Ryu and co do bat­tle with the el­e­ments


Cap­com’s UK PR team’s out-of-of­fice was on. Of­fi­cially, it was for the Christ­mas party, but you’d have for­given the staff for see­ing what had just hap­pened, throw­ing their hands in the air, and de­camp­ing to the pub. A mas­sive an­nounce­ment meant for PlaySta­tion Ex­pe­ri­ence (PSX) had been leaked, a Ja­panese em­ployee hav­ing ac­ci­den­tally re­leased the an­nounce­ment trailer. So the In­ter­net knew at last: Street Fighter V is be­ing made for PS4 and PC, but not Xbox One.

On­line de­bate may have raged on how big of a deal this re­ally was – cer­tainly, the way Mi­crosoft and Sony are divvy­ing up the big se­ries of the ’90s is one of this gen­er­a­tion’s more cu­ri­ous sub­plots – but any se­ri­ous Street Fighter IV player will as­sure you that, yes, it’s sig­nif­i­cant. Xbox 360 was the plat­form of choice for the great­est fight­ing game of all, not only for its more ro­bust on­line ser­vice but also be­cause of the PS3 ver­sion’s ex­tra frame or two of in­put la­tency – two mis­takes Sony and Cap­com will have to en­sure aren’t re­peated this time round.

The mer­its of the business de­ci­sions aside, the leak was good news for fans. At PSX, Cap­com showed an ex­tended game­play trailer orig­i­nally planned for its Cap­com Cup tour­na­ment the fol­low­ing week­end. And there, to make up for the trailer’s ab­sence, we saw two matches played by Ul­tra Street Fighter IV co-de­signer Peter ‘Com­bofiend’ Rosas (as Chun-Li) and com­pet­i­tive player Mike Ross (Ryu). To the close ob­server, those nine tan­ta­lis­ing min­utes yielded a wealth of in­for­ma­tion on – and many more ques­tions about – how the game is be­ing struc­tured.

The EX me­ters at the bot­tom of the screen seem to be the big­gest change. Ryu only has two stocks, but Chun-Li has three, and

The EX me­ters re­call Street Fighter III: Third Strike’s se­lectable Su­per Arts

they’re not used for Su­per moves. Those are in­stead gov­erned by the Re­venge me­ter be­neath the char­ac­ters’ health bars, which, like Street Fighter IV’s equiv­a­lent, fill as you take hits. As be­fore, chunks of EX can be used to per­form more pow­er­ful ver­sions of spe­cial moves. But now, when the bar is full, it can trig­ger a pow­ered-up stance. Chun-Li is en­veloped in spires of wa­ter, the ef­fect of her spe­cial moves dou­bled as she throws one fire­ball after another and per­forms two loops of Light­ning Legs. Ryu’s ver­sion in­stead sees his hands crackle with elec­tric­ity and his nor­mal moves cause more hit­stun, open­ing up new combo pos­si­bil­i­ties. The dif­fer­ent sizes of EX me­ter re­call

Street Fighter III: Third Strike’s se­lectable Su­per Arts, where the length of a bar, and the num­ber of units you could keep stocked at once, were pro­por­tional to the move’s power. There’s an el­e­ment of that here, given that Ryu’s shorter bar seems to have more po­ten­tial, but there’s al­ready a bal­anc­ing act in the game. The in­stant Ryu takes a hit, his power is gone, whereas Chun-Li keeps hers un­til she gets knocked down.

More in­trigu­ing hints lie else­where, too. Counter-hits – where your at­tack catches the op­po­nent be­fore their own move can emerge, re­sult­ing in more dam­age and hit­stun – look set to play a greater role, with be­spoke hitsparks ac­com­pa­ny­ing the eas­ily missed genre-stan­dard text popup. Nor­mal punches and kicks in­flict a lit­tle chip dam­age when blocked, though the sliver of health it knocks off turns grey and can be re­cov­ered. At one point, a blocked low Ryu kick puts Chun-Li at zero life. The fire­ball that fol­lows should kill her, but she takes no dam­age and lives on, sug­gest­ing the death of the con­tro­ver­sial chip kill. Ryu’s nor­mal fire­balls de­liver mul­ti­ple hits, too. The EX ver­sion is a three-hit combo on its own, and the fi­nal hit of an elec­tric­mode fire­ball re­veals some kind of guard­crush me­chanic. A per­fect de­fence sys­tem, where block­ing an at­tack at the last mo­ment re­duces block­stun, is sug­gested by a slightly dif­fer­ent ef­fect on some blocked at­tacks. While fa­mil­iar to play­ers of Garou: Mark Of

The Wolves, it would be a se­ries first. Yet amid the stan­dard Street Fighter fan­tasy is a note of re­al­ism. While at first glance Street Fighter V is far from a huge visual step up, ex­plained per­haps by Cap­com still ad­just­ing to Un­real En­gine 4, clearly its an­i­ma­tion sys­tem has been greatly im­proved. In games past, ev­ery punch to the face, whether light, medium or heavy, would be met with the same an­i­ma­tion, its power con­veyed in­stead by the amount of hit­stun it caused. Here, Ryu catches Chun-Li in the face with a stand­ing heavy punch, and the force of it spins her around and knocks her back. Cap­com is cast­ing off a 20-year-old an­i­ma­tion tac­tic in favour of some­thing that looks, at last, like an ac­tual fight.

We have so many ques­tions, but Cap­com’s in no mood for talk­ing just yet. It’s al­ready shown more of its hand than it in­tended to be­cause of the leak, so the big­gest ques­tion of them all – what hap­pens in SFV when you press medium punch and medium kick to­gether? – will go unan­swered for a while yet. SFIV’s Fo­cus At­tack, the most ver­sa­tile me­chanic in fight­ing game his­tory, is go­ing to be an aw­fully tough act to follow. For now, we’ll have to make do with a tan­ta­lis­ing first glimpse at what is, de­spite the on­line de­bate, a hell of a coup for Sony.

ABOVE With only Ryu and Chun-Li an­nounced, there has been wide­spread spec­u­la­tion about who else Cap­com will choose to fill the roster with. An ex­tended Cap­com Cup trailer hints at Charlie’s re­turn, but ex­pect more of SFIV’s recog­nis­able cast than SFIII’s new­com­ers.

LEFT New hard­ware nat­u­rally means flashier ef­fects, though there’s noth­ing here to ri­val Killer In­stinct’s ridicu­lous par­ti­cle show­ers. Fire­balls, now mul­ti­hit, will be as im­por­tant as ever; Chun Li can pass un­der them with a new slide at­tack

The inky smoke that sur­rounds Ryu’s spe­cial moves rather oc­cludes the ac­tion, but it’s too early for con­cern. The first Street

Fighter IV trail­ers fea­tured sim­i­lar ef­fects that were toned down sub­stan­tially by the time of fi­nal re­lease

Su­per com­bos, as we’re as­sum­ing they’re called, are pow­ered by the Re­venge me­ter that gov­erned Ul­tras in SFIV. Here, they’re more like Su­pers, since they can be eas­ily com­boed into – Ryu launches one straight after a crouch­ing medium kick

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