Street Fighter V Feels Like Street Fighter, Except... Not

By Ian Dransfield on at

Street Fighter V is actually the 980th entry in the series (by my rough count), but it feels to me like a grander departure from the core formula than some of us might have expected. Don't get me wrong: it's still hadouken central, you can still button-spam your way to victory against lesser-skilled opponents (hi Mike!) and Cammy's leotard still looks monstrously uncomfortable. But picking Ken was the first clue that things had changed this time around, mainly because Ken has had a redesign.

Ryu's mate now has a generally shorter range, backed up by the ability to run at his opponent, closing down space fast and making him able to get a few combos in there. He still feels familiar if you've stuck with him in the past, but anybody who mained Ken will need to readjust their play-style.

Ken's run - like Vega's dodge ability - comes via the new Variable system: V-Skill, V-Trigger and V-Reversals. I would confuse myself if I tried to explain it, but handily it's been out there a while and there are things like this to help clear it up.

What I can tell you is how it impacted the flow of battle. Basically, when used well, it can and will turn things around. You can be on your last legs as Chun Li, say, before breaking out your V-Trigger as a last resort and essentially doubling the amount of hits you make in every combo. It's by no means a win button, but if used correctly - maybe even, at times, desperately - it can definitely turn the tide.

I played a couple of matches as Necalli, the first new character to be revealed, and found him to be an interesting proposition. Ostensibly a powerful grappler, he's home to a moveset that looks like it would be both devastating and frustrating in the wrong hands, interrupting jumps, cornering his foe and generally being a git. Also he looks like Blanka crossed with someone from Dragon Ball Z.

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Of the V-Skills I saw, it was Necalli's that threw me the most - this is an intense one that doesn't just change him visually but also transforms how he plays. You'll have to learn two new styles of play for just one new character, but it does look like he'll be pretty deadly in expert hands.

But yeah, other than that it's Street Fighter. Quick, smooth, responsive and lovely.

I enjoyed my brief time with Street Fighter V. It feels familiar, but there looks to be enough new about it to keep the formula fresh. I'm still a bit worried about the almost free-to-play nature of unlocking new elements, fighters and so on, but I'm more than willing to be proven wrong. Rock Band 4, for example, sounds like it's handling a similar system very well, so I'll hold the criticism for now.

The real test will be with the pro players, of course - those who spend every waking moment (and a few sleeping ones) quarter-circle forwarding through their lives. So long as the new elements and tweaks result in a balanced, fun game, they're sure to take to it. And going by the past few Street Fighter releases, the series is in safe hands.