To say that Street Fighter V has been coolly received by mainstream game consumers is an understatement. Capcom’s decision to release the game as a full, standalone retail package with a bare bones set of options to start with, many to be added later through both free and paid monthly DLC, understandably didn’t sit well with a lot of buyers who’ve opted to either hold out for a future “game of the year“ type update or skip this generation of Street Fighter altogether. That’s really a shame because, as we stated in our review, SFV, even in it’s current, skeletal form, looks, sounds, and most importantly, feels absolutely amazing, hearkening back to the series’ late 90’s hardcore heyday in the (also criminally overlooked in its time) fan favorite Street Fighter III series.
While even a diehard (read: apologist) like myself can admit that the game’s barebones release day offering leaves a lot to be desired, I love the decisions that Capcom has made with the initial product so much that I’ve been willing to overlook these shortcomings, especially with the upcoming additions to the game that are on the horizon, including characters, colors, stages and most importantly, a myriad of options to buoy the almost nonexistent single player content. The first of the monthly updates arrived in two parts in the closing days of March, and while they may not be enough to sway those who’ve completely written off SFV as a failed experiment, they’re great bonuses for the already converted and excellent examples of the direction Capcom needs to move into with this continually growing platform to make it worthwhile in the eyes of casual fighters.
The biggest of the new additions is Alex. The Street Fighter III main character had been in high demand as DLC for the entire life of Street Fighter IV and now modern audiences can finally bask in the unorthodox grappler’s flurry of flash punches and flying elbows. Alex transfers over fully unscathed from his SFIII persona both in look and feel, trading his overalls for suspenders and his “hyper bomb” for a roided out version of a “Razor’s Edge” crucifix power bomb that flies through the air and plants opponents waist deep in the dirt, but otherwise behaving as if he stepped right out of 1999 masterpiece Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Furthering the Third Strike connection, Alex employs a parry (that game’s chief mechanic) when in V Trigger mode, and his theme song is an excellent remix of SFIII classic “Jazzy NYC ‘99”. Alex is, in a word: awesome, a joy to fight with as well as against and a perfect example of the current SF team’s commitment to getting back to the series’ roots after the mainstream baiting mediocrity of Street Fighter IV.
Elsewhere, the game’s paltry two player online lobbies have been increased to the standard eight, the shop has opened up, currently allowing players to trade in their hard earned fight money for new costumes, colors, titles and profile designs (characters and stages are coming later, Alex is currently free for a limited time), and the challenge mode offers short explanations of character mechanics under demonstrations and SFIV style trials for each character, an addicting mode testing a player’s ability to carry out ten increasingly difficult special moves/combos for each fighter to gain additional experience and currency. It’s in the demonstration mode where this update comes up short the most for me, the brief character descriptions are rather dry and staid, and series newcomers (if such a thing even exists) would be better off trolling Youtube for strategies, some of the best of which are on Capcom’s very own official Street Fighter channel. Why they didn’t just include or at least provide in-game streaming links to this very well done and informative in-house produced content is a little baffling.
That minor hiccup aside though, this update is a great first showing for Capcom and their vow to continually update this game over the course of the current console generation (and perhaps beyond?) rather than release the “Super” and “Champion Edition” type incremental updates they’ve been mocked and derided for since Street Fighter II’s original mid-90’s dominance. It’s really rare and refreshing to see a historically stubborn Japanese company that’s been around as long as Capcom listen to fan feedback and try to offer a modern and fan friendly solution to the constantly evolving fighting game landscape. It’s just a shame that so few people have elected to give the new game a try, so far anyway. Next up: Guile, and the highly anticipated cinematic Story Mode, though at this point I’d be satisfied with a simple Vs. CPU option and some tweaking of the hair pulling-ly difficult Hard Survival Mode, as well as deeper online matchmaking options to make it easier to find opponents closer to your skill and experience level. But this is Capcom we’re talking about here, so any progress is good progress, and even just two months into its lifespan, Street Fighter V has progressed quite a bit.