When Street Fighter V first came out, its problems were numerous and readily apparent — online held together with bubble gum, a system that rewarded rage quitting, something as basic as color palettes locked behind a survival mode more befitting a mid- to low-tier Newgrounds fighter, and a roster that was pulled together the night before the project was due.
All of these issues have been resolved, and with Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, we are still left with an Ambien prescription that Capcom has inaccurately labeled as a fighting game.
While the concept of “my turn, your turn” in fighting games has been frequently seen as an issue to overcome with clever game mechanics and options that can be used in an effort to initiate comebacks that reward quick thinking, clever reads on your opponent, and well-honed reaction time, Street Fighter V has made the odd choice of embracing its own monotony. “My turn, your turn” isn’t a problem to be solved but a credo to be chanted until it rings in your ears. The game solely exists around running your offensive blender until someone loses, creating a feeling that is more akin to seeing who can win a headbutt contest than playing a video game.
The game has made a concerted effort to stamp out any degree of originality or creativity within the roster, instead replacing characters with matryoshka dolls that all function relatively the same and wear the skin of iconic characters as a grim reminder of what they used to embody. Playstyle elements such as zoning, hardcore footsies, heavy execution, or rewarding reactions have all been put through the company shredder, replaced instead with simplistic and generic gameplay that functions the same for every single character. Almost everyone has the same tools at their disposal, including (but not limited to) extremely high damage, a command throw, and a three-frame normal, while any character who doesn’t is left to rot. The idea of characters who excel at a certain element, which allows for a unique or interesting gameplan due to their well-defined strengths and weaknesses, is done away with.
There are simply no options that exist within this game besides the one or two specific mix-ups your character can mash out until someone loses all of their health. All that matters is getting your knockdown or getting your reset and forcing the opponent into a sadistic guessing game, where there are truly no winners because you’re playing Street Fighter V. The blind offense of the game has made it a one-lane highway where a single mistake means defeat, and you just have to make sure you guess the coin flip better next time.
Street Fighter V‘s fear of execution to any degree makes all of these problems feel that much more painfully heavy. The crush counter system is the most egregious of these issues, where characters can dash in and take half a life bar with one stray move that they don’t even need to hit confirm. This turns neutral into a game of backdash, spam three-frame normal, look for crush counter, repeat. This, coupled with a whopping eight frames of input lag in a game where there are three-frame moves, replaces reaction with guessing, so you are essentially punished very hard for guessing wrong and rewarded for getting a lucky crush counter. Furthermore, the buffer on your normals means that now every combo can be mashed out. Like it or not, execution is a necessary part of fighting games. I’m not saying everything has to be an impossibly difficult one-frame link, but if you throw the baby out with the bathwater, you’ve removed any excitement or sense of reward from the game. If every player, regardless of skill, can consistently pull off the same combos professional players can do with no great difficulty, competitive matches in general suffer, and I’d argue normal gameplay suffers because now there’s nothing to strive for. Now all that’s left is the horribly wanting skeletal remains of the core gameplay.
This is a fighting game where losing teaches you nothing and winning feels pointless. Everything is homogenized, boiled down, and reduced through a lack of options to a bland, tasteless mush. Everyone plays the same, with the only thing separating pros from any random online player being generic fighting game knowledge that has nothing to do with Street Fighter V. The Day 1 combo is your go-to combo. There’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and there never will be. No tools exist to create a really impressive setup because there is no impressive setup. You see one Vega, and now you know how every Vega fights. Everyone has to run heavy offensive because nothing else is viable, and the only difference between high tiers and low tiers is that high tiers do everything low tiers do, just better.
Street Fighter V functions better as a public service announcement about the dangers that reductionism can have on creativity than it does as a fighting game.