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Street Fighter V Review: Here Comes A (Mostly) New Challenger
In 1991, my friends and I habitually visited Fielder’s Choice, a sports card shop in the Chicagoland area. There, we bought and traded cards with fellow card aficionados. My poison of choice were the baseball cards from Topps. I even think I still have my Roberto Alomar Desert Shield card still laying around somewhere. Sorry, I’m getting off-base here. The reason I mention this shop is because one day, we strolled into Fielder’s Choice and saw that the owner had put up a Street Fighter II arcade machine. That day, we ended up spending all our card money on this new, amazing game.
For months after that, we ditched the card-collecting scene and joined in on the fun, fast-paced world of beating the crap out of each other. Later, my buddy Andy got the console version for his Super Nintendo. A few months after that, Fielders Choice went under. I’m not saying it’s a direct correlation, but yeah. Point being, I grew up with the Street Fighter franchise. But as the years went by, we grew in two different directions. The fighting system became way too sophisticated, and just I couldn’t keep up. When I finally got into Street Fighter IV, I wasn’t able to last thirty seconds in an online match. Expecting more of the same, I came into Street Fighter V with some trepidation. But now, I’m feeling a lot like I did 25 years ago.
Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Played)
Developer: Capcom, Dimps
Genre: Fightin’ Around the World
Release Date: February 16, 2016
ESRB Rating: Teen
Street Fighter V should be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a fighting game: you choose your world warrior, and try to defeat your opponent using a series of punches, kicks, and special moves. Street Fighter V utilizes the franchise’s mainstay six-button setup. You have your varying strengths of punches and kicks, and your special inputs for super moves. Winning a two rounds out of three equals victory.
Street Fighter V brings back the EX Gauge. By executing attacks and special moves, you build the EX Gauge, which can then be spent to power-up your special moves. After you max out the EX Gauge’s three bars, you can then execute a super-powerful Critical Art move, which is as gorgeous as it is powerful. It really is satisfying to not only fell your opponent, but to do so in cinematic fashion. All these are Street Fighter staples, and the game becomes instantly accessible to any fighting game fan.
But like all modern fighting games, Street Fighter V goes much deeper than that. Aside from your regular, special, and EX moves, the game introduces a brand-new system: The V-Gauge. This gauge builds as you take damage, as well as when you land V-Skill moves against your opponent (more on that in a minute). Once the gauge is full, you press HP and HK at the same time to activate your character’s V-trigger. Each character’s V-Trigger is different, and varies from a super move or combo to a timed increase in strength or speed. Learning and making use of your character’s V-Trigger is critical, and can easily turn the tide in victory. For example, I was playing a game online, and was one hit away from defeat. I activated Ryu’s V-Trigger, which raises his power, and immediately jumped in for an attack. I was able to get in a small combo before unleashing my Critical Art move, and won the match. But it’s much easier to show it than it is to write about it, so feel free to revel in my victory (skip to the 2:00 mark to see V-Trigger and Critical Art in action):
Aside from each character’s V-Trigger, their V-Skill is equally important. By pressing the MP and MK buttons at the same time, each character utilizes their specific V-Skill, which allows them to do such things as absorb attacks with no damage, or use a new special move. Finally, the V-Reversal is a defensive move that counters your opponent’s attack. By pressing forward and all three punch or kick buttons while blocking an attack, your character will counterattack, stopping them in their tracks while spending one stock of your V-Gauge. Defeating your opponent requires a good working knowledge of not only these new systems, but also when and how to use them. It introduces a new way to play, while at the same time not being too overbearing.
As you play Street Fighter V, you earn Fight Money, the game’s in-game currency. Fight Money is obtained by finishing each character’s story, completing Survival Mode, leveling up, and beating other players online. You can then use this currency to purchase downloadable characters and costumes as they become available. If you don’t want to earn your DLC, you can always purchase a Season Pass. There’s also the option to use real money to buy Zenny, another in-game currency which is used to unlock specific content only available through Zenny purchases.
The game looks amazing. The fighters and backgrounds animate beautifully, and the aforementioned Critical Art moves are poetry in motion. And, depending on the level, if you defeat your opponent with a special move towards the edge of the screen, it adds an extra bit of “punch” to your victory. In another one of my online matches, I won with a special move, and was subsequently treated to a short clip of my opponent being thrown into a bus as it drove away with him in it. It’s a nice added “panache” that makes the game that much more enjoyable.
Although it’s a lot a fun, Street Fighter V is a rather difficult game to review. It’s not technically a complete title. Capcom is taking a route that Nintendo’s Splatoon blazed: release the game in a playable form with minor features, and constantly release updates to make it feel fresh and relevant. And this is where the game (in its current form) falls a bit short. There are only a handful of modes available at the beginning: Story Mode, Versus Mode, Training, Survival, and Online Matches (Ranked, Casual, and Battle Arena). The story mode is very short, as each character has five or fewer matches before it ends. In the game’s defense, though, these stories act as a prequel to a true cinematic storyline that will be available as a free update in June. Versus mode is only for couch play – you can’t fight against an AI opponent.
But the most glaring omission is the lack of an Arcade Mode. Every fighting game ever released has an Arcade Mode, but for some reason, it’s not in Street Fighter V. I’m not sure why this has not been included, but it doesn’t necessarily ruin the game. It’s just odd that such a common fighting game mode wouldn’t be included in the most recognizable fighting game of all time. However, Capcom has plans to release content through September, so hopefully we’ll get one further down the line. Either way, there’s going to be plenty to do in Street Fighter V for quite a while.
I’ve seen some people complain about Street Fighter V’s servers, but after playing multiple matches at varying times throughout the day, I can say that I’ve had little to no problems. Online matches are smooth, and I’ve experienced no slowdown. The only qualm I had, and it’s a small one, is that waiting for an opponent took longer than I would have preferred. Other than that, fighting online in Street Fighter V is problem-free.
As a fighting game fan who sucks at fighting games, I was pleasantly surprised by Street Fighter V. I thought it was going to be another game that was way too intricate for me to get into, let alone be victorious against anyone online. But after putting some time into the game and honing my skills, I learned that Street Fighter V is a perfect example of “easy to learn, hard to master.” And I’m proud to say that my current win-loss ratio is over 2:1, which for me is unprecedented.
If you’re looking for a game with a huge amount of content, Street Fighter V may not be for you… yet. Capcom will update the game with new characters, modes, and features as the months go by, so playing what’s available while anxiously awaiting the next update is intended to be part of the fun. I found it surprisingly challenging to review an intentionally unfinished game because I don’t want to knock it for something that will eventually show up. So despite the fact that new modes are coming down the pipeline, I reviewed it based on how much fun I had with the game as is. I fully understand why Capcom released the game in its unfinished form, I’m just not sure if it was the best course of action. What we have works well, although some missing modes are questionable, if not baffling. However, the game looks great, plays great, and is immediately accessible. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait to get the full package.
In the meantime… FIGHT ON!
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Street Fighter V was provided by Capcom for the purposes of this review.