‘Street Fighter V’ Is A Roundhouse Kick to the Face

We review the latest installment of the seminal fighting game series.

Street Fighter is less of a name than it is a legacy. It’s been an undeniable influence on fighting games for years, a living legend in the eyes of the community and pop culture in general. Everyone knows what a “Hadouken” is, and everyone has tried to pull off a “Shoryuken!” at one time or another in real life. 

Capcom has done its best to ensure that Street Fighter V is rife with the same sensibilities of previous installments, new and familiar character, and challenges for players of all skill levels. It may be missing a bit of its content at the onset, but this PlayStation 4 exclusive fighter has more than enough oomph to emerge victorious as one of the best games the genre has to offer. 

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It’s important to note that Capcom took a very different approach to releasing the fighter than it did in the past. This current model of Street Fighter V (which launches without several modes, including its online store and cinematic story modes) is supposedly the only version on the horizon. With all the various versions of Street Fighter IV and other games in the past it could be a confusing mess to figure out which release was worth your time, and Capcom is alleviating some of this stress by focusing on a single rollout

Similarly, you’ll be able to purchase additional characters and other content using real-world cash or Fight Money, which can be earned in-game. While the in-game store isn’t set to launch until March, that’s a pretty interesting model considering the usual Street Fighter downloadable offerings and re-releases. 

Both veteran and rookie Street Fighter fans alike will notice immediately that this game is much less obtuse and daunting than previous iterations. If you’re still trying to figure out why you can’t stun your opponent or deliver extra damage in Street Fighter IV and the like, you’ll learn a whole lot about your play style and technique here. There are 16 distinct combatants to choose from, each with their own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. 

New to the game and Street Fighter series in general is the V-System, which allows you to use mechanics called V-Skills and V-Triggers. By using the medium punch and kick moves together, you can pull off a V-Skill. It varies from fighter to fighter how this is expressed: For instance, it might cancel a move, parry, add an augment, or do something completely different from one brawler to the next. When you pull one off, you boost your V-Gauge. If you can successfully fill your V-Gauge, you’re granted a V-Trigger. Think of them as “limit break” moves that can sometimes shift the tide of battle in your favor. It’s a good idea to use them sparingly, as they’re attached to devastating results, but they offer an exciting new dimension to characters that hadn’t yet been seen before aside from super combos. 

Super combos are still in the game as well, though they’re now referred to as Critical Arts according to the Street Fighter V beta. They’re powerful moves in their own right, ranging from flaming face kicks to piledrivers you can feel right at home in your living room. They’re satisfying, punchy moves that feel fantastic to pull off, like the V-Triggers, and a great complement to the new menagerie of combos already at your disposal. Alongside tweaks that have very clearly been made to the fighters’ roster of moves, it’s clear this is a setup aimed to please both new and returning fighters.

With the excellent fighting mechanics, broad selection of characters, and new skills, you’ll want to blaze through the story mode first of course (unless you’re looking to get straight into the multiplayer action.) Unfortunately the completed story mode isn’t due out until June, with trials and challenges arriving in March. 

If you do choose to take the show on the road online, you’ll enjoy the new Capcom Fighters Network, which is akin to a special social network within the bowels of Street Fighter V. The ability to reference players’ rankings, characters, and even the matches played by your opponents is a hugely exciting improvement. What better way to brush up on your technique than watch your archnemesis in battle to see how they do what they do? There are still additional improvements coming to to CFN in March, much like the rest of the game’s pending augments. 

Luckily, what’s already been released of Street Fighter V is essentially a complete game. This is the smoothest, most colorful, and most visceral of the Street Fighter offerings, from the fighter lineup right down to the visuals, audio, and mechanics. It’s very clear this was a labor of love on Capcom’s part and an exciting part of Street Fighter history. Looking to get back in the ring? This should absolutely be your next purchase.