Street Fighter V
The first playable build of Street Fighter V had an interesting, uh, feature. If player two picked Chun Li, her character model’s breasts would take on gravity-defying properties as the match loaded in, twirling away like nobody’s business. It was dismissed as a bug, but it felt more like a mischievous designer giving testers something to gawp at to help while away some very long loading times. Little did we know that T&A would be a recurring theme: the loading screens may have lost their ludicrous jiggling, but Capcom sure has made up for it elsewhere.
R Mika, in fairness, has always been generously proportioned, but the leap from the Street Fighter Alpha games’ anime-like sprites to SFV’s 3D models makes her assets stand out all the more. Her Critical Art super move sees her summon an offscreen wrestling partner for a tag move that culminates in the opponent’s head being crushed between two sets of large, muscular buttocks – a new, comical take on the concept of a booty call. Brazilian warrior Laura is similarly buxom, and just as underdressed.
This isn’t just about embarrassment, although those who have been playing Street Fighter for 25 years and are now worrying about playing this version in front of partners and children certainly have cause for concern. This is about more than gender-politics pearl clutching, too. What is most off-putting about Capcom’s new-found penchant for the pendulous is that it’s now borrowing a tactic from a quarter-century’s worth of Games That Are Not Street Fighter, the pretenders to the throne that had to do something different to stand out, and chose to do so by exaggerating two things that, well, stand out.
While there’s room for concern over SFV’s artistic direction, Capcom’s gameplay designs remain intriguing on paper and intoxicating in the hands. And there are few clearer signals of the company’s mechanical intent than the newly announced Dhalsim. Now older and in possession of a quite remarkable white beard, the yoga master still has the keep-away tools that have stood him apart from the rest of the Street Fighter cast for all these years, his signature stretchy limbs now joined by a multi-arc version of his Yoga Fire projectile. But he has more offensive moves now, too, and real combo potential. He will, as ever, be best used at range, but it will no longer be curtains for him when an opponent manages to close the distance. Other classic characters have been given similar mechanical makeovers. Vega can now remove and replace his trademark claw at will, using his fists for fancy combos and his steel for ranged pokes, a combination that has made him one of the biggest threats in the current build. Ryu and Ken have never felt so different, the former zoning with fireballs and his parry V-Skill, doing big damage in a few hits. Ken, meanwhile, is fast, flashy and aggressive thanks to a V-Trigger that works like Street Fighter IV’s Focus Attack Dash Cancel, interrupting the final frames of an attack and seeing him rush forward to continue the assault.
V-Skills and V-Triggers, moves unique to each member of the cast, mean that every fighter feels very different in the hands, a refreshing contrast to the SFIII and SFIV days, when the roster was united by cast-wide moves such as the Focus Attack. This will result in a tougher balancing job for Capcom, though. If the recent online beta is any guide, it needs to take a good look at Vega, whose overhaul may have been too generous. And time with the Paris Games Week build, which has an almost-complete cast, suggests Zangief could do with more love, an aerial variant of his Spinning Piledriver and the hit-absorbing Iron Muscle being scant compensation for the loss of several useful tools he had in SFIV. If Capcom gets it all in equilibrium, this will be the most varied Street Fighter yet made. Should it fail to, SFV may be remembered as the point at which the series went tits up.