First Impressions: Street Fighter V Beta

The Street Fighter V regional stress test gave me the opportunity to see how Capcom’s latest installment to the Street Fighter series is coming along. As a huge Street Fighter fan, I was interested to see what changes would be made to the series.

Street Fighter IV (SFIV) always seemed slightly off to me. Coming from Street Fighter III: Third Strike (3S), SFIV always felt too sluggish for a Street Fighter game. The game didn’t look very nice either. Compared to other fighting games such as Marvel vs Capcom 3, the transition from 2D sprites to 3D models just seemed a bit awkward. I’m not trying to say the SFIV series was bad, I simply don’t believe it was what hardcore Street Fighter fans expected. Street Fighter V feels like the true sequel to 3S. The faster speed, high damaging combos and frequent stuns are reminiscent of both Super Street Fighter II Turbo (ST) and 3S. Stages and character models look better than ever before due to the extra particle effects in stages as well as the added detail on models. Street Fighter V’s art style borrows SFIV’s ink effects in places but manages to look unique rather than a souped-up version of SFIV.

The two main mechanics introduced in SFIV (Focus Attack and the Ultra Combo) have been removed from Street Fighter V. The universal Focus Attack has been replaced by V-Skills and the Ultra Combo has been replaced by the V-Trigger. A V-Skill is a unique ability that differs from character to character. Ryu’s V-Skill brings back his parry from 3S allowing him to punish slow recovering moves. Nash’s V-Skill allows him to absorb a projectile, in return he builds a quarter of his V-Gauge. The input is MP+MK, the same input as the Focus Attack. The V-Trigger is a comeback mechanic, similar to the Ultra Combo in SFIV. However, unlike Ultra Combos, the V-Trigger is not another version of a Super Combo. Instead, V-Triggers activate abilities that give the characters more options during the fight. In order to use the V-Trigger, the V-Gauge has to build throughout the fight. Like the Revenge Gauge in SFIV, the V-Gauge builds by taking damage from attacks and blocking. Each character has a different sized V-Gauge, for example: Ryu, Chun-Li and Nash have two meters to build whereas M Bison has three. Ryu’s V-Trigger activates his Denjin state for ten seconds. This ability gives Ryu’s moves an electric effect that increases both the damage and stun on all moves. The Denjin state also allows Ryu to charge his hadoukens in the same manner as the Denjin Hadouken in 3S. Nash’s V-Trigger gives him the ability to teleport around his opponent giving opportunities for both offensive and defensive options. There’s also the ability to use one meter from the V-Gauge to perform a V-Reversal, similar to the Alpha Counters in the Street Fighter Alpha series. V-Reversals are performed by pressing Forward + 3P or 3K. Using a V-Reversal in the middle of an opponent’s block string pushes their character back, resetting the situation.

The introduction of the V-Skills and V-Triggers are a welcome addition to Street Fighter V. I felt as though the Focus Attack and Ultra Combos did more harm than they did good when it came to balance in SFIV. Some characters benefitted a lot more than others with those mechanics due to the design of the characters. The majority of SFIV’s roster had been taken from older games in the series. Their moves may not have complemented SFIV’s mechanics as much as they did in their respective games. The new mechanics in Street Fighter V force the developers to make each character unique. Recently, Capcom announced the inclusion of Ken in the game which, to some, may have been slightly concerning. It seems Capcom are moving away from the ‘clones’ of characters such as Ryu, Ken and Akuma. They are trying to make these characters truly unique as a way of diversifying the roster without upsetting the fans of the series. Ultra Street Fighter IV ended with the game having 44 characters, more than any in the numbered Street Fighter games so far. It is clear Capcom are trying to focus on quality rather than quantity this time around.SF5 1

My time playing the beta was spent exclusively playing as Ryu. The main reason why I did was because Ryu is my main character and, due to the lack of time spent in training mode, I wouldn’t be able to learn one of the other characters and play at an acceptable level. When the game officially comes out is when I’ll put the time in to learn someone new. Ryu has changed quite a lot since SFIV, if you play as Ryu in SFIV you will find yourself trying to do things that will not work in the new game. One of the main things that I kept forgetting was that you can’t special cancel from standing HP anymore. Standing HP now works in a target combo (MP, HP, HK) which is nice, though this target combo doesn’t seem to hit crouching opponents. His sweep has a lot of recovery frames on it now so you have to think a lot more when deciding to use it. Ryu received plenty of changes but those two were the ones that stood out the most to me.

As for system changes, the game is so much more offense-focused compared to SFIV. Links and special cancelling feels as simple as it was back in SFIV. This is one of my favourite features of Street Fighter V as I’d prefer the game to be more about thinking than execution. The execution barrier in SFIV made certain characters impossible to play for casual players who wanted to take the game seriously. You shouldn’t have to spend hours at a time practicing standard combos until you’ve learnt it through muscle memory. The amount of stun from each move is much higher than it was in SFIV, and with the addition of the Stun Bar (brought back from 3S) you can carefully decide what is the best option, depending on the situation.

Stun has been changed from how it used to work in SFIV. Usually your amount of stun would drop over time whereas now it will only drop if you move forward or attack. This encourages an attacking mindset as you will be punished severely for trying to defend everything. Another change to the system comes from chip damage. Chip damage used to come directly from blocked special attacks; the damage taken from the opponent’s health bar would be a fraction of what it would be if it actually hit. At the end of the round when the opponent may have a slither of their health bar left, you used to be able to use chip damage to kill them. Street Fighter V does not give you the option to do that, instead you have to finish your opponent with an attack that hurts them. Normal attacks have also changed. In the older Street Fighter games, normal attacks wouldn’t deal any form of damage if they were blocked. Now blocked normal attacks do provisional damage (also known as ‘white’ or ‘grey’ damage in SFIV) that can be recovered if the opponent avoids any blows.SF5 2

These changes are brilliant inclusions from Capcom as they ensure the game will be exciting for anyone watching. While these changes benefit offensive-minded players, there are also changes that reward defensive play. Provisional damage adds to your V-Gauge giving the defending player more options for successfully blocking attacks. I found the offensive aspect of the game to be much more enjoyable compared to recent iterations of SFIV. When you lose against someone, you really feel as if they deserved their win. I’m sure time outs aren’t going to be impossible to get in this game, but I think there will be a lot less compared to the previous games.

The netcode in the beta was very good for me. In the four hours I managed to play of the beta, I only had two bad connections. Any good connections I had with people seemed to run perfectly, rarely ever did I experience any type of lag during the games I played. The two bad connections stuck out to me as being particularly bad because of how poor it was. The game would start off well for the first few seconds but it soon turned into a jittery mess. Characters jolted across the screen with minimal input from my controller. Fortunately, these types of matches were not common and you have to bear in mind that this is only a beta. Given that the game is scheduled to come out next year, I’m sure these problems will be fixed by the time it launches.

Overall, Street Fighter V is shaping up to be one of the best versions of Street Fighter yet. I genuinely believe Capcom could release this now on Steam as an Early Access title and people would be happy to pay £40 for it. The fact that the game is virtually ready to go right now, almost a year ahead of its release date is exciting news. With more characters to reveal before the end of the year, Street Fighter V is looking extremely promising and it’s only going to get better from here.