With 'Arcade Edition,' is Street Fighter V finally worth playing?
Street Fighter V is now two years old. The game had a very rough start - in Capcom’s rush to get the latest Street Fighter title out the door in time for the eSports scene to pick up on it in 2016, they ended up releasing a woefully unfinished game. It lacked basic features like arcade mode and combo trials, the servers were totally unstable, and there was a strange amount of input latency that pervaded every fight. Modes that were actually finished still felt half-assed, like the two-fight character stories and the survival mode against terrible AI. Not even the in-game store worked.
And yet, people bought it thanks to the popularity and prestige of its namesake. I was one of them. After playing and practicing the game with friends for the first couple months after its release, I couldn’t ignore its problems anymore and dropped it. Even with the promise of a new character every month or so, I didn’t think I’d ever have a reason to return - and my feelings on the game have been broadly echoed by other players for a long time. But with the recent release of Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, the game’s numerous patches and content updates are now a single package in what can be called the “completed” version of Street Fighter V.
After what amounts to a two-year-long beta test, has SFV reached a point where it feels finished? Have its fundamental problems been fixed, and is its added content worthwhile? Has it finally justified its lofty place in the fighting game community while also being an enjoyable game for newcomers and casual players? If Arcade Edition is any indication, the answer to these questions is a depressing “no.”
In spite of Street Fighter V’s increasing sales and its undying popularity with sponsors and viewers at public tournaments, Capcom hasn’t met the game’s players halfway. Basic complaints that are as old as SFV itself have still gone unaddressed in Arcade Edition; the same input latency still makes the game feel needlessly sluggish, the online matchmaking and netcode still ranges between uneven and unplayable, and the framerate has actually gotten visibly worse in many situations. Players of all skill levels have already had to “adapt” to things like this for far too long, and the fact that Capcom has neglected to do anything about them despite its ongoing support of SFV is baffling.
That “ongoing support” for SFV mainly refers to the fairly frequent content updates that have been made to the game. One might like to point to all this additional content as proof of Capcom’s dedication to the game and its fans, but the majority of it feels like putting lipstick on a pig. The new arcade mode is just an attempt to leverage old fan’s nostalgia and the general story mode remains the underwhelming afterthought that it was when it came out. Costumes and stages don’t come cheap, either; you can’t earn in-game currency from offline play anymore, and the rest of your income is reduced across the board. Limited time missions now award less Fight Money and the new event battles actually charge you to play them. A single fight to get an exclusive title or costume costs an exorbitant amount of currency, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the reward you want even if you win. This all seems especially scummy when you realize that individual characters must be bought with Fight Money now - the only other way to get them is by buying them all in a season pass.
To be fair, though, Capcom has added over a dozen characters to the game and most new characters have unique and interesting movesets. If nothing else, Capcom has largely delivered on its early promise to avoid an overabundance of same-y characters and Ryu clones on its roster. It has also implemented some previous requests from longtime players: there’s a useful frame counter in training mode now and one more V-Trigger for each character. But even with a growing number of characters to use, each one still feels like picking a rigid playstyle because of the game’s core fighting system. It stifles player expression and just doesn’t reward experimentation with combos, as some of the best pro players have pointed out in the past. In playing Arcade Edition, I began to feel the same way I did after the game came out two years ago. I wasn’t discovering what I could do with the combo system, I was discovering what I couldn’t do.
You may have noticed a recurring theme in all this description: that Capcom is willing to support Street Fighter V, but only the aspects of the game that pull in money. SFV is the most prominent title in the FGC, yet player criticisms and calls for change to the core mechanics of the game have gone largely ignored. Intentionally or not, Capcom continues to bury the game’s fundamental issues deeper down by layering SFV with expensive and mostly superficial content. Perhaps the saddest part is that Arcade Edition shows no sign of things improving any time soon.