The Return of Birdie in Street Fighter V, and the Trials and Tribulations of a Pad Player

The Return of Birdie in Street Fighter V, and the Trials and Tribulations of a Pad Player

Plus: It's time to party like it's 1999 and we're playing Street Fighter Alpha 3 again.

With E3 2015 in full swing, each member of the USgamer team will be approaching the show with an individual thesis. Kat feels this is the E3 of Refinement, which is to say that most of the games on display will eschew risk for refined versions of ideas established in the previous generation.

It's been more than 15 years since we law saw Birdie in a Street Fighter game, and in that time, he seems to have let himself go a little bit.

The new and improved Birdie — he's been completely retooled for Street Fighter V — chugs cans of energy drink to build up his V-Gauge, spends a great deal of time scratching his enormous gut; and for his idle animation, picks his nose and throws it at the enemy. Oh, and the snot does damage, too.

Birdie's legacy stretches back to the original Street Fighter, where he was a fairly ordinary looking street punk from England sporting a mohawk. Like everyone else outside of Sagat and Ryu, he failed to make the leap to Street Fighter II and was thus relegated to being a second tier fighter. Still, he has his fans, most of whom discovered in Street Fighter Alpha 2, where he returned with considerably more muscle and metal chains around his forearms.

Despite his cool looks, though, he was generally regarded as a bottom-tier character in Street Fighter Alpha 3, consistently ranked alongside the likes of Dan on community tier lists. He could dish out a lot of damage if he could connect, but a good player could punish him pretty much endlessly.

In terms of how he plays now, Birdie is definitely an advanced character. His primary special is his Hanging Chain attack (quarter-circle forward + kick), which can be used to snag enemies from long distances and slam them for a large amount of damage, but has a long windup time. And being roughly twice as tall as anyone else on the screen, he's slow and a big target. He can still headbutt people in the face, though, with moves like Bull Head coming out surprisingly quickly.

As for how he'll do in Street Fighter V, time will tell. Outside of his unique fighting style, which mixes Balrog's rushing tactics with the ability to grab opponents with his chain, Birdie's main quirk is his ability to build up his V-Trigger gauge quickly through his V-Skills. Both have a long wind-up time, possibly making them impractical at higher levels; but under the right circumstances, Birdie can potentially spend a lot of time in his V-Trigger mode, where his speed and power will make him dangerous. Amazing he can move so fast with his gut hanging out like that.

The trials and tribulations of a pad player

Time for a confession: I'm a pad player. Growing up in the suburbs, I didn't have easy access to an arcade, so I had to make do with the home console version, which meant getting comfortable on first the SNES pad and then the PlayStation. Try as I might, I've just never been able to get comfortable with a fighting stick.

Needless to say, Street Fighter has never really been for people like me. Its now eight button format caters to the expensive fightsticks of the sort that you'll see in E3 and elsewhere. Playing Street Fighter IV, I would practically sprain a finger trying to pull off Ultras due to the EX attack button being mapped to LB/L1. It's held me back to be sure, but I've long since accepted that I won't be challenging Daigo in the Capcom Cup or EVO.

My plight is much the same in Street Fighter V, though with a few notable changes. Ultras are a thing of the past now, leaving Supers, which can be activated with one of the normal face buttons. Some of the special attacks have been changed as well. Charlie's Sonic Boom is activated via the fireball motion rather than the traditional charge back method, and the same goes for Chun-Li's Lightning Kick. V-Triggers, which figure to be the main method of going on the offensive, are activated with a simple press of Heavy Punch plus Heavy Kick, making it exceptionally easy for newcomers to use.

The mandate is clear: Get scrubs like me comfortable with Street Fighter V, even that means changing up some of the game's best-known inputs.

That mandate is embodied by the aforementioned V-Triggers, most of which have the effect of causing a character to go much faster, occasionally adding enhanced knockdown effects for special moves, as in the case of Ryu. It's simple, easy to understand, and it's red meat for the established fighting game crowd, who will immediately take the opportunity to start building combos. It's also very reminiscent of Street Fighter Alpha 3's V-ism ability, albeit without the multi-hit shadow attacks that made Akuma an unstoppable god in that game.

It'll be interesting to see how these changes go over with the fighting game community, who like most hardcore communities demand new features in their game of choice, then recoil when it's too new. They needn't worry. Most of the concepts here have been established in other Street Fighter games, including the V-Reversal, which is basically a souped up parry from Street Fighter III. Street Fighter is a very old and established series at this point, having been around for more than 25 years. Capcom won't rock the boat too hard.

Of course, there are exceptions. Anyone expecting Charlie Nash to be an outright clone of Guile, for example, will be very surprised. Rather than the deliberate, tactical approach that Guile players have been accustomed to for many years now, Nash employees an up-tempo, high-pressure style. His V-Skill allows him to basically teleport behind an enemy, which takes some getting used to, but seems like it might very powerful in the right hands. Enemies trying to cross him up can be victimized by his variant of a standing Flash Kick, which takes Guile's iconic move and makes it more of a roundhouse that can be slashed either horizontally or vertically. Of course, Nash being so different can only mean one thing: Guile is a lock for Street Fighter V. But you already knew that.

As for the rest of the changes, Capcom will have ample chance to test them out with their beta, which commences July 23 and is available to those who pre-order the game. Street Fighter has truly entered the modern era.

My main takeaway is that Street Fighter V remains the rock of the fighting game genre, in some ways refining and streamlining the existing formula, but otherwise adhering closely to the foundation that has made it one of the most popular games ever. Fighting game fans can be happy that it remains very much a part of Capcom's lineup, particularly with the rest of the publisher's properties falling by the wayside (well, unless you like Monster Hunter). It's long past the point of revolutionizing fighting games, but at this point, quality and consistency matter more than true innovation for the genre's flagship series.

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Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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