birdie and Nash.
Some of classic characters like Ryu, Chun-Li and Cammy function similarly to their Street Fighter IV counterparts, while others like Dhalsim, M. Bison and Nash feature significant changes to their arsenal and the way they play.
Of the four new entrants; the feral Necalli and the wind based Rashid are up close pressure characters, Laura is a spacing based grappler and F.A.N.G is a poison inducing zoning character that functions well at a distance.
Each of the 16 fighters functions completely differently when compared with each other, and offer unique and distinct play styles that seem to be relatively well balanced.
While this selection of 16 fighters might seem trivial in comparison to the 44 character roster of Ultra Street Fighter IV, it is important to remember that when they were initially released the original Street Fighter II: World Warriors had 8, Street Fighter III: New Generation had 10 and original arcade version of Street Fighter IV had 16 playable characters.
Omissions of fan favourites like Akuma, Sagat and E-Honda are likely going to sting long-time fans of the Street Fighter brand, however fans can expect additions of old characters including Alex, Guile, Ibuki, Balrog, Urien and Juri in form of monthly DLC character releases that can bought for 600 Zenny/$5 each or players can earn these characters, free of charge, by simply playing Street Fighter V and earning Fight Money.
Though Street Fighter V uses similar stylized art style to Street Fighter IV, it makes great use of Unreal Engine 4 to include much more detailed character models and fluid character animations.
The game uses wide range of vibrant colours for the character designs and its 11 stages, and also adds onto the inky trails used in Street Fighter IV with effects that have a water-colour feel to them.
Street Fighter V’s sharp art style is complemented by an equally great sound design that features crisp in-game sound effects and battle cries, as well as great remixes of past character themes and upbeat tracks that accompany main menu.
The main menu features a clean User Interface consisting of simple and sleek tabs, each of which clearly displays the online and offline modes that are at players’ disposal.
Right at the top is the tab for Street Fighter V’s Story Mode.
Instead of the usual Arcade mode, everyone from the 16 character roster gets an individual character story section that acts as a prelude to Street Fighter V’s actual story.
As great as that might sound, these character story modes are ridiculously short and contain 2-4, one round matches that are sandwiched between a slide-show of pictures with voice overs.
Not only is the brevity of mode disappointing but the quality of line-art featured in the pictures looks very rushed and poor.
On the flip side the character story mode does feature ability to earn large amounts of Fight Money and also contains great call-backs to previous street fighter games and even feature extra details like costumes from Street Fighter Alphas and a pre-FANG version of the Lair of the Four Kings stage.
However, the character stories lack any payoff which is set aside for the upcoming cinematic story mode promised to part of a free downloadable update in June.
Next up is the series regular Versus Mode, which features the standard player one vs. player two offline matches. However the mode surprisingly lacks the Player vs. CPU and CPU vs. CPU options that have become a staple of versus modes in modern fighting games.
Survival Mode is back, offering players to go through ladders of 10, 30, 50 or 100 consecutive opponents, unlocking new character costume colours with completion of each ladder.
What makes this mode unique is how players can spend points earned after each battle, to give their character battle supplements, which can either be used to provide health or defensive boost to help in short run, or handicap the character allowing them the ability earn more points that will aid the player in long run.
The Training Mode carries over most improvements from all the iterations of Street Fighter 4, such as; easy resetting of save states and training dummy programing. On top of that the game adds convenience to map short cut commands to PS4 touch pad.
Aside from Story, Versus, Survival and Training there is a tab in the game’s main menu screen for “Challenges” mode, which is supposed to contain Battle tips, Combo Trials and Extra/Boss Battle sub-modes, which should give players daily goals and allow players another avenue to earn Fight Money.
However, this mode is not selectable in the current build of the game and is planned to be added in an update for the game, which is currently scheduled for June of this year.
Similarly the “Shop” tab is also greyed out and will be added via an update at a future date.
Over at the network suite, players can search online for Casual Matches or indulge in Ranked Matches to earn League Points to climb up the leader boards and get paired with higher caliber competitors.
Street Fighter V seems to feature a significant improvement over Street Fighter IV’s net-code as the network matches feel considerably less laggy and online battles on good connections feel pretty great.
There is also a section that allows players to create Battle Lounges allowing them to invite players to a lobby. However, in its current state players can only create 2 player battle lounges, with prospective support for up to 8 players to be patched in an update scheduled for next month.
The game also features a tab for “Capcom Fight Network”, which allows players to search for specific fighter profiles and view their replays, history as well as rankings on the leader boards.
Street Fighter V also offers a streamlined network battle settings that allow players select their favourite character, costume, colour and stage as defaults so that it can be automatically selected in case of quick play.
Furthermore, the game not only allows cross platform play between PC and PS4 systems, and also allows players to set parameters for network ranked and/or casual matches, so that the game can automatically search for online opponents in the background while they practice in training mode or play in any of the other aforementioned offline modes.
Even with these improvements in online play, it is difficult to ignore the shortcomings in the variety of modes present in the game’s current build.
When compared to its contemporary peers like Mortal Kombat X and Guilty Gear Xrd, Street Fighter V does come out looking bare bones in the variety of content available in its retail package.
It seems like the developers consider the price that players pay towards purchasing Street Fighter V as less of a complete product, and more of an on-going service package that promises to deliver more content on a consistent basis without the absolute need to spend more.
In its current state, the Street Fighter V retail game and its current mode selection seems to be built to cater to the Professional players of the Fighting Game Community and is less geared towards casual fighting game players.
The bare-bones nature of the game seems to indicate that the game was rushed out to be ready in time for competitive play season and be included in upcoming events such as; Capcom Pro Tour and EVO.
At its core, Street Fighter V features superb gameplay with its diverse set of fighters and robust gameplay systems, however the quality of its gameplay is let down by the dearth of content in the game’s current form.
If you are someone who is interested in experiencing the game offline and playing against the CPU then it is best to wait couple of months to see how the upcoming story and challenge mode pan out, and whether Capcom is able to deliver selection of quality single player content instead of its being just empty marketing talk and mere lip-service.
To paraphrase Lord Bison; For the true fans of the series and the players interested in competitive fighting games, the release date for Street Fighter V is the most important day of the year, but for everyone else; it is just another Tuesday.