Street Fighter V – Review
It seems fitting, that at the time of Street Fighter 5’s (SFV) release Street Fighter 2 had its 25th birthday. It’s also funny that everyone, including Capcom, like to pretend that the first street fighter game never existed. Over the years, the Street Fighter series has been the standard that all other fighting games have been measured by. Even people who’ve never played a fighter, still know what Street Fighter is, from its iconic characters to sound bites of ‘HADOUKEN!’ bellowing from its 16 bit glory.
And after all this time we see the next movement forward for the series which I’m hesitant to call the fifth game in the franchise. Simply because there have been a stupid number of versions released with each version (the last one alone which ended up having four.) There’s always a great deal of pressure on developers when producing a game with a legacy such as this, change it too much and you might alienate your loyal fans, change it too little and it becomes a stale clone that doesn’t innovate on its existing dynamics. So how does SFV measure up? Well that alone is a very complicated question but I’ll try and explain …
Let’s start with the basics. SFV launches with 16 characters and allows you to play in 11 different stages. The cast is a mix of many familiar faces, some old ones and four completely new to the series. Those savvy to previous titles will feel right at home with how the characters move, attack and perform specials. This is probably where the similarities stop though, because SFV is an entirely new game with a range of new dynamics and Meta involved. The biggest change, and a complete first for the entire series itself, is the V-Skill system. Every character has a unique V-Skill and V-Trigger mechanic, the key word here is unique. In every previous street fighter game, a new mechanic was introduced that encompassed every character in the roster. Think parrying in Third Strike and Focus Attack in Street Fighter 4. The problem with such an approach is that each character will benefit differently from said things. As much as Fei-Long can focus attack at footsie range all game, someone like Zangief would find a lot less use of it.
And here’s why SFV is the exception to the rule. By having a V-Skill and Trigger that applies different for each character, the benefits of said moves is only meant to solely that character. Ryu for example has a parry that allows him play like a rock and counter attacks with a well-timed parry. Ken on the other hand allows him to sprint forward a short distance, which gives him the ability control spacing anywhere on the screen. Another new addition is the inability to chip damage out for a win, this makes for some exciting comebacks and eliminates that guaranteed victory when someone is on barely any health.
Also removed is the highly complex combo system that we’ve seen in Street Fighter 4. Capcom decided that although combos should definitely exist, they should be more accessible to everyone and not just the professionals playing on the Capcom Pro Tour. The shortest window to link a combo together is three frames and extending said combos is either impossible or pointless due to the damage scaling. Don’t go cheering yet and calling our Daigo though, the game is actually a lot more difficult to master here. The focus has been shifted back to the footsie battle of throwing and countering normal attacks with well-placed positioning and nicely timed attacks. This is even more critical when you pay attention to the counter and ‘crush’ counter mechanics that reward the aggressor with a follow up move to further punish their opponent. Such a system also stops players from carelessly mashing lights to avoid and interrupt pressure from their opponents. At the higher levels we’re already seen just how devastating these can be and we’ve only just started to scratch the surface in this regard.
Now for the bad news and to address that elephant in the room. This game is severely lacking content and isn’t quite finished yet. SFV has zero arcade mode, no proper story mode, no trials or challenges and lobbies can only host one person / friend at a time. There is a reason for this however, a valid one, the reason for the early and unfinished release is because Capcom needed to have a stable and balanced fighter, ready for the Capcom Pro Tour. This means a stable net code, glitch free code and no broken characters. It’s fairly clear here that they’ve succeeded thus far on all those things, the net code is sensational, although we’ve seen the occasional glitch, it’s far and few between and so far no videos have surfaced of broken characters exploiting some hole in the code.
But quite simply, it’s still not good enough. There’s little excuse for not having an arcade mode or some initial trials / challenges. The current story mode is more of a prologue and it’s a flimsy excuse at that. Each character has about three to four fights and then it’s over. Their stories aren’t compelling and the still art used looks like it was done up a couple of weeks before release, it’s not often I agree with people when they say “I can do better than that” but in this case I fail to see how they’d do much worse, it feels cheap and tacked on. The other single player content is survival mode which can be fun, but making the reward of a new colour after you beat your 50th opponent feels like filler of the worst kind and for a full priced game, many people have rightly expected more.
Where this leaves you with the game is a hard one. If you’re a player who likes to compete at local or big tournaments, then rest assured, SFV is the ducks guts. It’s amazing, the gameplay is solid and even after a short amount of time we can see that the depths the skill levels can go quite deep. The net code is stable and one of the best ones I’ve seen in recent time, quite possibly on par with Killer Instinct. The realistic part though, is that if you are this kind of person, then you’ve already bought the game and you’re training yourself up to get an edge on your opponents at your local FGC.
For everyone on the fence though, there is disappointment ahead. You may buy this with the intention of learning and getting better, but single player content is so lacking that it might leave you very under whelmed. There is official talk from Capcom that a bunch of things will be dropped in March as free DLC, but if that’s the case, then perhaps waiting a month and then purchasing this title is the better option here.
Quite simply the bar has been set by the games that came before it, and most noticeably, Mortal Kombat 9 and X which not only produced an amazing title, but delivered an incredible single player story component (which SFV players will have to wait until June to experience). No one is discounting the gameplay itself, as a fighter this is extremely addictive and as a competitor myself I’m hooked and see so much room for potential in that scene. But even competitors such as I like to go offline and chill with some single player content that also feels rewarding.