Street Fighter V — #WiseUp Before You #RiseUp

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You’ve undoubtedly heard the reports regarding the clearly unfinished state Street Fighter V released in, which almost makes it a difficult game to review. Critics should always avoid delving into subjects like a product’s price and its release date, lest you’ll date it horribly. But that’s impossible for a game like this, where Capcom provided what’s essentially a starter bundle for a service game that will be constantly updated throughout this console generation.

The aforementioned “almost” is an important word to note in that last paragraph, because its lack of features would be far more forgivable if it was released as an experimental free-to-play title — as it often feels like it should have been. Capcom charged a full $60 for the experience, and they’ll be slowly-but-surely releasing more content over the next few months — some free, others through more complicated circumstances involving spending in-game money or real money. Reviews for the product should exist now due to the need for consumers to be informed about what their $60 will get them here. Plenty of other fighters had much more content out of the gate, including the last two Mortal Kombat games, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and even Street Fighter IV a little over seven years ago. Compared to those, SFV feels like less than the sum of its parts.

While others will say “Sure, but SFV didn’t have an arcade release first” as a retort, most consumers won’t care about that fact. They’ll simply be concerned about what their money will get them.

Gameplay-wise, it's probably a more faithful homage than even Street Fighter IV.
Gameplay-wise, it’s a more faithful homage than even Street Fighter IV.

The disappointing elements are a pity, as SFV has potential that will be realized as the game and meta-game develop over the next few months and years. Its core gameplay represents how Capcom’s fighting game team, and development partner Dimps, observed and applied every piece of feedback they received from SFIV and its expanded progeny. The result is a title much faster than its predecessor, which requires going on offensive rather than a sizable portion of the roster benefitting from remaining defensive. That also means matches tend to be faster, exacerbated through damage potential being higher all around. Every change is welcome compared to the previous games’ slowness.

New to this title are V-Skills, V-Reversals, and V-Triggers, which, as the names imply, lend SFV its own distinct identity. V-Skills are offensive or defensive skills unique to every character, activated through pressing both medium punch and kick buttons. Ryu, for instance, can use Street Fighter III-style parries through them (though not while airborne), while Ken can dash. But some are clearly more useful than others. Good luck trying to use R. Mika’s when battling high-level players, for example, which requires her to remain idle while cutting a wrestling-style promo. The longer she talks, the higher damage will be from her throws; but the buff is almost negligible if she only talks for a short time, and is removed when she takes a hit. Poor girl might need some help.

With this game’s offense-favoring style, it needed a quick “get away from me” attack, which is the purpose V-Reversals serve. They’re quick reversals activated by pushing towards the opponent and pressing all three punches or kicks concurrently, depending on the character.

It even brings back Super Combos as the most powerful attacks, though other features help.
It even brings back Super Combos as the most powerful attacks, though other features help.

V-Triggers, however, are the closest thing SFV has to a comeback mechanic, in how the meter to trigger it will typically fill depending on how much damage a character takes. Thankfully, they aren’t as overly useful as SFIV’s Ultra Combos. Like V-Skills, they work differently for each character. They’ll give Ryu a temporary damage boost through his special techniques, and give him the ability to charge fireballs for multiple hits. Karin will get her Rekka-like attacks, the kind she could normally do in Street Fighter Alpha 3. Again, their overall usefulness depends on the character; yes, Mika gets shortchanged again. Poor girl definitely needs help.

SFV also introduces a steep penalty for players who like pressing buttons too often. Opponents can be hit with a Crush Counter, a damaging attack which stuns the opponent for big punishment opportunities. This forces players to think before taking hastier actions, which adds a new strategic layer to fighting. Sure, other fighting games have done something similar (see Fatal Counter Hits in the later Blazblue games), but what matters is how good a job the development team did in fitting this into Street Fighter’s gameplay flow. It’s a welcome addition, especially if you enjoy punishing the risky moves that other players like to abuse way too often, like Ryu and Ken’s Shoryukens.

The system changes made to SFV compared to its predecessor make it more enjoyable to play and watch. The core game is great, but many elements surrounding it are sadly holding the overall product back from reaching its full potential.

The issues with its online have been well-publicized, and while they’re not as frequent as when it launched a little over two weeks ago, it’s still having plenty of problems. There are still instances where players are kicked off Capcom’s unstable servers at random intervals, or when being logged in can increase loading times, despite the lengthy maintenance process which occurred six days after release. It’s not acceptable for a game consumers paid full-price for, and while Capcom has provided apologies, they’ve yet to detail a significant patch to completely curtail those problems or provide compensation.

Some of Bengus' art isn't too good, but some show glimmers of greatness.
Some of Bengus’ art isn’t too good on the whole, especially since these were likely rushed. But some show glimmers of greatness.

That’s especially a problem when there’s so little to do offline. The character stories are short and forgettable affairs that can be completed in an hour-and-a-half at most, though they’ll net you a plethora of Fight Money. Playing Survival Mode to unlock colors is a serious grind, given how easy the AI is at the beginning, until a sudden difficulty spike comes in to make them incredibly difficult on harder difficulties. People didn’t like how they had to play Survival and Time Attack modes in SFIV to unlock colors, so they removed them to make their unlocking super-easy in its progeny. Yet they brought it back here, likely to pad out the single-player gameplay to compensate for the lack of modes. That wasn’t a good decision, though a Challenge Mode and the Cinematic Story Expansion will come in separate updates in the future.

The most recent issue pertains to rage quitting, a frequent problem due to Capcom actually releasing an online multiplayer title with no penalty for this. In 2016. It robs players of Fight Money for winning a match, which will be used to purchase items in the in-game shop when it launches later this month — even if it’s only 50 per win. The players rage quitting can save their win streak, and venture up to Gold level ranking to obtain the trophy associated with it. It also robs the other player of a win and League Points. Though Capcom is taking some action towards penalizing them, they still need to implement something on a system level.

Though online netplay feels far better than SFIV while playing in matches, this also has problems. Matchmaking can be wonky at times, with the game taking a peculiarly long time to match players with opponents (longer than some niche anime games with 1/4 the audience, incidentally); players can also be matched up with others well above or below their levels. These issues also need to be fixed when Capcom gets their servers in working order, which is hopefully soon.

It's a shame the backgrounds are in 30fps, but they're still impressive.
It’s a shame the backgrounds are in 30fps, but they’re still impressive.

Despite the copious amount of problems listed above, which are admittedly fixable, there’s no knocking the presentation. The game looks excellent, with each character looking far better than in SFIV. The music is also a step up, thanks to enlisting the help of four composers this time for variety, instead of leaving it all to Hideyuki Fukusawa (who’s still involved). We should get more when the new characters release, and hopefully some will come with more stages. It would also be nice if we could get the option to switch between stage themes and character themes, like in SFIV; why that’s not there in the first place is peculiar.

Everything related to Street Fighter V’s core game is great, but the lack of content and plethora of issues are holding it back. It couldn’t be more obvious that it was rushed to make the Capcom Pro Tour (which started last weekend) and the end of the fiscal year for video game companies this month. But it’s the kind of game that will change in a significant way with further upgrades, which could render a plethora of the above text irrelevant. For now, though, you may not get your $60 worth, especially if you enjoy single-player content. Capcom took feedback seriously to make SFV an enjoyable game, so let’s hope they do the same with future features.

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