Thanks for making me a (Street) Fighter…
When your older brother starts out life by re-igniting a whole genre and ends it by bringing said genre screaming and kicking into the “e-sports” arena, how do you make your mark? These are questions Capcom probably asked itself when developing Street Fighter V, and ones you want answers to. So what does the new kid on the block has to say for itself? Well, quite a lot actually, and most of it quite impressive…
Game: Street Fighter V
(Review code provided by publisher)
Firstly, we should probably address the lack of single player content upon release. It’s quite apparent Capcom wants this game to topple its predecessor in the competitive gaming scene. Thus they’ve focused their talents towards making the game as balanced as possible, while getting it out for the beginning of the Capcom Pro Tour “season”, which I’m sure they wish to push to new heights. As such, some sacrifices were made. The main story mode is not here on release. Neither is the “challenges” mode. What we have instead is a sort of mini arc for each character that can run between three to five chapters for each character. These are done with pre-fight stills and some dialogue. Each chapter contains one fight that lasts for a whopping one round. It’s a little underwhelming. However, you might be able to see some hints for characters Capcom wishes to bring to the series later. On release there will be 16 fighters in total, with four of them being new to the series. Survival mode is also present, with a new little spin that allows you to sacrifice your score points for some beneficial boosts at the end of each opponent. From what I understand, this is where you will be earning your “fight money”, which is your way of buying newly released content outside of a season pass, which costs real money. This includes the six DLC characters that will be released over the course of 2016.
Now, while single player content might be thin on the ground, I think it is safe to say that the majority are a lot more interested in how Street Fighter V plays against living breathing opponents, and I have to say it’s an interesting experience. Street Fighter V at this point in its career comes across as a far more aggressive game than Street Fighter IV ever did. Damage across the board is really high. Relentlessly blocking medium or heavy attacks will see potential damage gradually rise in the form of “white life”, that will instantly melt away as real damage if the opponent lands a hit. On top of this, you need to factor in, that your stun bar will not reset while you are blocking this abuse. Which can leave you stunned before you knew what hit you; leaving you open to more damage. It’s a balance that promotes mixing active and static types of defence if you do not wish to lose in seconds. The removal of Ultras, which effectively rewarded you for getting hit in the previous game only serves to compound this. This leads to a more traditional, spacing, poking game, the community has aptly named “footsies”. While definitely apparent in Street Fighter IV they seem a lot more necessary to this title; as you can not afford to get cornered and put in a tight spot in fear of dying very quickly. With that, it shares a lot of similarities to everyone’s favourite Street Fighter II.
Enter the V-Gauge system! A relatively simple system that affords Street Fighter V most of its variety and is the replacement for the Ultra system. This simple red bar has a few uses, some of which, are unique to each character. For those worried about not being able to block for too long, the “Alpha counter” is a part of this; allowing you to use a bar of your V-Guage to get your opponent off of you before you are stunned or take that hit that eats your “white life” (and sometimes knock them down, depending on character). The next use comes in the form of your V-Skill ability, which is unique for every character. For example: Ryu’s parry V-Skill can negate fireballs, whilst Ken’s run can be used to extend combos and close distance. Unfortunately, not all of them are very useful at the time of writing, but the potential to make unique and interesting abilities is there for Capcom.
Last, but not least, is V-Trigger activation. This momentarily freezes the screen and enables you to combo a button you otherwise would not be able to. The button(s) in question is/are dependent on character of course, but more importantly once the activation is successful, your character’s moveset will be augmented in some way. In this, it is not too dissimilar to the Instinct system found in the latest Killer Instinct. The challenge Capcom face here is creating interesting abilities, that still remain balanced throughout the whole roster. Swing too far either way and you risk creating a game that has far too little flexibility, or one that is simply broken. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the genre, it is way too soon to tell if they have actually accomplished this.
Those looking to use Street Fighter V as their first foray into a fighting game shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by these systems. It seems Capcom has made further allowances in their latest game than they did in the previous one. Somewhat removing a significant chunk of the execution barrier by effectively widening the input windows for a lot of moves. To level the playing field further, certain techniques that were found and abused in the system like crouch teching (the ability to crouch and throw, covering two options at once without the need to read your opponent) have been removed. You can now worry a little less about missing a combo or executing option selects and focus a little more on learning the mental chess that these games display when played at the highest levels.
In terms of online, Capcom has listened to the requests of their fans. Implementing roll-back netcode that made the community fall in love with services like GGPO, should mean less laggy inputs when dealing with strong to decent Internet connections. However, should you encounter someone with a really bad connection, it can become unplayable really fast as the game tries to rewind to its last playable point, giving the illusion of teleportation, phantom limbs, and stuffed moves. This still happens more often than I would like. Unfortunately, there is no real way to save a player from their own ISP, but this is a great step in the right direction for the series. On the other side of the fence, not all went well when trying to test cross-platform play with my PC playing counterpart. This resulted in a “failed” message a 100% of the time even after adding said player to my “friends” list and modifying router settings, but I’m going to chalk this up to it not being ready in this build of the game, and a day one patch resolving things as it seemed to work fine in the Beta.
The improvements don’t stop at netcode though. An improved training mode with more options than I care to count puts Street Fighter V almost in league with games like Guilty Gear and Killer Instinct in terms of options. Some even go beyond, like the ability to record up to five separate sets of actions for your training dummy and play them back at will. I can only hope that the challenge mode represents an equal bump in quality to help new players learn, when it is made available.
The changes made by Capcom mean Street Fighter V is a more fundamental based game at this point in time than its predecessor. One that relies a little less on technical mastery and more on your ability to read as well as react to your opponent. Impressively, it does all this while maintaining a level of accessibility that makes the game fun whether you’re a newcomer or veteran. It will be interesting to see how the game evolves over time as characters are added to the roster and we learn more about its systems, but (a few niggles aside) Street Fighter V has made a strong out-of-the-box start.