Yesterday kicked off the first official day of E3 2015, which so far has proven to be a monumental event for gamers. Over the years, we’ve seen E3 attempt to focus on multiple avenues to pique public interest, however it is very clear that E3 2015 is strictly for gamers. One of the most important titles at this year’s E3 is none other than Street Fighter V, the long awaited sequel to Street Fighter IV. I was able to see Street Fighter V unveiled live for the first time at Capcom Pro Tour last year in San Francisco, and was eager to finally get my hands on it. The game has made so much progress since its initial debut; it’s hard to draw any comparisons to the rough build I saw last year.
I managed to get an extended amount of time with the game, having played several strong players, along with some newcomers on the big stage. If you’re a Street Fighter fan, then you probably know that some of the world’s strongest players are in attendance here to try out the game, including big names such as Daigo Umehara, Tokido, Xian, Justin Wong, Momochi, and many others.
Right off the bat, you will notice that Street Fighter V is leaps and bounds above its predecessor in terms of visual fidelity. Animations have been completely redone, and almost nothing from this game borrows from Street Fighter IV in terms of how it looks. One of the strongest complaints towards Street Fighter IV was the semi-cartoony nature of the characters. While detailed for their time, some animations didn’t seem to live up to the pedigree that the iconic Street Fighter III series established prior to Street Fighter IV. The animations present within Street Fighter V are quite simply a joy to experience. Several moves now have dedicated hit and block animations, instead of using a single animation for both instances. A good example is Ryu’s sweep, which doesn’t do a full rotation if blocked. Move animations just seem to have that satisfying feel that I personally felt was lacking in the previous game. Every hit conveys a sense of impact due to more detailed animations, something you’d expect when you hit somebody with Ryu’s dominating Shoryuken.
Characters also look much more detailed across the board in terms of their design. The move to the current-generation PlayStation 4 definitely showcase the benefits of a new platform. The game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second with absolutely no frame drops with a sharp 1080p resolution, a must for a competitive fighting game made in this day and age. One look at Ryu’s new character model is enough to see the difference. For the first time, it really feels like Ryu is a veteran martial artist. His gi shows signs of age in a way that signifies just how much he has gone through to get to his current skill level. Chun-Li exudes confidence in her movement and attacks in a way that I haven’t really seen since Street Fighter III: Third Strike. Cammy’s new character model conveys her military training in a much more convincing manner. The keyword here is confidence. Each fighter seems to really bring out their resolve with their new animations. The game is a visual upgrade in every sense of the word, and it is simply too hard to go back to Street Fighter IV‘s dated visuals.
The real difference with Street Fighter V is the brand new gameplay engine that borrows almost nothing from Street Fighter IV. Focus attacks, ultra combos, and crouch-techs are nowhere to be found, which drastically changes the mental approach to Street Fighter V. Damage has also been buffed across the board to resemble Super Street Fighter II Turbo‘s level of urgency. A simple jump in combo into an EX move can easily remove nearly 35% from your health bar, something that wasn’t really possible in Street Fighter IV outside of a few characters. Whiff punishing with a crouching medium kick canceled into fireball super is guaranteed 50%. With ultra combos moves removed from the game, the importance of utilizing your super bar for big damage is a key factor within Street Fighter V‘s metagame, which resembles older entries in the series.
So what ends up replacing focus attack and ultra combos? The new V-Gauge meter. V-Skills are attacks unique to each character, and can be activate at any time using the medium attack buttons. For Ryu, using the medium buttons resulted in a parry animation, that is capable of stopping almost any attack when timed properly. This creates a small window to achieve a punish, depending on how many recovery frames the incoming attack had. V-Trigger can be activated by pressing both heavy attack buttons when the V-Gauge is completely filled. Ryu enters his Denjin mode that significantly improves his gameplay. His fireballs become faster, and he is also able to charge his regular fireballs to create delays that aren’t possible without the use of Denjin mode. Critical Arts (super combos) also receive improvements when used in V-Trigger. Activating V-Trigger essentially unlocks your character’s true potential by improving their special attacks and moveset across the board. Certain characters like Cammy become much safer when V-Trigger is active. Finally, V-Reversal is an old-school defensive mechanic that has made its way to Street Fighter V. By pressing forward + three punches during blockstun, you will be able to counter an opponent’s attack and essentially reset the neutral game, at the cost of meter. This stops your opponent from being too predictable in their approach.
To elaborate on the current game flow, the game just feels much more active than Street Fighter IV ever did. I’m sure part of the reason is due to everyone’s ignorance with this new title, however the redesigned gameplay system just makes so much sense. With the removal of crouch-teching, it is now possible to create offensive mixups that put serious pressure on the opponent. You can still tech throws while crouching, however it simply results in a standing throw animation when activated. By the way, the throw whiff animation is huge. If you guess wrong on your throw tech, please be prepared to eat a ton of damage as a result. The animation is very pronounced. Simply moving back and forth within the opponent’s immediate proximity can create a new layer of mind games that hasn’t been experienced for quite a while, as crouch-teching would simply cover too many options in Street Fighter IV. Throw ranges have also been nerfed, being eerily similar to Street Fighter X Tekken ranges. Hard knockdowns have mostly been removed as well, as you are now able to tech-roll backwards. I personally love this decision as it forces the player to make a choice: are you going to sit there and eat a potential mixup, or roll backwards closer to the corner? It seems like a much more sensible fix than the delayed wakeup system implemented into Ultra Street Fighter IV.
Playing Ryu was far more fun in Street Fighter V than any previous version of Street Fighter to me. The range on his crouching medium kick is significantly lower, however his dashing speed and overall movement is improved. He can now cancel his far light kick into special moves, which allows him to whiff punish attacks that were simply too hard to punish with crouching medium kick. You are also able to cancel light attacks into special moves immediately, without putting a small delay, unlike Street Fighter IV. The removal of focus attack allows pure footsies to become an integral part of Street Fighter V, so you really have to work to make your buttons count.
The decision to make damage higher across the board results in a game that forces you to think carefully about your decisions, without making the match take far too long. I’m feeling incredibly optimistic about Street Fighter V after my hands-on time with it, and that the majority of Street Fighter IV players should really enjoy what Capcom has accomplished with Street Fighter V. The game is set to launch early 2016, although the closed beta is going to be available this July as long as you pre-order the game!