Our review of Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, developed by Capcom and Dimps. Available now for PS4 (reviewed) and Windows.
WHAT IS IT?
The supposedly final update to Street Fighter V. However, it’s Capcom, so, y’know…
IS IT GOOD?
It’s as good as any game lacking Fei Long can be.
WHO SHOULD PLAY IT?
Everyone except fans of Fei Long who, sniff, might, sniff, be wary of getting tears, sniff, on their controller.
THE WORLD WARRIORS
Street Fighter V has been going strong for (checks watch) five years now, an impressive and very Capcom’esque lifespan. We’ve had SFV, SFV: Arcade Edition, four “season passes” containing six characters each, and now, finally SFV: Champion Edition. We’ve been repeatedly assured that this is, in fact, the final version of SFV, but in truth you’ll still have to shell out for the final six characters, all paywalled behind a “Season Five Pass.” It’s not like this is a surprise: Street Fighter II, released in 1991, saw its most recent update (with new characters!) hit Nintendo Switch in 2017.
With a dizzying array of options for purchasing SFV, it’s easy to get confused – not least because the forty character Champion Edition ($40.00) sells for fifteen dollars less than the six character “Season Pass” ($55.00). No, I don’t understand the economics. Yes, I know that people are habituated to microtransactions. No, it’s not okay.
That said, I’m here to review SFV in its current state, as of late-February 2021. As a long-time (but casual) player, I’m here to tell you specifically about the Champion Edition, which contains 40 characters and a gajillion alternate costumes, along with my thoughts on the first two “Season Five” characters that have been released.
It’s very easy for me to recommend SFV: CE, which is actually discounted in the PlayStation Store right now. As for the “final season”, read on…
KING OF FIGHTERS
As much as I love Marvel vs. Capcom, the Injustice games, or that one Mortal Kombat where you can pit Alien vs. Predator, there’s little doubt that Street Fighter remains the all-time king of fighters. Street Fighter II and, arguably, Street Fighter IV are the two best fighters ever made, an opinion held not only by myself and my resident fighting guru, Forbes‘s Matt Kang, but by the vast majority of the critical, casual, and competitive gaming communities. Street Fighter has always been better, even if it’s not always easier.
SFV: CE is not my favourite entry in the series. Partly that’s because it still lacks Fei Long, and partly because it’s more complicated than any SF I’ve ever played. In addition to (re)learning all your standard inputs – down, down-forward, forward, punch, amirite? – there’s a host of complex mechanics including EX moves, V-Triggers, V-Reversals, V-Skills, and Critical Arts. The most entertaining of these are the Critical Arts – big, screen-filling animated attacks that require a full EX metre – and thankfully these are quite easy to pull off. As for the rest, my best advice is to figure out your favourite “V”-abilities for each character, then remap controls so that you can access those abilities with the tap of a shoulder button.
Street Fighter has always had a hotly debated “tier” ranking – a list of characters from best to worst. For competitive players, learing the top tier characters is a must. Akuma, for example, is generally considered the best of the SFV characters, provided you know what you’re doing.
If you’re anything like me, you do not know what you’re doing. You pick your characters based on nothing more than personal fancy. And, you know what? SFV: CE is a perfect game for that. Aside from the inexplicable absence of Fei Long, all my favourites are here: raccoon-loving ninja Ibuki, new character Zeku (also a ninja, and bearing a striking resemblance to classic Capcom character Strider), and classics like Ryu, Chun-Li, and Cammy.
I am also happy to report that “Season Five” launches with one of my long-time favourites, Dan Hibiki. Dan started off as a “joke” character, with his pitiful short-range hadokens and silly animations, though he’s evolved since then. In SFV, he’s practically competitive, which is honestly kind of weird, but I guess makes sense when players are expected to drop $55.00 for the pass that unlocks him. At the time of writing, one other “Season Five” character has been released: the extremely lame Eleven, a “mimic” who basically functions as a palette swap of a random character in your roster. (In other words, don’t use Eleven.)
Now, to be fair to SFV, it’s actually possible to unlock characters by grinding for in-game Fake Money (sorry, “Fight Money” or “FM”). And while I’ll never stop harping on about deliberately confusing microtransactions, I have to admit that SFV: CE is a great deal. For $40 (or $20 if you own the base game), you get 40 characters and every alt costume including the mind-blowing Ryu-Ghosts ‘n Goblins costume. And it’s honestly not that hard to grind out enough FM to unlock at least a couple “Season Five” characters. Which, for the record, are scheduled to include: Dan, Eleven, Rose, Oro, Rival Schools guest star Akira, and one very tantalizing Unknown Character (TBD but please be Fei Long).
At this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Street Fighter‘s icky relationship with the human, and more specifically, female anatomy. While all of the fighters, male or female, are outsized caricatures, there’s no question that the female designs border on insulting. It’s distracting and unnecessary when, say, Taekwondo master Juri or the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert Laura jump into battle wearing bikinis and little else. It’s also alienating: I’ve had too many friends get immediately turned off the first time they see some of the more egregious character designs. That the game’s generally well-liked trans character is a hypersexualized, scantily clad “biker chick” is, shall we say, revealing.
If anything, my time with SFV: CE has only heightened my suspicions that the series is again drifting into the inaccessible. This happened once before – does anyone really look back fondly on Street Fighter III? – and though SFIV represented a welcome course correction, SFV is a tad overwhelming. Yes, it can be picked up and button mashed and it’s easy enough to pull off the spectacular Critical Arts, but don’t expect to win a single online match. Ever. To put it in perspective, I have a friend (cough cough, Matt Kang) who devotes as much time to SFV in a year as I devote to all my other games combined. That’s both a testament to the strength of a fighting system that rewards the initiated, and an access barrier for those of us who just want to shoot some fireballs.
None of which is to say SFV: CE isn’t a stellar game. I mean, it’s really good. I have a blast in single-player, in two-player if I’m lucky enough to find a fellow casual, and even against Matt – when he agrees to use someone he’s unfamiliar with, that is.
For $40, SFV: CE is a no-brainer. As for “Season Five”, it’s patently ridiculous that Capcom wants players to spend $55.00 on a six character “pass” when the existing forty character game costs $40. As much as I love Dan, I’d rather grind out the Fake Money to unlock him, even if it requires a bit of time. Sure, if Fei Long was part of the package, maybe. But, sniff, there’s no Fei Long…
Final score: 9/10 sad Bruce Lees.
Visit the official page for Street Fighter V: Champion Edition here.