"Street Fighter V" ("SFV"), released for the PS4 and PC on Tuesday, is the latest entry for Capcom's vaunted fighting game franchise that began in arcades back in 1987. The last entry lasted seven years and is the basis for all pro eSports tournaments, including the lucrative Capcom Cup and EVO, the largest fighting games tournament in the world.
With "SFV," Capcom is hoping to last the entire lifecycle of the PS4, which came out in 2013. It's a risky gamble because "SFV" is a great game, but it's not shipping with much content at launch. "SFV" includes all the gameplay and graphics updates one would expect from a new title, but Capcom has made an interesting gamble with its iconic franchise by promising a lengthy rollout of potentially free content each month after the game's release. Players can choose from Character Story mode, Training mode, Survival mode, Versus and an online mode to compete in casual or ranked matches.
There are 16 fighters to select — from classic characters such as Ryu, Ken and Zangief to new characters F.A.N.G. and Laura — with new characters released every month except for June. "Street Fighter V" starts off with a quick tutorial that quickly explains the basic moves and the new V-Trigger mechanic that's unique to each character. For Ryu, his V-Skill absorbs fireballs while R. Mika's V-Skill lets her tag in her wrestling partner for additional damage. There are also unique V-Reversal skills for each character after their V-Gauge is filled.
Training mode is a standard addition to "SFV." Players can learn the moves, throws, EX and V-trigger button combinations for their favorite characters against a character dummy. There are options to try out combos on a blocking character or a moving character, but it's what you've come to expect from such a mode.
Survival is another familiar mode for players. Each character has to get through 10 rounds across four difficulties — Easy, Medium, Hard and Hell — to unlock a new costume color and the ever-important Fight Money. It's an easy way to earn some extra experience and play a few more rounds with different characters.
The Character mode is the most important option for fans wondering if "SFV" is worth $60. Each character gets their back story fleshed out in the story mode. The background helps explain a character's history or relationship with other characters — F.A.N.G and Vega are members of Shadaloo, but are fighting through creative difference within the evil organization — through a series of short chapters. It's different from the standard tournament mode that sees players progress through multi-round matches until they meet the game's final boss. Each chapter consists of dialogue followed by a one-round match and more story progression. It's a short, but fun, experience that's vital to Capcom's core mission with "SFV."
The base "SFV" released Tuesday is pretty bare bones, but Capcom has promised a huge amount of free content that will keep players coming back for more. The in-game store, a new Challenge mode, additional online lobby support and the first downloadable character, Alex, will be available in an update in March. New characters will be unveiled each month except for June, which sees the release of the Cinematic Story expansion.
The Cinematic Story expansion is free along with March's modes updates. DLC characters cost 100,000 Fight Money or 600 Zenny (100 Zenny costs $1). Character Story costumes cost 40,000 Fight Money while premium costumes can be purchased for 400 Zenny. Players can also purchase a $29.99 Season Pass to unlock all DLC and costumes without worrying about Fight Money or Zenny. Fight Money can be earned through completing a character's story, completing Survival mode levels, leveling up characters and winning online matches. Each Character Story offers up around 8,000 Fight Money based on a completion bonus and leveling up.
After completing 11 character stories and one Survival mode level, I had enough Fight Money to get Alex for free. That took around 2 hours, which means players can rack up a lot of Fight Money in a short period of time. If each release from Capcom sees new ways to earn Fight Money — via completing trials in the Challenge Mode or finishing a DLC character's story or Survival mode — fans may not have to worry about having to spend any money to unlock new characters or costumes. For the first year of "SFV," Capcom will release six DLC characters and the free Cinematic Expansion in June. The company is promising new content for the foreseeable future.
All the characters are really fun to pick up and play. There's something for everyone. Offensive characters such as Ken or Necalli can deal plenty of damage in a short period of time. Dhalsim is a fun defensive character whose fireball attacks lets players control the spacing of opponents. Zangief may not be the fastest, but the grappler is a force to be reckoned with in tight spaces. As a pick-up game, "SFV" is a fun experience that will lead to some emotional reactions between friends. As a competitive experience, "SFV" is well-balanced with an established net-code that should please hardcore gamers.
The gameplay alone makes "SFV" a worthy entry in the classic franchise. It's a fun, highly balanced fighting game that updates a few areas for it's next generation spotlight. The graphics, animation and speed are all a joy to watch unfold, even if you're on the receiving end of a devastating attack. The watercolor scenes in the Cinematic Story mode are also a great touch.
Deciding on the worth of "SFV" is based entirely on how what a player is looking for in a fighting game. On one hand, it's about how much faith a player has in Capcom offering enough content to unlock new characters to justify a $60 price without needing to spend more money. For others, a fun stroll through the Character Story mode is just a way to spend some time before friends come over for a few rounds.
So far, it seems like Capcom is living up to its promise of giving players enough opportunities that they will never pay for additional content or characters, but the case is still open. March's update will provide further context to determine if a player can unlock the second DLC character in April.
"Street Fighter V" was reviewed using a PS4 digital download provided by the developer.