The Street Fighter franchise has become something of an institution over the years, pulling in the punters time after time while staying largely true to the formula that made it famous. It’s been nearly three decades since the series’ 1987 debut, and while a radical reinvention is neither wanted nor needed, even Street Fighter needs to keep up with the times. Happily, creator Yoshinori Ono has struck a convincing balance with Street Fighter V (actually the 20th iteration but who’s counting?). The classic 2D beat-’em-up action remains — albeit powered by a stunning 3D engine — and familiar bruisers like Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, M. Bison are present and correct. The actual brawling, however, has evolved just enough to feel like a whole new game.
Ono has tinkered with the control system, adding a new layer of daunting techniques to get your head around in the form of the V-System, which consists of has three main elements: V-Skill, V-Trigger and V-Reversal. It sounds baffling but in practice feels far more organinc than the byzantine mechanics of instalments past. V-Skills activate new abilities (they give Ryu the ability to parry, for example) and fill up the character’s V-Gauge. V-Triggers use up said gauge and act like extra special moves, while V-Reversals are useful if you’re under the cosh, acting as super-blocks that push enemies back.
These new techniques add to the mix of special moves and powered-up EX attacks to create a fighting system that hits the sweet spot of easy to grasp but gruelling to master. For those coming to Street Fighter for the first time, SFV is gratifyingly quick to get to grips with, shortening the obligatory training phase before players feel comfortable braving the crucible of competitive online play.
This latest iteration sees the franchise looking better than ever (the V-Skills in particular come with dazzling pyrotechnics), is snappily responsive and adds some welcome new faces to the roster in the form of Necalli, Rashid, Laura and F.A.N.G.. Combined with its assortment of gameplay tweaks, Street Fighter V represents the current state of the beat-’em-up art, and while PS4 exclusivity will come as a hadouken in the face for Xbox owners, this is the fighting game you’ve been waiting for.