Member the games you used to play? We member. The basement at the Hardcore Gamer office has a section known as the Crust Room, with an old grey couch and a big old CRT TV. All the classic systems are down there collecting dust, so in an effort to improve the cleanliness of our work space, we dust off these old consoles every so often and put an old game through its paces, just to make sure everything stays in working order. We even have a beige computer with a floppy disk drive.
Street Fighter V is one of the best fighting games to be released on PlayStation 4. Or more accurately, it eventually became one of the best PlayStation 4 fighting games. Like the Street Fighters before it, Street Fighter V was released in several different versions. In 2018 we got Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition that finally elevated the title to being an excellent game, and in 2020 Street Fighter V: Champion Edition became what is believed to be the final version of Street Fighter V, pending some more minor DLC before Capcom decides to focus on developing the next batch of Street Fighter VI games. When Street Fighter V was released in 2016 it was not met with the high praises its later incarnations were, and we are going to take a look back on this great game’s not-so-great beginnings.
Releasing new and improved versions of Street Fighter games isn’t anything new for Capcom. Before post release DLC content or Game of the Year editions were common practices, Capcom would update Street Fighter II with several different arcade incarnations: Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Champion Edition, Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II Turbo. This resulted in three SNES ports of the game, with Street Fighter II releasing in 1992, Street Fighter II turbo in 1993 and Super Street Fighter II in 1994, with each incarnation offering new features and four playable characters and each game probably costing around $69.99, which is like $130 when adjusted for inflation. The difference between OG Street Fighter II and 2016 Street Fighter V is that Street Fighter II felt like a complete game.
It’s not so much that Street Fighter V was a bad game when it was released, but more of a reaction of this is a “great game, where’s the rest of it?” The game mechanics were solid and there was a respectable roster of sixteen fighters. Online mode was still in need of some tweaks, but overall it felt like the only complete element of the game. Street Fighter fans who pre-ordered were treated to what felt like an Early Access game at best and a paid beta test at worst.
One of the strangest choices was to launch Street Fighter V without a single player arcade mode. I understand that the main draw of fighting games is competing against your friends or strangers around the world in online matches, but just based on the fact this franchise was built up from its arcade success including an arcade mode seems like it should have been an automatic feature. It did eventually get an arcade mode in 2018, which was fantastic and was designed to pay homage to the arcade experience of the previous Street Fighter games along with its own Street Fighter V arcade path, but having to wait two years for it was ridiculous.
The other single player options were Story Mode and Survival. Survival Mode had four difficulty levels with harder difficultly levels having more fights. The number of matches for these was 10, 30, 50 and 100 and given that it’s a survival mode, there were no checkpoints or continues. The difficulty balance in this was such where starting at the 30 fight tier the fights were so easy until a difficulty spike in the final match or two. This made beating the challenge feel more triumphant, but I doubt many had the patience to start over after winning 49 fights, let alone 99. The story mode for each character gave some comic book style background on each character while having them compete in two to four one-round fights. The story mode didn’t develop anyone much and felt more like an introduction to a larger all-encompassing story. There was a Challenge mode that was also included, or at least a placeholder non-functional button was included with a menu. We eventually got that about a month and a half after release, but that did give the impression that Capcom was aware of how incomplete the game felt at launch.
No arcade mode, but four months or so after release a story mode was introduced to Street Fighter V. It was… something. The comprehensive story mode was about four hours in length. It was a mix of the comic book style cutscenes interspersed with fighting matches. It didn’t center too much on one character, but switched around who the player was controlling based on who the story was focusing on at that second. It was a novel way to include everyone in the story, even though the story itself had a few nonsensical parts. Some of the details are fuzzy since it’s been years since I’ve played and can think of things I’d rather do with four hours now, but I seem to recall Zangief going on about his muscles and flexing said muscles to reflect and break swords. Realism is something that shouldn’t be expected from a game where eating curry grants the ability to breath fire and a child surviving a plane crash in the Amazon can grow up to be a green Pikachu man, but some of the things in Street Fighter lore have wandered far from reality.
Capcom made a promise they kind of kept with Street Fighter V. While discussing the game with a Capcom rep at PAX South in 2016, they stated that unlike past Street Fighter games, players could get additional costumes and characters without having to spend actual money. In theory this is true, but in practice it’s improbable. Players earn Fight Money (FM) by completing challenges, winning online matches, completing survival mode and each character’s story mode. Story mode and survival mode is one reward per character and difficulty and one FM reward per character for story mode, so you can’t just replay Ryu’s story mode fifty times for unlimited FM. After completing everyone’s story mode, every character’s survival mode on easy (10 fights) and one character’s survival on medium (30 fights) I had enough for two characters and one costume. A season pass had six characters, so getting all of them without spending real money would have taken a lot of single player grinding and online fight victories but not impossible. This was actually a nice design feature. It’s still easier at the end of the day to just shell out the cash for the extra characters, but having the option to unlock characters the old fashioned way was nice a change of pace.
Street Fighter V eventually became an incredible game, worthy of the legacy that started with Street Fighter II. Unfortunately, even as Capcom did state that it would be an evolving game prior to it’s launch, it took far too long for it to finally feel like a complete experience. The always online requirement to earn rewards was annoying, especially since the server wasn’t stable in first couple months the game was around. Street Fighter V became a great two years after its release. At launch, however, it felt like it was rushed out the door for some arbitrary deadline where online play was finished but everything else was an afterthought to be addressed later. At launch the great fighting mechanics were in place which actually made it more frustrating since the potential for the incomplete game was apparent. Whenever Street Fighter VI is announced and released, there’s no doubt it too will evolve over the years following its launch, but let’s hope they learned from Street Fighter V and make the first version at least feel like a completed game.
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