I got back from my week long trip to Tennessee to find that I almost missed the Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3, one of the biggest gaming events of the year. Normally, I would shrug and wait for other bloggers and Youtubers to curate the E3 experience for me, but I casually checked the Twitch app on my tablet and found Capcom Fighters streaming Street Fighter V. I almost forgot about the newest installment in the Street Fighter series, as the best thing Capcom has released about the game thus far is character reveal trailers and early alpha footage from major tournaments and expos, but to my surprise, Street Fighter V is playable at E3 2015. Capcom’s E3 booth consists of several cabinets for people to play SFV, a stage for photos with several cosplayers and a stage devoted to a series of tournaments and exhibitions for the game. For everyone that couldn’t make it to E3, Capcom Fighters is streaming on their twitch page.
Diversity Over Complexity
Although the game is in a stage of early development, Street Fighter V is playable, consisting of six characters and at least two distinct stages. The current roster consists of Ryu, the protagonist of the series, Chun Li, a mainstay in the Street Fighter universe, M. Bison, the antagonist of the series, and Cammy, a popular character since Super Street Fighter 2, as well as both Nash and Birdie, who are returning characters from the Street Fighter Alpha series. The inclusion of Ryu, Chun Li, M. Bison and Cammy is a no-brainer, since they’ve consistently been in the series since Street Fighter 2, with the only big exception being Street Fighter 3, but the inclusion of Nash and Birdie is much more interesting, at least in terms of the future of Street Fighter V. Thankfully, each character in Street Fighter V seems really unique, not just in how they differ from each other, but also from how they differ from their previous iterations.
For example, Birdie, who used to play as a fairly basic grappler, now has access to a new mechanic in which he eats food to gain meter. He can eat a doughnut to punish his opponents from keeping their distance, a banana to set up traps with the slippery peel and a can of cola (or beer) that acts as a projectile when thrown. Similarly, Nash has shed his Guile-clone skin in SFV and instead acts much more like a traditional rush down character. Although he used to have to charge his moves before using them, Nash can now throw fireballs with a quarter-circle motion and can teleport around the arena. Even Ryu has changed, thanks in large part to the new V-meter mechanic. He can parry moves using his V-Skill, a universal move done by pressing Medium Punch and Medium Kick at the same time, and can activate V-trigger to buff his fireballs and uppercuts. Gone are the basic universal gameplay mechanics from older Street Fighters, such as Third Strike’s universal overheads or Street Fighter IV’s focus attack. In their wake is the V-meter, which allows each character to excel at their specific playstyle. M. Bison’s V-Trigger allows him to teleport instead of dash and enhances many of his special moves, while Chun Li’s makes her basic attacks hit multiple times for additional hit and block stun. Each character fits into a traditional fighting game archetype, but a combination of a character’s V-skill and V-trigger allow players a lot of room to change up their playstyle mid-match to combat their opponent. A six character roster is fairly small, while understandable for an early alpha build of the game, but Street Fighter V’s design also seems to favor more variable gameplay among individual characters than a huge roster of similar characters.
Strategy Over Execution
So far it seems that Capcom is focusing on lowering the execution skill-cap for Street Fighter without negatively affecting the game’s competitive depth or strategic complexity. Street Fighter is known for being an execution heavy game with one-frame links and tight reaction timing, but mechanics like plinking allowed players to cheat the system to make combos a little bit easier in Street Fighter IV. The fifth installment of the series brings with it the removal of plinking and instead offers a system that buffers button presses for a short time to allow for easier execution. Street Fighter V will still have tight links, but this mechanic will allow each button press to cover more than one frame, which means that players will be able to hit those smaller windows much easier. Capcom is also removing traditionally frustrating barriers to entry, such as 360 notations for grabs, moves that need to be mashed and Tiger Knee’d motions. Following this change in philosophy, Birdie’s SPD (spinning pile driver, a common phrase to describe command grabs in SF) is done with a half-circle motion, Chun Li’s lighting legs are performed with a quarter-circle motion and Cammy’s Hooligan Combination is a basic half-circle. Normally, this is where the internet breaks out in tears that a mainstream developer is “dumbing down” their game, but Capcom’s attempts at making Street Fighter simpler for new players seem to not be at the cost of the games strategy. Fighting games are notoriously hard to get into and most of that new player frustration can be traced back to the initial unfamiliarity with joystick notations, so here’s hoping that Street Fighter V will succeed in bringing new players into the fighting game community, while continuing to be one of the most interesting competitive fighting games on the market.
If you’re interested in Street Fighter V, I suggest you check out Capcom’s twitch stream. Sadly, their VODs are locked behind a subscriber only pay-wall, but videos of the livestream can be found on Youtube pretty easily. The gameplay is kind of sloppy, since it is most people’s first time with the game, but players like Justin Wong and Combofiend are getting very good at showing off what great Street Fighter V play looks like.