The balancing act of accommodating fighting game fans and casual gamers has been a struggle for many franchises. Street Fighter IV rejuvinated the fighting game genre in 2008. Since then, the industry has changed – for better and for worse. The same can be said with Capcom’s latest entry into the biggest fighting game franchise in the world. Many strides have been made to push Street Fighter into having just the bare essentials. This sentiment rings true not just for the gameplay, but for the usual litany of single player features, as well.
One of the first things to point to at any fighting game is its roster. Street Fighter V comes with 16 combatants. Featuring eight franchise mainstays, four newcomers, and four Street Fighter Alpha veterans, the slate of fighters this time around is surprisingly strong. The newcomers are fresh, the Alpha characters are reimagined gloriously, and the mainstays feel different without losing their identity. As early as the game is, no character feels particularly underpowered – if you’re looking to take on the world with Dhalsim or F.A.N.G., go right ahead, the floor is yours.
When it comes to the actual fighting, Street Fighter V trims the fat that Street Fighter IV introduced to the series. Enter – The Variable System! The V-System can be broken down into three facets – V-Skills, V-Reversals, and V-Triggers. V-Skills are character-specific power-ups that throw a wrench into the traditional Street Fighter V battles. Ken’s V-Skill gives him a dash that lets him extend combos. Zangief strikes a pose allowing him power through one solid hit. These differences really make the roster seem even more diverse than it already is.
V-Reversals are universal and act as a counter to players who may see themselves stuck in a corner. V-Triggers offer a powered-up state or maneuver that also shifts the flow of battle. This makes the loss of focus attacks and multiple ultra combos we’ve come to accept in Ultra Street Fighter IV less painful.
With a solid roster and even more solid gameplay, Street Fighter V is a no-brainer for established veterans. For the rest of us, it’s a much harder sell.
Street Fighter V is completely bereft of content that’s simply to be expected of fighting games, period. The story mode is a laughable preamble to a free story update coming in June. Single player pickings are limited to the expected training mode and survival mode where your life and meters carry over match to match, and you get miscellaneous buffs between rounds. Survival mode isn’t bad, but it’s nothing like what we’ve seen from the likes of Mortal Kombat in recent years.
Even the online components are lacking, for now. There’s no online store to gawk at alternate costumes or new characters. Online lobbies are limited to two people. These are all things previously stated by Capcom to be on the docket for being fixed in the March update. This raises the question of why they didn’t just wait until March to see this thing through. There hasn’t been official word, but speculation can be drawn that Capcom needed Street Fighter V out the door in order for its tournament circuit to really get underway. They’re very serious about Street Fighter V’s competitive future, so much so that they may alienate the newcomer trying to understand what Street Fighter V is all about.
This balance Capcom’s tried to achieve really starts leaning toward the established, core player. There’s very little in the way of tutorials to be found. The game starts out showcasing the game’s basics, but it’s the most basic. Showing how to jump and how to block is to be expected, but be sure to have some sort of better introduction to the more intricate systems. Killer Instinct’s done this remarkably well with one of the best tutorials in fighting game history.
Modern fighting games live and die by its online modes, and what Street Fighter V brings to the table in this regard is fairly impressive…when it works. As of now, there are periodic online issues that can bring the entire service down. When this happens, you aren’t able to accrue fight money or level up your characters. If this disconnect happens while you’re in survival mode or occasionally even in an offline versus mode, the game will boot you to the main menu. That’s downright atrocious.
When everything is right as rain, the online is stellar. Even on questionable connections, the matches feel very smooth, better than most other Capcom games I’ve played online. This smooth connection is coupled with extensive viewing options and stellar recording capabilities. Should you want to follow a high-caliber Chun-Li vs. Laura match, the game will let you find every instance of that. It’s quite impressive.
Capcom has been very open about Street Fighter V’s future. All downloadable content can be purchased through “fight money” you earn through playing the game’s various modes. Of course if you don’t want to invest the time, you can always purchase the season pass. If they’re bothering to offer a season pass, this might make grinding out fight money a fairly meticulous task. Whatever the case may be, it’s going to pan out much like Nintendo’s Splatoon did. At first, the game won’t have a lot of content, but free updates and patches down the line will justify the investment.
Purchasing Street Fighter V is a matter of how much you care about not doing much besides the actual fighting. I’m having a blast with local friends and online warriors alike, relearning the game from the ground up. That doesn’t stop the single player offerings from being downright pathetic, and the sporadic online connections aren’t helping. It’s the best combat Street Fighter’s seen in years, just know there isn’t much outside of that.