Street Fighter V is carrying a lot of weight on its shoulders. It’s the follow-up to the wildly successful Street Fighter IV. It has to be distinctly different than its predecessor, yet familiar. It’s aiming to be the next big competitive fighter, and it seems poised to get there with ease. Yet, I still can’t shake the feeling, that no matter how much I love it, Street Fighter V is not a good game. At least, not yet.
At first glance, Street Fighter V isn’t going to take your breath away. It’s not an ugly game by any stretch, but in a world where we have games like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Star Wars Battlefront, SFV fails to leave a huge mark. That said, it’s definitely impressive if you pay attention to the details.
Ryu and company have never looked so good. The characters are a bit more realistic this go around, but they still retain some of their cartoony features, like oversized hands and feet. The lighting and self-shadowing on the characters shows great attention to detail. Throwing a hadouken or breaking a neon sign produces showers of sparks that are absolutely gorgeous.
Pausing the game results in screenshots that could pass for concept art. It’s a sight to behold. Backgrounds are similarly detailed, with the exception of the people populating said backgrounds. SFV runs at 60 frames per second, but animations happening in the background happen, seemingly, at 30 frames per second, which feels a bit jarring. The character models for those folks littering the backdrops are also lacking in detail; they feel as though they don’t belong in the same game.
Street Fighter V’s greatest strength is its roster. Even if it’s a bit light, at only 16 launch characters, which will expand to 22 by the end of the year if you purchase all six of the DLC characters plans on adding, begging with SFIII veteran Alex next month. The roster is comprised of 12 returners, with mainstays like Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and Zangief and some familiar, but long unseen faces in there, as well as four newcomers.
The new additions to the roster, are, for the most part, excellent. In fact, they are far better balanced than SFIV’s Rufus, El Fuerte, or even C. Viper. Rashid, in particular is a strong character with plenty of easily accessible options for putting the screws to an opponent. His tornado kicks cover a large portion of the screen, both vertically and horizontally. Most of the new cast was designed with Street Fighter V’s renewed focus on up-close, zoning-light battles in mind. Each of the the new fighters feels like a completely brand new entry into the franchise, with moves unique to them and strategies all their own, even if some can sometimes remind you of missing fighters from the days of old.
Only time will tell how well balanced the cast is, but no one character sticks out as being broken or unbeatable at this early stage. The new mix well with the old and create one of the most challenging sets of matchups in Street Fighter history. Over the coming weeks and months, players will make and refine and tune matchup charts to show their opinions, but the first impression of Street Fighter V from a roster and balance perspective is quite good.
Returning characters are changed more than ever before as well. While Ryu has mostly stayed the same, his colleagues have all received some type of change, though some are crazier than others. Ken is probably the highest profile change, with his Under Armor-esque outfit and banana-inspired hairdo. Some of the biggest changes are behind the scenes, however. SFV doesn’t seem to be too keen on charging or mashing for instance. Chun-Li’s famous lightning legs have now been changed to a simple quarter-circle motion, followed by a single press of a kick button. Dhalsim’s famous Yoga Fire now arcs through the air, as opposed to being a straight shot. These changes may seem minor, but from a competitive standpoint, they’re massive; they completely change these characters’ options. Throwing a fireball up into the air gives Dhalsim some room to get close- something the historically slow character wouldn’t dream to do in most cases before.
The only issue is the omission of characters that until now, seemed key to the franchise. SFV has no Akuma, no Blanka, no Sagat or E. Honda, either. Two popular originals, Balrog and Guile, are confirmed to be returning later this year, but the rest aren’t coming back in the near future. This year’s returners will mostly be from SFIII and SFIV, likely to tie in some storyline content. We’ll get Urien, Ibuki, Juri as well as the afore-mentioned Alex, Balrog and Guile.
As it stands now, though very solid and well varied, Street Fighter V’s roster feels light. The thought that went into carefully choosing such a small number of characters is apparent by how well they play together, but it doesn’t feel complete. That’s a theme that’s true for most of the game.
V-Triggers and V-Skills
Perhaps the biggest (and most welcome, bye Revenge Gauge!) addition to the Street Fighter series is the V-Trigger and V-Skill system. Each character has a unique V-Skill, which can be activated at any time during a match by pressing the medium punch and medium kick buttons simultaneously. V-Skill vary in usefulness, with some being ridiculously practical, while others make little tactical difference. Ryu, for instance, has his parry from Street Fighter III (or USFIV:AE Omega), which can deflect a single hit if timed correctly. The V-Skills add an interesting layer to the gameplay, outfitting each character with an easy-to-use move that comes out quickly. None of them will turn the tide of a match on their own, but they give a new and sometimes dangerous option to an existing character.
For the fifth numbered release in Capcom’s venerable fighting franchise, the team took Street Fighter back to the drawing board. While the goal is obviously still the same, the way in which you reach that goal feels completely new. Zoning opponents out—using projectiles and ranged moves to keep opponents at a desired distance—is almost a non-factor; especially when compared to Street Fighter IV. SFV focuses almost entirely on in-fighting; bringing the action into close-quarters and relying more or normal attacks than special moves.
Perhaps the biggest game-changer is the V-Reversal system. Historically, Street Fighter games haven’t been all that great about allowing players to escape pressure. V-Reversals, fortunately do a lot to help make matches a bit less frustrating. The idea of a V-Reversal is that you can activate it mid-block to spend a portion of your gauge and repel your opponent’s advance.
These days, game developers seem to be subscribing to the notion that a multiplayer-only title is worth full asking price, and with Street Fighter V, it seems Capcom is no exception. Just about anything in the game requires you to be connected—even the strictly offline affairs.
Capcom’s new DLC plan for Street Fighter V includes two currencies: Zeni, which can be purchased with real cash, and fight money, which can be earned through various means, including offline modes like Story and Survival. The catch, however, is that to earn fight money, you need to be connected to Capcom’s servers, which haven’t been reliable, to say the least. The game services have been up and down intermittently since launch, to put it mildly. With the servers down, that means players can’t earn fight money, thus removing their ability to gain points toward purchasing DLC. You don’t get the option to replay that content later once the servers are back up, either.
Oh, and if the servers go down while you’re playing an offline mode? This happens:
Aside from the issues with earning money, and the server randomly kicking you out of offline content, there’s also extremely little content to enjoy outside of multiplayer. Each character has what Capcom is calling a prologue version of their story mode, which consists of about three or four matches and some illustrations. There’s almost no difficulty to these; Capcom says a more fleshed out story mode is coming in a free update this June, but that doesn’t help the immediate problem.
Survival mode also has its fair share of issues, but there’s no update in sight. If you want to unlock colors for your World Warriors, you’ll need to play through each difficulty (excluding the 100-man match, dubbed Hell) which can be tedious. Higher difficulties serve only to increase the number of fights you’ll need to participate in, rather than the skill of the opponents. Between each single-round fight, you’ll have the option to spend points to recover health, or boost your attack or defense for the upcoming round. Survival sounds fun in theory, but in practice it’s just tedious. Having to fight through 30 or 40 rounds just to unlock some colors feels unrewarding to say the least.
Street Fighter V is the most connected Street Fighter ever. Street Fighter V’s servers are frequently either experiencing issues or are offline entirely. That pretty much renders the game unplayable. That’s a major problem.
Street Fighter V is the most ambitious title in the franchise’s history. It’s also the least complete. As much as I enjoy playing, I can’t recommend it to others. Myriad server issues impacting both on and offline play, a small roster (for a Street Fighter game), and a serious lack of content hold it back from greatness.
Perhaps once the updates start flowing next month, things might change for it, but Street Fighter V feels like it was rushed to market in nearly every way. The servers weren’t ready, story mode wasn’t ready, the dlc shop wasn’t ready and the challenge mode wasn’t ready. Because of all this, for now Street Fighter V, sadly, is not worth your time.