Rise up — Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition breathes some new life into Street Fighter V

By on January 23, 2018 at 1:00 pm
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Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition is a gem — but it’s still in the rough.

sfv sakura exuberant youth shoukenWe’ve had a week to get acquainted with the big upgrade to Street Fighter V: the long-anticipated Arcade Edition. This is the reality that followed the rumors and speculation that there would be a “Super Street Fighter V” upgrade to polish up the game and reignite interest through what would essentially be a relaunch of the title — and the truth isn’t far off from what was expected, based on the SSFV anticipation. A lot of what was leaked has actually arrived in-game, although a lot of hopes for improvements have been dashed as well.

As a title that Capcom described up-front as a “service” over two years ago, we have seen it grow from the bare-bones retail release (almost a direct rollover in terms of content from the beta test!) to a significantly expanded package. For players completely new to Street Fighter V, this is by far the most complete version of the game to date, and the best-bang-for-your-buck in the title’s history: picking up the game now gives you access to all Season 1 and Season 2 DLC fighters — as well as some bonus Premium costumes — for only slightly more than a Season Pass. Late adopters are getting a good deal here! For those of us that picked up and stuck with the Street Fighter V saga from day one, the changes are still fairly expansive — and as promised, they arrived as a free upgrade, not a update/sequel in the Turbo/Super/Ultra-iteration style.

Let’s look at a quick breakdown of what is new to SFVAE, and what has remained the same:

Changes/New Content in Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition

  • Balance changes to all characters.
  • A second V-Trigger II selectable for each character.
  • Menu backgrounds, music, and SFX changed throughout the title.
  • Added new three significant game modes: Extra Battle, Team Battle, and Arcade Mode.
  • Gallery added to view SFV-related visual and audio content (much of which is unlocked in Arcade Mode).
  • New cinematic movie opening (both original and new opening can be viewed in the Gallery).
  • In Versus Mode, player two now has a the option to choose a rematch or return to character select.
  • New Season 3 Demonstrations and Trials added (only 4 trials per character this time).
  • Frame data is now viewable in Training Mode.
  • In the Shop, costumes can be previewed before purchase.
  • Offline modes no longer award Fight Money for completion.

Unchanged from Street Fighter V (Season 2)

  • Fight Money, player level/character levels, and League Points accumulated all are retained between versions.
  • Online play modes (Ranked Match/Casual Match/Battle Lounge) and CFN functions are unchanged.
  • All previously purchased/unlocked content remains so between versions.
  • Story Mode for both the individual characters and the General Story are unchanged (except for removal of FM rewards).
  • Prior Demonstrations and Trials from earlier Seasons are still available (note removal of FM rewards).
  • Survival Mode operation/progression unchanged (except for removal of FM rewards; now part of “Challenges” menu).
  • Missions can still be completed (but the FM rewards are reduced).
  • Trophy/achievement list and tracking unchanged.

New subtitle, new look.

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Arcade Edition wants you to know that it’s the new and shiny update to SFV in a big way. The new opening cinematic is nothing short of spectacular, and it sets the theme of the new presentation for SFVAE very, very well.

Ryu’s dream/vision is the context for the opening movie, but the design throughout presents us a “studio” theme, like something staged for entertainment — or competition. This aesthetic is retained throughout the new look of SFVAE itself, within the new character select screen and pre-fight sequences: showing us today’s date before the stadium/stage lights burst on to illuminate the spectacle about to unfold. As opposed to immersing the player in a fictional in-game world, in SFVAE, we’re reminded by the game itself that we are in fact playing a game — because its own presentation breaks the fourth wall before every fight.

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This new flashy, gold-dripping UI is a bit overbearing and gaudy — but it also gives us far more personality than the bare-bones UI from Seasons 1 and 2. While I got to appreciate the old no-nonsense look over time, AE’s shiny overhaul feels like the game has actually started to find its thematic footing.

The long-awaited Arcade Mode arrives.

The lack of a “traditional” arcade mode in the original Street Fighter V was a nasty point of contention for many players, and seen as a huge slight toward the casual audience that wanted more to do offline than play the very-unfun Survival Mode. Back in 2016, I shared my opinion on the subject — as SFV was the first game in the series to lack an actual arcade release, I didn’t want an arcade mode in the same form as prior games; I personally wanted Capcom to deliver a new, creative take on offline content. Well, here we are — Arcade Mode has arrived, and whether it delivers what the fanbase wanted is open to interpretation.

Arcade Mode works to integrate some of the prior franchise history into Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition.

Street Fighter V will not provide a story-based arcade crawl in the form that Street Fighter III and Street Fighter IV did; Capcom has made that very clear. If you want story in SFV, there’s a mode for that. What this Arcade Mode provides is something different, in a way more of a callback to the Street Fighter II feel. It brings back the arcade-style ladder climb against CPU opponents — including throwing in surprise boss encounters, watch out for that Shin Akuma — along with a nod to the series’ history. It offers six different paths to choose from, each based on an iteration of the Street Fighter franchise, and limiting your playable fighters and opponents to who was part of that game’s cast (or at least can act as a reasonable stand-in from SFV’s roster). This is an interesting variation on the theme, and provides a bit of enjoyable nostalgia. The opponents’ costumes and the stages you fight on are selected to help match the look of the game path you’ve chosen to play, and the music before and after each fight is based on the tunes from the game in question, adding to the overall theme well. (It’s also worth noting that Fight Request can be set to look for online matches while you play Arcade Mode, like in the Street Fighter IV titles.)

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What you won’t see: pre-fight dialogue, Rival battles, unique match-up pre-fight animations. It’s a straight ladder climb to the last opponent, except if you get those perfects and CA finishes you can expect Shin Akuma to come and menace you before you’re done. (Some paths do include a new barrel-busting bonus round, however.) Finish your run and you’ll be rewarded with some art panels (provided by UDON Entertainment) that are actually pretty cool; they often provide a glimpse into the older titles’ storylines, and there is additional art to unlock if you complete arcade run-throughs with specific characters, or fulfill specific win conditions. Overall, Arcade Mode is a fun diversion in terms of offline play — something Survival Mode never was — and unlocking artwork is an entertaining way to encourage replay value.

Zeku dreams big in his Street Fighter V series Arcade Mode ending.

It’s not without some minor snags, however. It’s clear that as future characters are added, Arcade Mode will be adjusted later to accommodate their inclusion — because it would be a big shame if it wasn’t. The paths are still obviously missing characters that will be added as later DLC; of course Sagat should be the last fight in the Street Fighter run, for example. The pre-fight background graphics — displaying only the logo of the game path you’re currently playing, against a plain background — look like lazy corner-cutting compared to the rest of SFVAE’s new UI. The enemy AI suffers from the usual irregularity of SFV’s Story and Survival modes CPU behavior: when it’s easy, it’s stupidly easy, but when it gets hard, it becomes outright evil. There is an overall feeling that Arcade Mode is — like so much of SFV is, and has been — a work-in-progress. But it’s a good start.

(Aside: it is a bit hard to ignore that despite a moniker that is intended to call attention to the game’s new Arcade Mode, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition is still a PlayStation 4/PC exclusive title with no actual arcade game out in the wild, only very few scattered test units. It would lend Street Fighter V more credibility if Capcom would actually sort that out once and for all, and the “Arcade Edition” name would feel more earned.)

Extra Battle: more battle, for your buck.

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Extra Battle is an interesting addition, and what it offers will grab some players’ interest, while leaving others cold. Extra Battle provides limited-time challenges to gain rewards; attempting a challenge, however, costs you Fight Money. What you get for your FM will vary: a major selling point of the mode are the crossover costumes, the first of which is a Viewtiful Joe outfit for Rashid. To earn this costume, you must complete four separate events over a period of time — which, if the first event is any indication, will not be difficult. The game also launched with an event to fight Shin Akuma to unlock a title, a task that proved infuriating for many players, as Shin Akuma was an example of a classic broken Street Fighter CPU boss, maybe even a notch nastier — and it cost 1000 FM for every attempt at him. We can expect more crazy boss events like him in the future. The challenges also yield EXP for the character used, and future ones will award Fight Money as well.

shin akuma strikes sfv ae demonAside from the difficulty/investment/reward disparity, Extra Battle may be promising. The key will be in the Fight Money, as paying to play is a bitter pill when Capcom has removed the offline means of earning FM, and even reduced the FM earned from the Missions rewards. They seem confident that between FM-rewarding Extra Battle events, Missions, and online play we’ll have enough FM to go around, but it’s not a good look to be cutting back our means of earning an already-scarce in-game resource. There is some consolation that leveling up your fighters still awards FM, so playing offline modes like Story/Survival/Trials will still get you some FM, especially on new fighters.

The ongoing balancing act.

I’m not going to go into detail here on the balancing changes to SFVAE; for that, check out the patch notes, as well as some additional post-release discoveries. Suffice to say that all fighters got changed up a fair bit, and we can look forward to another season of figuring out the true impact of the rebalancing. It does appear that some of Season 2’s weaker fighters got buffed a little, but time will tell. Don’t get your hopes up that anti-air jabs are gone (they aren’t, but they are less effective, reportedly), and the general gameplay mechanics weren’t shaken up that much overall. Here are some other posts on SFVAE changes:

More significantly, the addition of the new V-Triggers makes a big change to the game that was absolutely necessary. Top players have long argued that the game lacked variety, a spark of creativity for players to express — Daigo Umehara named it as his most-requested change to SFV. V-Trigger IIs do exactly that by providing a new mechanic for every character, often very different than their V-Trigger I. The argument as to which V-Trigger is superior for any given fighter will rage, and that’s great. We have new combos, new options, and new strategy to work with for all of the cast — and undeniably, this provides more fun. This isn’t totally game-breaking, but it has injected some new vitality into SFV that was very, very needed.

Now, it should be stated that while the new V-Triggers do add variety, they don’t change the fundamental play mechanics or overall style of SFV. Street Fighter V is still a very offense-heavy, relatively slow, “low-execution” fighting game. While some V-Trigger IIs do add something usable as a defensive option (Karin got a parry for example, and some new V-Triggers can be used as anti-air attacks), the call for more defensive play options in SFV hasn’t really been answered here, and the new combo options from the new V-Triggers don’t raise the execution bar significantly for players that want more challenging combo routes. In fact, many V-Trigger IIs provide simpler, more-accessible play options for their respective characters than using V-Trigger I — which is good for players that want to pick up new fighters, as they will have some room to grow and explore as desired.

On the technical side, we also received a welcome addition to Training Mode in the form of real-time frame data display options. This is a great acknowledgement of how important it is for players to have access to this information, and a very useful in-game tool. Now, if only they’d just own up and show us the damn hitbox specs in-game — but as Capcom’s vague patch notes reiterated, that seems to be data they prefer users to not have easy access to.

The lag remains — online and off…

sfvrageOne of the biggest complaints about Street Fighter V is the online play, and sadly that hasn’t been addressed in any discernible way in the SFVAE update. Matchmaking and netcode still come together to make for a frustrating and potentially unplayable experience for many users. Online fights can still suffer from lag issues ranging from mildly annoying to hilariously broken, punctuated by an occasional smooth connection. I know for myself, limiting the matchmaking to five bars means waiting in excess of 20 minutes to half-an-hour or more between matches — which are still sometimes as laggy as “4-5” bar matches, which will connect with more frequency. (Three bars or less is just a disaster.) The online latancy issues in SFV are as bad as they’ve always been, if not worse.

Offline latency is under the microscope as well; many players were hopeful that Street Fighter V would follow Tekken 7‘s example of utilizing an Unreal Engine update to reduce the native lag by a few more frames, but this is not the case — at least not yet. Even worse, players are noting that dropping frame rates offline are common in SFVAE, causing visually-noticable stutters in all modes. Some have complained that the game feels “slower,” but that remains a subjective observation that hasn’t been chased to a specific cause, so far. It seems there are some technical bugs to still work out of SFVAE — aside from this frame rate oddity (and other bugs that are cropping up), Capcom already dropped a patch to prevent the game from crashing in Extra Battle and Arcade Mode — something that happened to myself the first time I took down Shin Akuma, in fact. (And then there’s stuff like this, of course!)

Is the the Street Fighter V we should have had at launch?

This is the hypothetical question that will inevitably arise at every major update to Street Fighter V; impossible to conclusively answer, but a natural result of Capcom’s game-as-a-service approach that has essentially made their customers party to a two-and-a-half year beta test. And as this is the most extensive update to SFV to date, it comes the closest to answering the question with a definitive “yes.”

Team Versus is a versatile and refreshing way to play Street Fighter V.

We’ve reached a point where the single-player content in Street Fighter V is actually fairly robust. While it isn’t implemented as effectively as other games have done, there is a fair amount to do in SFVAE aside from playing a human opponent. That said, the game still favors offline competition — and the new Team Versus variation adds a really great new way to play, both for actual teams or two players that want to mix up their approach a bit. Many quality-of-life problems have been addressed (though I will inexplicably miss the player two “thumbs up” process for some weird reason…). This is the deepest and most-polished SFV ever, as rough as it still is. It may sound familiar, but it’s still true: when SFVAE is good, it’s really, really good; when SFVAE is bad, it’s really, really bad. If you didn’t like SFV before, it’s hard to say that anything in SFVAE will be enough to win you over. If you were on the fence about picking up SFV, this version has the strongest chance to impress so far.

For new players: you’re getting into the best version of Street Fighter V there has ever been. A fresh new look, 29 playable characters, 24 stages, and a pretty strong variety of game modes to try out. For those of us that have been along for the ride, there’s a lot that has gotten better here, and enough indication here that Street Fighter V will continue to improve over the upcoming Seasons. It’s still a process, but it looks promising.

Additional source: PlayStation

Shoryuken.com Editor-in-Chief. Street Fighterin' since there was only a "II" in the title.