For Capcom, the development of new Street Fighter titles is at once simple and impossibly hard. On one side of the coin, all they need to do is make new graphical models of the players and moves, introduce some new stages to fight in and announce a few new combat features. On the flipside, they run the risk that any one of those new innovations could enrage the game’s fanbase, who are among the most hardcore out there. Street Fighter is the undisputed king of beat-em-ups, and so many parts of its gameplay are hard-wired into the brains of gamers that new developments must be made very cautiously. Now, Capcom are running that gauntlet again and we’re getting Street Fighter V.
For an example of how innovation can be tricky, let’s take a look back at Street Fighter IV. This title introduced focus attacks, where a player can hold a button to charge a devastating hit that floors the opponent. However, if you’re hit a few times during the obvious charging phase, you lose the focus attack and take heavy damage. This new feature was loved by some and hated by others; and it proved controversial enough that’s it’s being removed from Street Fighter V. Instead we’re getting a ‘V-Gauge’, which will build up through the match, allowing new special abilities such as temporary damage boosts, reversing projectiles, or countering attacks. Will this new feature prove equally divisive in the community? Only time can tell.
Use of the V-Gauge will vary from character to character, so it is entirely possible that some characters will end up over-powered, due to having better V-Gauge skills than their competitors. Ryu, for instance, will have the ability to ‘parry’ attacks to fill his V-Gauge, allowing him to block damage with precision timing. This suggests that in the professional sphere, Ryu players could get a huge, unfair advantage by simply blocking everything thrown at them. Expect patches to come thick and fast, if Capcom are on the ball.
In another example of fearing change, Capcom have stuck extremely closely to the visual style of Street Fighter IV. See that colourful, cartoony style? It’s back, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is the same game, visually speaking. Moves now have more clarity in their animation and effects, and a sharpening of the textures and colour palettes leaves the game easier on the eye. This is extremely important, as in the world of fighting games, you have to be able to tell exactly what’s going on in a melee if you want to perform at the highest levels.
The singleplayer campaign of Street Fighter games is basically just a training mode, so no-one’s really interested in what particular fighting tournament Ryu will be trucking off to this time – but online play is a different story. The game’s multiplayer functionality has supposedly been cleaned up and made ready for a modern audience, which is a good promise, since Street Fighter IV wasn’t perfect in this regard. We’re also getting cross-platform play between PC and PS4 players, opening the game up to a much bigger pool of competitors. Familiar features return across the board, with the same EX-gauge system powering your special attacks, allowing you to choose between empowering normal moves, or saving up to fill the entire gauge and unleash a well-timed super, or ‘Critical Art’ as they’re now called, to flatten your enemy. Don’t worry, the same three kicks, three punches core gameplay isn’t going anywhere. Capcom haven’t gone insane just yet.
So yes, Street Fighter V might seem a little safe. It’s not breaking the mould in any huge ways, and the casual observer might feel that the graphical similarity between IV and V makes upgrading more a luxury than necessity. But evolution is sometimes better than revolution, and we’re holding out hope for a polished, smooth game with interesting new features from the V-gauge, and a whole new world of competitors to beat into submission…