With Street Fighter V's 2nd public beta closing this past Sunday, I think I am finally in at least some minor position to say something about it. For those that listen to the DarkCast, my not-so-secret desire to be a fighting game champion has been laid bare to you already, but all it takes is a weekend like this one, where I break out a controller and put in some elbow grease, to prove that it would take many, many more hours to even reach a level of competency, much less the kind of mastery needed to reach competition level. For those of you that don't listen, that last sentence should make it clear where I stand.
So where does SFV stand? Somewhere between actual sequel and thoughtful iteration. While certainly not as large a departure as the gap between SFII and III, which introduced the parry system that was instrumental in providing us with one of the most celebrated fighting game moments of all time, there is enough changing to keep the fan base from thinking this is just another step in the Ultra Super Hyper iterations that Capcom has become known for.
For starters, gone are the Ultra moves and Focus attacks from SFIV. Replacing these are V-Skills, a unique set of moves per character that set up what kind of a play style that character works best in. For instance, Ryu, the original Street Fighter, has V-Skills based around parrying, which blocks incoming attacks and helps charge his V-Trigger, a meter that, when activated, powers up his fireballs to such an extent that they can break through an opponent's guard. Others, like Cammy's, which removes the small cooldown present between special attacks enabling her to chain moves that normally don't work together, or M. Bison's, which enables his teleport to cross through the opposing player, further serve to both define and extend the range of a fighter's capabilities.
The difference can be felt immediately in a match, as skill and trigger usage tends to be less situational then the old Ultra system. While those, when used properly, could immediately change the outcome of a match, the new system allows for a wider, more tactical application. Add to this the more familiar EX system, which returns just about the same as it was in SFIV, and all the weapons are there for some quality matches.
In both my limited time playing and more extensive time viewing, however, the biggest change I've seen lies in how SFV handles “chip damage,” or damage done during an active block. In SFIV, a tiny amount of damage makes it through as chip from both normal and special moves. This could be especially useful at the end of a match, as even if your opponent spent the entire time blocking, simply keeping the pressure up was enough to clinch a victory. In SFV, chip damage remains a factor, except that now, a match can't be won off of chip from normal moves. Now, you have to find a way to open your opponent up, or be able to hit them with one of your specials. This opens up the chance for more last-minute comebacks, and forces both sides to be constantly on their game. It also leads to some exciting finishes from a viewer's perspective.
The look has gotten a bit of polish, but out of the entire package, this feels more like a direct line from SFIV then anything else. It can be especially stunning at times, such as when a character unleashes their Critical Art, their max Super meter attack, but other times it looks like a step back, as the slight turn to realism casts some of the character forms in a real weird light. It's not off-putting, or at least not as off-putting as some would claim, but there's still enough of an oddity in the shape of a muscle or the weird jiggle of one of the umpteen extremely busty female fighters to draw a few stares.
With its release set for February 2016, there's still plenty of time until we get to see the final product. Outside of a few server issues, I am excited by what's taking shape, and look forward to the many, many hours I'll set aside to watching people who are much, much better then me play this game (yes, I'll play it too, but come on, who am I kidding).
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!