When I hear the phrase “Iconic Fighter” my thoughts immediately go to but one game, and that’s Street Fighter. I have fond memories of playing Street Fighter II on my SNES and the fact that before 2008 it was Capcom’s best-selling game of all time (it currently sits at #3 after Resident Evil 5 & 6 respectively) speaks volumes. The series boasts a large, dedicated fan base and its various reincarnations have long been a popular mainstay at EVO (the biggest championship series for reputable competitive fighters). Street Fighter V (SFV) is the latest instalment in the hugely popular franchise that has been going strong since its debut on arcade machines way back in 1987. It’s been a few years between drinks with fans having to wait a long eight years for the latest numbered iteration (not counting the numerous Super Ultra Mega Fantastic versions that tend to pop up). So after all this time, is Capcom’s latest effort a worthy entry in this legendary series?
Sweet, sweet M. Bison artwork
Despite its name, SFV is actually the eighth in the series and is much the same as the seven games that preceded it. The story mode on offer is a bare-bones look back at some of the history behind the characters rather than a story in its own right. Each of the sixteen characters has their own story which, if I’m really honest, are very short and underwhelming for the most part. Stories take a paltry 5-15 minutes to complete and have a mixture of cut-scenes and fighting. There is no particular order to play them in but there may be some confusion until you complete all stories due to the cross-over element of some characters. Whilst having a Story mode at all may seem like a token gesture there is a reason behind it. Due for release in June is a Cinematic Story Expansion as a free content update that will act as an epilogue to the original story mode. Capcom have stated “Street Fighter V was built to usher in a new generation of fans, and having them learn about the stories and personalities of each of the iconic characters is an important goal with this mode.” What this basically means is they actually haven’t added anything new story-wise for pre-existing fans of the series. I commend Capcom for trying to target a new audience but as I said earlier, Street Fighter is a franchise that has a dedicated fan base and the latest iteration offers them nothing new or engaging with regards to story (as of yet).
It is pretty clear that with its lack of story, Capcom have decided to focus on the multiplayer elements of SFV in a clear effort to create a unique fighting experience. Street Fighter hasn’t been at the top of my list in terms of fighting games since SF2, and I’ve tended to prefer Mortal Kombat and Tekken. Whilst SFV has tried very hard to be unique, and being unique is something it does well, it just hasn’t elevated its position on my list. The main reason for that is I like my fighting mechanics to be smooth and full of combos and SFV feels a little clunky to me. There wasn’t any time while playing this game that I really felt like I could string a whole bunch of moves together with ease. That’s not to say it can’t be done, it’s just far more difficult to do so than other modern fighters. What I did really enjoy about the fighting mechanics with this game was just how different each character was from the next. Just because you master a combo with Ken doesn’t mean you will be able to execute one so seamlessly with Birdie using the same button combination. Capcom has worked hard on different styles for different characters, more so than you find in other fighting games and it adds an extra level of difficulty to mastering the game.
With the introduction of unique character actions and a dedicated post-launch timeline for new content, gamers can be assured they are experiencing something new and exciting from Capcom, and it ought to be an experience that only gets more robust post-launch
One of the first things you will notice upon launching SFV is just how incredibly good it looks, which is unsurprising considering it’s powered by Unreal Engine 4 technology. SFV is visually stunning and the artwork displays the best character detail I have ever seen in a fighting game. Capcom have worked extremely hard to not only make it look great but they’ve also put a fair amount of effort into improving the fighting mechanics to provide new and returning players with a challenge.
As mentioned, each character has their own style with distinctive abilities and characteristics that ensure a unique character experience. SFV utilises the six-button gameplay system first used in Street Fighter II meaning there are three punch buttons and three kick buttons with varying degrees of power – Light, Medium and Heavy. In addition to this, each of the attacks has a high, mid or low option, each taking a different action to block. In-game, at the bottom-left of the screen, are two gauges that are filled as you fight. The first, red gauge is the V-Gauge and the blue gauge just below that is the EX-Gauge. The V-Gauge fills as you take hits from your opponent or if you land V-Skills (pressing M kick and M punch together performs a V-Skill) and the EX-Gauge is filled by hitting your opponent with normal attacks. When full, the EX-gauge can be used to perform Critical Arts, which are the most powerful attacks in the game. Players can execute EX-Moves by performing a special attack but instead of pressing the one button, two are pressed (special attacks can done by pressing a combination of buttons in the right order). Each character has a unique V-Trigger (activated by pressing H-punch and H-kick together) and this is where the V-Gauge comes in. When the gauge is at MAX the player can attempt to change the tide of a match by executing a V-Trigger which will perform their character-specific action. This may be in the form of an attack (R-Mika’s Nadeshiko for example), power-up (Ryu’s Denjin Renki) or even a teleportation (M-Bison’s Psycho Power). A great feature, and another way to use your V-Gauge, is the V-Reversal. By pressing forward and all three kick or punch buttons simultaneously, characters will perform a counter attack and will expend one stock of V-Gauge. This can stop your opponent wailing on you temporarily and potentially give you a chance to make your glorious comeback.
SFV offers a number of game modes that basically boil down to the same thing – Fighting. Players can take on others from around the world in one of three ways. The first, Battle Lounge, allows gamers to either create or join a lounge where they can invite other players to battle using a number of pre-selected settings. The second option is a ranked match. In this mode League Points can be earned to move up the worldwide rankings and once again players will have the opportunity to qualify for the Capcom Pro Tour later in the year. The last mode that can be accessed to battle others around the world is Casual Match where the results don’t count towards online leaderboard rankings. Each of these modes is the same in terms of actual gameplay so it’s up to the individual as to how they want to approach the experience. While it’s natural that player populations were low on pre-release servers, connection to online play still left a little to be desired. When I was finally able to find some matches (at the time of writing this was only achievable through Battle Lounge), the connection was less than stable but manageable. I don’t see this as being a huge issue once the player count rises, and I’m interested to see how they handle the cross-platforming with PC.
Post-Launch Content Timeline
Something that I really like about Capcom is the business approach they are taking with SFV. Capcom understands they have a strong and unique supporter base and have announced they will be making all future balance adjustments and modes free of charge to all players. To ensure they continue to engage their audience they have developed a system that rewards active player participation, provides consistent content and ensures that anything that affects the outcome of a match can be earnable for free. Players can earn Fight Money by regularly playing the game to redeem new content, which has a detailed post-launch timeline. On this timeline are the additions of the Shop and Challenge mode, which are due early March, as well as DLC characters and the Cinematic Story Experience. If you so choose, you may also purchase (with real Earth money) Zenny, an in-game currency that speeds up the delivery of DLC. New characters can be purchased for 100k Fight Money or 600 Zenny ($1 = 100 Zenny). I like the fact that DLC characters are 100% earnable by simply playing the game. The Fighter Points it costs are not too crazy either so it’s not like you have to grind out a million fights in order to nab yourself a new character to muck around with.
As great as the latest iteration is, there is one major flaw with the game as a whole and that’s the lack of content. Yes, it’s a beautiful game, the fight mechanics are good and the business model is superb but there really isn’t that much replayability in this game at launch. Once you have completed all sixteen character stories the only option left to you is fighting the AI or other players around the world. I would have liked to see some innovation in terms of new game modes, noting the goal of bringing in new players. Yes we have Survival Mode and Challenge Mode coming in March but the game could have really benefited from a mode with RPG elements or something similar.
I really really wanted to enjoy SFV and I did for the most part but there was only so much to keep me entertained and I felt like that was a real shame. The post-launch content schedule is fantastic but I feel like SFV could have benefited from waiting another month for release so that Capcom could have offered more. I had fun revisiting the memories of my childhood for a few hours but I don’t see myself going back to play this title, at least not until the Cinematic Story Experience is released mid-year.
Street Fighter V is the latest in a series of excellent fighting games that will appeal more to fans of the franchise than newer players. There is far too little content to entice anyone into picking it up for the first time but veterans will enjoy the new challenges it brings. With the introduction of unique character actions and a dedicated post-launch timeline for new content, gamers can be assured they are experiencing something new and exciting from Capcom, and it ought to be an experience that only gets more robust post-launch. The stunning visuals and great artwork make for some excellent viewing and the updated fighting mechanics will challenge but ultimately reward those that make the investment in learning.
Reviewed on PS4