Nearly a decade after Street Fighter IV was unleashed into arcades comes a brand new numbered entry into the illustrious franchise. Street Fighter V marks a new direction for the series, where Capcom has unified the player base across PS4 and PC with cross-play and promises to deliver all gameplay updates free. I’ve spent a good amount of the past week playing Street Fighter V both online and offline and it managed to impress me a lot and also disappoint me in many ways.
Street Fighter V has enough changes in the gameplay department to make it much more accessible and this will help it in the long run. Its pedigree speaks for itself. We already saw Mortal Kombat make it to a new generation with Mortal Kombat X and it made a few mistakes. Street Fighter V is the biggest game to go the route of ‘games as a service’ after Nintendo’s Splatoon for Wii U. I say this because of the amount of content that is planned for release post-launch, starting just next month with content that should have been in the game today. If they wanted to go this route, Capcom should have priced it accordingly. Look at how Hitman is handling it.
Character rosters are very important and Street Fighter V is launching with 16 diverse characters with many familiar faces returning and a few new ones. Character models look great and the gameplay changes made let each character show off their uniqueness. Necalli is an aztec warrior who shows himself once every few hundred years, while Rashid, from the Middle East, is searching for a friend who has been kidnapped and he uses the powers of the wind. The last two new characters in the launch roster are Laura, the older sister of Sean from Street Fighter III with the power of electricity, and F.A.N.G, who has the ability to poison and is another member of Bison’s Shadaloo kings.
The new core mechanics are great. You have your life bar and two meters: the critical art or EX meter also known as the super meter, and the V meter. The super meter is similar to how it was in SFIV and this fills up as you attack more and perform more special moves. This lets you perform attacks using a bar or two from this meter to give you a more powerful version of a move. You can also perform a gorgeously animated Critical Art that uses all three bars of the super meter. Each character has their own Critical Art and most are a sight to behold, ranging from Chun Li’s gazillion kicks to Zhangief’s Bolshoi Russian Suplex.
The V meter, which introduces the new V mechanic, fills up as you take more damage for the most part. You can perform a V reversal if you have one bar filled, and each character has two V reversals. The V triggers that use up the full V meter make familiar characters stand out even more. I love this mechanic and it lets you teleport, get a damage boost, and more, depending on your character. The V trigger acts as a great complement to the existing move set. There are also some special moves or skills that can be only performed during the V trigger. In some cases, the Critical Art changes during V trigger as well.
When it comes to gameplay modes, at launch, Street Fighter V is fairly light on content. The sorry excuse for a Story Mode lets you play as each character for about two to five fights per character, each being single round affairs. The story is played out in the form of a visual novel with voiced panels, and the art is disappointing given how great Street Fighter’s art usually is. Once you complete a character’s Story Mode, you get the ability to purchase their story mode costume. The real kicker here is that there is no in game store at launch and it will be patched in next month. The Survival Mode is fun but expect to play through 90 stages with each character at varying difficulties if you want to unlock all the remaining colour variations for the characters.
It baffles me that Capcom decided to include Survival Mode at launch but not a player versus CPU option. The Versus mode lets you play offline with a friend only. The other offline mode available at launch is Training, which lets you tweak your opponent’s mechanics or have them do nothing while you practice various combos or moves.
Online mode is the real saviour for Street Fighter V. Ranked and Casual matches were lag-free when I played with anyone across the world. I got in more than 30 games and there were no issues with any of them. You get control over connection status and hardware for matching online.
Where I did face problems online was the lobby system. The Battle Lounge lets you create a lobby for up to two players only right now and almost all my games in the Battle Lounge were laggy. It doesn’t help that while testing, the Battle Lounge mode forced me to reboot Street Fighter V multiple times
You earn Fight Money and can use this to unlock characters in the store when it is made available. Or you can also use real money to buy in-game premium currency known as Zenny. The problem with this system is that neither the daily challenge modes nor the store are available at launch. You earn a good amount of Fight Money for the first time completion of each character’s Story mode, but the real earning will only begin while levelling up characters and completing daily challenges, which you can’t do right now properly.
Also, if you lose connection with the server even while playing an offline mode like Story or Training, you get booted back into the main menu and will not earn any currency or experience until logging back in. This was probably done to avoid exploitation of money earning on PC, but it is annoying nonetheless.
Visually, Street Fighter V is pretty damn gorgeous. Animations are slick and characters look amazing. There’s a good amount of praise that has to be given to the team doing the fight visuals and the Critical Arts. The only real problem I had with the visuals was seeing this slight distortion on character models at random.
Street Fighter V has a lot of potential and with the Capcom Pro Tour and the EVO coming up, I can see why Capcom wanted to release it as soon as possible. I love the core gameplay, but there is some basic content missing in the form of modes that should have been here from the start. If you’re looking to get a fighting game just to play online and are okay with the promise of more content and a barebones single-player experience, Street Fighter V is the game for you. For everyone else, wait till the March update is out and more content is added before jumping in or ‘Rising Up’.