PAX Prime 2015: The Future of Street Fighting

For the last few years, the future of Capcom’s signature fighting series has been uncertain as the company experienced some challenges. Fortunately for combat fans, a partnership with Sony has enabled the team to create a full sequel on modern hardware.

After a few rounds on the show floor of PAX Prime 2015, the team behind Street Fighter V have given fans a lot to be excited about. The game looks fantastic as it takes full advantage of Unreal Engine 4 to add graphical flourishes to special moves and background animations, modernizing the look and feel. The 10 available fighters skew towards returning characters so far, starting with the iconic Ryu who plays as expected: a steady blend of dragon punches, cross-ups, dashing strong attacks and fireballs for range control remains a recipe for success. The newly differentiated Ken is noticeably faster than previous installments and travels farther when performing his trademark flaming version of the dragon punch, a good choice for players who use a combat style of sustained pressure.

The new characters take their design inspiration from the more fanciful combatants in previous games,
such as Necalli who looks like the WWE’s Finn Balor (or as my opponent pointed out, the main character from Asura’s Wrath) and designed as a high pressure attacker with moves that move him across the level for significant distance per initiation. I didn’t get to spend time with the provocatively dressed R. Mika, who appears to blend the move sets of Cammy and Chun Li. These battles play out on a mix of classic and new levels, some of which have a new breakaway wall element on maps like the King’s Cross Landing. I tried repeatedly to smash through that with a series of charge attacks and throws to propel my opponent into that edge of the level, but only ended up knocking around a nearby dumpster.

The V-Gauge meter varies in length and abilities by fighter, remixing some of the abilities from IV into a variable shared use meter. V-Reversals and V-Skills assume the defensive functions of the previous game’s Focus Attack with character specific moves, while the V-Trigger option consumes your entire meter and equates to the Instinct mode from Killer Instinct by providing character specific boosts such as a rapid strike-and-teleport for Charlie. Critical Arts make their return as super moves or combos that take a full meter of up to 3 EX units to unleash a devastating attack, a switch away from the Ultra attack in IV that is effective in stabilizing the ebb and flow of combat away from the pattern of absorbing damage to fill the Ultra meter, loading the Super Meter by performing special moves/dealing damage and then unleashing both Super and Ultra moves in a chain of destruction.

Street Fighter V has an enormous legacy and fan expectations to live up to: in the 7 years since the release of its predecessor, a wide array of challengers for the fighting game throne from revitalized series to new franchises have staked their claim to an increasingly competitive genre. In a field that includes Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, BlazBlue and a resurgent Smash Bros., the latest installment featuring Capcom’s world warriors has a strong opportunity to re-establish its place as the king of fighting games.

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