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September 1, 2015 / Jett

Street Fighter V Beta Impressions Part 1: Gameplay Systems

Back in July, Capcom’s first attempt at a Street Fighter V beta was an abject failure. A handful of people got in and played some matches, but many (myself included) never even got past the start screen. About a month later, with some tweaks on their end and regional stress testing under their belts, the first round of the beta completed without a hitch. Between the stress test and the few days of the beta I got to participate in, I played as much of it as I could.

I have a lot to say on the subject. So much so, that the first draft of this post was over 2,000 words long and I had only covered about half of what I wanted to say. With this spiraling out of control, I’ve decided to break this up into a series of posts that will probably still be huge, but at least a bit more readable. Let’s get right into it by covering its gameplay systems!

Each new numbered iteration of Street Fighter brings with it a host of changes and tweaks to make each game in the series unique. Street Fighter II pioneered the ability to choose different characters to fight with, as well as the inadvertent creation of combos. Street Fighter Alpha introduced an anime art style, Alpha Counters and Custom Combos. Street Fighter III brought us an almost entirely new cast of characters, as well as parries. Finally, Street Fighter IV contained the Focus system.

Street Fighter V is no different. While it clearly borrows elements from previous games, Street Fighter V makes some huge system-level changes that make it feel like its own beast. For those who cut their teeth on Street Fighter IV, the jump between the two might be quite a shock, as the new game takes a a few huge steps away from its immediate predecessor.

For one, Ultra moves are completely removed from Street Fighter V. You no longer have a access to a Hail Mary move towards the end of each round. Not to say that you don’t have access to a devastating attack, but it’s not one that you’ll have access to every single round. I’m fine with this change, as it takes away the opportunity for someone to quickly turn the tables on a fight in one moment, whether it’s from a newcomer wildly mashing out the move, or an expert player who ends an already devastating combo with it.

The closest thing you have here are Critical Arts, which work just like Super moves in Street Fighter IV. Tied to your EX bar, you can perform a Super move when the bar is completely full. One of the big benefits with Critical Arts is that unlike Ultras in Street Fighter IV, Critical Arts are really easy to combo into. In the previous game, most Ryu players would default to focus attack dash cancelling an uppercut as a means of connecting his Ultra fireball. In Street Fighter V, you can combo into it off of something as innocuous as a crouching medium kick.

As a trade-off, it’s tied to your EX bar. That means you’re only going to have it completely full about one time per match, assuming you don’t use EX moves. Since they feed off the same bar, you’re going to have to find the right balance between a damage boost now and a potential big bang later. Super moves have the potential to turn the tables in a round like Ultras, but they happen less frequently and come at the cost of not being able to do EX moves for most of the match. I think this is a more reasonable way of handling each character’s big move. Right now, each character only has one Critical Arts move, but don’t be surprised to see more Critical Arts added to the game in a far future update.

Also absent is the Focus Attack, which was first introduced in Street Fighter IV. I actually really like Focus Attacks, but I understand the challenges that come with them. The fundamental problem with that mechanic was that they don’t benefit everyone equally. Certain characters, like Fei Long, have excellent Focus Attacks and dash cancelling options. Others, like Zangief, barely benefit at all from its inclusion.

In its place is the new V-Skill mechanic. By pressing medium punch and medium kick at the same time, you’ll activate a character-specific move that’s been designed to fit their arsenal. This better ensures that each character will get a meaningful benefit. Chun-Li for example, gets a hop jump that isn’t as floaty as her regular jump that also hits during its rise. Ryu gets a parry that works just like it did in Ultra Street Fighter IV‘s Omega Mode. For M. Bison in particular, I like that his V-Skill addresses a problem that his character has had in almost every fighting game before this. Generally, M. Bison has problems with getting close to characters who throw fireballs. He should have an easier time now, as his V-Skill allows him to absorb a fireball, then throw a fast fireball of his own right back. Compared to the Focus Attacks, this is a much better way of giving each character something worthwhile within the confines of a system-level mechanic.

There are more aspects to the V system to round things out. V-Reversals are essentially Alpha Counters from the Street Fighter Alpha series. While in block stun, players can press forward plus all three punches or kicks to perform a counter attack. Doing so will cost you one bar from your V meter. While it only does gray damage and you can’t use it to kill, it’s a viable solution when an opponent is a little too close for comfort. Personally, I didn’t use these much, as I prefer to bank those bars for V-Trigger, but this mechanic may be more useful with time.

Last but not least are V-Triggers. When your V gauge is full, you can press heavy punch and heavy kick to activate your character’s V-Trigger. Like V-Skills, V-Triggers are unique for each character. Ryu’s V-Trigger allows him to charge up his fireballs to the point where a fully-charged fireball can break someone’s block. Charlie, on the other hand, gets a one-time use teleport that can be used to send him directly behind or above his opponent. The closest equivalent I can think of to V-Triggers is Instinct Mode in Killer Instinct.

Roughly once a round, V-Triggers give you some sort of boost that can be used to mount a huge comeback or put the finishing touches on your opponent in a crushing manner. However, V-Triggers are far from win buttons, especially compared to Street Fighter IV, where once a round you only needed to land one move to turn the tables. Instead, these boosts still require you to play well in order to win with them.

So far, I like what I’ve seen of each character’s V-Trigger, though I hope to see more creative uses for it in the future. For instance, the recently-revealed R. Mika has a V-Trigger that calls out a tag team partner for a body splash or drop kick. Her V-Trigger is essentially a Marvel vs. Capcom-style assist move, a mechanic that has never appeared in Street Fighter before that I’m excited to finally have here. If the newer characters have V-Triggers that match hers in terms of creativity, then this could be a huge game changer.

All of that put together, you get a game that covers the core tenants of Street Fighter, but one that feels markedly different from its predecessor. New players and those who haven’t been playing Street Fighter IV religiously for the past few years should adapt to it without a hitch. For the Street Fighter IV faithful like me, it’s going to take some rewiring in your brain to compensate for the lack of Ultras and Focus Attacks, though I welcome the changes. Street Fighter V is very much its own beast, and that’s great. Love Street Fighter IV for what it is, but Street Fighter V looks to take things in a fresh new direction.

Come back to the site for more Street Fighter V impressions, as I break down things like graphics, combos, characters and more!

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