In a few hours, there will be copious punching and kicking happening on the internet.
For the proud many that have pre-ordered next spring’s PlayStation 4-exclusive Street Fighter V, beta keys have been parsed out via email and a downloadable client was obtained days ago; a countdown clock silently laughing at the chosen as they impatiently wait to get a taste of the upcoming sequel.
But a taste is exactly what it is, and while there has certainly been footage of the game floating around over the past several months to dissect, only a small cadre of famous pro players and press event attendees have had the opportunity to see how that taste rests on the tongue. USGamer’s coverage of the beta will happen over the course of the five days that it will run, and I’ll be checking in to supply my thoughts, reactions, and experiences with the client as well as to engage with you, the readers, in the comments. But before that, we need to get on the same page and lay out what exactly we know about Street Fighter V and what to expect with the beta.
Briefly, Street Fighter V is the next sequel to the seminal fighting game franchise, and is set to be released in March of 2016. It is exclusive to the PlayStation 4 console and PC, with Capcom having previously confirming cross-platform play between them. If you are reading this site, you probably have a pretty good idea about how a Street Fighter game plays (folks fight each other. Fireballs are involved). Though, while each entry of the series is similar mechanically, deeper systems vary wildly from one numbered release to the next, making for drastically different games across the franchise, not unlike the 8- and 16-bit Final Fantasy games.
Street Fighter V’s systems will be a major departure from the Street Fighter IV series of games as well as a return of various mechanics from previous entries in the franchise. Many of those are on a character-by-character basis, but we’ll get to that in a second. What’s important to know is that the basics of playing a Street Fighter game will be firmly in place, so new players should be able to get up to speed and returning pugilists won’t be too lost. Let’s individually break down the new systems:
The first is the V-Trigger, which is represented in a red gauge at the bottom of the screen which builds by you taking damage. The V-Gauge varies in size from one character to the next, so while Nash may only have two stocks of V-Gauge, other characters like Ken will have more. After the gauge fills, hitting both the hard punch and kick buttons at once will send a character into a sort of powered-up state which will augment their abilities. Ryu’s, for example, will cause his fireballs to have a Denjin state from Street Fighter III, making them unblockable with proper timing. M. Bison, on the other hand, will have numerous extra movement options including adding mild teleportation properties to his dashes. The V-Trigger depletes over time after activation, and the gauge will reset from round to round, just like Ultras from Street Fighter IV and Super Specials from Super Turbo.
The V-Skill is a character-specific command activated by pressing the medium punch and kick buttons simultaneously. From what we’ve seen so far, these either give the specific character an extra offensive or defensive option. Ryu can parry any attack with proper timing (again, like in Street Fighter III) and Bison can absorb and slingshot back projectiles while Chun-Li gains distance-closing, King of Fighters-esque hop to start a mid-range mixup game. The V-Gauge can build by players properly using their individual V-Skill, so absorbing full screen projectiles and Daigo parrying some Chun kicks will have more practical use than simply showing off.
V-Reversals are counterattack moves that deplete one stock of a character’s V-Gauge, much like the Street Fighter Alpha series’ Alpha Counters. While they’re character specific, performing them is exactly like an Advancing Guard in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series: properly block an attack and then press toward the opponent and either all three punches or kicks. Many of these are looking to be hard knockdown punishers for greedy opponents, but Capcom has said this won’t be true for the entire roster.
The V-Gauge is coupled with the ever-present EX gauge that a player can burn a small amount of to beef up a special move or drain completely for a Critical Art super special. Like previous Street Fighter games, The EX gauge will build up performing a special move as well as giving and receiving any damage, but not by randomly throwing out normal attacks. Sorry, Third Strike players, your days of sitting in a corner and whiffing medium punches are still long gone. Finally, the stun gauge is back from previous games. Now, you’ll know exactly how far or close your opponent is to seeing stars.
Gameplay systems aside, Street Fighter V is intended to be an ever-evolving toolbox for Capcom to update and balance until they’re good and sick of supporting it. Mike did a great write up of this earlier this week outlining the publisher’s plans to, essentially, make it a game-as-a-service with a sort of lite microtransaction system in place for unlocking further content. In practice, this means that regular, attentive play will reward a currency to use for purchasing new characters and other goodies, though, similar to games like Tekken Revolution, a player can simply shell out real money to circumvent the time commitment.
Bearing that in mind, the roster will be 16 strong upon release next year, four of which being brand new characters. As of this writing, we’ve already seen half of this initial cast:
This weekend’s test will exclude Ken and Necalli with Cammy and Birdie being downloadable on Saturday to test the new content delivery system. Going forward, Capcom has a history of tying character reveals to either major tournaments like EVO or industry events like E3. Series producer Yoshinori Ono has already heavily teased another character outing at the Brazil Game Show in October. The tea leaves make this seem like Blanka as a Brazilian stage was shown off on Twitter a few weeks ago by a Blanka-cosplaying Ono, but the affable producer is notorious for screwing with his audience, so there’s a fair amount of speculation floating around to confirm rumors of returning Street Fighter III characters Sean and/ or Oro.
Sadly, like most of us, I haven’t had any hands on time with the game, either, and have been at the mercy of what can be gleaned off the internet. But even still, the game and its accompanied commentary from the developers has shown some subtle, but not insignificant tweaks to the normal Street Fighter routine. These are things that I’m going to be looking out for most with the beta this weekend.
First is the exclusion of close range normal attacks. Games in the series dating all the way back to World Warrior included separate animations for standing normal moves based on your proximity to the opponent. In an interview with fighting game site EventHubs, Capcom community manager Peter “ComboFiend” Rosas stated these were being jettisoned from V to make all normal moves serve a function in that, depending on the spacing of the attack, some close normals would come out that a player wouldn’t want, ultimately botching combos in clutch moments. I can’t say that I disagree with that stance, but this should imply a modification of the amount of frames that V’s normals will have. After all, many close normals come out faster as a way to combo out of them (think Ken’s close standing hard kick in IV vs. his far one). Certainly, not all normals need to be cancelable, but I have a feeling that we’ll see a small evolution of which of these new all-purpose moves will be made cancelable via this beta’s feedback to Capcom. To me, at least for now, this is the most interesting thing to experiment with going in.
Second, I’ll be looking at what seems to be a lingering confusion about 1-frame links. A “link” in the Street Fighter series is, at its most basic, connecting two regular moves in succession that are not preset to chain together, like two of Ryu’s crouching medium punches in a row. The window for linking normal moves in the Street Fighter IV games was noticeably wider than previously seen in the franchise, making high-level play littered with long, complex strings of punches and kicks. Capcom has stated that they were trying their best to lower this barrier by making 1-frame links be a thing of the past, and another EventHubs video outlines how, as of now, no links will be shorter than 2 or 3 frames apiece.
This translated into an earlier perception that convoluted link strings will be absent from the game, but as we’ve seen from the streams of pro exhibitions at E3, this isn’t the case. ComboFiend himself has tried to discourage players from falling back into Street Fight IV routines with hit confirmed combos that start with crouching jabs and short kicks, but players did it anyway with the likes of Birdie and Cammy to moderately strong results. Much of the link-heavy gameplay from Street Fighter IV was emergent from the players and not prior Capcom development, and I think we’ll see a lot of experimenting with that in the next few days as well. The Street Fighter V footage that we already have makes it clear that this is a high damage/ short match game, though, and many bread and butter combos we’ve seen used in streams did just fine. So, if you’re a newer player or a lapsed Street Fighter IV person that gave up after so many iterations, you should still be A-okay.
Sadly, the beta test is only online with no practice mode other than waiting between matches, so we won’t get a lot of opportunity to get super in-depth outside of the stress of live fights. From what Capcom has stated, it seems to be a constant rotation of random matches, but I hope to see some of you online this weekend for a few rounds. Just in case we can set something up formally or that future betas will have lobbied matches, feel free to add my PSN ID: Kidgorilla.
Let us know what you’re expecting in the comments, and I’ll see you tomorrow with updates and impressions.