Ken You Dig It?
Game: Street Fighter V Arcade Edition
Reviewed on: Playstation 4 (Review code provided)
Being the oldest of the NGB crew, I remember gamings first microtransation driven products – arcade machines! Whichever way you cut it, unless your local pub had a cabinet that they’d generously turned on to “Free Play”, some of the best gaming experiences to be had involved stuffing a handfull of 10 pence pieces into the front of various cabinets. One of my all time favourites was Street Fighter II, a game that was released in arcades in 1991 and had numerous home conversions and revisions over the next few decades, most recently last years Ultra Street Fighter II on Nintendo Switch. Many an argument has been settled with a flurry of Hadouken’s and developers Capcom have stuck with the series, releasing many incremental and major versions. The last numbered Street Fighter game, Street Fighter V, hit Playstation 4 and PC in early 2016 and it’s fair to say it didn’t set the world alight.
Being that this was a Street Fighter game releasing in 2016 and not 1991, Capcom decided to deliver it in a “software as a service” form, complete with an expensive season pass and oodles of downloadable content to “extend the life of the game”. What was a solid fighting experience turned into a shameless money grab in many fans eyes and Capcom were left with their tail between their legs, thinking about what to do next. The biggest criticism levelled at the game, aside from its post launch monetisation, was its lack of a solid single player mode. The initial release focussed heavily on the multiplayer experience, offering players only a training mode to fight against computer players. For many, this wasn’t good enough and Capcom ultimately released a fully voice acted Story Mode in June 2016. Following that, the developers continued adding new characters and content until, in October 2017, they announced the first major revision of the game, Street Fighter V Arcade Edition, to launch in January 2018. And here we are!
So, for those of you who biffed faces back in the days and maybe haven’t Sonic Boomed in a while, how different is this Street Fighter to the ones that precede it? Well, for starters it feels a lot more back to basics. It’s not as fast paced as the Street Fighter Alpha series, or filled with complex counters like Street Fighter III. If Street Fighter IV was Capcom grounding the series, Street Fighter V is them making the game more accessible to newcomers. Key to this is the new V-Gauge system, which works in addition to the traditional super move meter. Laying the smackdown on your opponent fills this meter, which you can then unleash as a V-Trigger with a deft press of both heavy attack buttons, popping off a super move as well as giving your attacks a buff for a brief period of time. To help build this meter, each character has a V-Skill (both medium attack buttons) that, if successful, will add a large chunk to your V-Gauge. These can be counter attacks, unique moves – often slow, with large risk but big reward. On top of that, the V-Gauge is split into chunks, either two or three depending on the character, and a single chunk can be used to perform a V-Reversal, forward and either all three punches or kicks while blocking, to knock your opponent back; a great way to get out of a tight spot.
So, the V-Gauge adds some smart, accessible mechanics, but what of the rest of the game. First and foremost, this new Arcade Edition adds a genuine single player arcade mode. Themed around the six games in the series, Street Fighters I, II, III, IV and V, and Street Fighter Alpha, players will pick a character specific to that particular game in the series, and fight through increasingly tough adversaries to see an ending sequence. It is what it says on the tin, the classic Street Fighter arcade experience. On top of that there’s still the story mode from 2016 called “A Shadows Fall”, as well as smaller micro-stories for every character. These micro stories are told with still artwork and voice overs, but A Shadows Fall is fully animated with the in-game engine. While it’s very well done, the story is most definitely madder than a bag of Blanka’s and manages to find a way to cram in all of the original releases characters into a tale of international crime, plots to destroy world cities and the quest to find your fist. Still, it’s a great deal more entertaining than the 1994 Van Damme starring Street Fighter movie and each of the cutscenes are split up with bouts of interactive fisticuffs – it’s a great way to get a feel for each of the characters.
Visually the game looks terrific, running at a solid 60fps through Unreal Engine 4. Characters have the usual exaggerated features, from Guile’s big hair, to Akuma’s new crazy neck beard and fit the cartoonish look. Stages are also full of character, bustling with details and, in a first for the series, including interactive elements. In some areas, finishing the character off in one corner of the stage can smash them through the scenery; the next round will then take place in somewhere different. It’s not quite as dynamic as, say, Dead or Alive 2, where the layout of the stages could be used to your advantage, but it’s a cool touch nonetheless.
There’s no denying, however, that the core focus of Street Fighter V is multiplayer. When you turn the game on it immediately logs you onto the Capcom Fighting Network, an online community where you can drop into lobbies, quick matches, ranked matches – all the expected online modes. It’s remarkably well integrated and gets you into matches impressively quickly, matching you with similarly skilled players. It’s genuinely refreshing to play against other people, especially as the computer AI becomes increasingly predictable and cheap in equal measures. It’s a shame that I had a few issues with the netcode, with several matches struggling to keep up with the action, stuttering and hitching. Not unplayably so, but a freeze in action in the normally buttery smooth 60fps game can be distracting.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room – DLC. This is still ever present in the form of downloadable costumes, stages and characters, however the ways that you unlock these are varied. Arcade Edition brings Street Fighter V into its third “season” and will automatically unlock all of the characters made available over seasons 1 & 2, as well as adding a total of 6 new characters over the coming months. These are available to buy in the game using Fight Money, earned through playing the single player and online modes and completing daily tasks, or can be unlocked outright with a purchase of a season pass. Fight Money can also be used to grab new stages to pummel on. Here’s where things get a little fuzzy, though. While the season pass will unlock all characters, it won’t give you access to all of the costumes that are available. There is still “premium” content, unique costumes that are sold in two packs which will set you back nearly £35. If you’re into game fashion, Street Fighter V could be a pricey experience! Thankfully existing players aren’t getting spin-piledrivered with this re-issue, as the Arcade Edition will be available as a free upgrade for all and the ability to unlock characters simply by playing means you won’t feel pressured into getting the season passes.
All in all, Street Fighter V Arcade Edition is a solid reissue that addresses many of the problems players had with the initial release. With any luck Capcom will build on that and continue to release content for the remaining lifetime of the game. Is it worth your time? If you enjoyed past Street Fighter games, this is definitely worth picking up, especially at its budget price. As usual, though, bear in mind that games like this play best on a control stick – the Dual Shock 4 is particularly hard on the fingers for fighting games.
Stuffed with enough content to keep both hardcore and casual fans happy, Street Fighter V Arcade Edition is a generous package. Complex mechanics have been made more accessible and an unlock system means you don’t have to touch the post launch season passes.