Release Date: February 14, 2020 (Street Fighter V originally released on February 16, 2016)Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PCDeveloper: Capcom, DimpsPublisher: CapcomGenre: Fighting
The Capcom release model for fighting games is simple. Release a game, then release a bigger version of it again and again until it’s time to move on. This has been Street Fighter’s bread and butter since its iconic second installment, with half a dozen Street Fighter II games, three versions of Street Fighter III, three versions of Street Fighter Alpha, and four versions of Street Fighter IV. In the era of DLC, Capcom’s penchant for releasing updates or enhanced editions has only strengthened.
With Street Fighter V, Capcom is more invested in releasing DLC than ever, regularly building on the original, vanilla release. Over the past four years, various characters, costumes, backgrounds, and modes have been added.
When Street Fighter V came out in early 2016, I reviewed it as it was when it released and not what it was going to one day become after hundreds of dollars of DLC and fine-tuning. Even though the engine was decent enough, the package was anything but. Street Fighter V launched as an incredibly barebones fighting game, with only localized two-player, a survival mode, and a story mode made up of 1-4 matches that were so easy that I’ve watched a video of a literal baby being able to beat the AI. All with a paltry 16 characters.
Needless to say, Capcom dealt with plenty of criticism for its initial Street Fighter V launch, and to the company’s credit, it’s tried over the last four years to right past wrongs. Capcom released a cinematic story mode for free. The studio upgraded the game and added an arcade mode. With Champion Edition, it’s releasing what’s essentially a “Game of the Year” version of Street Fighter V by putting nearly everything in one package.
The base game takes the tried and true Street Fighter gameplay and tacks on the V-Gauge. Not only do you have the meat-and-potatoes special bar that you need to fill to hit enhanced EX moves or maxed out to hit Critical Art supers, but there’s a second special bar for V-Skills and V-Triggers. V-Skills are minor abilities assigned to each character that make them unique. Once the V-Gauge is full (from either use of V-Skills or just taking damage), you can hit the V-Trigger, which temporarily enhances your character’s fighting ability in some way.
Each character has always had two V-Skills to choose from pre-fight, but as of this Champion Edition update, there are also two V-Triggers. This is probably the biggest new feature in the upgrade as it adds a ton of new ways to KO your opponent and will even make you reconsider the original 16 fighters to see if they’re worth using as your main now.
Beyond the initial 16 characters, 24 others have joined the fray over time. You have classic characters like Guile and Sakura. You have new characters Menat and Falke. You even have Kolin, Ed, Zeku, Lucia, and Abigail who have long existed as part of Street Fighter’s lore (or at least Final Fight’s lore) but are only now joining the franchise’s roster. Then there’s the enigmatic G – the so-called “President of Earth” – who is either Q from Street Fighter III: Third Strike in a new identity or is a new character who has direct ties to Q in some way.
The name Street Fighter V: Champion Edition is a fitting one as it not only references the first upgrade of the series, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, but also the classic upgrade’s inclusion of playable boss characters. While Sagat (boss of Street Fighter) and M. Bison (boss of Street Fighter II) have long been part of the roster, Gill (Street Fighter III) and Seth (Street Fighter IV) finally get their time to shine. Seth has gone through a bit of a transformation, his voice and malfunctioning mind installed into a woman’s body.
The solo stuff in the game is a very weird collection of plot twists and turns. It should be noted that Street Fighter’s continuity is a bit out of order, with Street Fighter III being the last game chronologically. Since Street Fighter III was so huge when it first hit the arcades back in the late ’90s (namely because Ryu and Ken were the only returning characters with Akuma and Chun-Li being added in updates) and not much really happening in Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter V bridges the gap between, “M. Bison is trying to take over the world with his evil terrorist group,” and, “Gill is planning to take over the world with his weird religious organization.”
There are two versions of the story mode. One is “A Shadow Falls,” a cinematic tale about M. Bison and his Shadaloo organization’s last stand. Like the format NetherRealm Studios made into a staple of its games, it’s a bunch of cutscenes occasionally broken up by fights with the CPU. The difference here is that, while NetherRealm breaks up the chapters by having you play as one character for four matches in a row, Street Fighter V has you play whichever given character is supposed to win. It’s fine for what it is, but Street Fighter has always been less about the overarching storyline and more about the individual characters and how they relate to each other.
The other story mode, which originally launched with the vanilla version, has you choose each character as they go through a lengthy prologue, filled with lots of dialogue over illustrated stills. Every now and then you’ll get a fight scene, but they’re crazy easy and feel rather pointless. The actual gameplay appears to be about 5% of the experience in this mode.
Then you have arcade mode. It almost works, but not quite. You get to choose which era of Street Fighter you want to play through. You have Street Fighter I–V, plus Street Fighter Alpha. Each game has a different amount of matches you have to play through and a roster specific to who was in that game. Though Capcom does get creative here and there, like when putting Final Fight-based characters in the first Street Fighter and having the likes of Poison, Kolin, and Laura in Street Fighter III.
Beating arcade mode gets you a screen-filling comics page with a caption that explains that character’s ending for that “game.” In other words, there’s comics art depicting all of Ryu’s previous endings, as well as one for Street Fighter V’s story. You can also unlock special art by finishing the mode undefeated with specific characters.
I really want to love arcade mode, but it ends up being the yin to story mode’s yang. Outside of the endings themselves, it lacks personality. You don’t get any cool cutscenes or special intros. At most, your final boss will do a little intro taunt. So there’s lots of gameplay and a lack of real character to it while story mode has a lot of character with almost no gameplay. If Capcom mixed and matched these two modes, they might have made something special.
And believe me, you’re going to need that one-player goodness because as it is right now, the netcode leaves a lot to be desired.
The other big mode is challenge mode, which is a mishmash of different tasks. You can perform trials based on pulling off specific combos. You can try to unlock stuff by completing specific in-game tasks that change every now and then. There’s a survival mode that has you play through a stream of opponents while you gradually gain back health in-between rounds. Then there’s Extra Battle Mode, where you essentially gamble your in-game currency against special opponents of varying difficulty for the sake of unlocking more stuff. This includes the insanely difficult “Shadow Lady,” a powered-up version of Chun-Li who was last seen in Marvel vs. Capcom.
Speaking of deep-cut characters, nearly all of the alternate costumes unlocked now (there’s like three of them that aren’t for whatever reason), and some of them are really fun callouts to classic Capcom stuff, such as characters dressed up as if they’re in Mega Man, Darkstalkers, Devil May Cry, and even Cyberbots. Otherwise, it’s a lot of tracksuits, holiday stuff, and bathing suits. You know, because Capcom wants that Dead or Alive DLC money.
Even if you own this version of the game, you will still see ads for the Champion Edition upgrade before each match. Luckily, you have the option of turning off ads, but that’ll in turn only remind you how long the load times really are.
If you’ve slept on Street Fighter V, then now’s the time to get in on it. It’s got its share of flaws, but now it actually feels like a complete game and not a full-priced demo. It’s a solid entry from the granddaddy of the genre that you shouldn’t miss if you’re a fighting game fan. And there’s likely still more DLC to come. I mean, Dan Hibiki hasn’t shown up and he’s one of the most popular characters in the game’s history. He has to be Capcom’s trump card for the next wave of DLC.