Street Fighter V NEEDS a knockout this EVO


Can Street Fighter regain its top-tier reputation?

EVO returns to Las Vegas this weekend. Once again the best in the world will gather to do battle in gaming’s popular punch-ups. This year’s competition could be a defining moment for Capcom’s Street Fighter V, a game that is most assuredly not dead, but is certainly unwell.

The launch of SFV last year went badly. For a game that Capcom planned to make a platform for many years, they turned off a huge chunk of their audience in month one with the decision to bang the game out in time for Capcom Pro Tour and EVO qualification, and then to add features to it afterward. They were open about this plan, but they should’ve known better than to expect that openness to placate consumers.

Casual players felt cheated at the lack of single-player content, nary an arcade mode or trial to be found. Long-timers were scratching their head at the concept of having to fork money out for seemingly inherent features, such as stages, colours, and profile titles, via in-game currency and the quickly abandoned “Zenny” system (remember that?)

There were the inevitable online issues that plague most new games, as well as rampant, unpenalised, rage-quitters. Then, when Story Mode finally dropped, it was weakly written, badly paced, and excruciatingly boring. Whether through kernal-invading PC patches, atrocious in-game art, Season Pass confusion, or pointless controversies over Mika’s ass, there just seemed to be a negatory vibe engulfing the entire game.

None of these issues touch upon the fact that SFV matches are a copy-and-paste affair. There is nothing wrong with how SFV plays per se, but the mechanics of the game lead every player, whether a pro or your mate down the street, to play their character with uncanny similarity. Every good Ryu plays like every other good Ryu, every good Birdie like every other good Birdie, etc. Fears that the game would be fully mined of all of its combo tech within months were fast realised, as the game has little room for player invention.

Capcom pressed on with their aggressive DLC strategy, releasing inconsistent characters (from super-powerful Urien to the barely-viable Juri) new stages (two of which were immediately banned from tournaments), and scattershot costumes, all whilst begging players for Season Pass cash to fund the ongoing Pro Tour. When the end of year one came, the drop-off in sales was of no shock to anybody.

Season two saw huge balance tweaks, some for the better (Laura became a monster) and some for the worse (Laura became a monster) but for many players it was too little, too late. Though an inaccurate statement, SFV was frequently called a “dead game” in early 2017, often referred to in jest by many within the gaming community as a whole. They couldn’t make them memes fast enough.

I’m part of a minor scene here in England and spent the majority of last year travelling around the UK to weekly meets and major tournaments. SFV‘s dominance of the scene gradually slipped, culminating in a tournament in my hometown that had zero SFV setups, and not one person of the 150+ attendees asked us where it was.

Not one person, at a fighting game tournament, asked us to setup the latest Street Fighter.

Street Fighter V still has a large audience. Of course it does, it’s a fine game and people love the brand, so the fanbase is there. There is still opportunity for Capcom do the title justice and deliver the best fighting game in the world.

But the possibility of adding fan-favourite characters isn’t enough. They need to look at the game from the ground-up, find out why many players lack satisfaction and are suffering increased salt levels. All year people repeatedly told me words to the effect of “I get so pissed when I lose in SFV, way more than I do in other fighting games.”

Capcom cruicially needs to address why the game lacks creativity and discourages experimentation on the player’s part, leaving them to rely on identikit tactics. They could also shake up the viability of the roster’s characters, many of whom rarely show their faces in online ranked, or ever in a tournament environment.

The problem is, Capcom have been known to show disinterest in their franchises. Other than the excellent Resident Evil 7, they are gaining a reputation for becoming series-killers, a company that takes once-popular brands and ignores them outright, or turns their audience against them.

No one who loves fighting games wants Street Fighter to fail. If Street Fighter performs badly, publishers will call the fighting game genre dead, regardless as to how other fighters are performing. More so, people don’t want Street Fighter to fail because Street Fighter is legendary. It is a beloved series and a great franchise, and to see it chastised and mocked in memes, videos, and gifs over the last year is heartbreaking.

Besides, I don’t want Street Fighter to fail because I fucking love Street Fighter. I’ve been playing it since 1991. I have dear memories of arcade warfare and extended sessions with buddies. I have travelled and met new friends because of this series, whilst growing dang fond of its colourful cast of characters. They have brought me decades of joy, excitement, and salty, salty tears.

This EVO, Capcom has to start committing itself toward Street Fighter‘s future. It needs to take steps to show that the game can ride out its formative troubles and stack up against the excellent Tekken 7, the gorgeous Guilty Gear Xrd, and the hype that preludes Dragon Ball FighterZ. Although Street Fighter has been around seemingly forever, the game is not bulletproof. If things don’t get shaken up within the year, it may never recover.

It’s all in Capcom’s hands. If they genuinely want Street Fighter V to be this evolving platform “until 2020” then they need to Rise Up and transform all of last year’s losses into next year’s victories. Because, in its current state, SFV may struggle to get to its feet for round three.