One year in, Capcom is slowly proving it really gives a damn about Street Fighter 5

By Alex Donaldson, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 08:36 GMT

Street Fighter 5 wasn’t ready this time last year, but today it’s looking more and more like the package it always should’ve been

street fighter 5 Kolin

Hello. It’s me again – the nutter who kept writing about Street Fighter 5 over and over again even though it was a stockholm syndrome-style love-hate relationship with a game with amazing systems but a bloody shameful slate of unfinished content. I wrote about it at launch, after EVO last year, when the story mode launched and after Capcom Cup.

Everything said back then still stands, to be honest, but I have to say Capcom is putting in work. Season 2 of Street Fighter 5 kicked off back in December with the launch of Akuma and was followed a little later by icy newcomer Kolin, but what Capcom is doing to the game goes beyond just new characters. Very few people outside of the dedicated Street Fighter community are talking about it, but it’s doing continually impressive belt-and-braces work to fix and improve the game even a year on.

First there was the Season 2 rebalance in December. This did a lot of things – some good, some bad, and some like the broad weakening of uppercut moves downright stupid. Fans were mad, and even though my character of choice (Cammy) got buffed, even I was out there saying it was a mess. Capcom listened; it reverted some balance changes including the dumb uppercut stuff, complete with in-depth translated developer explanations. This is a level of support we’ve not seen for a fighter before – it’s great.

“This is stuff that Capcom wouldn’t need to add if it didn’t give a shit – the bare minimum needed to sustain SF5’s competitive and online scene would be new characters and balance changes – but it keeps doing this other stuff. Ergo… it seems to give a shit.”

Then there are the stages – perhaps home to some of the most reassuring additions and changes over the last few months. Back when Street Fighter 5 was first announced we were shown stage transitions – Chun-Li getting kicked through the door into a noodle bar, where the fight continued. Bizarrely, in the final game this was the only stage with this functionality.

Now, however, every single one of the shipping stages has two of these, one on each side of the stage, as shown above. Many stages also have more than one variant, such as day and night settings.

This is stuff that Capcom wouldn’t need to add if it didn’t give a shit – the bare minimum needed to sustain SF5’s competitive and online scene would be new characters and balance changes – but it keeps doing this other stuff. Ergo… it seems to give a shit. I’m reassured.

Take also two of the DLC stages, the classic Guile USA Airfield stage from Street Fighter 2 and the Kanzuki Beach stage – in a new beta patch out now on PC, both stages have all-new stage interactivity. These stages launched in the middle of last year, but Capcom is going back and improving them.

NPCs now react to things like characters being knocked down, crates smash when fought near, and new animations and activities have been added in the background to liven up the stage. Youtube fighting game boffin VesperArcade showcases the Guile stage changes in this video:

That new PC beta brings other things, too. There’s a very welcome and necessary attempt to make its online system more robust after the fairly embarrassing LinkedIn discovery that its online experience was a one-man effort until launch, for one. That includes proper friends lists, improvements to stat tracking, matchmaking ragequit punishments, user blocking and reporting.

Other small quality-of-life changes make a world of difference, like a stage-selector for random select. Want to use random select but never want to see the tournament-banned stages like Skies of Honor or Kanzuki Beach? It’s now possible! I turned off Training Stage pretty much immediately.

There are also characters who are getting entirely new moves. Cammy has a new air throw (the animation is terrible, but hey, it’s there), for instance. Zangief fares even better, getting a range of all-new moves to help him in different situations. This isn’t just buffing: these are new moves, new animations, proper character rethinking. It’s hard not to be pleased with this sort of effort.

None of this is over, either. We’re about to see even more new characters, another classic Street Fighter 2 stage remastered (Thailand) and new costumes – plus the new balance and netcode patch rolling out more widely. Things are looking good, and it’s heartening to see that while Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is on the horizon Capcom isn’t abandoning SF5.

All of this of course raises a larger question: how good would Street Fighter 5 have been if Capcom had nutted up and just delayed the damn thing? The answer, I suspect, is very. It plainly wasn’t ready this time last year, but looking at it today it’s looking more and more like the package it always should’ve been. As a result, here I am, doing my Michael Corleone act: just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in. Back to training mode it is.

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