Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to purchasing a Street Fighter game. Since the days of the groundbreaking Street Fighter II, developer and publisher Capcom has updated early every Street Fighter release with a version (or two!) that adds features, characters, stages, and alternate costumes. No game in the series has benefited from this practice more than Street Fighter V, a title that launched with a small roster and an overreliance on paid downloadable content.
With Champion Edition, however, Street Fighter V finally feels like a finished product, thanks to the inclusion of multiple V-Skills, balance changes, and every character, stage, and costume released so far (save some very select content). Unfortunately, mediocre netcode and annoying monetization tactics are still issues with this otherwise solid PC game.
Evolution, not Revolution
Champion Edition’s graphics are in line with what came before it. Street Fighter V’s visuals are more of an evolution of Ultra Street Fighter IV’s graphics (minus the ink blot aesthetic flair) than a revolutionary change. If Champion Edition is your gateway to Street Fighter V, don’t expect the radical aesthetic overhaul that the series experienced as it moved from Street Fighter II to Street Fighter III, and then from Street Fighter III to Street Fighter IV.
Street Fighter V is powered by Unreal Engine 4, which means that the highly detailed character models look good in motion, but somewhat awkward in some areas when scrutinized. For example, Ryu sports a dirty, frayed gi that ripples as he moves, and the lighting and shadow effects give the character and game a more realistic appearance than that of Ultra Street Fighter IV, despite similar stylized graphics.
On the flipside, Ken suffers from a lack of refinement; his hair looks like Play-Doh and his Under Armor-like default outfit appears as if it were painted on rather than resembling actual clothing with threads and stitching.
On the surface, Street Fighter V’s core gameplay doesn’t look very different from Ultra Street Fighter IV’s combat, but those who invest time learning the new system are rewarded with interesting gameplay mechanics that give a nod to Street Fighter’s past while still pushing the action forward.
Street Fighter V’s fisticuffs is faster and more forgiving than Ultra Street Fighter IV’s action. For example, when you experience a “throw tech” (when both fighters attempt to throw at the same time and are forced apart) you end up closer together afterward, so that you can quickly continue the fight. Similarly, recoveries, which happen when you press two punches or kicks at the same time after your character is knocked for a loop, are nearly instant.
Street Fighter V has a more-lenient window
On top of that, Street Fighter V has a more-lenient window for pulling off combos and specials, so you don’t need super-precise timing to pull off Dragon Punches and Sonic Booms. This is important, because it means you no longer need to “plink,” or press two buttons that aren’t mapped to a special or a throw, so the game picks the higher priority button and puts you a frame ahead of the input for the move or combo you want.
The most hardcore of the hardcore Street Fighter players may decry the change as one that caters to a more casual audience, but filthy casuals still need to be aware of moves, countermoves, and about a dozen other combat elements. In other words, Street Fighter V isn’t as simplified as the beginner-friendly Fantasy Strike, and a scrub won’t become an Evo champ overnight. It’s a welcome change, as input mastery is one of the most challenging hurdles for newcomers to overcome.
Street Fighter IV’s Focus Attacks are nowhere to be found in Street Fighter V. Instead, Street Fighter V’s fight flow has the three-part V-System, which consists of V-Skills, V-Triggers, and V-Reversals.
V Is for Victory
V-Skills, activated by simultaneously pressing Medium Punch and Medium Kick, are character-specific special techniques that require no meter to perform. For example, Ryu’s V-Skill is an extremely useful Street Fighter III-like parry, called Mind’s Eye, that absorbs melee and projectile attacks and fills his multi-section V-Gauge (the red meter at the bottom of the screen that governs when you can activate a V-Trigger special attack). Ryu’s parry window is wider than its Street Fighter III incarnation, which makes the counter friendlier to players who don’t want to spend weeks in the digital dojo mastering the move. Champion Edition gives each character two V-Skills; in previous Street Fighter V versions, the fighters were limited to one.
V-Triggers, activated by simultaneously pressing the Hard Punch and Hard Kick buttons, give characters enhanced abilities. For example, Ryu’s V-Trigger causes him to crackle with energy and do extra damage with fists, feet, or fireballs. While Ryu’s V-Trigger is activated, you can start a fireball animation and hold the energy ball to throw off an opponent’s timing. V-Triggers, like V-Skills, add lots of strategy and mind games.
Unlike V-Skills, V-Triggers are fueled by the V-Gauge. Depending on the character, some V-Triggers drain the V-Gauge over time, while others immediately deplete it. As a result, it’s extremely important to know when to pop a V-Trigger. If you’ve played Killer Instinct, you’ll feel right at home here, as V-Triggers are Street Fighter V’s version of Instinct Mode.