Street Fighter V is undoubtedly one of the most hotly anticipated releases this year. With a little over two weeks until its worldwide release, Capcom have been holding events across the world to bring fans of the beloved fighting franchise together for a celebration of the next evolution of Street Fighter. I made the trip up to Soho to attend the exclusive event and I’ve brought back some impressions on the latest build of the game to share with you all! The build on offer at the launch event featured all 16 characters confirmed to be appearing at the game’s launch on February 16th, including the recently announced F.A.N.G, who has remained unplayable even throughout the regular beta events that have taken place on PS4 and PC. I managed to get some hands-on time with several members of the new cast, as well as seeing some play at a much higher level than I’m personally capable of that really showed off what the characters can do.
Brand new villain and supposed right hand man of Bison, F.A.N.G, has firmly taken his place as one of the more disputed inclusions in SFV‘s character selection. Whilst opinions online and amongst attendees on the night were mixed in terms of his bizarre looks and even more adventurous play style, I can safely say that after taking him for a spin, he’s certainly a character to watch; F.A.N.G’s specials were made up primarily of charge moves, including his arching ‘Nishikyu’ projectile. His V-skill, also a projectile that moves slowly and deals continuous damage, wields interesting combo potential and helps to emphasise careful planning and control over space that F.A.N.G is crafted around. He has a handful of hard-hitting attacks and command moves, such as the ‘Sotoja’ attack, which also serves as a great tool to close the distance between you and your opponent. With some really unique tools on offer, not to mention a seemingly important role in the game’s story, it’ll be interesting to watch how F.A.N.G develops; perhaps one the wider player-base get their hands on him for themselves, their perspectives might change!
The second new character to watch, and if you’re going up against him, potentially fear, is Rashid. The master of the Turbulent Wind and the main series first fighter to hail from the Middle East (outside of the Street Fighter EX series), was notably a popular character selection amongst players at the event. Rashid’s V-Trigger ‘Ysaar’, which summons a giant tornado reminiscent of Urien‘s ‘Aegis Reflector’, both in its style and in the potential it holds for mixups. It also wields the unique property of increasing the movement speed of any of Rashid’s forward-moving attacks, including his diving kicks that seemed to be a much-used part of his arsenal. Laura, the Brazilian lightning-wielder and big sister of Street Fighter III‘s Sean, made quite the splash with her stylish Jiu-Jitsu techniques, which distinctly stood out as some of the game’s most animated (and painful-looking) moves. Her slow-moving ‘Thunder Clap’ projectile and her fast-moving attacks that can be easily followed up with deadly grappling attacks show substantial combo potential, something extended even further by her V-Trigger ‘Spark Show’, which increases stun and move range.
It has to be said that on the night, the first newcomer to be announced, Necalli, didn’t get as much playtime as his fellow new fighters, perhaps due to his now fairly lengthy presence in the game’s beta sessions. The ancient warrior with origins shrouded in mystery has a standout normal game, which when used in combination with his command grabs and ‘Valiant Rebellion’ stomp attack, offer some interesting potential for mixups that will undoubtedly be explored by players further once the final game releases; his notably high damage output will likely be attractive for many players. However, one of the most interesting elements of Necalli’s character lies in his V-Trigger ‘Torrent of Power’, which completely changes his appearance and several of his moves, with the sacrifice of rendering his V-Reversal unusable. Timing is key to making the most out of this powerful ability in battle, although you’ll likely benefit from being able to admire some stunning visual flair regardless of when you use it.
Before unveiling every fighter on the roster, Capcom promised three distinct ‘types’ of characters who would be appearing in the game, one of which being fighters who haven’t been seen in a while. The four fighters, all returning from the Street Fighter Alpha series, have earned their place on the roster with more than a few new tricks up each of their sleeves. Firstly, all-American hero Guile’s best friend-turned-baddie Charlie (now known simply by his surname, Nash, for a seemingly more sinister effect) has forgone the traditional charge inputs he and his military comrade have been known for in past instalments, using simpler inputs for his ‘Sonic Boom’ and ‘Flash Kick’ (which has also gone a name change, now referred to as ‘Sonic Scythe’) that newcomers to the series will find very accommodating. His ‘Tragedy Assault’, which isn’t a grab despite appearances, packs quite a punch, highlighting the more violent nature of his new fighting style as well as creating some interesting anti-air options. Charlie’s projectile-blocking V-Skill ‘Bullet Clear’ and teleportation V-Trigger ‘Sonic Move’ give this reborn fighter a wide variety of speedy movement options that will certainly come in handy for outpacing your opponents. As a Fei Long main in Street Fighter IV, I found something of a personal favourite character in spoilt heiress and rival of Sakura, Karin Kanzuki. Her arsenal of quick dashing and leaping strikes, as well as a wide variety of followup moves that allow for quick chains of attacks stay fairly faithful to her appearance in the Alpha series. With a projectile-nullifying V-Skill and a fantastic V-Trigger that creates plentiful options for cross-ups, overheads and a command throw that pack quite a punch. Her Critical Art, the ‘Kanzuki-Ryu Hadorokushiki Hasha no Kata’, is easy to combo into for both a stylish and powerful finish, despite its name being quite the mouthful!
Former Shadaloo thug and resident glutton Birdie has gone through yet another substantial design change in this latest iteration, ditching the physics-defying mohawk with a hole in it in favour of a beer gut and a seemingly permanent case of the munchies. However, less has changed when it comes to the fighting itself, with Birdie’s huge strength and trademark chain still playing a major role in his fighting style. Hard-hitting command grabs such as the ‘Killing Head’ have the potential to deal massive damage, especially when coupled with the chilli-powered V-Trigger, ‘Enjoy Time’, which sees Birdie consuming a chilli pepper to dish out even more pain. Whilst perhaps not the greatest representative of the general British populace, it’s good to see that despite being posed as more of a gag character this time around, Birdie is still no slacker when it comes to unique yet powerful combat. Across the large number of matches I spectated on across the evening, I became aware of a notable lack of pro-wrestler R. Mika being played; her V-Trigger is certainly one of the more unique in the game, summoning her tag partner Nadeshiko for some wild mixups, and with an expanded arsenal of wrestling techniques it’s no surprise that she’s considered one of the more formidable returning fighters on the roster. With some effective normals and solid damage output, Mika is definitely one to watch.
For many players, the eight returning Street Fighter II cast members are likely one of the biggest draws in Street Fighter V‘s roster; with some considerably drastic redesigns both in the visuals and fighting departments. Shoto staples Ryu and Ken both return with a whole host of new tricks, the latter sporting a major overhaul in terms of looks that seems to have split opinion. Despite consistencies between past titles, the two Shotokan fighters differ considerably from each other in this title, Ryu sticking to the basic principles that have remained in his moveset throughout every iteration of Street Fighter whilst adding a parrying V-Skill highly reminiscent of Street Fighter III‘s parrying mechanic and a V-Trigger that increases stun and guard-crushing possibilities, something I saw many players making use of on the night. Whilst retaining the three staple techniques of the shoto moveset, Ken brings the most radical variation yet, offering a divekick-like EX Tatsumaki Senpukyaku with large juggling potential and a V-Trigger that allows for quick cancelling and increased damage, something many players made use of for large and flashy combos, which match the fiery American champion’s personality very well. Chun-Li remains largely unchanged in terms of attire, but the lightning-legged first lady of fighting still packs as hefty a punch as she did 25 years ago when she first appeared in Street Fighter II. Fast, multiple-hitting attacks (something further expanded upon by her V-Trigger, which also increases hitstun on her light normals) and a unique aerial V-Skill offer wide potential for big combos and even bigger damage.
If speed’s your thing, you certainly won’t want to overlook Cammy in SFV. Basic tools such as the ‘Spiral Arrow’ and ‘Cannon Spike’ have been retained from previous instalments, whilst some returning techniques such as the ‘Hooligan Combination’ have seen input changes that can make them even more deadly in the right hands. Cammy’s V-Trigger, ‘Delta Drive’, creates a timed gauge during which her moves are increased in speed, although it’s the more subtle property changes that make this ability special; those looking to master Cammy will need to learn each of the changes this V-Trigger makes, such as making the ‘Spiral Arrow’ pass through opponents to help avoid punishment if the move is blocked. Many high-level players have already been drawn to Cammy’s new set of skills and its working out the character’s intricacies will be key to playing a solid game. Whilst not going through a single visual upgrade, Zangief has clearly been honing his “body of iron muscles” between games as he’s harbouring a fair few feats of extreme strength up his non-existent sleeves. His V-Trigger ‘Cyclone Lariat’ helps Zangief live up to the nickname ‘vacuum man’, drawing opponents in with a powerful multi-hit spinning lariat. His V-Skill, ‘Iron Muscle’, allows him to soak up a hit with recoverable damage, as well as closing in on his opponent and countering their hit with a quick flexing attack. Effective normals provide all the tools you need to combo into both ground and aerial command grabs for colossal damage; thanks to Street Fighter V‘s unique visual flourish, Zangief’s trademark piledriver is looking at its best in the latest entry to the series.
Dhalsim is sporting an impressively wiser appearance this time around, and along with it a much more focused moveset that relies on long-range setups as opposed to just zoning as seen in previous iterations. His V-Trigger, ‘Yoga Burner’, has the unique property of dealing consistent but recoverable damage, capable of trapping opponents but requiring a hasty combo followup to inflict the maximum amount of damage. Many players made use of a combination of his multi-hit Critical Art ‘Yoga Sunburst’ in combination with his ‘Yoga Float’ V-Skill to quickly gain ground and corner foes, before dishing out damage with surprisingly flashy combos that really stand testament to how much the veteran fighter has changed. Another fighter to see some considerable moveset overhauls is Vega, the Spanish bullfighting ninja who wields a brutal claw (even to this day, I choose not to question that combination). However, despite being commonly known by the name ‘Claw’, the introduction of a distinct barehanded fighting style that gives access to a command grab and other differing properties. It’s possible to switch between the two at will, although unlike in previous instalments once your claw is knocked off, it’s gone for good; becoming adept at both fighting styles will be essential for those looking to master this narcissistic Shadaloo agent. At the event I witnessed some truly spectacular Vega play, with players making brilliant use of his ‘Bloody Baiser Rouge’ V-Trigger to extend combos both on the ground and in the air. This is certainly a character to be feared when fighting an opponent who can make the most of a wide selection of powerful tools, and the removal of charge inputs from his moveset will likely only make Vega’s self-proclaimed ‘allure’ even more effective at wooing new players.
Long-time series villain M. Bison may appear to have aged slightly since his last appearance, but we have yet to see a lapse in sinisterness throughout the evil schemes he intends on hatching in the game’s story mode, nor in his moveset which packs a few new punches. The removal of Bison’s trademark ‘Psycho Crusher’ may trouble veteran players of the character commonly referred to as ‘Dictator’, but with the majority of his mainstay moves returning, along with a few moves inspired by his appearances in the Alpha series, such as his new projectile ‘Psycho Blast’, players who took a liking to the big bad in previous titles will likely find themselves right at home with this new Bison, with a handful of interesting new tools to boot. Bison’s V-Skill ‘Psycho Reflect’ finally gives him a much-needed tool for dealing with projectiles, with the added bonus of being able to build V-Gauge. Building this meter will be essential to unlocking the most deadly weapon in Bison’s new arsenal, his ‘Psycho Power’ V-Trigger, which allows him to teleport through attacks, including projectiles, and in turn leading to the potential for some lethal punishes if your opponent lets their guard slip. As well as this, special moves can be cancelled in to their EX variants without the need for charge inputs, allowing for a faster game as a whole. Normally hindered by a notably slow walking speed, those looking to counter Bison will need to be prepared to deal with not only his standard abilities, which present a number of substantial options for applying pressure and dealing with oncoming threats of a variety of forms, but a fast, hard-hitting V-Trigger that could give a skilled Bison player all the time they need to turn a match around.
In terms of a more general overview of the game, it has to be said that Street Fighter V simply handles like a dream. Each of the 16 starting characters feel unique and fresh, allowing veteran players to build off their extensive ability with returning fighters whilst giving newcomers a much-needed window of opportunity to learn the fundamentals required to play the game on a higher level. SFV excels in the visual department, the new art direction which seemingly takes influence from that of Street Fighter IV, albeit with a more colourful flair, does a magnificent job at accenting each character and the detailed stages that craft the game’s world. Even the sound effects help to create a powerful sense of impact, making combos and hard-hitting attacks even more satisfying to land. With the promise of a whole host of modes, not to mention a fully-fledged story mode and a whole host of roster expansions in on the way, I can’t wait to see how Street Fighter V expands in the future – in the mean time, there’s plenty to be excited about for the main game, which releases on PC and PS4 on February 16th.
I’d like to take some time in this article to talk about the launch event itself! Aside from the chance to play the game before its release, as well as the fantastic experience of meeting series producer Yoshinori Ono (who I can assure you is as cheery as you’d imagine; presenting him with my copy of the 1994 Street Fighter movie for him to sign prompted quite a hearty chuckle!), it was nice to meet with fellow journalists and fans of the series, as well as hearing their thoughts on the new game. Capcom UK put on a particularly memorable evening, one of the highlights of which included a bizarre Street Fighter-inspired hip hop dance performance (linked above). Below I’ve also included a selection of photos taken on the evening for you to enjoy!