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Street Fighter V Online Beta Hands-On

"And also a new character announcement in time for PAX Prime this weekend"

It’s been a long and shaky month for Capcom with the Street Fighter V beta. The pre-order bonus didn’t launch well due to server issues and the first of three beta phases was delayed. “Press any button” became a nightmare for Street Fighter fans thirsting to play the game early other than at conventions and certain events. In the past week, Capcom ran stress tests at various regions to make sure the global beta will be devoid of those server issues. The North American one concluded last night and now that they’re confident about the beta’s online stability, the first beta phase finally begins tomorrow night and lasts till Wednesday. With all that said, Street Fighter V so far takes the series back to it’s roots but also mix in new mechanics to appease both veterans and newcomers better than previous games.

By the end of the Street Fighter IV series, the roster was at over 40 characters, a lot of matchups to learn, executing one frame links were a turn off for newcomers and novice players, and the focus attack mechanics were only grasped by the tournament-level crowd. In Street Fighter V, most combos are two or three frame links so they’re easier to execute, no more get out of jail free cards FADCing (focus attack dash cancelling) out of uppercuts or unsafe moves, and the initial roster is gonna be sixteen when it comes out next year. Of course the roster will increase over time after the game’s launch, but hopefully not as overblown by Ultra Street Fighter IV. Street Fighter V in other words is a “honest fighting game.” Make a mistake such as whiffing Ryu’s Shoryuken and potentially pay the price by big damage. No more “vortexes” or “set play” as it’s all about fighting game fundamentals and reading your opponent to win. That’s fine for someone like me and also give newcomers a more even level playing field.

While the core mechanics remain the same as you can still use Street Fighter II skills to win, Street Fighter V introduces three V-Systems to the fold for each character. These systems give characters their own identities past their special moves and general playstyles. V-Skills (both medium punch + kick) give characters special abilities that can be used at any time in matches. Ryu for example can parry attacks, M. Bison can absorb and reflect projectiles back and Cammy’s spin knuckle. V-Reversals (toward + all three punches or kicks when blocking) require one block of V-meter and it’s pretty much an alpha counter for those familiar with previous games. Lastly, V-Trigger (both heavy punch + kick) requires a full stock of V-meter for another character’s special ability to be used for a limited time. Chun-Li’s medium and heavy normals attack twice and Nash can teleport behind or above opponents for mixups as examples. The V-Systems give classic characters new tools that they never had to the point it breathes new life to them and that’s what Capcom wanted to do with them for Street Fighter V.

The EX meter from past games remains unchanged for the most part with one block being used for EX special moves and critical arts, this game’s super moves, requiring all three. Besides the V Systems, some characters got gameplay facelifts for this sequel. Nash is not a charge character like his past incarnations and Guile, M. Bison’s psycho crusher is only a critical art now along with new special moves added to his arsenal and Chun-Li’s Lightning Kicks are a fireball motion plus kick instead of mashing kick buttons. Birdie is an unique one for the grappler archetype being able to mix up command grabs from mid or even full screen range with his V-Skill of chucking banana peels and soda cans. Cammy so far seems significantly similar from her SFIV incarnation with no drastic changes. As of the current beta build, Ken, Necalli and Vega are not playable, but Capcom wants to test out character rollouts in an online setting so we could see them playable in future beta phases.

Street Fighter V’s beta is fully online with no local options at all. This is Capcom’s main purpose with these beta phases to test out online servers, latency with the netcode, cross play with the PC version (in a future phase) and their in-game currency systems. Sure, hardcore players wanna test out which things currently work and are broken for the cast along with mess with more recently revealed characters, but online play is more important for now especially for the fighting game genre where lag can seriously affect matches. While you wait for matches, you’re in training mode. At various times in the beta you’ll be stuck there for a while till you’re placed in one, but matches are happening more consistently with the recent stress tests. So far, the netcode has been fine in my experience especially in the recent stress test being able to execute what I wanted to do against the opposition. There’s always gonna be matches where the lag is too much to the point it’s unplayable because of your opponent’s connection and even playing someone else outside your country.

With the stress tests over, the first beta phase for Street Fighter V begins tomorrow at 4 pm PST and ends on Wednesday. We’ll see how the servers hold up along with the netcode’s performance, but so far I’m having a blast with the game in the past month it was working. The addition of the V-Systems are welcome and well needed especially after dealing with the focus attack mechanics in the SFIV series. Most of the returning characters getting gameplay facelifts breathe new life to them after some of them being unchanged for years. Sure, some of the tournament-level crowd have been skeptical recently if you follow them on social media, but it’s still a beta and the final game is ways off so a lot can be changed for next year. In the meantime, Street Fighter V is gonna be big for fighting game players of all skill levels and hopefully Capcom are prepped for it’s real launch unlike this beta last month.

Oh wait…

Capcom did announce a new character today with the return of Rainbow Mika. The highly requested female wrestler that made her debut in Street Fighter Alpha 3 and was her only appearance in a game till now. She’s not your typical grappler gameplay-wise if you saw the trailer above as she has some interesting tricks up her sleeve. Her V-Skill lets her sing into her mic to buff up normals and specials the longer you hold the buttons. She then throws the mic once you release the buttons. One of her V-Reversals is a shotout to WWE fans as she counters an attack and delivers a Stone Cold Stunner. Her V-Trigger is where things get crazy with her partner Nadeshiko. Depending on the direction of the activation, Nadeshiko is basically treated as an assist character from the Marvel vs. Capcom series. She can dropkick opponents from the front or back as well as body splash from above. All of these options can lead to devastating combos and setups. R. Mika is gonna be playable at PAX Prime along with the rest of the cast revealed so far.

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