|System: PlayStation 4, PC|
|Release: February 16, 2016|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Matthew Hayes
Street Fighter is the most iconic fighting game franchise of all-time. For many of you, your love affair with the world warriors began when you were a kid and, like me, you've grown up eagerly looking forward to every new release. That being said, Capcom is undoubtedly aware that Street Fighter V will appeal to an enormously broad spectrum of players. Casual gamers who haven't played a fighting game in years will be picking this up and looking forward to controlling Ryu much the same as they did back on the Super Nintendo. Alternatively, tournament-hardened veterans will be making the switch from Street Fighter IV and looking forward to digging deep into the new mechanics, learning frames, and discovering all of the trickiest combos and cancels. No matter where you fall on this spectrum, I'm happy to say that Street Fighter V is guaranteed to challenge and excite you.
For newcomers and fans of the classic Street Fighter games, there are a lot of familiar faces and familiar inputs. You'll feel right at home as soon as you get a controller in your hands, roll the d-pad or joystick forward, and tap a punch button to project a fireball. As amazing as it's been to see our favorite characters change and evolve, it's just as wonderful to know that they're the same in many ways. That's part of the appeal of Street Fighter V and of Street Fighter generally. Every character has a unique move list that will take time and practice to master, but any of your friends who have played Street Fighter in the past can come over for some versus play and likely hold their own when fighting with an old favorite.
Street Fighter V derives its sense of balance, its accessibility, and its massive potential for depth and variety from the variable system. The focus attacks from Street Fighter IV are gone, and after spending some time experimenting with the variable system, you'll never look back. By simply pressing the medium punch and medium kick buttons together, players can trigger their character's V-Skill. Each character has his or her own unique V-Skill, a free-to-use ability, which compliments their offensive or defensive strengths perfectly. Ryu's V-Skill, for example, will absorb fireballs or other projectiles, charging his V-Gauge. Rashid's V-Skill is completely offensive and enhances his mobility, either launching him into the air or causing him to quickly roll toward his opponent as a setup for a quick attack.
The introduction of V-Skills shakes up the pacing entirely, encouraging players to fight more aggressively and more strategically. Successfully performing your V-Skills and taking damage will charge up your V-Gauge. With a fully charged V-Gauge, a simple tap of the heavy punch and heavy kick buttons will unleash your character's V-Trigger, which changes up your offense in a whole new way. Some characters' V-Triggers are time-based, enhancing mobility and strength for a short amount of time and altering basic attacks, while others' V-Triggers may initiate a short and powerful combo or fire a powerful projectile. V-Reversals can be executed while blocking, and perform simple counters or evasive maneuvers for when you're backed into a corner by an aggressive opponent.
Frankly speaking, I think the variable system is perfect. For fighters like myself who like to use 1 to 3 characters perfectly, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for improvisation and creative combos – all while remaining perfectly accessible to the newest of noobs. When taken advantage of in tandem with the more familiar EX Gauge, EX Moves, and Critical Arts, the variable system proves to be more than just a minor addition or iteration for a new game that offers “more of the same.” I wouldn't be at all surprised if we see the variable system make a return years from now in the next installment, and in the meantime I can't wait to see what kind of surprises are in store as I experiment with some of the fantastic new characters and relearn my old go-tos.
Now, Street Fighter V isn't perfect, and as long as I'm speaking frankly I should warn you that there is almost nothing here for anyone who's looking for an exclusively single-player experience. The story mode is so bare-bones that it's hardly worth checking except to earn some in-game currency. Each fighter's “story” consists of 2 to 4 single-round fights with corny, storyboard-style cutscenes in between that sometimes consist of only 2 or 3 illustrations. These provide minimal (and I mean minimal) backstory for each character - and the matches are way too easy. There's no way to adjust the difficulty, and once you clear these out for the initial currency rewards there's absolutely no reason to go back.
Besides the pitiful excuse for a story mode, you have your basic training mode and a survival mode. That's it. There is literally no way to set up standard 3-round matches against a CPU, and the typical training that you'd get from a combo challenge mode is missing. If you want to practice against CPU opponents of varying difficulty, your only option right now is to set up a dummy in training mode. If you want to learn how to combine your moves effectively, your only option right now is to watch how other players are fighting online and try to learn from them. I say “right now” because eventually, some of this content gap will be filled by free updates.