The long-awaited fifth iteration of Capcom’s definitive fighting game series should have been a first round knockout.
Instead, Street Fighter V started strong, then quickly gassed out. Where was arcade mode? What was there for single player fans that didn’t fancy getting thrashed every time they stepped out online?
It might have taken two years, but Arcade Edition finally delivers everything that should have been there from the start. Whether psycho power runs through your veins or you’ve never thrown a hadouken in your life, there’s never been a better time to get into Street Fighter.
WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL
Arcade Edition does a lot more than balance out the character roster. It adds a much-needed arcade mode, along with fun bonus modes like team battle and extra battle, as well as some overdue quality of life improvements.
Arcade mode is the highlight, with branching paths to victory themed around each of the five main-series Street Fighter games, along a nod to the Alpha series. Fight your way through the characters that debuted in each respective game (or stand-ins from the main roster for those that haven’t made it to SFV yet) and you’ll unlock a unique character ending and custom illustration. There are over 200 to see, so it’ll take even dedicated players a while to get ‘em all. The remixed music is truly excellent, and the barrel-breaking bonus stages are a nice nod to the older games too.
Extra Battle is more for returning players, and might as well be called “So you think you’re good at Street Fighter?” - each one costs fight money, the in-game currency earned solely from playing, and the first battle is against secret arcade boss Shin Akuma. A few wrong moves and you’ll be back to the menu screen - he’s a tricky git.
The idea is to keep coming back, either daily or every week, to take on a new challenge and unlock custom crossover costumes from Capcom’s other games. Rashid dressed up as Viewtiful Joe? How could you say no?
New players have the three hour story mode to tackle, as well. It was released as free DLC last year, and is well worth at least one playthrough - if just for the bucketload of Fight Money you get for completing it. Those characters won't unlock themselves, after all.
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM
Arcade Edition also kicks off Capcom’s third season of post-launch characters, with fan favourites Sakura, Sagat, Cody and Blanka, and new fighters Falke and G all set to join the roster over the coming months.
Only Sakura is available to play right now, but she’s a riot to play, with multi-hitting special moves and one of the more interesting back stories of the cast.
If you already own the base game, Arcade Edition is completely free, available as a (massive 21GB) update whenever you next turn on your PS4 or log into Steam. None of the new characters are included, though - you’ll have to buy ‘em with Fight Money, or buy the Season Pass with real-world cash.
That applies to the twelve existing DLC characters as well. Anyone picking up Street Fighter V for the first time with Arcade Edition will get all twelve, on top of the 16-player lineup that launched with the original game.
Seeing how every character has gained a new V-Trigger special move, and many have gained all-new attacks as well, there’s plenty for series fans to experiment with. Ryu’s upgraded parry V-skill makes him even more dangerous in the hands of players that are good at predicting enemy attacks, M. Bison regains his infamous Psycho Crusher attack, and Rashid’s speed increase makes him one of the trickiest characters you’ll encounter online right now.
If you’re dedicated to one particular character, all the new V-triggers mean you’ve got to learn how to defend against a whole load of new attacks - it really breathes life back into the online mode, which was beginning to feel a little stale.
GOING FOR GOLD
The whole thing feels fresh again, thanks to a redesigned UI decked out in lavish gold hues, new voice announcers, and improved load times that mean you get into matches much faster than before. It means you can spend your time churning your arcade stick, instead of twiddling your thumbs - which is most definitely a good thing.
If you do head online, the quality of the matchmaking seems improved, with few laggy matches and quick connections to players of similar skill.
A whole host of minor changes to character moves, hitboxes and frame data mean characters that were a bit rubbish before are now deadly, with Birdie looking very strong in the days after launch and Chun Li verging on broken - hopefully Capcom is already working on a fix for her V-trigger infinite.
Viewing replays is much easier now, and training mode has been overhauled with a fantastic colour-coded frame data tool, showing when your special moves are safe to throw out. Handy for players looking to work out why their opponents are always punishing their attacks.
Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition VERDICT
Hands in the air time: we let Street Fighter 5 off lightly when it arrived back in 2016. Capcom talked a big talk about post-release content, but only half of those promised extras arrived and single player gamers felt left out of the loop.
Well, they can finally pick up the fight stick again: Arcade Edition delivers everything they could want, and more.
Are these changes enough to convince fighting game naysayers to give Street Fighter a try? No, probably not. There’s a lot more content, but the overall gameplay has stayed the same.
If you have even a passing interest in walloping digital avatars in the face, though, this is an absolute must-buy.