Fighting games can be extremely intimidating to get into, especially if you’re a Capcom game. The community can be sometimes unforgiving and starting out can become very discouraging. Only the strong-willed players will rise in the ranks while everyone else will abandon the game for the new flavor of the month. This is something that Capcom aims to remedy with the latest entry in their legendary Street Fighter series. Accessibility is something that Capcom is aiming to achieve as best as they can without alienating the hardcore fan-base. Street Fighter V released last week with the intentions to welcome new players into the fighting game community with open arms. While Street Fighter V plays wonderfully, Capcom seems to have missed their mark striving to bring in the more casual crowd and in turn may have left Joe Schmo Gamer in the dust.
Upon booting up Street Fighter V for the first time, players are introduced to a very basic tutorial that teach the player how to move and attack properly. Even though most fighting game veterans will roll their eyes at this tutorial, it’s a nice element to have for the first time Street Fighter players who may have no prior experience with the series. After the tutorial, players will create an online ID separate from their PSN/Steam account that will be included in the Capcom Fighter’s Network. Next the player will select their favorite character and stage. When playing online, the character chosen as your favorite will be selected automatically unless a battle lobby is created and the option to turn on the character select screen is enabled. I’m not a fan of cutting out the character select screen but it does allow players to jump into online matches more quickly.
Capcom introduces Street Fighter V as a platform, or a service, this time around instead of releasing multiple versions in the form of Ultra Super Street Fighter V Hyper Turbo Edition several years down the road. No longer will players have to upgrade their edition of the game with a new boxed copy every year or two thanks to the promise that the original version will continually receive updates, new features and enhancements throughout the life of the entire generation via online updates. A roadmap has been created by Capcom that plans out many new features and DLC characters to the game planned throughout 2016 and beyond. Hopefully Capcom sticks to this plan and gives us all reasons to return to the game for several years to come.
Creating Street Fighter V as an evolving platform is very much ideal but it also creates a huge problem for the game. At the moment, Street Fighter V is severely lacking features and game modes found in just about every modern fighting game. Many of these modes exist in the current main menu but are not accessible to the player since they have yet to be implemented. Attempting to play the game’s Challenge mode or browse the in-game Shop for example will display a message stating that these features are unavailable and will be coming in March. If that’s the case, why didn’t Capcom just wait until March to launch the game? What’s the hurry? Arcade Mode, a fighting game staple since the early 90’s, is completely absent with no word from Capcom as to why it was omitted. Training mode lacks the ability to teach the player how to perform combos for their favorite characters. The ability to play versus matches against the CPU didn’t make the cut either. Why Capcom decided to leave these important features behind is incredibly strange.
The game does include two single player offerings in the form of Story Mode and Survival Mode. Story mode includes a short narrative for each character told in a series of comic-like panels with poorly drawn artwork and grating dubbed voice overs. Each character in Story Mode consists of two to four fights before their whole story is over. Street Fighter V includes 16 fighters on-disc and all 16 stories can be completed in less than an hour. I honestly feel like the entire story mode is over before it even begins. Story mode also offers little to no challenge since the difficulty is stupid easy and there isn’t any way to raise it. Survival Mode allows players to tackle a series of fights with the ability to purchase buffs in-between bouts using the points they earned while playing. Luckily, Survival Mode does include a difficulty setting but several settings start out incredibly easy and all of a sudden flip a switch and become incredibly hard, making the mode very frustrating and boring to play.
Aside from the single player offerings, Capcom has included a robust online suite for Street Fighter V that’s stuffed with content for the competitive player. Online battles come in the form of Casual and Ranked matches. Casual fights do not track stats and exist purely for players to just jump in and have fun. Ranked matches include a high degree of stat tracking, leaderboards and ranked brackets so players can climb the ranks online. Like the previous entry, Street Fighter V allows players to set the game to automatically find new matches while playing solo content, essentially pulling the player out of whatever they’re doing, throw them into a match, and place them right back where they were prior. The auto discovery feature can also be narrowed down by casual and ranked matches too.
A new feature called CFN (Capcom Fighter’s Network) includes a collection of really cool features to enhance the online experience. Players can track every Street Fighter V player through the CFN including adding favorites to a list, viewing stats and fighting styles, and even allowing users to watch replays from any player they choose. These stats include how many wins the player has, what bracket they’re in, what characters they use and even how much of an offensive/defensive player they are. Surprisingly, PS4 players can actually view stats and play against PC players as well, which is incredibly awesome. All of these features create a solid online environment for hardcore Street Fighter players that make the game have a much bigger sense of community than any other fighting game I’ve played.
One odd addition to Street Fighter V’s online suite is the Battle Lounge feature. Like many modern fighting games, the Battle Lounge allows players to join a lobby and fight against each other. Usually this mode allows multiple players to fight each other in a “king of the hill” styled competition while the players waiting in a queue for their turn will spectate the matches. This feature is incredibly important to an online fighting game. Unfortunately for Street Fighter V, the Battle Lounge only allows two players total, making the lounge absolutely useless beyond inviting a friend to play. Capcom has stated that 8-player Battle Lounge support with spectating will be included in the upcoming March update… again making me wonder why the game just didn’t release in March.
Capcom developed Street Fighter V with the goal to make the game very accessible to all players while attempting to grow the fighting game community, giving the game a big presence in the E-Sports scene. If Capcom wanted to accomplish this, why is Street Fighter V lacking in so much content? If you happen to be a big competitive Street Fighter player who attends tournaments, counts frames and studies each character in detail, then Street Fighter V is a solid game that includes a lot of tools to help you compete. If you’re a casual Street Fighter player who dabbles in the competitive scene but plays a lot of the single player content, then Capcom failed you with the current state of this game.
What Capcom may have failed to realize is that even though they want Street Fighter V to succeed in the E-Sports realm, the majority of gamers who will buy the game are not tournament-dwelling, fight stick owning, highly competitive players. Casual players are where the majority of sales will come from and Capcom needs to attempt to take those casual players and give them the tools to become the future competitive tournament players. By releasing Street Fighter V with little to no options to pull gamers in, while only catering towards the current E-Sports crowd, the game’s sales will suffer and many will ignore its existence until it becomes worthy of their time and money. At the moment, Street Fighter V fails to give most gamers any value. Once the story mode is completed, the only option casual players have is to jump into online matches and potentially get destroyed by skilled players, which will quickly frustrate and discourage new players. All of a sudden Capcom’s goal to entice the casual gamer into becoming a hardcore player has failed.
I find it sad that I’m speaking on this game so negatively because the heart of Street Fighter V, the core gameplay, is as strong as it has ever been. The game looks great, animates beautifully and includes some very fun colorful backgrounds. Special moves feel much smoother to pull off compared to previous iterations even on a gamepad. I remember in past Street Fighter games I always struggled to pull off Zangief’s full-circle special moves, but in Street Fighter V I could pull them off easily. The collection of characters compliment each other very well and all feel uniquely different. All of the fighters have a ton of character and each player should be able to find one that fits their personality and fighting style.
The inclusion of the V-Skill meter makes each character feel like they have a lot more depth since enabling this ability changes the properties of each character in interesting ways. The EX meter returns too, which when full gives the player the ability to pull off a devastating ultra combo that can turn the tables in a match very quickly. Even though the game seems easier to play, the combat is still very complex and knowing your opponent and their character is crucial to winning. Strategy is just as important as ever and those who approach the game in an attempt to button mash will be destroyed by an average player easily, so learning the ins and outs of your favorite character is the key to success.
Since the launch of the game, Street Fighter V has suffered some nasty server issues including a lot of disconnections, stats failing to sync and making an attempt to find other players difficult. When the servers are up and running, online matches are very smooth and the netcode compensates for lag very well, making Street Fighter V one of the smoothest experiences I’ve had in an online fighting game. Unfortunately, the UI is a bit too busy and often times I found it difficult to perform basic tasks like inviting a friend to play or adding players to my favorites list in the CFN mode. The inclusion of a quick friends list is something that the game is severely lacking (which seems to be a theme with SFV). Hopefully Capcom will work through these issues quickly but at the moment, even a week after launch, poor server performance has hurt the experience.
Street Fighter V is a very fun and addictive fighting game that takes the solid foundation built by Capcom over the years and makes it feel even more satisfying than before. The game is a competitive player’s dream with a lot of online stat tracking, solid netcode and the tools to study your opponent. Expanding the game with regular updates is exciting since the game will basically evolve on a monthly basis. However, the casual players are left behind by lacking many crucial features and modes to make them more invested in the world of Street Fighter along with a busted lobby system that happens to be one of the most useless online features I’ve came across in a fighting game. As it stands, Street Fighter V isn’t worth the $60 asking price and the game scares away any potential new competitive players due to having little to nothing to do outside of getting destroyed by highly skilled players online. My recommendation is to wait for the big March update, re-evaluate the product and see if Street Fighter V is worth the investment.