The Street Fighter series has been going for a long time, and is still hailed as one of the most important fighting game series out there. The original game appeared in video game arcades (remember those, dear reader?) many years ago, probably long before many of you were even born. I still have fond memories as a youngster of watching expert players pull off those moves with the finesse and grace of a ballet dancer, and then trying to emulate those moves myself. This, of course, came with a limited measure of success. It eventually also became a running gag that Capcom had no idea how to count to three, given that the highly-successful Street Fighter II was followed with Super Street Fighter II, Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition, Street Fighter II Alpha, and so on. Now, many years later, we’ve not only seen Street Fighter III, but also Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter IV, and now we have the chance to review the latest game in the series, Street Fighter V.
It’s a measure of how difficult it’s become to write a consistent video game review these days that all reviews have to come with a disclaimer stating that the review is a snapshot of the game as it was at the time of review. There are so many patches, post-release content, and DLC packs that keeping a review an accurate reflection of the state of the game is a challenge that many publications choose to handle in different ways. Case in point, Street Fighter V—now a couple of weeks post release—is a completely different animal than it was on day one. And the game still isn’t in its fully armed and functional state. So how to state this review? Well, consider it a snapshot of how the game looked a week or two after release.
Street Fighter V doesn’t really present a coherent, unified story: instead, it gives a snippet of a few days or memories of each character, explaining their motivations and sometimes a bit of back-story. For example, the game’s poster child, Ryu, is seeking to fight his inner demons while keeping up his rivalry with Ken. Ken, on the other hand, has been invited to a party with his wife and child, and they’re just trying to get canapés. Chun Li is reliving memories of her days as a Hong Kong policewoman chasing Shadaloo operatives. And so on. The overall idea eventually is that you have these Shadaloo bad guys on one side, and the good guys on the other side trying to stop them, but it never gets much deeper than that. You get the gist of how it goes.
The story mode serves as the game’s intro to new players, but the single-player modes also encompass a dojo and local battle. On the PS4, the game was brilliantly responsive, and with a little practise I was able to pull off just about every move in each character’s moveset. The movesets were also pretty standard, and if you’ve played and mastered Street Fighter before, you can be rest assured that the majority of the moves will be as you remembered them, with one big exception. Street Fighter V characters have a new moveset called V-Skills, which replaces Street Fighter IV’s ultra meter. The V-Skill meter is filled by using certain attacks (the move list explains which moves will fill the meter). Once the meter is filled, the characters have special skills available to them only upon activating the V-Skill. It’s not a massive game-changer, but it adds a new interesting twist for older players to master.
Street fighter V contains a roster of new characters at your disposal (or in some cases, such as R.Mika, characters that haven’t appeared since Street Fighter Alpha). New characters obviously means that some older characters had to be retired, so some long-standing characters such as Blanka and E.Honda have no appearance in this game. Of course, this could change with a DLC pack, but as the game stands now, those are the choices. Compared to the roster from Street Fighter IV, the current lineup looks a little meager.
The big feature for Street Fighter V is the online mode and what makes it doubly interesting is the fact that the online mode is cross-platform, meaning that no matter what platform you play on, you’ll face challengers from the entire fan base. This is where we start getting into “launch game vs current game” territory. At launch, the online was a mess, but as it currently sits, it’s pretty darned competent. Finding a match is a simple affair, and you can simply leave a setting on saying you’re looking for a fight. Online battling didn’t feel too laggy when I played, and the game moves along at a good click, with the occasional slight framerate dip here and there, but it’s unclear if that was the game or my internet connection.
One of the most baffling issues is the amount of stuff that’s NOT here, at least at this point in time. For example, there’s no “vs CPU” mode that is normally included. There’s the story mode of course, but that’s four matches per character. There’s also challenge mode, but that’s an onslaught of ever more difficult fighters, not a “best of 3” mode. Then there’s the somewhat dim roster of characters that I’ve already covered. And some of the menu options are greyed out. Capcom has promised this content later in the year but it seems a little weird to launch what is essentially a massive beta and call it a full release.
My conclusion is that, Street Fighter V is, as it stands, still a damn good game, and the online mode (which is where all the action is, after all) is robust enough to handle the hordes of players looking for a good fight. The technical system works, and while familiar enough to old players, is still accessible to newbies. If you’re a fan of fighting game and you’re willing to wait for the rest of the game’s content, give it a go, but it wouldn’t hurt to wait to see what and when the extra goodies are unlocked.