Developed and published by Capcom. Released on February 16, 2016. Available on PC and PS4. Review code provided by Publisher.
There’s something respectfully pure about Street Fighter 5. It’s a game that’s more about the fundamentals of fighting games than it is about flashy juggles and combos that go on for days. That’s not to say that Street Fighter 5 is lacking in flair or style, but rather that it is in this great spot of being simultaneously one of the most approachable fighting games from a new player’s perspective, while still bursting at the seams with depth and nuance that only the most hardcore fighting game fans will likely be able to discover.
A big change that goes a long way in making Street Fighter 5 more accessible than its immediate predecessor, is that the windows for combos are substantially more forgiving. That’s not to say that combos in the game are a cakewalk, or that technical precision is no longer important at a high level, but at the lower levels of casual play combos feel much easier and more satisfying to pull off.
It’s also a game that does an excellent job of keeping things familiar, while introducing just enough new elements and gameplay tweaks to give Street Fighter 5 its own feel that’s separate from each mainline Street Fighter game before it.
At the heart of these changes are the new V-Skill and V-Trigger mechanics, which replace the focus attacks and revenge meter of Street Fighter 4. V-Skills are special moves that can be activated by pressing both medium attack buttons at the same time and are geared towards giving that character a unique advantage that no other character has. Ryu, for example, can utilize a parry similar to what was in Street Fighter 3. If timed just as an attack hits, Ryu will parry the attack, putting him in prime position for a counter.
Other examples include Bison, who can absorb attacks and then reflect them back; Chun-Li, who can leap across the stage at a low arc, and Ken, whose V-Skill allows him to rapidly run across the stage.
V-Triggers are very much the same as V-Skills in concept, except they are much more powerful and require the use of a full V-Gauge. Your V-Gauge is filled as you take damage or block attacks, and once it is full, you can press both heavy attack buttons at the same time to activate your V-Trigger. Typically, V-Triggers are buffs that enhance a character’s normal or special moves; making them more powerful or giving them new properties that enable greater combo potential. For some characters, the V-Trigger is an actual move that can lead to huge damage or mix up opportunities. Nash, for instance, has a V-Trigger that gives him a near instantaneous teleport that lets him do some tricky shenanigans, like throwing out a fireball, then teleporting behind his opponent to change their block direction.
Players can also use a single bar of their V-Gauge to execute a V-Reversal, which can be used from guard to knock away an enemy who is putting on constant pressure. It’s a technique that no doubt has its place in high level play, but I’ve personally rarely seen it used once in my own time playing the game.
The V-Trigger system as a whole is a great replacement for the revenge mechanic in Street Fighter 4, as it still fills that need of providing players that are on the losing end of a round with that ace in the hole comeback technique, but gives players more flexibility to decide how to actually use it. It’s also especially nice for players without fight sticks to no longer have any moves that require three button presses at the same time, outside of V-Reversals.
The game is light on characters, which is disappointing, but expected. There are 16 in all, with four being completely new to the series, four that haven’t been seen in Street Fighter game since the Street Fighter Alpha days, and then 8 mainstays that make their return from Street Fighter 4. The new characters — Laura, Rashid, F.A.N.G., and Necali — are all fantastic additions to the roster, both from a gameplay and character perspective.
Laura is a brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner who also happens to be the older sister of Sean from Street Fighter 3. She fights almost like a mixture of Elena and Abel, capable of utilizing her long legs for devastating aerials with long range, while also having some really good dashing specials that can continue into throws.
Rashid is my personal favorite of the newcomers. A middle eastern fighter with the power to control wind, Rashid’s combat style favors high mobility, tricky cross ups and unusual special attacks. He’s also a really fun and likable character, which really shines through his animations and taunts, so pay close attention to them!
Every Street Fighter game has to have at least one oddball character, and F.A.N.G. fits that role perfectly. Bison’s new right hand man, F.A.N.G. is a character that excels at keeping enemies at bay with his long range and slow moving poison attacks. He is extremely awkward to fight against, with one of the most unorthodox fighting styles the Street Fighter franchise has ever seen.
And finally, Necali is basically a rage monster that looks like he came right out of Asura’s Wrath. He’s a powerful rushdown character that excels at getting up in player’s faces and putting on the hurt with a powerful V-Trigger that increases his mobility and damage potential. One would assume that he’d be the big boss of the game, but Street Fighter 5 doesn’t have the usual arcade/story mode that fans of the series might expect.
In place of the traditional arcade mode is a character story mode that cuts out the fluff and focuses on the story of each of the 16 characters. So rather than fighting 8-10 fights, with only two or three having any relevance whatsoever to that character’s story, Street Fighter 5 has you fighting only those story relevant battles. It is a humongous improvement in terms of making Street Fighter‘s story actually mean something.
By not forcing every character to have the same battle with the same final boss, it allows each character to truly have their own story, even if it isn’t super important or relevant to the overarching narrative of the game. In fact, some of my favorite stories involve R. Mika, Zangief, and Laura, who basically just travel around the world fighting strong opponents. There are some great character interactions in these stories, and I’ve never found myself so endeared to Street Fighter characters before playing Street Fighter 5.
The stories told through this mode all serve as a prologue to the real Street Fighter 5 story mode, which is set to be released as a free update sometime in June. While it’s hard to complain about something we’re getting for free, it’s a bummer it’s not available at launch because without it, Street Fighter 5‘s offline offerings are sparse.
The character story mode, while a step forward in terms of actual story, can be completed in about two hours and is not replayable in the same way that the arcade mode used to be. There is a neat survival mode that has players taking on a gauntlet of fighters with health being carried over from match to match, only with the added twist of giving players the option to buy “Battle Supplements,” at the end of each fight. Players can only buy one supplement per match to either restore their health or get a boost to one of their stats in the next match. They can also choose the double down option, which will force the player to fight with a devastating handicap in the next round, but reward them with a score multiplier if they survive.
Unfortunately, if you want to fight in a series of battles against the AI without having to deal with the survival mechanics, you’re out of luck.. Additionally, the challenge mode that was present in Street Fighter 4 won’t be available until March, nor will the store that lets you spend your accumulated Fight Money and Zeny on new characters and costumes.
And that’s really the only real problem with Street Fighter 5: It feels like an unfinished game that justifies that fact by promising to offer the missing content down the line. You’re essentially buying the foundation upon which something will be built, and while that foundation is very strong, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s sorely lacking at the moment, especially for players without the desire to take the fight online.
The good news, is that for those who are interested in testing their skills against the world, online play is fantastic. Very rarely did I ever come across noticeable lag, and when I did, it was typically when playing against international players. Street Fighter 5 also features cross platform play between PC and PS4 versions, ensuring a large pool of players to fight against regardless of your platform of choice. The ability to play any of the game’s other modes while waiting for an online match also returns from Street Fighter 4 and it remains a blessing, removing much of the downtime between fights.
Overall, Street Fighter 5 lives up to the legacy of its predecessors, providing the most accessible entry yet, without sacrificing the depth that hardcore fighting game fans have come to expect. With new characters and modes being planned to release every month up until at least September, players in it for the long haul will eventually find a breadth of content to enjoy in Street Fighter 5, especially since DLC characters can actually be earned with in-game Fight Money that is obtained by just playing the game. Frustratingly, that fight money can only be earned while playing online, even in single player, and with consistent connection drops just after launch you can lose that. More casual fans might want to consider waiting on their purchase until at least the story mode drops in June.
Bottom Line: While it is incomplete by design, with the missing content being dolled out for free over the course of the year, Street Fighter 5 is the most accessible the franchise has ever been and remains mechanically brilliant.
Recommendation: Those without a desire to sharpen their skills against friends or against players online may want to wait for the cinematic story mode to drop in June, but for everyone else, Street Fighter 5 lives up to the hype.[rating=4.0] [amazonwidget]