Street Fighter V Beta Impressions & Game Preview

The first version of Street Fighter IV came out in North America on February 17, 2009, and it was the only version of Street Fighter IV I played.  After playing several hours of Mortal Kombat X and having my love of fighting games reignited, I decided to preorder Street Fighter V, and that allowed me to be part of the beta.

Watching trailers for Street Fighter V, the graphics looked basically the same as Street Fighter IV. After playing the beta, I can tell this truly is a good looking video game.  The character models, animations, and stages do a great job of combining modern 3D graphics and classic 2D Street Fighter animations.

There were technically five stages in the beta, but The Grid is a basic practice stage with very little background, and Kanzuki Estate had to be unlocked for use in the beta, and I never unlocked it. Forgotten Waterfall, Union Station, and Bustling Side Street all looked good, but Bustling Side Street was my favorite due to its destructible environment.  It is possible to unlock a secret area in Bustling Side Street by hitting your opponent in the left corner of the stage to end the round.

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If the beta is an accurate indication of how the real game will play, Street Fighter V will be a balanced and technically sound fighting game.  I didn’t feel like any character was worse than any other, and I believe it is possible to choose to play with a less popular character and compete against fan favorites, like Ryu.  I’m willing to shamefully confess the consistent ass kicking I received throughout my time playing the beta, to the point of me questioning whether I had some masochist desire I wasn’t aware of to still enjoy this game after every loss, was on me not being good and not on any unfair moves or glitches.

The beta was originally supposed to go from October 21 to 25, with Ken, Necalli, Vega, R. Mika, Karin, and Rashid as playable characters by the end of the beta.  Unfortunately, the beta had matchmaking issues until the last two days and it could take almost forever to connect with someone online if you played the beta before October 24. The first day I played it I didn’t play against another person and was stuck in practice mode, because ranked online matches are the only fighting mode in the beta, but the wait between finishing one match and starting another is spent in a practice mode.  In practice mode you can play against the CPU-controlled opponent or have a friend grab a second controller and get a somewhat close simulation to how a real fight feels.  But we’re talking about practice, not a match, so I was happy and surprised when the matchmaking started working on Saturday.

While I had a few laggy matches, overall the online experience was great, and it usually took under three minutes to connect after choosing a character and practicing while the sever looked for my next opponent.  The Street Fighter V beta was one of the rare betas that had PlayStation 4 players and PC players fight each other.  I personally had no clue what platform the other player was on, so I assume it worked well.  The severs were working well on Saturday, and to possibly make up for the issues the beta had the previous days, Capcom decided to add the six characters from the previous beta into the current beta, so I was able play as Ryu, Cammy, Chun-Li, Nash, Birdie, and Bison. The Street Fighter V beta had a bad start and a great finish, and for the rest of this article I will go over the basics, the new significant gameplay additions, and what I thought of each character.

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Any veteran Street Fighter player will feel right at home playing Street Fighter V. The combat is still based around light punch, light kick, medium punch, medium kick, heavy punch, and heavy kick.  Shooting fireballs or any special move still requires spinning the joy stick left or right in quarter in a half circle or any other classic Street Fighter button combination.  You still press the light punch and light kick to grab your opponent. The Critical Gauge still works the same as previous Street Fighter games.  There are three bars that are part of the Critical Gauge, and you can use a bar by pressing the light punch and medium punch, or light kick and medium kick together to get a more powerful version of a special move.  When you have all three bars filled your character can perform a Critical Art, a special move that makes your character perform a flashy move in a short cutscene and, when it hits your opponent, it can take away a third of their health.

With all of the old moves out of the way, it is time to talk about the new moves.  The biggest addition to Street Fighter V is the V-System.  The V-System consists of unique abilities every character has, and there are two types of abilities.  The first involves pressing medium punch and medium kick together to perform a special move called V-Skill.  A character’s V-Skill doesn’t involve the use of any special bar, and its usefulness seems to vary based on the character you use.

The other move is the V-Trigger.  To use the V-Trigger, the red bars right above the Critical Gauge, called the V-Guage, must be fully charged, and it could be two or three bars based on what character you are using.  Unlike the Critical Gauge, you must have all bars of the V-Trigger filled to be able to activate it.  The V-Trigger is a great addition to the Street Fighter franchise based on my experience playing the beta, but since the V-Trigger can be a power up, special move, or what I would consider a mini Critical Art, I’ll mention what I think of every-character-in-the-beta’s V-Trigger in my short summary on what I thought of every character in the beta.

Ken

Ken has always been my favorite Street Fighter character since I first played Street Fighter II.  Back then, I was in elementary school, and I liked that he shot fireballs and wore my favorite color, red.  Now, he was one of the few characters in the beta that I didn’t completely suck with.  Outside his changed costume, Ken is basically the same as he is in most Street Fighter games.  The fireball, uppercut, and spin kick are performed the same way they were in the previous games.

Ken’s V-Skill move causes him to run forward.  This is a move I never really used, but I fought against someone who used it effectively.  Ken’s V-Trigger was the first V-Trigger to bring a slight issue I had with beta that is unlikely to be an issue in the full game.  You can go to the command list to learn how to do any character’s moves, but there’s no description on what their V-System moves do.  When you use Ken’s V-Trigger, his feet catch on fire for a short time period and it increases the damage his special moves inflict upon your opponent.  It took me using the character several times to figure out what his V-Trigger does, and some characters I never figured out what their V-Trigger did during the beta.

Ken was unsurprisingly a very popular character in the beta.

Karin


I never played Street Fighter Alpha 3, so I originally thought Karin was a new character when she was announced for Street Fighter V.  I played as Karin a lot and I fought Karin a lot, because she was one of the most used characters in the beta.

Karin is a close range fighter that is designed for players who are quick with their button presses and prefer combos to grabs and range attacks.  She has a non-attack dash move that can be used to close the distance between you and your opponent.  Karin also has two special moves where she does a short forward jump that leads into a combo.  She has no projectile attacks and she sucks at aerial combat.

Her V-Skill is a strike that can be charged, and it blocks projectiles and uses their energy to increase her V-Guage.  I’m positive I never saw anyone block a projectile with Karin’s V-Skill, and I can’t recall ever hitting anyone with it (and the good Karin players I fought were destroying me with so many different attacks, I couldn’t tell you every move I was hit with).  Her V-Trigger unlocks a special move that can only be used during the short time period the V-Trigger is active.  This special move is a combo, but I thought it was the best combo special move in the beta. Karin is a difficult character to use at first, but she was one of my favorite characters in the beta, and one I look forward to spending hours trying to master in the full game.

R. Mika


Rainbow Mika is another Street Fighter character I didn’t know existed.  I didn’t like her when I saw her announcement trailer, but getting to use the character changed my opinion.  R. Mika is a fun character to use, and she’s perfect for any player that loves to use a lot of throws.  She has two special move throws, but what makes her throws unique is their Critical Gauge version, which features R. Mika’s tag-team partner joining in the attack.  Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is probably one of my top ten video games of all time and one of the things that made that fighting game special was the cool team up attacks, and that is something players using R. Mika can experience in Street Fighter V.

R. Mika’s V-Trigger involves her calling her tag-team partner to come out of nowhere and attack her opponent from behind or above.  Her V-Skill move causes R. Mika to pull out a mic, point herself towards the screen (or the real people on the other side of the TV or computer screen), and talk about her dream to be great.  I wasn’t sure what it powered up when I was playing, but it turns out it increases the damage of R. Mika’s throws.  R. Mika does have non-throw special moves, but like most characters that rely heavily on throws, she doesn’t seem like a good character for beginners.

R. Mika was one of the most popular characters in the beta based on how many times I played against her online, so maybe only I struggled with the character and you will love R. Mika the first time you control her.

Vega


Vega is a classic Street Fighter character that I usually never use and can only recall fighting against once in the beta (he was my first win).  While I didn’t play as Vega much in the beta, and he was one of the least used characters in the beta, any Vega fan should be happy with his Street Fighter V incarnation.  He is still an air strike based character who relies on special moves that allow him to jump around the top of the screen and be an extremely annoying character to fight against.

He has a special move that is a roll attack when he is fighting on the ground, and his V-Skill move is another strike.  Vega’s V-Trigger was very different from every other character in the beta, because it is basically a weaker Critical Art and one that is a projectile attack.  When you activate Vega’s V-Trigger, he throws a rose petal, and if it hits your opponent, Vega will enter a quick cutscene where he deals a lot of damage.

Necalli


After playing as the new character, Necalli, a few times, I believe people who love to play as Blanca will likely become fans of Necalli.  From Necalli’s hunchbacked walking and long, sometimes red hair, he could be Blanka’s non-green cousin (and, if they are related by blood, how that could happen isn’t something I would want to think about).  Necalli’s special moves include a dash attack, a throw, and a close range attack where he stomps on the ground.

His V-Skill was the best one I played in the beta.  It has the ability to attack close, medium, and long range based on what button combination the player puts in.  However, since it involves Necalli pounding the ground, creating a small dirt explosion underneath his opponent, the other player can easily dodge it by jumping.  An attack that can come from three different areas can be used in many effective ways.  Speaking of effectiveness, I had no clue what Necalli’s V-Trigger did.  He basically goes into Super Saiyan mode where his hair sticks up and changes colors, but I wasn’t sure what it was upgrading when I was playing the beta.  It turns out his V-Trigger allows him to use new special moves that can only be used when his V-Trigger is activated.

Necalli wasn’t a character I saw a lot in the beta, and I rarely used Blanca, so my early comparison could be off.

Rashid


Newcomer Rashid seems like a good choice for people who are new to Street Fighter or haven’t played a game in the franchise in a while.  I’m not saying that to criticize Rashid as a designed-for-beginners-only character, but I believe he is an all-around character that leans towards air combat.  He has a special move where he makes a small tornado which has such a short range that it can barely be considered a projectile, but after playing against a lot of people using the character, it does have some anti-air ability.  He has good dash attacks and is capable of jumping off the wall.

His V-Skill is an non-attack jump, but one that can turn into a dash attack with one press of a button.  His V-Trigger move can be good if you use it at the right time.  Rashid makes a big tornado that goes from the top to the bottom of the screen.  As long as the player launches it in the general direction of their opponent, there is no way to dodge it and they are forced to block if they want to avoid significant damage.  The big tornado moves very slowly, and I had the most success activating it when I thought my opponent was about to attack.

Charlie Nash


I originally thought of Charlie Nash as a Guile clone, but Nash has returned with a new Frankenstein look and better special moves than the Guile I remember playing as in Street Fighter IV.

Nash’s sonic boom projectile attack is similar to other Street Fighter games, but his flip kick special move now involves him jumping forward a bit, adding more range but making it unusable if you’re too close.  He has another close range attack to make up for the change in one of his (and Guile’s) signature moves, and Nash’s V-Skill is a strike that can block projectiles and increase V-Guage, like Karin’s V-Skill. Nash’s V-Trigger will take some practice to get used to, though fans of characters like Dhalsim will enjoy it.  It causes Nash to teleport once, and I’m sure you can image ways that can useful, but I didn’t have any success with it in the beta.

M. Bison


I didn’t play as Bison much, and I have never been a fan of the character, but his fans should be excited.  One of my issues using Bison is that his move sets are based around “hold the joystick or d-pad direction in one direction then quickly move it in to the opposite direction and press a button.”  This button combination is different from at least 80 percent of Street Fighter characters, and Bison is the only fighter in the beta with every move using some form of this combination.

Bison seems to have all of the same moves he had in previous Street Fighter games.  He has that sliding kick dash attack, that annoying move where he jumps in the air and steps on his opponent’s head, and he has an electric melee attack.  While playing as Bison, I believed his V-Skill was a parry, allowing him to block attacks without taking any chip damage.  It turns out I wasn’t too far off.  His V-Skill allows him to reflect his opponent’s projectile back at them, or block it and use it to increase his V-Gauge.  His V-Trigger increases the damage all of his special moves inflict on his opponent.

Cammy

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Cammy is one of my favorite Street Fighter characters, and she’s the one I used the most in Street Fighter IV.  She has all of the same moves she had in the previous games, but one of her signature moves has changed from a special move to a V-Skill.  Specifically, it’s the move where Cammy does a short jump and spins into a punch, and I like the change.  Now, instead of just punching your opponent in the front, it’s possible to spin behind them and attack them from the rear or dodge projectiles, but both of these things are much harder than it sounds.

Her dash kicks, which makes her one of my favorites, will have added range when Cammy’s V-Trigger is activated.  For example, the regular spinning kick dash attack only has medium range, but the V-Trigger version will take Cammy from one end of the screen to the other.

Unfortunately, I never got to fight against anyone using Cammy during the beta.

Birdie

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Another character I knew nothing about until his announcement, but has existed for years.  Birdie is a somewhat unique character, because his special move throws have the ability to grab from a longer distance due to him using a chain.  Birdie wasn’t a character I was any good with, and I never played anyone in the beta using him, but I think he would be a good fighter if you chose to use him.

What also makes Birdie unique, is how his love of eating factors into his V-System.  His V-Skill move involves him eating a donut to increase his V-Trigger bars and it is similar to R. Mika’s speaking on a mic ability.  His V-Trigger involves Birdie eating spicy food that increases the damage of all of his special moves.

Chun-Li

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This iconic character returns exactly the way fans of the series expect her, but unlike the other fighters, I couldn’t do anything with her V-System abilities.  Her V-Skill is a non-attack jump and her V-Trigger is a power upgrade, but like Necalli, I had no idea what it did.  After looking it up, her V-Trigger adds extra hits and damage to her special moves.  Her super speed kicks, spinning upside down kicks, and fireball are still included amongst her special moves.

One thing about this version of Chun-Li that is impossible not to notice once a player selects her was her incredibly bouncy boobs.  Obviously most men in fighting games are ripped and women have perfect bodies, but Chun-Li had unique boob physics in the beta that none of the other female characters had.  Playing as her, I assumed Capcom was trying to get more Dead or Alive fans, or Chun-Li won the last Street Fighter tournament and used some of her winnings to buy breast implants, but according to Capcom this is a glitch that should be fixed when the full game releases.

Ryu

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Ryu still has the same special moves as Ken, but there are changes when it comes to the V-System.  His V-Skill is a parry, allowing him to block attacks without taking chip damage.  Ryu’s V-Trigger is very similar to Ken’s since it also increases the power of his special moves, but based on the limited time I played as Ryu in the beta, Ryu’s V-Trigger is not as good as Ken’s.  Ryu’s V-Trigger increases the power of his fireball, but doesn’t increase the power of his spinning kick or his uppercut.

I fought against Ryu three times and I lost to Ryu three times.

Four more characters will be available in the full game, in addition to the twelve characters discussed in this article, and Capcom has said six more fighters should be available for download within a year of Street Fighter V’s release.

There should be a third beta sometime in the near future, and it seems likely that the four characters missing from this beta will be included in the next beta.  The four characters missing in this beta are Zangief, Dhalsim, a new character named Laura Matsuda, and one currently unannounced character.

Street Fighter V will be released on February 16, 2016, for the PlayStation 4 and PC.

Author: Michael Bronson

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