Street Fighter V: Ryu and co do battle with the elements - Games Weekly

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Street Fighter V: Ryu and co do battle with the elements

Capcom’s UK PR team’s out-of-office was on. Officially, it was for the Christmas party, but you’d have forgiven the staff for seeing what had just happened, throwing their hands in the air, and decamping to the pub. A massive announcement meant for PlayStation Experience (PSX) had been leaked, a Japanese employee having accidentally released the announcement trailer. So the Internet knew at last: Street Fighter V is being made for PS4 and PC, but not Xbox One.

Online debate may have raged on how big of a deal this really was certainly, the way Microsoft and Sony are divvying up the big series of the ’90s is one of this generation’s more curious subplots but any serious Street Fighter IV player will assure you that, yes, it’s significant. Xbox 360 was the platform of choice for the greatest fighting game of all, not only for its more robust online service but also because of the PS3 version’s extra frame or two of input latency two mistakes Sony and Capcom will have to ensure aren’t repeated this time round.

The merits of the business decisions aside, the leak was good news for fans. At PSX, Capcom showed an extended gameplay trailer originally planned for its Capcom Cup tournament the following weekend. And there, to make up for the trailer’s absence,  we saw two matches played by Ultra Street Fighter IV co-designer  Peter ‘Combofiend’ Rosas (as Chun-Li) and competitive player Mike Ross (Ryu). To the close observer, those nine tantalising minutes yielded a wealth of information on and many more questions about how the game is being structured.

The EX meters at the bottom of the screen seem to be the biggest change. Ryu only has two stocks, but Chun-Li has three, and they’re not used for Super moves. Those are instead governed by the Revenge meter beneath the characters’ health bars, which, like Street Fighter IV’s equivalent, fill as you take hits. As before, chunks of EX can be used to perform more powerful versions of special moves. But now, when the bar is full, it can trigger a powered-up stance. Chun-Li is enveloped in spires of water, the effect of her special moves doubled as she throws one fireball after another and performs two loops of Lightning Legs. Ryu’s version instead sees his hands crackle with electricity and his normal moves cause more hitstun, opening up new combo possibilities.

The different sizes of EX meter recall Street Fighter III: Third Strike’s selectable Super Arts, where the length of a bar, and the number of units you could keep stocked at once, were proportional to the move’s power. There’s an element of that here, given that Ryu’s shorter bar seems to have more potential, but there’s already a balancing act in the game. The instant Ryu takes a hit, his power is gone, whereas Chun-Li keeps hers until she gets knocked down.
The EX meters recall Street Fighter III: Third Strike’s selectable Super Arts
More intriguing hints lie elsewhere, too. Counter-hits where your attack catches the opponent before their own move can emerge, resulting in more damage and hitstun look set to play a greater role, with bespoke hitsparks accompanying the easily missed genre-standard text popup. Normal punches and kicks inflict a little chip damage when blocked, though the sliver of health it knocks off turns grey and can be recovered. At one point, a blocked low Ryu kick puts Chun-Li at zero life. The fireball that follows should kill her, but she takes no damage and lives on, suggesting the death of the controversial chip kill. Ryu’s normal fireballs deliver multiple hits, too. The EX version is a three-hit combo on its own, and the final hit of an electric mode fireball reveals some kind of guard crush mechanic. A perfect defence system, where blocking an attack at the last moment reduces blockstun, is suggested by a slightly different effect on some blocked attacks. While familiar to players of Garou: Mark Of The Wolves, it would be a series first.

Yet amid the standard Street Fighter fantasy is a note of realism. While at first glance Street Fighter V is far from a huge visual step up, explained perhaps by Capcom still adjusting to Unreal Engine 4, clearly its animation system has been greatly improved. In games past, every punch to the face, whether light, medium or heavy, would be met with the same animation, its power conveyed instead by the amount of hitstun  it caused. Here, Ryu catches Chun-Li in the face with a standing heavy punch, and the force of it spins her around and knocks her back. Capcom is casting off a 20-year-old animation tactic in favour of something that looks, at last, like an actual fight.

We have so many questions, but Capcom’s in no mood for talking just yet. It’s already shown more of its hand than it intended to because of the leak, so the biggest question of them all what happens in SFV when you press medium punch and medium kick together? will go unanswered for a while yet.  SFIV ’s Focus Attack, the most versatile mechanic in fighting game history, is going to be an awfully tough act to follow. For now, we’ll have to make do with a tantalising first glimpse at what is, despite the online debate, a hell of a coup for Sony.

Ramen Cancel
The leak may have pushed Capcom into showing match play earlier than planned, but this served it well, allaying a widespread concern that emerged from the trailer: how will breakable walls affect a game in which corner control is so key? In fact, it’s nowhere near as bad as it seemed, since it can only happen at the end of a round. When a bout finishes with Ryu knocking Chun-Li through a plate-glass window into a ramen shop, the next round begins with Chun in the restaurant and Ryu outside. Later, Ryu smacks his opponent through the back wall into the kitchen; she slumps against the wall, a bowl of ramen falls onto her head, and it stays there for the rest of the match.

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