I am a huge fighting game enthusiast. I grew up playing Street Fighter 2, Fatal Fury, and Mortal Kombat on my Sega Genesis. I watch a lot of streams of local tournaments and of course I watch the awesomeness that is EVO, which is one of the biggest fighting game tournaments in the world. I love the competition, the comradery, the showmanship, and overall community that is represented within the Fighting Game Community (FGC). Street Fighter 5 is going to be released in February and has the potential to be the most rewarding and best fighting game ever.
Let’s rewind back to 2008 with the release of Street fighter 4. Admittedly, at the time I wasn’t really that into fighting games. My favorite fighting game at this point was Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution (which I think is one of the greatest fighting games of all time) and Street Fighter had pretty much been in hibernation with its last release, Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike coming out in 1999. I could never get into 3rd Strike because of its odd character roster and difficulty. That’s not to say it isn’t an excellent fighting game because it is, but it was pretty hardcore to learn and master. Street Fighter’s comeback in 2008 was sort of a renaissance for fighting games. There have been very good fighting games released between Street Fighter 3 and 4 but none had the impact that Street Fighter 4 had.
Street Fighter 4 went back to its roots with a more familiar character roster with 4 new ones, a new focus system, and an Ultra Revenge Combo to help turn a losing match in your favor. It looked awesome in 3D, ran smoothly at 60 FPS, and seeing it and playing it in arcades brought back a feeling of excitement that I haven’t felt in a very long time in fighting games. I couldn’t wait for the home release that would come about 8 months later in February 2009.
The home version was a fantastic game. It included more characters, a decent training mode, and the biggest addition which was online play. This wasn’t the first time a Street Fighter game was online but it was the most important feature of the game. You could finally play against competition from around the world. The online play for me was pretty good (but not perfect because it can be laggy and was full of rage quitters) and I learned how much better the competition was once I played online. Overall, it was a fantastic game that for me didn’t really need much more to it. It wasn’t the most balanced (Sagat, anyone?) but it was fun and I felt like I got the most out of it. That was until the released Super Street Fighter 4 and the problems for me started to arise.
Similar to the old Street Fighter 2 with its numerous releases with Street Fighter 2, SF2: Champion Edition, SF2: Turbo, SF2: The New Challengers, etc... Street Fighter 4 started to head in the same direction. I think most fans were happy with the new edition of the game as it added 10 characters, new stages, and new mechanics. However, it kept on coming with an Arcade edition and finally an Ultra edition to Street Fighter 4. The original arcade release of Street Fighter 4 featured 16 characters and its final edition featured 44 fighters. While that seems great, it almost started to feel cluttered and started to show a lack of creativity for characters. For the hardcore, these 44 characters give players a lot of choice and variety but for me it became too overwhelming. Let’s take the shoto characters for instance. Shoto characters are fighters that based their fighting style off of the Shotokan Karate fighting style of Ryu. In Ultra Street Fighter 4, Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Sakura, Sagat, Dan, Evil Ryu, and Oni are all characters that fight based off this style. Now for most hardcore enthusiast, these characters are very different from one another but to most players they are very similar. You can master one and have a decent idea how they all work. Of course on the higher levels of competition, they are very different but the idea that they are similar is the same.
Another issue with all these characters is that it throws the balance of the game all over the place. I got a good handle on the characters in the original SF4 but with all the new characters added, it creates a lot of new match ups and sometimes creates characters that are way too strong compared to others. Arcade Edition’s Yun was a great example of a new character that pretty much dominated the scene because of his speed and power that made him almost too good. Playing online, you would mostly run into that character which made the game kind of boring and not very fun. Though future patches would address the issue, they eventually are replaced with a new dominating character (now I hear it’s Elena in Ultra SF4). I don’t mind new characters added to a game to keep it fresh, but I think there is a point where it becomes too much.Street Fighter 5 will release on February 16 with 16 characters initially, then in the first year will slowly add 6 characters down the line as DLC. Capcom promised that this version of the game will be the only version as to say there will be no Super, Hyper, or Ultra version of Street Fighter 5. That’s a great sign that Capcom has listened to its fans. It even offers a way to unlock the DLC without paying for it (though I am sure that it won’t be the easiest process). Sure there may be an edition of the game that comes with everything unlocked but there will be no need to purchase a new game like there was in SF4. I hope that Street Fighter 5 doesn’t get too character happy, as its improvements over SF4 get me excited again for fighting games. As for the specific changes to the game, stay tuned to the next Street Fighint blog update.