For a quarter century, the Street Fighter franchise has defined the 2D fighting game. The initial game was a step up from prior fighters – but awful overall. Capcom went to the drawing board and crafted a near-perfect experience in Street Fighter II. The once-sloppy controls and cheap graphics were replaced with pinpoint precision, a then-healthy array of special moves that separated each character, and strategies that made each fighter feel unique.
Revisions came out in the arcades, and at home – with the former being received well at a quarter a pop, and console incarnations receiving scorn for high price tags for seemingly minor upgrades. Street Fighter III’s 1996 release saw something similar – but with less price gouging on consoles, and the mainline series was dormant until 2008 when the original Street Fighter IV came out. Capcom moved its revisions to a combination of digital and physical, with reasonable prices for the latter and larger pricetags for the former and received a bit of flack for that.
Now, Street Fighter V is available on Windows PCs and the PlayStation 4, and marks the first time the franchise has ever been exclusive to one console. As is tradition for the franchise, new characters have been added – with the nefarious F.A.N.G, mysterious Necalli, serious Rashid, and alluring Laura joining the fray. Some characters have been in other sub-series of Street Fighter, but are just now making their mainline debuts – like Rainbow Mika and Charlie, while Birdie has been absent from the main games since the original Street Fighter. Birdie has gone through quite the radical physical transformation and is now a bloated low-level criminal instead of a ripped badass.
For 25 years, the Street Fighter series has been iconic for the fighting game scene – and that has been to the detriment of Street Fighter V’s initial release. In order to give tournament players time to practice, the game itself was rushed out for public consumption before it was completely done – and it’s left some players upset and some just a bit disappointed. The game’s mode selection is the leanest offered up in quite some time, and even its local and online multiplayer options are limited.
As it stands as of late February 2016, those wishing to play the game solo and increase their skills before either heading online or battling local rivals have very few ways to do so. You have a training mode that offers up very little guidance – especially compared to the robust learning tools given to players in the Street Fighter IV games. You can learn about the game on a very basic level, but more advance skills aren’t taught with it. Sure, this is the era of online videos being readily available to do this – but the game itself should have have this especially with past games raising the bar so high.
If you enjoy the training, then you will want to try your hand at each character’s story mode. These give you very brief glimpses into the characters – but they do serve to remind you why the veterans are so endearing after all these years and shed some light on the newcomers. You’ll learn about F.A.N.G.’s rise within Shadowloo, and how Charlie returns from the dead – so there is compelling content within the narrative, it just feels half-baked. The motion comics themselves look fine, but are unspectacular despite Street Fighter being a nice-looking comic book franchise for many years now and are far too short to be completely satisfying.
Whether you play offline or online, the game’s new additions are welcome. New additions to the core gameplay implement the V Roman Numeral as both V-Skills and V-Triggers make their debut. V-Skills are small boosts activated with a press of both the medium punch and kick buttons, while V-Triggers give you bigger boosts and can act as lead-ins to huge special attacks and combinations. Cammy’s V-Skill allows her to spin through some attacks, while Ken’s V-Trigger covers his body in fire and adds an extra level of damage to his usual attacks thanks to the addition of flames. Every mode you play is a joy because the core game is so polished.
The story mode feels like a fun-sized candy bar. They give you a brief taste of what you want, but you’re still left wanting more. Fortunately, more content is coming fairly soon – and Capcom is promising over an hour of content per character. The big key is if that content is truly worthwhile in execution – because something being good in theory and winding up fun in practice are totally different things.
Online play is silky-smooth, and that is a must. With a game like this that requires frame-perfect animation and timing, you can’t have lag killing the experience. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell the whole story of Street Fighter V. The game is heavily-reliant on Capcom’s servers for things like your story mode progress, and even how well you’re doing in the training mode. The servers have been down a lot during the game’s early days, and that leads to an experience that is far less than ideal when there just isn’t much to do offline.
One new addition to SF V on the PS4 is the ability to use PlayStation 3 controllers. The so-called Legacy controller option works for anything crafted for use on the PS3 – so controllers that happened to work with the PS3, but weren’t made for it may not work. In trying my USB Saturn controller, it would recognize the controller – but not allow me to use it for even menu navigation. Using my Xbox 360-style Battlefield 4 controller worked just fine though. That controller layout is very good for the Street Fighter franchise, pausing is easier because the buttons are a bit less cramped than on the default Dual Shock 4, but I couldn’t get the left stick recognized – which is a shame since the 360-style sticks work better for arcade-style movements than the Dual Shock 4.
Playing on PC is going to give you the broadest range of options, as you can not only use a Saturn-style Street Fighter IV pad, but also an Xbox One Elite controller. Its paddles alone can make it easier to get into V-Trigger mode while the circular d-pad is perfect for 360 degree movements in fighting games. Since the Street Fighter series is generally a 3×3 setup with the top row working for punches and the bottom working for kicks, Saturn-style pads are best – but using a more common setup with four face buttons works as well.
Visually, Street Fighter V dazzles with the most-detailed character models in the franchise’s history. The Street Fighter IV games meshed a real-life and animated art style quite well thanks to cell shading, and SF V keeps the same cartoonish features, but nixes the black outline. Some may not like it as much as SF IV’s visuals, but the characters themselves look more robust and have far more details. Backgrounds are also full of detail, but nowhere near as memorable as the ones featured in prior entries of the game. Animation is silky-smooth, and there are no jittery animations that take you out of the experience.
Street Fighter V’s audio is pretty strong in most regards. The soundtrack is varied, but largely forgettable. Given how bad some of the songs could be in games like Street Fighter III, maybe it’s better this way as nothing is bad – but nothing stands out after playing either. The voice work is outstanding during the story mode – and a huge surprise given how melodramatic the acting has been in the franchise’s animated works over the years. The sound effects are all outstanding, and have little flourishes added to them that indicate more speed or power and really stand out with a solid pair of gaming headphones or a quality headset.
Overall, Street Fighter V is an outstanding core game that has a lot of room to improve in terms of the amount of content offered up. What’s here is absolutely top-notch, but there needs to be more of it to keep the franchise’s fanbase interested beyond competitive play. The servers also need a lot of refining, and there’s no excuse for those to be in such a sad state given how long closed beta testing has been going on. Still, the game remains a must-buy for fighting game fans and will only be getting better in time.
When it comes to being accessible, Street Fighter V works very well. Its bevy of control options make it fairly accessible for those with minor motor function issues. Visually-speaking, the large character models are very helpful and the on-screen menu text is large and easy to read. The use of colored icons in the game itself and the online manual using specific colors may cause issues for those with color blindness though. From an audio perspective, the music isn’t accessible if you’re hard of hearing – but the fairly large subtitles to keep you abreast of the story line in text form before fights and large text boxes fill you in to the voice work between fights.
Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Barrier Free
Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Auditory Rating: Thorughly Accessible
Released For: PS4, PC
ESRB Rating: T
Game Informer Rating: 7.0