First of all, I must say that it was hard for me to review Street Fighter V after playing it for a while. I was one of those kids who used to go to the arcades back in the day, and many fighting games devoured my quarters; Samurai Shodown 1 & 2, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, just to name a few. But the first one had been Street Fighter 2. I played that game so much that I’m surprised that I didn’t develop early-onset carpal tunnel syndrome.
My buddies and I would get so pumped-up to pick our favorite characters and play against each other, and sometimes the matches would get pretty heated with plenty of trash-talking thrown in for good measure. Those days were really great and will forever be ingrained in my memory.
However, being a bigtime fighting game fan at that time, I also bought and played a wide array of them, even Japanese ports that I had to purchase a special converter for. And that’s where I saw the potential for the fighting game genre—much more so than the typical American, who mainly sees only watered down products, not the truly amazing games that never made it to our shores. Take for instance 1997’s Tobal 2 by DreamFactory/Square. It was a brilliant game that featured fully-3d movement (in square areas) and MMA-style fighting, replete with clinch work, grappling, striking, etc. It was so multifaceted that it blew me and my gaming buddies away.
Then there was Bushido Blade which quietly came out that same year (also published by Square), which again offered 3d movement, this time with large areas that you could run around in that led to completely different areas, such as a medieval castle where you and your opponent could be fighting in a large castle chamber one minute and then traverse off into its cherry blossom garden and continue fighting. It also featured no life bars and time limits, and a single blow could kill you, making for a more realistic and tension-filled experience.
And then around that same time there was Street Fighter III, which to me was somewhat limited when compared to the aforementioned games that had developers who were actually taking chances and broadening the genre. Fighting on a 2d plane where in many cases the majority of attacks were energy based (such as Ryu/Ken’s fireballs) or otherwise concentrated on special abilities, as opposed to more natural attacks that seemed more realistic, just seemed sort of corny to me. It also didn’t help that Street Fighter III just seemed to be more of the same, only with better graphics.
Since then, there has been Street Fighter IV, released back in 2008, and again it just seemed like the same 2d plane/Hadoken experience but with updated visuals. The latest incarnation, Street Fighter V, which instead of trying something novel and innovative after all of these years, basically gives you the same basic 2d plane-fighting, but sadly, seems to have taken a step or two backwards from SFIV.
The throngs of Street Fighter purists out there, muppet-like in their obedience to the series’ rigid and hackneyed game conventions with totally unoriginal gameplay mechanics, would argue that they don’t mind more of the same ‘ol, same ‘ol, just tweaked. Well, even by their standards, Street Fighter V is a weak entry, at least at launch. First off, the initial launch was very underwhelming—some of the options on the main menu were greyed out for instance, meaning a lot of content was missing right from the start.
Then there’s the “Story” mode, which is also incomplete, featuring only a few fights, zero rival battles, and pretty limp endings with no cool animated sequences showing the outcome, which is de rigueur for any Street Fighter game. And what do you get as a reward for completing Story Mode? Well, the ability to buy a new costume from the Street Fighter V store for that chosen character—but you’ll have to wait to spend your cold, hard, cash on this shameless money-grab since the store is not even live yet.
Street Fighter V’s core mechanics were supposedly going to shake up Street Fighter’s gameplay, but the “new” stuff here (Variable System, Critical Arts, etc.) are just variations of older systems with new names or windows of execution. You’re still limited to facing each other on the same boring 2d planes with different backdrops, which almost makes you feel as though you’re playing on rails at this point. There is very little innovation here besides the additional characters.
Speaking of which, of the four new characters on offer, a couple of them were sort of cool; F.A.N.G. who has some really unorthodox attacks and looks like a Thin Man from the X-Com series, and the buxom and bootie-ful Laura Matsuda, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu woman who just basically has some rather bouncy animations.
To Street Fighter V’s credit, it’s new art style deserves praise. It is more fluid than ever and as comprised of lighter brush strokes, meaning you don’t get that thickly-lined exterior look of its predecessor, Street Fighter IV, which looks overly cartoonish by comparison. The only drawback is that sometimes the characters look a little like clay-mation pieces, with harshly-defined variances in tone and lighting. The backgrounds also look nice but some of the animations of the people and objects in them can be a little stiff. Although I’m a big fan of sprites, this is the best version of the 3d modeled Street Fighter games I’ve yet witnessed.
Back to the not-so-good-stuff, Street Fighter V doesn’t feature a Challenge Mode. That’s right—instead of having a gradual ramping up of opponents in order to develop your skills, all you are relegated to is a Training Mode. Want to hone your skills online? Good luck with that—Street Fighter V’s servers are spotty at best, and sometimes were down for days at a time right after launch. Even when they decide to wink back on you can only invite a single friend to play with. When you actually do get a game going the netcode is pretty decent and I didn’t experience any lag or framerate drop.
What a lot of folks don’t realize or step back for a second to ponder is that we live in an age of gigantic corporations and conglomerations of private companies. Many of these organizations are in business to make a profit, their primary concern is not being loyal to customers nor going above and beyond our expectations. In this light, it is just inexcusable for a corporation with Capcom’s deep pockets to scrimp on basic content and cut corners just to make their bottom line pop. But until people demand more and stop tolerating more and more of less and less, we’ll see this unfortunate downward trajectory continue. But I digress…
Would I suggest Street Fighter V to a diehard fan who really doesn’t care what sort of manipulation is going on, nor is bright enough to see it? Sure—and to be fair, perhaps Capcom will fix some or all of the bugs in its new Street Fighter offering and actually fill in enough content to constitute a full retail-priced game. But those who hunger for more in terms of creativity and innovation will stay hungry and wait until the day that someone deviates from the standard formulae. In my mind, it’s okay to expect the next Tobal or Bushido Blade, not merely reminisce about the old days.
Street Fighter fans will really appreciate the new art direction that Street Fighter V has taken however it will take a powerful gaming laptop and PC to get all of the bells and whistles running properly. Consider getting a new gaming rig to meet that challenge:
Visit CyberpowerPC’s website to check out all of the other great deals as well!