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Street Fighter 5 is one of gaming’s best redemption stories

Five years after its launch, Street Fighter 5 has finally added its final character, American MMA fighter Luke Sullivan. Capcom states that Luke is a sign of things to come, as he will be a very important character going into the next numbered entry of the long-running fighting game series. Hearing about the future got me thinking about Street Fighter 5’s long journey. This game has literally been to hell and back in its five years.

Street Fighter V Gameplay Trailer

Street Fighter 5 was initially released on February 16, 2016, and as of November 29, 2021, the game has added its final DLC character. While Street Fighter 5 is fondly thought of today, it wasn’t always that way. It had to contend with a rough launch and its producer exiting the series after 30 years. But perseverance from Capcom showed us how a mediocre game can transform into a classic through its lifetime.

Fighting to stay on top

Street Fighter 5‘s vanilla release was met with mixed reviews from critics and fans, with many citing the same issues. The game was fun, no doubt, but I remember starting the game up and noticing how embarrassingly dry the package was initially.

If you weren’t there, good for you, because you would have been stuck with strictly offline versus mode, half-baked character story modes, and a survival mode that would bore anyone after one go. There was no arcade mode to be found and Capcom’s promises of a cinematic story, similar to Mortal Kombat and Injustice, didn’t materialize at launch. Even on the core gameplay side, hardcore fans were finding many flaws with the game, which resulted in a rather tame and boring experience when compared with the rest of the series.

My biggest issues with Vanilla were:
-Not enough character diversity (few gameplans/archetypes)
-Not enough character expressiveness (hard to play one character differently)
-Bad input lag, & therefore harder to whiff punish, & therefore less risk whiffing crush counter buttons

— Just UltraDavid (@ultradavid) November 29, 2021

Just about everyone was unhappy with Street Fighter. The game wasn’t fit for newcomers (those looking to mess around in arcade mode) and even higher-end players weren’t seeing the fun in the game. It didn’t help that Capcom was swearing by a new fight money currency that players could obtain to not only buy in-game cosmetics but DLC as well. The fight money was useless to anyone not grinding online matches 24/7, and that made Capcom look even worse along with its poor netcode and input lag.

The game went through its first two seasons until finally Capcom released an all-new edition of SFV titled, Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition. This new expansion included all the DLC characters released in seasons one and two, an arcade mode, an Extra Battle mode, and a new V-Trigger (a unique power-up mechanic) for every character in the game.

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition – Cinematic Opening

Arcade Edition, released in 2018, saw SF5 finally get the praise it was after and more. Not only were reviewers changing their tune, stating that the game finally felt like a full package, but casual and competitive players alike were finding actual joy in returning to the fighter game. Of course, in classic Street Fighter fashion, there was another new edition ready in the chamber.

Becoming a champion

Two years later, in 2020, Capcom released the next big update to Street Fighter 5 in the form of Championship Edition. The gameplay was given a huge overhaul, with character balance tweaks and a second V-Skill for every character. Capcom was listening to the initial complaints that bombarded Street Fighter 5 and it responded in spectacular fashion.

Suddenly, Street Fighter 5 was becoming the hit entry that it promised to be on release, bringing tons of variety to characters similar to that of the Alpha series games. This update was so well-received that Capcom gave it one more season with more characters, new mechanics such as the V-Shift dodge and counter, and even more stages. That extra season has now concluded with the addition of Luke Sullivan, leaving fans much more positive on the final package. Fans now hail Street Fighter 5 as one of the best entries of the series, with some even comparing it to other Street Fighter greats like Third Strike.

Imo there are lots of similarities between endgame SFV and 3S: emphasis on hit confirms, few invul options esp meterless, system mechanics that can be used offensively or devensively & on reaction or prediction in vreversal/vshift, good character variety & player expression, etc

— Just UltraDavid (@ultradavid) November 30, 2021

I actually think SFV is tied with 3S as my favorite, with 4 right behind it.

For what it's worth, I'd say 4 is just as divisive within the community as 3S [on release] was.

— Mr Mostafles (@MrMostafles) November 4, 2021

Though the game has transitioned into the good graces of fans, that’s not to say absolutely everything was fixed. While its networking is done with an amazing rollback standard that fighting game players clamor for, it was implemented poorly, making for a subpar online experience at times. That shouldn’t be the case in a genre-defining series like Street Fighter. It doesn’t help that games before it like Skullgirls and Mortal Kombat, or games released after it like Guilty Gear Strive and even Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, implemented nearly flawless netcode. For years, SFV has been a great fighting game trapped in a bubble by bad netcode, which has even driven some players to drop the game completely — which is even worse in an era where offline events can’t happen as much due to the pandemic.

Good Ol' Netcode pic.twitter.com/yTEqKvgXsZ

— Moe (@MachoorTV) June 27, 2021

CFN is the best online model (and SFV online model in general) for any fighting game ever made

Netcode is literally the only thing holding it back. Netcode matters so much https://t.co/KrZ2DMSYjQ

— BLEACH STAN | Shaud @ College Hiatus (@ShaudL_) July 19, 2021

Street Fighter 5 is another member of a classic modern gaming curse club that no game wants to join. That list includes games that had to go through significant updates to finally get recognized, overcoming poor planning and bad mistakes. Throughout all the buffs, nerfs, mechanical changes, tournament circuits, and booty attack censoring, it’s found its way into the light thanks to Capcom pushing to fix nearly every issue players had.

Let’s all just hope that they can fix that netcode issue by the time Street Fighter 6 hits shelves.

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DeAngelo Epps
Former Digital Trends Contributor
De'Angelo Epps is a gaming writer passionate about the culture, communities, and industry surrounding gaming. His work ranges…
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