Has Street Fighter V "V-Reversed" Its Fortunes?

This is actually my second attempt at writing a review for Street Fighter V. The first one being extremely long winded talking about target audiences and what not. It soon turned more into a rant about people complaining for the sake of complaining. But I kept adding more and more, and before long many of the points made were no longer relevant.

So with Street Fighter V now over a month old and the first DLC and a few balance tweaks out, everything I wrote about before no longer matters (and I argued if it mattered then anyway). So I’m starting from scratch.

Street Fighter V is Capcom’s fifth main series release of the Street Fighter franchise (as the Alpha, EX and various “Vs” series’ don’t quite count) and is building upon the foundation laid down by Street Fighter 4 and its successor titles. Everyone knows how huge the various Street Fighter 2 games were, Street Fighter 3 somewhat failed to build upon that popularity, bringing in lots of new characters that nobody had any connection with. So Street Fighter 4 tried returning to the Street Fighter 2 nostalgia roots – and with a move towards using the eSports trend managed to become a hugely successful fighting game.

Street Fighter V is further building on what Street Fighter 4 started. They didn’t reinvent things for the sake of reinventing them. While highly polished, minus a few graphical glitches, the game retains a very similar art style to Street Fighter 4. If you look at the Ryu models from both games they are very similar in overall design – with the hyper masculine musculature etc. Street Fighter 4’s graphics “weren’t broken” so there was no need to “fix them”. Likewise the general mechanics of the game remain similar with links and cancels leading towards combos and damage.

The main change is going from a generic “Focus” game system, where every character had the same focus attack mechanic, to the new “V” system, where every characters “V” Abilities differ. While some will complain that this removes combo opportunities, I feel this is a great change. The Focus system in 4 was the same for everyone, but some characters could make near game breaking excellent use of it, other characters had little to no reason to ever press the focus attack input. The V System changes that entirely, while every character has a V-Skill, V-Reversal and V-Trigger all are individual to the character in question and so can be tuned and tweaked to ALWAYS be useful to that character.

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This new V-System along with a few other behind the scenes game mechanic changes also move to make the game easier for newer players to pick up. Many combos in Street Fighter 4 required inputs to be precise down to 1/60th of a second. Combine several of those with the more difficult focus attack dash cancel inputs and you have a huge gap between high level players and lower level players. The “simplicity” of Street Fighter V’s inputs still takes time to learn and perfect, but much less time than in previous games. This leaves newer players able to concentrate on enjoying the game rather than spending countless hours in the training room (or just resorting to being a button masher).

Many people worried that the new input leniency and simplicity of combos would make the game boring. However it means people can instead concentrate on what is happening in the fight, instead of worrying about how to do their combo. The mind games meta comes much more into play.

Another big change was that of the removal of the Focus system allowing players to make normally highly risky moves really safe.  For example Ryu could do his famous Shoryuken uppercut, normally if this is blocked you are left open for a punishing combo. But instead Ryu could “Focus Attack Dash Cancel” (or FADC for short) and make the move safe again. But on top of that, if the original Shoryuken DID hit, after doing the FADC the Ryu can unleash his Ultra Move to do huge damage on reaction. It took all of the Risk out of Risk Vs Reward.

Street Fighter V is ALL about “Risk Vs Reward”. Now there is no way for Ryu to make his Shoryuken safe on block. The Ryu player has to make their decision and stand by it. However this is tied with the new Crush Counter mechanic. If Ryu’s opponent uses one of their Crush Counter moves (usually heavy attacks) and score a counter hit Ryu will be left open for huge damage. Ryu’s Shoryuken is now the risky move it should be – thus leaving the player wondering: “Is this the move I should do?”

Street Fighter V had quite a rocky launch. Much of my initial attempt at a review was based around the outcries of the Fighting Game Community (FGC) at the state of the game at launch and why that left me confused. Very long story short (nearly 2500 words down to this paragraph in fact) The game came out somewhat unfinished and unpolished. Capcom released it early, in large part, so it would be out in time for the first events of their Pro Tour competition. The game that released was exactly what hard-core Fighting Game players needed. It had an amazing training mode, and had online and offline versus modes and a few other modes. I thought it was great, Capcom had said in advance the “missing modes” would come in free updates, so I was happy. Casual fans had cause for concern, as there was a lack of the usual content for casual players. But the very people who were complaining were the same people who in Street Fighter 4 said “all you should be playing is Training Mode and Online – AI is a waste of time” are now complaining about a lack of AI Modes…

Any new online based game is bound to have server issues for the first week or so. Do as many stress tests as you like, the day one influx of players will bring up unexpected problems. Being an avid online gamer I expected this and just didn’t play online for the first week.  It had its matchmaking and lag issues, but those were soon resolved, and in the end were far better than some other online games have had in recent years *Cough* Diablo 3 *Cough*.

But now the first month’s DLC has come out. Most of the “missing” game modes have been added, and for the most part the online is nearly flawless. Since Street Fighter V launched I have had less than 5 games that were so laggy it was unplayable. That’s pretty good going in my book.


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Add to that the new DLC character, Alex, has been given away for “free” to make up for the fact that the real money in-game shop isn’t ready yet, and players are generally much happier. And instead of complaining endlessly are now just enjoying the game. Though it would seem that Capcom haven’t, yet, done enough to stop the many “Rage Quitters” out there.

With any Fighting Game it is largely about the competitive scene, which comes down to game balance. Unbalanced games rarely last, and aren’t as fun. Nobody really likes the whole “play character X or you can’t win” mentality. And Capcom seem to have done an excellent job at keeping the whole cast very close in terms of balance. You can’t get it 100% with so many variables, so there will always be a best and a worst character, but at this early stage, all of the characters are very closely balanced. All of the characters that are frequently placed at the bottom of “Tier Lists” are still appearing in the Top 16 if not Top 8 at major tournaments. When was the last time anyone saw DeeJay from Ultra Street Fighter 4 in even Top 32 or Top 64?

Combine this excellent character balancing with the first DLC character, Alex, and you are on a good course. Many other Fighting Games struggle with balancing, I know Mortal Kombat X recently released a few new characters, and they were so broken that they had to be banned until NetherRealm could fix them. Not so with Alex’s release in Street Fighter V. While many players may have initially struggled against the returning wrestler, most of that was due to not knowing what Alex does. Once that first few games were out of the way the character seems very balanced compared to the rest of the cast. But we will really need to wait and see how Alex players handle the next big tournament.

As I said earlier, Capcom is playing the long game with Street Fighter V. Its release may have been less than ideal for casual players, or players new to the series, but it was pretty spot on for the competitive players – regardless of how much they complained. The game was released early enough so that the first few events of the Capcom Pro Tour could run as planned, and the competitive scene has been lapping up the tournament play. Hopefully the excitement of the big tournaments such as the Capcom Pro Cup and EVO will be enough to bring in the new players that the initial launch problems may have put off.

The game is nicely catered to helping newer players pick it up and enjoy it. However the launch was more tailored to the competitive scene. There will always be a big Street Fighter following, the fans who grew up with Street Fighter 2 and more recently with the popularity of Street Fighter 4 will always be there. But Capcom will still want to bring in the new blood. If Capcom had released the game in its current state I think the game’s launch would’ve been near perfect, though people will always complain about server issues.  But with the game now being pretty much spot on, and with more free game modes etc to come – is it too little too late for bringing in the new players? Or have the launch issues marred it forever?

Before I end I shall also touch on the DLC Model that Capcom have opted for in Street Fighter V. Many gamers don’t realise that most of the big games companies don’t make much, if any, money on box sales these days. Development takes too long, costs too much and games prices haven’t really risen to reflect this. So instead of games costing £100 – which would put people off, they cost £50-60, just enough to break even most of the time, and then offer DLC to make the profit. It is too easy to forget that these are businesses and that’s what they’re in this for.

Players often think DLC is the Devil. There so that the developers and publishers can rinse every last penny out of the players’ pockets. And we’ve touched on the DLC debate before here at Darkworld Gaming, and it might be worth revisiting in detail again soon. But I think Capcom have done the DLC for Street Fighter V perfectly.

Street Fighter 4 re-released several times, from “vanilla” to Super Street Fighter 4 to Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition to Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition 2013 and finally Ultra Street Fighter 4. Every time required either buying a new disk, or buying the downloadable update. With each new version including many balance changes as well as new stages and characters, taking the game from 16 characters at launch to 44 characters in Ultra. This became problematic for players who came and went periodically. Someone might have brought Street Fighter 4 on release day, stopped playing a few months later and then came back a year later to try it out, only to find that the game had moved on, and that they couldn’t play with their friends because they had a different version.

With Street Fighter V you’ll only need the initial disk (or download). All balance changes will be completely free. So if players take a big break, when they come back they can get straight back into it. Then there are the DLC characters. These are being treated more like MOBA characters in Street Fighter V. There are 3 ways to get hold of them:

  1. You can buy the Season Pass
  2. You can buy them individually using real money
  3. You can save up in game currency to buy them

Here in the UK the Season Pass costs £30, gets you all 6 of the first years characters, at least 1 free stage has been announced for Season Pass owners, and I think you get all or at least some of the “Premium Costumes”. You can buy the characters individually for, I think, £7 each. Although the real money shop isn’t available yet, so they have actually made the first new DLC character free until it is available (Nicely done Capcom!). And finally you can earn in game currency called “Fight Money” various ways in game, and new characters cost 100,000FM each. The first 3-4 characters would be super easy to get this way if you didn’t spend your Fight Money on anything else. By the time the In Game Shop dropped I had already saved 400,000FM on my account.

The next DLC items are the costumes. Ever present in the Street Fighter series. These are split into “Alternate Costumes” and “Premium Costumes”. The Alternative Costumes cost 40,000FM, and currently are just the Story Mode costumes; I believe these will be available for real money as well once the real money store opens. The Premium Costumes will only be available for real money (and I think are somewhat included in the Season Pass).

This all means that the important parts of the DLC are going to be available for free, should the players not want to part with their hard earned cash.  As I said previously, any balance changes and game modes will always be free. And characters can be earned purely with in game currency – if you play the game enough you can buy all of the characters when they come out for free. Other players, like myself, will happily buy the Season Pass, get all of the characters that way and then spend their Fight Money on the story mode costumes instead.

The important thing is that the necessary content is not locked behind paid (or Pay-to-Win) barriers. Spending money is optional – which is important to keep the players happy. Capcom know that plenty of players will spend their money though. Either because players are impatient and want content as soon as it is released, or because even if they buy their characters with Fight Money, there will likely still be a Premium Costume that they’ll want for their main character. Finally there are players like me, who are happy to buy the Season Pass because we want to support our favourite games companies in a time where one terrible launch could see the company go up in smoke financially.

Street Fighter V had a rocky launch, but is now a solid game. In many ways it is an ideal game for newcomers to get into, and at an ideal time. Street Fighter 2 was THE first “eSport” game, and while the Fighting Game Community (FGC) wanted to play all hipster about it and deny that they were eSports and instead were just the FGC, Capcom is pushing the eSports route. Suddenly there is bigger cash pools at major tournaments, eSports companies are looking to include fighting games in their line ups. As eSports become a bigger and bigger market, the inclusion of Street Fighter V will help the game and scene grow with it.

Ignoring the rocky launch, as most games have a rocky launch these days, Street Fighter V is a very well rounded game, the mechanics are great, the character line up is great, the DLC method is spot on. In many ways its only real down side for me is the few graphical glitches that never got fixed from the beta.

And with Guile now announced there is a lot to look forward to in Street Fighter V

If you liked previous Street Fighter games you’ll like Street Fighter V. If the initial reviews of the game put you off, now is the time to reconsider – with the first DLC “fixing” many of the problems that I didn’t really think were there anyway, the game is now whole. And there is still the Cinematic Story Mode to come in June!

If you’re new to the Fighting Game scene, or are new to learning how to play Fighting Games properly then Street Fighter V is the ideal game to do so with. As the inputs are a lot more lenient than most other games, you can spend less time on learning how to play the game, and more time on learning how to play the game. Also there are FGC Scenes all over the place, we’re a friendly bunch for the most part, and are often happy to help new players improve. If you’re looking at getting into Fighting Games properly do a bit of research, look up the various Facebook pages and see what’s near you. I run a weekly Fighting Game Community event called Friday Night Fights in Colchester – if you’re nearby, come check it out!

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