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Street Fighter 5 Arcade Edition review: updated, expanded and finally a must-play

Updated and expanded, Street Fighter is fully fighting fit again - and the result is a must-play title.

Back in 2016 I wrote that Street Fighter 5 could've been perfect if it didn't lack single-player content. Two years later and Capcom is back with a new and more complete version of the game, allowing SF5 to finally push past being a product full of frustratingly squandered potential to arrive at something truly special.

Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition isn't without fault, but it now feels like a complete and compelling package that stands as a testament to why even 26 years after its groundbreaking second entry Street Fighter is still the best the 2D fighter genre has to offer.


The most important piece of information before we even get started is that if you already paid for Street Fighter 5, Arcade Edition is free. All of the new modes and the balance changes are included as part of your original purchase, so if you reinstall SF5 you're ready to go.

If you skipped SF5 the first time around there's a new Arcade Edition release meant just for you. That package includes the up-to-date version of the game plus the first two years of character DLC - 12 additional characters for a total of 28.

Given this is a review of an updated version of an existing product, I'm going to break it into sections based on complaints around the original release. If your question isn't answered here, defer to our original Street Fighter 5 review.


The Fighting is still the Star of the Show

Street Fighter 5 is absolutely one of the best and most satisfying 2D fighters ever. How fun its fighting is can't quite be easily attributed to any one part of its design, but is rather the result of several pieces of excellent design that play off one another.

For one, SF5 features some of the most gorgeous 3D animation ever for a fighter, with flowing, clear animations that feature the key-frames and telling nods that help to make a move look cool while also ensuring its utility is obvious. Then there's the cast, carefully reconsidered and designed to help differentiate more between even similar fighters. Take the shotos Ryu, Ken, Akuma and Sakura - in SF5 they feel more differentiated from each other than in any other game.

The combat is still an absolute dream - and that's the thing that matters most in a game like this.

Much of that difference is driven by the V-Trigger, limited use special moves that charge as you use certain skills and take damage. In a reductive sense this a revenge mechanic, but in truth it's a lot more than that - in SF5, your entire play-style revolves around this special skill.

That's what makes Arcade Edition's addition of a second V-Trigger for each character so significant, since you now have a choice between two very different takes on the same basic character. It's a new world of possibilities, and even now after only a couple of days the combos coming out are looking downright filthy.

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Much has changed balance-wise behind-the-scenes also. Early SF5 was a whiff-heavy game full of quick jab anti-air attacks, but Arcade Edition's year three balance changes feel like they lead to a snappier, cleaner game - though it is still as relentlessly aggressive as the original release was.

Street Fighter 5 was a touch slower than its predecessor, but it feels like recent changes have closed that gap significantly. Two years in it can also be said that Capcom's decision to loosen the requirements for combos and special moves to make them easier to execute has had no negative impact. If you've previously struggled it does the opposite, with this the easiest SF to approach and fully understand yet.

As I said in my 2016 review, SF5's simplification of inputs isn't so much watering down as it is purification. Street Fighter is ultimately about 'Yomi', a Japanese term that means "to know the mind of your opponent". Being able to pull off a two-frame link in a combo is infinitely less important than understanding the game and being able to read both the situation and your opponent to gain the upper hand. This game is a pure expression of that; Yomi is its lifeblood.

In Street Fighter 5, it works. It's not quite perfect and occasionally gives way to gimmicks and outlandish resets, but the combat is still an absolute dream - and that's the thing that matters most in a game like this.

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About those Single Player Modes

The core game was always good, but the original SF5 had a very meager two solo modes: Character Story (2-4 super easy AI battles) and Survival (a treadmill of fights with modifiers) - nothing else. Arcade Edition remedies that, and it goes above and beyond.

As the name of the game suggests, the big new addition is arcade mode - six of them. There's an arcade mode for Street Fighter and then all of its offspring - SF2, SF Alpha, SF3, SF4 and finally SF5. Each arcade ladder only features the characters from that game - so Cammy can be played as or show up as an enemy in SF2, Alpha, 4 and 5, but not the others.

This mode is full of the best kind of fan-pleasing love and attention. Select your favorite SF and you'll quickly be hit by a wave of nostalgia as you're presented with an arcade mode set to remixes of the music from that game. Characters wear period-appropriate costumes where possible, too - so in SF Alpha Birdie is ripped and in his prime, lacking the beer belly he has in SF5.

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Street Fighter 5 now has the modes that it lacked years ago and more to the point has the modes you'd expect.

Arcade Mode is exactly what you'd expect - a ladder of matches leading to a final boss plus bonus mini-games, just like in the good old days. Capcom listened - this is what people wanted.

Aside from Arcade Mode there's also the Cinematic Story, a two-to-three hour campy adventure interspersed with fights, a decent addition from the game's first year. There's also survival mode, the character stories, trials mode with unique objectives for each character and ever-changing in-game challenges which we'll talk about fully in a moment.

The point is that Street Fighter 5 now has the modes that it lacked years ago and more to the point has the modes you'd expect. There's a lot to do as a solo player - though versus is still where this game lives.


Fight Money, Challenges and DLC - Arcade Edition's one downfall

As previously mentioned, SF5 also features in-game challenge missions that grant you Fight Money, the in-game currency that can be used to buy additional content for free.

There's a variety of ways to earn fight money in Street Fighter 5, but ultimately there's never enough for the system to feel fair. The original game was bad for this, but Arcade Edition has actually removed a bunch of sources of Fight Money while adding new ones that aren't worth nearly as much - it's rubbish.

It feels a little like Capcom wants to have it both ways - this is the currency-earning structure of a free-to-play game grafted onto a full price game. If you don't have enough Fight Money for a costume, stage or character you can of course pony up real cash instead, and so that's an incentive for them to make fight money scarce.

Honestly, it seems a little bit like they're taking the piss, pushing their luck to see how far they can go to get people to open their wallets. I actually think the real cash season pass DLC to get a year of characters is a reasonable purchase, but even if you buy that to avoid sinking your fight money into characters the pricing for stages and other fairly desirable extras are way too high. It's unfortunate - especially since the DLC stages are lovely and Capcom keeps adding really great stuff to the in-game store like extra music from classic SF games. This year I hope to see custom announcers - but it's all too expensive and the currency too rare.

Costumes are even worse. There's some absolutely amazing premium costumes, but these can only be picked up with real cash for a whopping $4, something that feels a little like the Joke Of The Century - but no, Capcom is deadly serious. A five-pack of costumes was the same price in SF4, for the record.

If Arcade Edition and the last two years of extensive updates prove anything, it's that nothing in SF5 is beyond changing - so Capcom really needs to rethink their in-game currency and costume DLC pricing.

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But man, that fighting - and the online - is bliss

The bitter taste left by Capcom's borderline experimental in-game currency shenanigans is pretty quickly washed away, however, because this is an amazing fighting game. It just feels great to play, and Arcade Edition comes with the benefit of the improvements and expansions to the online offering introduced over the last two years.

When you're in the flow of a match, Street Fighter 5 just feels good, and right, and pretty damn close to fighting game perfection.

The Capcom Fighters Network (CFN) system lets you play cross-platform between PC and PS4 and matchmaking is rapid and generally pretty accurate. Truly impactful lag is rare, and everything generally works as intended.

Where CFN is impressive is in its stat-keeping, where it logs everything about how you play for you or your rivals to dig into. I'm a particularly big fan of the robotic voice that occasionally rings out with facts and helpful information as a match loads: "You are currently in the top 10,000 players in Europe." "One more win for a rank up!" "The opponent is using their main character."

The best of all comes after a match occasionally: "You blocked the opponent's rank up!" Yes. YES.

When you're in the flow of a match, online or offline, single-player or versus, one-on-one or in the new team battle mode, everything else just melts away. Street Fighter 5 just feels good, and right, and pretty damn close to fighting game perfection.

Capcom has done a great job iterating on what was clearly an unfinished shell of a game with excellent foundations. In the last two years they've built something really special, and Arcade Edition's soft relaunch makes this the ideal place to jump back in or make your SF5 debut.

With support planned until 2020, I'm keen to see how Capcom continue their continued support of this game.

Game provided by Publisher. Versions tested: PC & PS4

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