Every space has its top dog, and February’s release of Street Fighter V will pretty much be a Force Awakens in the fighting game world. For over 25 years, Capcom’s signature series has dominated the genre. Other fighting franchises may have fits of greater success, but they’ll always, always be measured in comparison to it. And furthering the Star Wars analogy, this series’ second installment remains its high-point. 1991’s Street Fighter II is one of the most successful games of all time. It grossed billions in the era of coin-up arcades, and pioneered countless innovations which are now industry standards.
More salient, though, is the fact that Capcom kept improving upon SFII with meticulous upgrades, no matter how successful the game had already become. The company refined this perfectionist approach over the years, and looks to be updating it once again with SFV. Even if you’ve never played a single fighting game before, it looks to be a very accessible title, because Street Fighter has always been about entertaining newbies and experts alike.
Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master
Other fighting games have painted themselves into niches with overly-technical controls. Capcom’s approach has always been about making these games simple for anybody to pick up. The special moves never get much more complicated than a quarter-turn of the joystick. Of course, it does take a good while to master timing, combos and counters, et cetera. That’s where the replay value lies. And SFV is extending that even further with the new “Z-Gauge.” It isn’t essential for use, but it does give players the option to spice up those aforementioned combos and counters for a myriad of added variations.
The Varied Line-Up
From the start, Street Fighter‘s conceit has been “world warriors” from different countries pitting their wildly-different martial arts against each other. SFV mixes it up more, adding new international personalities like the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champ, Laura, and the fire-haired Aztec warrior, Necali. However, it outdoes even the series’ last iteration by cherry-picking top characters from other past iterations (instead of just remaking SFII yet again). Some of the best comebacks are from the Street Fighter Alpha spin-off; like circus-styled pro wrestler, Rainbow Mika, and the mysterious cyborg soldier, Charlie Nash.
Color & Personality
Any grimness in Street Fighter is always evened out with a healthy sense of humor. Tense grudge matches go slapstick in a flash. When brutal strikes connect, there’s a goofy jelly-jiggle in the recipient’s contorting face. And super moves can end a bout with the loser locked in the most embarrassing and ignoble position–adding insult to injury with punchline timing. On top of that, SFV furthers the last installment’s fiery graffiti aesthetic with even flashier finesse; so there’s just as much appeal for spectators. You won’t even have to be controlling these combative cartoon characters to enjoy the show.
Capcom constantly fine-tunes these games’ mechanics, making sure every fighter stays evenly matched. So, if the grappler Zangief doesn’t have any range attacks, he can still deflect Ryu’s fireballs back across the screen. The aforementioned Z-Gauge adds new degrees of balance (temporarily granting projectiles to M. Bison at critical moments, for example), and since online connectivity is such a big component of modern gaming, patches will keep tweaking that balance as time goes on. Also, Capcom is keen to book online matches based on experience so newbies don’t get stuck in unfair bouts against pros.
The ethics of downloadable content continue to be argued over, but Capcom is embracing transparency. They’ve already announced a half-dozen fighters who’ll be available later; so no after-the-purchase surprises, this time. SFV will be a solid baseline you can keep adding to. And this has been Capcom’s basic M.O. since they were putting out arcade updates for SFII, anyway. So, SFV will be a game experience that lasts several years, and even improves with time.
Are you convinced of Street Fighter‘s glory, now? Yay or nay, share your thoughts in the talkback.
Photo Credits: Capcom