Street Fighter V is a disappointingly excellent game. It is an incredible fighting game wrapped in a terrible package. Over a month after launch and the much anticipated March update, I still feel that way. The update added very little of value, and the game would still be considered light on content if it launched today. That being said, over a month after launch I am still playing this game. I’m not the biggest fighting game fan in the world, but Street Fighter V has hooked me, and I love exploring the mechanics and becoming a better player. This game has a long life ahead of itself in the tournament scene, but for the casual market it was dead on arrival.
The roster in Street Fighter V offers a diverse set of playable characters. There are characters that are easy for beginner players to pick up as well as characters that require more work to learn. In my time playing online, I have seen a strong mix of characters being played, which I think says a lot about the roster. There are characters I hate playing as, but that has more to do with my play style and less to do with the character being poorly designed. The most important part of any fighting game is balance, and the balance in Street Fighter V is nearly infallible. The roster isn’t though. The 16 character roster is nine characters fewer than what was offered at the launch of Street Fighter IV, and while I like Laura and Rashid from a fighting perspective, none of the new characters are very interesting.
Street Fighter V is also a great looking game. The characters work wonderfully in the art style, and the animation is fantastic. The effects are similar to those seen in Street Fighter IV but still provide their own, unique flair. This praise doesn’t extend to the backgrounds. Their is an impressive amount of variety between them, but the characters in them look bad and animate at a lower frame rate than the main action.
Capcom has promised that an expanded story mode will be available in June. But what is currently in the game is not only worse than what is offered in Mortal Kombat, but it is also worse than previous Street Fighter games. A classic arcade ladder with character endings works. It is nothing fancy, but it is functional and acceptable. What is on display in Street Fighter V is awful. You choose a character and play anywhere from two to four matches with some story bits stitched in between. These story bits are dialogue over really poor looking pieces of artwork. The whole thing reminds me of an early story board and not a finished product.
The other main singleplayer mode is survival mode. The idea is that you face a series of increasingly difficult opponents for 10, 30, 50, or 100 matches. You have a single health bar, but you can purchase upgrades in between each match. Using the 50 man gauntlet as an example, the problem with the mode is that the first 45 matches are mind-numbingly easy before the difficulty ramps up for the last five. Therefore, if you die on the 49th fight you have to start from the beginning with 45 more fights that fail to hold your attention. The mode is a fine idea, but a traditional ladder would have been more effective.
The main new system introduced in Street Fighter V is the V-System. It is a meter based system that consists of V-Skills, V-Triggers, and V-Reversals. V-Skills cost no meter and often provide a basic buff towards the character. V-Triggers use the entire meter and either perform a special attack or provide a longer lasting buff. V-Reversals use only a portion of the meter and are, well, reversals. This system adds an extra layer to the game and works well in tangent with the pre-existing Ex meter. The problem is that Capcom goes through no effort to tell you how it works or the differences between characters.
Street Fighter V opens with a tutorial that should be insulting to anyone who has played a video game before, let alone a fighting game. After that, you’re on your own. The newly added challenge mode is a little better than what was in the game at launch, but even that provides little information about how the systems of the game actually work. You can’t even experiment by playing against an AI fighter. It has made me cautious to try new characters because I don’t want to spend twelve online fights banging my head against a wall. There is incredible depth to Street Fighter V, and Capcom has left the job of finding it in the hands of the player. The introduction of a replay mode that allows you to watch your previous fights and try to pick up what you did right and what you did wrong is a welcome addition, but it isn’t perfect and in no way a replacement for proper tutorials.
The store has finally made it into Street Fighter V, and it kind of sucks. You can spend Fight Money, the in-game currency that you earn, to unlock one costume for each character. Those costumes aren’t very good, and the story mode ones still aren’t available. The store itself is also laid out in the most uninteresting way imaginable. You will eventually be able to buy Zenny, the currency which you pay real money for, but that is not available yet. All DLC characters will be purchasable with both Zenny and Fight Money, but not all costumes will. I wish they would make everything purchasable with Fight Money, but this is far from the worst case scenario.
The netcode in Street Fighter V got off to a pretty poor start with server issues being prominent during launch week. Most of that has been straightened out by now though, and the game works great online with very few instances of lag. Outside of the mechanics this is the most important thing in a fighting game, so it is good to see that Capcom has all but nailed it. One disappointing aspect of the servers is that earning Fight Money relies on being connected, and if the servers go down while your on the 99th fight of survival mode you get kicked out to the main menu. Thankfully this doesn’t happen very often anymore.
Street Fighter V is one of the best fighting games in years. The fights are exhilarating and nail-biting. There is a good mixture of speed and weight at play. Everything feels great, and the balance is fair. But that just isn’t enough in 2016. Fighting games are getting more extravagant, not less. And while Street Fighter V is lacking compared to Street Fighter IV, it is laughable when compared to its modern opponents. I can’t stop playing this game, but I also can’t stop thinking about how much better it could have been.
Final Score: 3 Stars