Street Fighter V Review: Kick, Punch, It’s All In The Mind

Street Fighter V Review
out of 5

The Street Fighter game series has always meant a lot to me. From the epic arcade battles of Street Fighter II (oh, the quarters I fed into those cabinets, and we all had the jerk friend who’d use Blanka to trap us in the corner), to the epic SFII tournaments in my dorm room with friends and roommates on the SNES (and the broken controllers that came with it), to the sheer speed and beauty of 2010’s Street Fighter IV, the series has been a large part of my gaming life.

Now Capcom has released the next numbered installment, Street Fighter V, exclusively on the PS4, and the urge to once again jump in and fight is unyielding. The perennial fighting game, which arguably helped create the genre, returns to a landscape that has been repaved with the likes of last year’s Mortal Kombat X, and Koei Tecmo’s Dead or Alive series. Can Street Fighter regain its place as the top fighting game, or has time — and the business of selling games — passed it by?

Street Fighter V Review

Street Fighter V offers up 16 characters in the initial game, 12 fighters, who are a mixture of older classics, and four new combatants. Of the four new (Necalli, Rashid, Laura, and F.A.N.G.), Rashid is my personal favorite, with Laura right behind. Capcom and developer Dimps has done a wonderful job creating characters that fit right in seamlessly to the Street Fighter world. The downside here is that many classic characters got cut out, though some will be available as DLC — more on that in a sec.

Street Fighter V Review

The classic gameplay returns, giving new players a pick-up-and-play opportunity to get into the game, and then practice (and lose), practice (and lose) and practice (and win!) to get better. Especially with the new V-Skill meters and moves, which can turn the fates of a match around in the blink of an eye. This is something that Street Fighter has always been good at, and it continues here with Street Fighter V. While the ability to jump right in, both for new and veteran players, is here, the issues with Street Fighter V begin to show when players begin looking for features.

Story mode, which has always been something akin to choosing a character, playing them through a gauntlet of fighters, and then getting that characters “ending” has been completely scrapped for something that barely resembles the story modes of old. Each character has three-to-five fights (one round) and comic-book styled cut-scenes with voice acting (no motion). Each “story” takes a few minutes, at best, to complete, and the challenge is weak, as evidenced by a 6-month-old beating Birdie’s chapter. When the stories are played in their entirety, they paint the overall “narrative” of Street Fighter V, which involves F.A.N.G. and Bison and Shadoloo and, well, I’m too sure of the story, as the disjointed way the narrative is delivered is a bit confusing. And it takes maybe 20 minutes to see the whole narrative from all 16 characters.

But honestly, Street Fighter has never been about story. It’s about fighting across the world with different fighters, and that is retained in the form of on-line battles with friends and strangers. Early on, server problems made matchmaking a chore, but in the month since the game’s release, the servers are starting to stabilize.

Street Fighter V Review

Arcade mode has been cut entirely, which is another head-scratcher. It’s as if Capcom is forcibly shoving players to play online, at the cost of other modes and features. This is all part of Capcom’s eSports franchise, the Capcom Pro Tour, for which Street Fighter will be a cornerstone. The problem is that not everyone wants to battle strangers online. I like to fight friends, both online and on the couch, but I also like trying out different characters and learning their strengths and weaknesses and mastering them — usually through story mode and arcade, and well, you see the problem?

Another issue is that certain features are still missing, coming in the promised “March update,” which kind of gives the feeling that Street Fighter V shipped unfinished. While this is nothing new — and sadly may be becoming the norm in this industry — Street Fighter fans (some of which, like myself, have been here for decades!) are left holding the bag.

Street Fighter V Review

Street Fighter V is a Playstation 4 exclusive (and PC), so it can almost be compared to Microsoft’s Killer Instinct exclusive, the big difference here being that SFV is a full-priced game to start — even unfinished — and Killer Instinct is a free-to-play game, with costs coming for additional fighters and features. This bothers me. Selling SFV for $60 in its bare-bones, unfinished state, with the promise of future updates and paid DLC, feels so much like a Capcom money grab, and they are better than this.

To be fair, Capcom has said that in-game currency earned while playing the game (“story mode” and online) can be used instead of cash to unlock the new (old) characters and costumes that are coming in paid DLC, but really, only hardcore fighter fans will still be around that long to do that, and this franchise, which has always been about accessibility, has turned its back on a good portion of its fanbase.

Street Fighter V is a good foundation of a game that should have been so much more. While there is still great fun to be had here, without all of the features the franchise is known for available right now, casual fans and those that don’t like to get beat up over and over will quickly move on, and that goes against what Capcom was hoping for with the eSports franchise. The March update will be hitting soon, and hopefully it starts to fix the things that are wrong here. We will revisit the review when that happens with an update of our own, but until then, SFV is a solid fighter for those that like to fight online and in user-created tournaments, but casual fans may want to move on.

Street Fighter V is available now exclusively for the Playstation 4. This review is based off a review code provided by the publisher.

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