When we got our review copy of Street Fighter V, I immediately thought who better to review it than Jett Landicho, my partner in crime from our Recurring Bosscast days. He’s got his own blog at www.inthirdperson.com and has personally logged over 2,000 hours combined on all versions of SFIV across PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360. He’s the #1 ranked Rose and #2 ranked Evil Ryu in Ultra Street Fighter IV on PS4 as of February 12, 2016 and even participated in the T12 and Toryuken tournaments. It’s a pleasure to welcome him as a guest writer here at Biff Bam Pop.
So ladies and gents, here’s Jett Landicho.
After almost a decade of iterative “SuperUltraArcadeEditionv. 2012” updates to Street Fighter IV, Capcom hits the reset button with Street Fighter V. While Ryu will continue to throw fireballs and smash jaws with uppercuts, pretty much everything else about how the game looks and plays has been completely overhauled. Out now for the PlayStation 4 and PC, is it time to move the fight over to this new battleground?
When you first boot up the game, you’ll be treated to a tutorial; a first for the franchise. Taking place during the Street Fighter Alpha timeline, you’ll learn how to play the game as Ryu while he’s sparring with Ken. I love how the tutorial directly ties into the story and the fact that Capcom has finally put in some effort towards teaching players how to play the game within the game itself. A novel concept, I know.
However, it covers the bare minimum of what you’ll need to know, stopping short of teaching you how to perform special moves and woefully short of how to actually play the game with any sort of competency. A Challenge Mode is set to be released in March, which hopefully contains more specific tips on how to improve. As of writing though, the paltry ingame teaching tools fall well short of those found in its competitors like Killer Instinct, Skullgirls and Guilty Gear Xrd.
Here’s to hoping that this free Challenge Mode update scheduled for release in March addresses this deficiency, as players who aren’t fluent in the series already will need to consult with outside help for guidance.
Graphically, you’ll be treated to a great looking game that moves at a solid 60 frames per second. While it retains the 3D graphical approach and general art direction of Street Fighter IV, the graphics have been completely redone in Unreal Engine 4, giving the game its own visual identity. The extra level of fidelity makes it easier to see the pain an opponent feels when they take a punch to the gut, while it’s hard to ignore the ways in which Necalli’s dreadlocks naturally sway during the course of battle. One of my favourite touches is the way that certain moves have different recovery animations based on whether the move successfully hits or is blocked, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any other fighting game before. Little touches like those add to the immersion in ways I’ve never really thought about.
You’ll enter the battle as one of 16 available combatants. Of those, 8 are mainstays you would expect, 4 are returning characters that haven’t been seen in awhile, and the remaining 4 are fresh faces. For the likes of Ryu, Ken, and ChunLi, I love the fact that they’ve all been given new moves, abilities and combos to master. In some cases, like Vega or Birdie, they’ve been reworked so heavily that they’re essentially brand new characters. As for Rashid, Necalli, Laura and F.A.N.G, these new characters ooze with personality while providing players with new techniques to smack the opposition with. This initial group provides players with a lot of diversity in terms of play styles.
The cast will only get bigger with time, as Capcom has already announced that six more characters will be released over the course of 2016. The good news is that if you have enough Fight Money, the game’s ingame currency that is earned by playing the game, you can unlock these additional characters for free. However, if you’re strapped for digital cash or you don’t have the patience to earn more, you can just buy them the old fashioned way. It’s great that Capcom gives players the ability to earn it for free, even if it’s going to take some work to accumulate enough Fight Money for your purchases.
Once it’s time to throw down, you’re in for a treat. All of the fireball tossing and dragon punching action you’d expect remains, though it’s only gotten better as Capcom has rebuilt the combat engine from the ground up. Casual players will appreciate the adjustments made to input timing that make combos easier than ever to perform. Meanwhile, series veterans will appreciate the myriad of ways it improves upon the past game.
One of my favourite new wrinkles to the action is that players cannot lose a round unless they take a clean hit or are forced to block a super move. This means that if you’re down to a sliver of life, your opponent can’t force you to eat the chip damage from a blocked fireball and call it a day. Instead, they’re going to have to earn the win by making contact, which can be a lot harder when the pressure is on. Conversely, you’re never truly out of a fight if you can play great defense. Adjustments like this help make this feel like the purest form of the franchise since Street Fighter II.
The biggest new addition to the gameplay is the VGauge. Built up by taking damage, you can use this resource to perform two different moves: a VReversal and a VTrigger. The former allows you to burst out of a high pressure situation by spending a portion of your meter. The latter uses your whole meter and its effect varies from charactertocharacter. For Ryu, he enters a chargedup state where he can throw electrified fireballs at his foes. Other VTriggers are onetime moves such as Nash’s teleport. Both tools are great to have when the going gets tough, though those two maneuvers alone won’t completely change your fortune. Having said that, if you’re playing well and have these abilities in your back pocket, they might be the moves that help you complete a comeback.
Another new aspect of the game that is tied to the VGauge are VSkills. Activated by pressing medium punch and medium kick simultaneously, your character will perform a unique move that also builds meter. For example, executing Ryu’s VSkill causes yu to perform a parry. This sort of acts like a replacement for Focus Attacks in Street Fighter IV, which unsuccessfully tried to shoehorn every character into a specific mechanic. Instead, VSkill moves are custom designed to improve each character in ways that make sense for them.
Street Fighter V is designed with online play in mind. You can now set the game so that it’s constantly searching for ranked or casual matches to put you in at all times, even when you’re navigating through menus. This helps minimize your downtime between matches. You can also
create lobbies, though they’re currently capped at only 2 players. A free update to the game will be made in March to support larger player counts and Spectator mode.The biggest improvement to the online experience is that the game is now running on GGPO-style rollback netcode. This better ensures that your button presses are registered at the right times, even when the connection isn’t optimal. Thanks to this, Street Fighter V performs much better online than its predecessor.
Most of my matches ran really well with no noticeable hiccups, even when squaring off against opponents outside of North America. During the few instances where things go awry, you’ll experience a rewind effect where the game will overwrite a specific moment in the match so that both players are in sync. It can be frustrating at times when you see your attack work, only to have the game take that back and show it being blocked, but this happens so infrequently that it’s not a big deal. Overall, online warriors are going to love playing on this new setup, as it does an admirable job of keeping the integrity of your inputs intact.
Another huge benefit to this new game is cross platform play. Whether you’ve purchased the game on the PlayStation 4 or PC, you’ll all be able to square off against each other as part of one unified ecosystem. Playing it on the Sony console, I never noticed any difference between opponents on either platform. This also means one unified leaderboard, allowing you to truly see where you rank in relation to the rest of the world. Not having to worry about you or your friends being left out because they bought it on different platforms is also a huge plus.
Save for a few nitpicky things, you’re getting a pretty comprehensive multiplayer package out of the box. As for solo players hoping for something more substantial than a traditional Arcade Mode, there’s good and bad news. Capcom has shown a trailer for the single player campaign, which will feature fully animated cutscenes and voice acting. Maybe I’m projecting a bit, but it appears to be their answer to the excellent campaigns that NetherRealm Studios have been including in their Mortal Kombat games. Sadly, we won’t know for sure until it’s released later this year as a free update.
Instead, you’ll get access to a Character Story mode. Each character gets a mini storyarc that outlines their path into the big campaign that will be released later this year. The experience is about 15 minutes long per character, with two or three fights, while featuring static artwork and full voice acting in between. As an alternative to a traditional Arcade mode, I like how this better ties your actions with the story. However, the actual stories themselves are pretty rudimentary, providing little in actual entertainment value. The computer is also a complete pushover, so the fights themselves aren’t even that engaging. Even if you don’t skip each scene, I was able to beat every Character Story in one sitting. That campaign mode can’t come soon enough, as his is a rather sad alternative.
Solo only players and those who demand better teaching tools may want to wait until Capcom releases their promised updates to address both issues. But for everyone else that’s interested in duking it out with their friends or other online warriors, don’t hesitate to pick up Street Fighter V. Rebuilt from the ground up, this game out of the box offers a fresh and refined take on this storied franchise that casual and hardcore players will love for years to come. Also, since Capcom has a support plan in place for free system level updates and unlockable characters, this is a package that should only get better with time.