July Update To Bring SFV Back?
With Community Effort Orlando in the bag for 2016, viewers were sent home with a special gift from Capcom: two new characters for Street Fighter V and the long-promised Story mode, all available this Friday. And literally in the space of that two minute trailer, the fighting games scene went from caustically pessimistic about the game’s chances to unbridled jubilance. Just listen to that crowd, will you?
In the past two months specifically, a lot had been made of certain failures to communicate not just with Capcom and its fans, but between Capcom offices themselves. The release schedule pushed by Capcom’s American offices apparently hadn’t been signed off by Capcom Japan, who rushed to meet the deadlines set for them by their US compatriots. Deadlines were broken, release dates went by, and fans grew impatient, player numbers flagging in the absence of any good news.
Shortly after the announcement trailer of Ibuki (look below), Capcom USA had to issue a public mea culpa, promising that while it would mean they’d miss already-announced dates, they were prepared to hold back content and make sure it got the polish it needed. As a result of that, the “May” update became the “June” update, and with Monday’s announcement the “June” update became the super bumper packed “July 1st” update, bundling May’s Ibuki release with June’s Story Mode update and July’s Balrog release. Well, that’s one way to make up for lost time.
The story mode itself is being touted as Capcom’s first real attempt at an intricate campaign mode, like those present in Mortal Kombat and Guilty Gear titles. While only a little has been shown off so far, to me at least it captures the narrative style to be expected from MK’s and GG’s efforts. To many it might not seem like more than a new way to earn Fight Money for free content, but it also offers a free preview of upcoming DLC characters, which will lure the competitive audience in if only for that. But first and foremost, the update coming this Friday will be to add two new characters to the base game.
First thing you need to know; Ibuki is my girl. For some reason despite having two left hands when it comes to actually playing 2D fighters I always gravitate to the faster, high skill ceiling characters with buttons and tools for days, and when I played around in Third Strike it was with the ninja chick. She’s as much the Street Fighter 3 era’s token lady as Alex is its token guy, and has been in many of the big Street Fighter-inclusive titles Capcom has put out since. So naturally when she was confirmed for the new game I got a bit excited.
SFV’s Ibuki is wildly different from past incarnations; where SF4 players abused the hard knockdown properties of her Neckbreaker special to create the sort of near-impenetrable setplays SFV players see with Rainbow Mika, Ibuki completely lacks a Neckbreaker special now; getting relegated to one of her regular throws. She’s also missing her Tsumuji spinning kicks, an important pressure tool for SF4 Ibukis, and her largely useless Tsujigoe command jump has been assimilated into her Kasumigake command dash; the HK version will now send Ibuki airborne. Finally, she’s also missing her Hien jumping double-stomp special.
What she has in place of half her special move arsenal is a large-scale overhaul, the result being a Street Fighter character that almost feels more at home in Mortal Kombat. Now able to throw Kunai from both the air and the ground, an EX Kunai throw makes the projectile hit twice, the second hit an explosive launching attack as the knife hits the ground, reminiscent of MKX’s Takeda. This time around, however, Ibuki has a depletable supply, with the special move failing if Ibuki runs out of knives until she restocks with RDP+K (the old Hien command). To make up for this, she’s now able to fire her entire supply at once, creating either a sustained “beam” of knives or a wide projectile spread. On top of all this, she now has a limited hover mode in the air, with Ibuki catching the wind with a full-body ninja kite as she readies another knife throw.
What’s gotten most people talking, however, is her V-Trigger; Ibuki tosses out a large explosive onto the stage, detonating as a relaunching explosion after a set amount of time. Fans of Cyrax’ bomb relaunch combos from Mortal Kombat (and Triborg’s in MKXL) will see where this is going; big, long, impressive combos that turn a fighter into a single-player game. What makes this even more fun is that these bombs are interactable; both Ibuki and her opponent can nudge them to either side with punches and kicks, turning her V-Trigger into a tense game of hot potato. That in particular makes this particularly dangerous; the timer on the bomb can be changed; Ibuki will know when the bomb goes off, but the opponent won’t. Expect some potent mindgames.
Overall, the things many players hated about Ibuki are largely gone from her SFV incarnation, replaced with things many players will undoubtedly grow to hate about Ibuki’s SFV incarnation. Her low health and stamina might see some shy away from picking her up, but Ibuki will likely remain the high-tech darling she’s always been.
Balrog is another character that’s seen his already slender arsenal of moves pillaged and plundered a little. Missing a lot of the tools that made him famous in SF4 circles, Balrog’s lost some of his defensive game in favour of more potent close-range harassment, while retaining the potential for real beefy American damage.
Most notably is the removal of his anti-air special, Buffalo Headbutt. In SF4 it was a go-to tool for comboing into Ultra; in SFV it’s his V-Reversal. Even his old Super and Ultra moves have been broken down to make up Balrog’s new V-Trigger, allowing him to chain his rush punch specials to create something not unlike his old big moves. While a good number of his major tools have been removed from his list of special attacks, they’re retained in a way that keeps Balrog feeling like Balrog.
What has been added makes him feel much less like Balrog. Now the big guy brings a few new target combos to the table, more reminiscent of Dudley’s sweet-science style of boxing rather than Balrog’s more brutish single heavy hits. Not only that, his V-Skill, the PPK, adds a Steve Fox-style swinging sidestep to Balrog’s game, giving him that much more flexibility against pokes and projectiles. Finally, returning as his Critical Art is the Alpha-generation Gigaton Blow, a single, one-hit rush punch, the SFV flavour of which draws reasonable comparison to Spencer’s MvC3 super, Bionic Arm. Is it just a coincidence that SFV American project lead Peter Rosas, known as the Combofiend in FGC circles, was renowned for his Spencer game and particularly for Bionic Arms? This is clearly an FGC Illuminati plot.
Ultimately, fans of Balrog will likely continue to be fans of Balrog, even with the decidedly not-Balrog elements to his SFV version.
Juri and Urien
You might’ve noticed a little extra tacked onto the end of that Balrog trailer. This was our first in-game look at this year’s last two SFV downloadable characters, Juri and Urien. We saw precious little of them, but it was enough to give us a few big clues as to what to expect.
Firstly, Juri has retained her Feng Shui Engine functionality in some way, with her first in-game shot showing an activation pose of some sort, cancelled into a high splits kick followed by what looked like a wildly revamped normal overhead. In SF4 Feng Shui gave Juri greater speed and flexibility in her normal combo chains; I for one can’t wait to see how this will play out with the presence of Alpha Counter-style V-Reverses.
Then Urien appeared, wearing decidedly more clothing than he usually does. More importantly, two important returning features were shown off; the Metallic Sphere, a chargeable, directional projectile, and a new version of his near-memetic Aegis Reflector, a devastating tool from SF3 that allowed Urien to set up a flat wall on the screen that repelled opponents, reflected projectiles, created meaty setplay opportunities and extended juggles. About the only thing it didn’t do was come with free steak knives.
Both of these characters are apparently included in the story mode, with pre-tuning playable builds available to try out for at least a couple of fights.
But Wait! There’s Still More!
Shortly after CEO wrapped up, Capcom had even more to show off; seeing as it’s summer over there, Capcom USA thought it might be the right time to unveil some special summer content, with a new costume for Karin and a new stage to go with it. This is on top of budget variations of existing SFV stages, and a new remaster of Balrog’s old Las Vegas stage from the SF2 days, as seen above.
Yes, it’s an excuse for lots of ladies and not much fabric between them, but even I have to admit it’s a gorgeous looking stage. What’s more interesting is exactly who is standing around in the background. Look closely to the right and you’ll find Anna, Julia, Toli and Rifa, former tie-breaking Judgement Girls from Street Fighter 3. In the event of a tied final round, three of a group of eight Judgement Girls would appear, voting for who they believe won the fight instead of a drawn game. It’s a neat little throwback to what people today still call ‘classic Street Fighter’.
Look to the left, however, and there’s something a little more exciting; Tiffany Lord and Hinata Wakaba, Capcom veterans from old school fighting game Rival Schools. While Street Fighter’s own Sakura appeared in Rival Schools, and Ibuki has recently been outed as another link between the two franchises, Tiffany and Hinata’s appearance here might make some allusions to a Rival Schools character arriving in SFV next year.
All this bright sunny goodness will be available either through SFV’s in-game shop with Fight Money, or through Steam/PSN Store for your real world hard-earned.
No doubt, this Friday’s going to be a busy one for Street Fighter fans, and hopefully goes a ways towards healing what had become a nasty rift between Capcom and its fanbase. With Evo 2016 barely two weeks away, and only two updates between now and the Capcom Cup Finals, it’s good to see the SFV team getting its public relations act together a little.