There are only a few video games that transcend their medium to be recognized by the mainstream. Non-gamers know what the “Street Fighter” series is, along with “Super Mario Bros.,” “Pac-Man” and “Mortal Kombat.” “Street Fighter” has come a long way from two player format in arcades. The newest game in the series “Street Fighter V” (“SFV”) is an example of that progress.
It’s a big deal for the series when a new numbered “Street Fighter” is released. There have been well over a dozen “Street Fighter” games throughout the series 29-year history, but adding a new number to the title signifies the next step in the game’s evolution. “SFV” advances the series thanks to new core fighting mechanics, but doesn’t quite reach the rest of the fighting genre when it comes to additional features.
The last series release “Ultra Street Fighter IV” had a daunting roster of 44 playable characters. “SFV” tightens up with a more focused roster of just 16 characters. More doesn’t always mean better. Having 16 characters strikes a good balance between having enough variety and not being too intimidating to newcomers. There are four brand new characters, while 12 of them have appeared in previous “Street Fighter” games. The roster will grow in the coming months with downloadable content.
The four new characters that have been added need a backstory. Fortunately, the game adds Story Mode that tells a small bit of their story. While other fighting games have had a Story Mode, this is a first for the “Street Fighter” series. The last installment of “Mortal Kombat” had fully animated cutscenes in its story mode, but “SFV” has dialog over still images. The quality of those images isn’t much better than concept art, giving its Story Mode the feeling that it was rushed to meet a deadline.
Each character has his or her own narrative within the Story Mode. Each of these sections only lasts between five and ten minutes. While a mode like this has become essential for fighting games, “SFV’s” implementation could have used some added work.
The series has always put gameplay above story, which is the case in “SFV.” The game changes enough to warrant a new numbered game in the series, but doesn’t over complicate the formula to scare off novices. Each character has a unique ability called V-Skill that are triggered the same way across the roster. Characters’ special moves have been simplified so that button commands are similar from fighter to fighter. These adjustments make the series inviting again whereas the learning curve in previous games was too steep to attract new players.
Charge characters like Vega and Bison have been completely retooled. Many players like me have always gravitated toward characters with quarter and half circle turns over charge characters. Completely changing the way characters who used to be charge characters made me willing to give them a try. Making characters more accessible is positive and meaningful change for the “Street Fighter” series.
The bare-boned Story Mode is a reflection of the lack of features packed into the game’s current form. There is no spectator mode, and lobbies can only be created for two friends. The in-game currency called Fight Money can be earned, but only when connected to “SFV” online servers. The store in which to spend that Fight Money isn’t even available yet, and will be added via free update in March. Fight Money will eventually be used toward buying cosmetic changes to stages and characters. Challenges that have become a fighting game mainstay will also be added in next month’s update. The game would have benefited if it were delayed until all of its features could have been included.
Like “Street Fighter IV” before it, “SFV” will be an ever changing game over the next couple years thanks to downloadable updates, new fighters and added functionality. The core fighting mechanics of the game are an excellent base to start from, but “SFV” could use some additional features to elevate it to the current crop of fighting games.
8 out of 10