Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Street Fighter V, Initial Impressions

I picked up my Street Fighter V preorder for my Playstation 4 on Tuesday to little fanfare from my local Gamestop. It's not like they opened early, or did a midnight release - it's not like it's Call of Duty or Madden. The employee on duty had to try to work me real hard on the protection program and SFV's season pass to no avail. Thankfully, my kids know better than to use game discs as drink coasters thanks to other people's bad example. Also, why do I need a season pass for a game that swears you can earn enough in-game points to unlock all future characters? Do I look like a guy that cares about costumes? The employee didn't even notice that I was wearing my15th Anniversary Edtion Street Fighter T-shirt from 2004. (Or, maybe he did notice, and that's why he asked me about the season pass.)

What do you get for preordering the non-premium version of the game? You get an alternate costume for Ryu, the game's main character. On reddit, in the /r/streetfighter subreddit, they've been referring to this costume as "Sexy Ryu".

Unfortunately, the Gamestop employee had to ruin this for me by referring to this as the Chuck Norris version of Ryu.

Once you load up the game, you can start right away in offline mode, but you can't earn any of the game's in-game points. Meanwhile, you have a 6 Gigabyte download in the background for the 1.01 patch. I don't care who you are, that's going to take a while. After that installs, you can connect the the online mode. If you don't have Playstation Plus, you can't fight against other people online, but even if you don't have plus you still need to be logged in and connected to earn the in-game currency that you can spend on the characters as they release.

It's still Street Fighter, but it might feel unfamiliar. The animation is nice, although sometimes the characters have odd crosshatched textures to them like they're trying to crawl out of the pages of a comic book. The dynamic camera moves smoothly from showing the character entrances to the match. With the subtle changes made to input buffering, combo execution is much more consistent. However, all of the characters have had significant changes to their combos and some have had changes made to their specials. Chun-Li had the input for her Hyakuretsukyaku changed to a quarter circle motion plus a kick. (You used to just mash the kick button repeatedly until it started, but Capcom has been trying to remove special move inputs that could be adversely affected by network latency.) Personally, I like how they changed it because that move can also now be performed mid-air when it couldn't be before. Vega had all of his special move inputs changed. You can check all of the moves here. There's no Arcade mode right now. There's no Story Mode until after you download the patch. (Well, Street Fighter never had Story Mode at all before, so maybe that's something in and of itself.) The Survival Mode seems to have inconsistent computer AI difficulty. PC users are upset about a lack of controller compatibility and no button mapping utility. The one thing that's supposed to be working really well right now is online multiplayer, but since that's not a concern for me just yet, I haven't tried it.

Here's my list of suggestions:

  • If you're going to play Street Fighter V against other people, don't wait. Hit the books now, learn the new moves and mechanics. If you need anything in the way of controllers I would suggest looking at what Hori has to offer. This goes double if you play with a pad instead of a stick - the Hori FC4 is fantastic compared to the MadCatz SFIV pads and works with PS3 and PS4. If you're playing on PC and have controllers that worked on XBox 360, those probably still work now.
  • If you're not going to play Street Fighter V against other people but you do really want to play it, give it a month. Alex, the first of the DLC characters, is supposed to be released in March, along with more single player content.
  • If you're going to play Street Fighter V against other people for money, go get in a time machine and go back to June 2015 and play the beta version more.
  • If you listen to a lot of Carly Simon, you might think that this bullet list is about you. Don't you? Don't you?
My older son and I have played it quite a bit both yesterday evening and this evening, and while he used to main T. Hawk, he is now in the process of picking someone else since T. Hawk isn't currently in the lineup. I thought he was going to go to another grappler, but flashy (fleshy?) female wrestler R. Mika didn't really work for him at first. He did have some success with Necali (sort of a grappler?) and Rashid (totally not a grappler), though. If those guys don't work for him he might just wait for Namco to release Pokken next month. My younger son played it a little bit yesterday, and he didn't last long because Vega didn't work the way he expected but he may be switching to Zangief. I am getting the hang of Ken, who didn't really change that much, and I'm really digging Karin Kanzuki but I am probably going to rotate through all of the characters for a while so I can learn what each character's capabilities are.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

New Street Fighter? I'm not scared.

So, Street Fighter V comes out on the 16th , just a few days off, but I'm not really worried.
Maybe this is like a Coke vs. Pepsi thing with Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, but it's hard for me to say what to recommend to other people because I like Street Fighter for the gameplay and I like Mortal Kombat for the wacky storyline and interesting stage interaction. Having started Mortal Kombat X after Christmas, eight months after everyone else, I would say that the wacky storyline part of the game seems to be intact.

Every time a new Mortal Kombat comes out, I feel like I am having it to learn it over again, and for the most part that's true. Starting from Deadly Alliance through to the present, it seems like one move or another was always having its control input changed.  Not all of them, just one or two per character, or they would take a special move away or add one and then you might find it back later in another game. I can't even complain about the influx of new characters - I'm just trying to consider characters that have been in the game the entire time like Scorpion and Sub Zero. My biggest problem was them changing how Sub Zero's slide is done, because it just used to be a specific joystick and button combination (back + LP + Block + LK), and then it got removed, and then it got changed to more like the other special moves, where you have to do a particular joystick motion prior to pressing the button.

That's not to say that they don't change things in Street Fighter,  and there have been quite a number of major changes from the II series to the Alpha series to the III series to the IV series, and now in the V series. However, the main characters Ryu and Ken's signature moves - their fireball, hurricane kick, and dragon punch - have not had their inputs changed at all. Certainly, they have had moves above and beyond the basics changed from version to version and the move properties change slightly, but the basics have remained the same. I think that makes the changes in the other parts of the game easier to take.

If you have been playing Street Fighter IV the last few years, or you're still playing some version of II, you will probably find that the biggest difference in the regular move set in V is that you can't chain a bunch of light attacks together into a combo any more. Most characters have had their combos and regular moves tuned up or changed in an effort to make button choice more deliberate and to make each move have a useful function. Another change in the normal moves is that they won't change properties at close range - so each button press will be more consistent. Some moves are different if you hold the joystick in a certain direction while doing it - that's always been the case - it just won't get affected by the distance you are from the other character. The biggest difference in the rest of the control mechanics are all part of the new V-system. Each character has a specific V-skill, done with Medium Punch plus Medium Kick (MP+MK). A correctly executed V-skill adds to the V-Gauge.  When the V-Gauge is full it allows for use of a more powerful V-Trigger move done with HP + HK and completely depletes the gauge. Alternately you can V-Reversal,  which is done with holding towards your opponent on the joystick and pressing either all three punches or all three kicks depending on the character. The V-Reversal only consumes one segment of the V-Gague. The V-Gague either has two or three segments, again dependent on which character it is.

If you look at the trailer here that shows the game modes, it sure seems like there's more story elements in the game now than there used to be. I don't know if that's because they felt like they had to compete with Mortal Kombat, or if they just felt like they had a compelling story to tell this time, but I'm happy either way. Since I wasn't part of the beta I didn't get a head start on this game but I am looking forward to digging into it once it's released on the 16th.