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February 16, 2016

Street Fighter is an extremely long-running franchise. Publishers and developers that produce such iconic IPs often face an impossible task at the behest of demanding fans: Continue to upgrade and improve the experience we love without actually losing the original feel and style. This becomes a complex balancing act where the designers have to try to embrace innovation and freshness without abandoning that which made the title so popular in the first place. Ironically, while Capcom appears to have struck a fantastic balance between old and new with Street Fighter V , a somewhat rocky launch and frustrating lack of content results in a great but occasionally bittersweet production.

But before we dive into the intricacies and nitty-gritty, let’s discuss the impressive visual presentation. You may recall those vibrant water-colored graphics on display in Street Fighter IV ; well, if you take that concept and combine it with a brilliantly drawn art style, you get SFV. The effects leap off the screen with palpitating grace, each character is lovingly crafted and given a personality all his or her own, and even the backgrounds shimmer with remarkable, eye-catching color and general appeal. I’m actually not a huge fan of a few of the new characters in terms of design but that’s merely subjective; I imagine some fans will love the look of new faces like Necalli, Rashid and Karin. The only other downside is when the game doesn’t perform quite as it should, which does impact the visual excellence.

The sound is another big highlight with unbelievable effects that assault the ear with relentless power and precision, and a wickedly effective, hard-hitting soundtrack. Music is often overlooked when it comes to fighters, but I never understood why . You can’t tell me that you aren’t more engaged, more excited, and potentially perform better when you’ve got music you like thumping in the background. These games are very often about capturing a rhythm, are they not? I think SFV’s soundtrack might actually be the best the series has ever had, as it features a blend of classic tunes (like character-specific ditties from classic Street Fighter installments) and new beats that are fast and slick. I’m not sure the balance between sound and music is quite right, though, but it’s a minor drawback and you can always adjust the intensity of such features. Great stuff in the audio department overall, that’s for damn sure.

As I said in the intro, SFV retains the polished and expected mechanics and amps them up with several hefty new gameplay features. This offers both established franchise followers and newcomers an attractive foundation, and should stop even the most dedicated lovers from opining about the past. Really, if you break it down from top to bottom, it’s almost exactly what the dedicated fan would want in terms of gameplay progression and innovation. For instance, the new V-Skill feature is a focal point that greatly increases the strategy of the game, and also encourages players to fully master their favorite fighters, as V-Skill is character-specific. And V-Skill feeds into another huge new feature, the V-Trigger, which is a single, devastating attack that is once again tied to individual characters.