(Disclaimer: The game build mentioned in this preview is from an early beta that was made available to Street Fighter V pre-order buyers and to select members of the press. It’s in very early stages, with more than a handful of server-side errors and shouldn’t be representative of the final game)
After countless attempts and hours of trying, I was finally able to sneak in a few matches of the Street Fighter V beta over the weekend. Before I talk about how it plays, it should be mentioned that getting the beta client to load past the starting screen (and sometimes even just to it) was a pain in the ass. I have no clue if Capcom got hit by server goblins or whatnot, but it’s an issue worth mentioning. The preview below skips that and talks about the gameplay experience, which I’ve managed to get by being lucky more than anything.
While I’ve been a hardcore fighting game fan in my youth (Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, etc.) to the point that I entered local tournaments and such, I haven’t seriously played a fighting game since X-Men vs. Street Fighter way, way back. I played SFIII for a bit, but found the Parry system isn’t my cup of tea. For SFIV, I dabbled, but didn’t play it serious enough to be considered a fan.
During my fighting game love affair, I played and loved the DarkStalkers series, Samurai Showdown, King of Fighters and the rest of the fighting game heavy hitters.
Why is this brief background history important, you might ask? It’s my way of telling you what kind of fighting game fan I am, and whether you should be excited or be cautious with SFV and the new gameplay mechanics its introducing to the table.
V Hits the Spot
In Street Fighter V, players will need to come to grips with Capcom’s V System. While there’s still your standard super bar, the V bar is just as important if you want to win bouts. As you take punishment and use your V-Skill, you’ll be able to build up your V-Trigger. Triggering it, which is irreversible and needs to be used all at once, has different effects on a fighter. For the most part, using it will mean stronger attacks, new moves, and generally pulling off EX versions of your special moves. V Trigger replaces SFIV’s Focus attacks, which is a welcome change in my opinion.
Aside from that, there’s also the V-Skill move unique to each fighter. By pressing MP+MK (medium punch and kick), characters will pull off a move that not only can damage an enemy, but is also the only way to build your V meter aside from taking damage. V-Skills are not overpowered moves (so far, at least) and will take skill to actually use effectively. Playing as Ryu, using his V-Skill acts as SFIII’s parry, which meant that you still need to time the enemy’s hits perfectly in order to parry it and gain V juice. The V System adds another layer of depth to SFV, and should aid players who take the time to learn it to reap its benefits in matches. One other mechanic that’s making a comeback are counters, which can be pulled off by pressing forward plus the three punch buttons at the same time. This can be used at any point in a fight, but it will take a chunk of V-Trigger meter once used (it’s the same counter from the Alpha series).
As a whole, Street Fighter vets should feel right at home with SFV. Its visuals look familiar to SFIV fans, which can either be a good or bad thing depending on your preference. You’ll hear the familiar shouts of “Hadoken!” emanating from Ryu, and other familiar sounds from the franchise. SFV is definitely more of a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” concept, and I, for one, am not complaining. There’s a reason why the series has remained popular while its counterparts have faded away.
The Street Fighter series has always been regarded as a fighting game franchise with one of the deepest gameplay mechanics, and this trend looks to continue with SFV. There are new tweaks to the fighting system, but the core part definitely feels like the Street Fighter you know and love. If you remember your fave combos for returning characters like Chun-Li, and Ryu, expect to be able to pull them off in SFV without a hitch, with the controls remaining as responsive as the other entries in the series.
Overall, my first impression of SFV has been quite positive so far, with the only real sore point being the beta’s actual accessibility. With Capcom planning a few more early access beta before the game’s release early next year, I’m hoping the server side issues will finally be resolved so that players can just play and focus on the fighting. Based on what I’ve played so far, Capcom’s on the right track with Street Fighter V; and has even managed to reinvigorate this old coot’s love for fighting games again — to the point that I’m now seriously considering to buy a good arcade stick to play the game properly.
Street Fighter fans — and fighting game fans in general — should be happy with what Capcom has done with SFV so far. Time will tell if this entry will achieve cult-like status with the fight crowd like SF II Turbo or SF Alpha 3, but so far, Capcom’s on its way for another KO.
Street Fighter V beta access provided by Capcom. Street Fighter V will be available on the PlayStation 4 and PC on March 2016.
Street Fighter V Beta Hands-On Preview - V for Fighting - PlayStation LifeStyle