There’s a new version of ‘Street Fighter’ currently available online and at your nearest video game store, but it isn’t really a new version of ‘Street Fighter’ at all. Four years after its first release, ‘Street Fighter V’ has finally become available as a ‘Champion Edition,’ containing every single piece of downloadable content that’s been released by Capcom at a torturously slow rate for the past 48 months, and theoretically clearing the way for the company to finally begin work on ‘Street Fighter VI.’ It’s well-known among the gaming community that the fifth edition of ‘Street Fighter’ had some serious issues when it came out and was still thought to be incomplete two years later – so is it worth buying now?
For some people, just the fact that this is a ‘Street Fighter’ game will be enough. It’s one of the longest-running and most-loved video game franchises of all time. It’s spawned an (admittedly terrible) 1990s movie. It’s even made two visits to online slots websites. Not only is there an officially-licensed online slots game based on ‘Street Fighter II’ – still the most iconic game in the series, but there’s also a lesser-known UK slots based on the first ‘Street Fighter’ game from the 1980s. Vintage games don’t get re-imagined as online slots unless there’s an audience for them, and so there’s little doubt that this latest (definitive?) version of the fifth game will sell relatively well. The question is how well will it sell, and whether it’s a wise investment. Let’s take a closer look.
The biggest difference between this ‘Champion Edition’ and the first release version of the game is that there’s enough content in there to keep players occupied. The negative reviews that the first game received weren’t so much to do with the mechanics of the game as the lack of content. There were very few core fighters, hardly any arenas, and not much to do outside of the linear story mode of the game. It now has dozens of fighters, multiple game modes, and a stable online mode that should, in theory, provide it with even greater longevity than it’s already enjoyed. But that doesn’t mean that the game is free of issues.
The first and most obvious problem is that even in new packaging, the game is mutton dressed as lamb. It doesn’t take long for a game to look dated in the modern era. There are brand new video game consoles and platforms being released in 2020, and so this game will soon look even more last-gen than it does right now – and make no mistake, it’s showing its age. The graphical design looks dated. The PlayStation 4 was still relatively new when the original game was released, and this bears all the hallmarks of an early-days current-gen game. No amount of new content can counteract the fact that the core game is old enough to have started school in most countries.
Perhaps as a consequence of the game’s age, loading times are almost intolerable. So much new content has been piled onto the aging framework that, as a player, we get the sense that it’s struggling to cope. You’ll almost be tempted to turn your console on and off under the impression that your game has frozen by the time you get past the loading scheme, and you can probably safely go and make a cup of coffee between every single fight. That isn’t the experience that players expect in 2020, and nor is it one that they should be expected to cope with. There’s enough memory in current-gen consoles for this not to be an issue, and it’s mystifying to wonder why the code hasn’t been tightened up to stop this from being an issue.
The second issue is that even though this is marketed as a ‘complete’ version of the game, it isn’t. If you want to play the more expansive story mode – the one with cinematic cut scenes and more character development – you still have to download it. You’ll also have to use your own initiative to find it. The option to play the mode is ‘greyed out’ on the menu screen, and there’s no link provided to go and download it. You’ll have to go looking for it in your chosen console’s store, and there’s no guarantee on how much longer it will stay there. To pay full price for a game that’s supposed to be definitive and to then find out that it isn’t definitive at all is a little disappointing, to say the least, and it leads us to suspect that Capcom simply couldn’t find a way to fit everything onto one disc.
Presumably, everybody who bought ‘Street Fighter V’ years ago has either already got all of the content that comes with this release, or gave up on the game a long time ago and has no intention of coming back to it. That means the target audience has to be fans who’ve never played the game before and want to give it a try. There’s nothing wrong with that, but selling new fans on the idea of buying a full-price four-year-old game when they could buy the much newer and better-reviewed Mortal Kombat XI instead is likely to be a hard sell for Capcom, even with the ‘Street Fighter’ name attached to the product. Presumably, Capcom’s internal research indicates that there’s a market out there for the game, but it’s difficult to imagine who that market might be.
Ultimately, this is one for the completionists. If you’re a huge ‘Street Fighter’ fan and you feel like your collection won’t be complete without it, go out and get it. If you’ve never played the game before and you don’t mind parting with your money to try an old game impersonating a new one, don’t let us stop you. You can have a lot of fun playing ‘Street Fighter V’ if you’re prepared to put up with the wait times, and you don’t mind rooting around online to find the extra content. We just find it hard to recommend paying a new-game price for an old game that feels like it’s struggling to keep up. Hopefully, Capcom has learned from the tough times they’ve endured with this game over the past four years, and we’ll get the benefits of that experience when they release ‘Street Fighter XI’ in 2021 or 2022.