Street Fighter V Beta Impressions Pt. 1

27 07 2015

It’s been everything but smooth sailing for the turbulent opening days of the Street Fighter V Beta, but I was able to log enough time to make a few observations and make a few impressions as I familiarize myself with the game. Keep in mind that as this is an ongoing beta, anything I mention could change, even between beta events.

I’ll start with a few general/system notes and then move on to the characters I studied.

Higher damage/Lower health

One very noticeable difference is the much lower health compared to previous Street Fighter installments that makes the field of play much more lethal. It’s not unusual for meterless bread-and-butter combos to take off 25% health or more, and landing a combo with full super meter can easily lop off 50% or more of the victim’s life bar. Risky plays have a much higher payoff but are equally more punishing for a failed attempt. This obviously makes the rounds go by more quickly but also makes each moment-to-moment decision during play more meaningful; each gamble and opening becomes a much bigger investment for the combatants and I found myself more intensely focused as a result to find those opportunities. Another factor of this change means that there is greater comeback potential, and the matches are more tense and exciting as a result.

Safe, defensive play is more difficult

One of the resounding criticisms of Street Fighter IV was there were numerous ways to neutralize risk and get out of dangerous situations which became a cornerstone of high level play. In Street Fighter V many of these factors have been removed. For one, there is no mechanic that allows fighters to cancel their moves to remove the commitment to those attacks, for example using Focus Attack Dash-Cancel to cancel a shoryuken in SFIV, which means that each and every time you use such a move you commit to the potential consequence of the move missing its mark. Backdashing has no invulnerability (although you still count as being airborne and therefore cannot be thrown) so it is no longer a constant get-out-of-jail-free card that can be used to escape situations over and over. “Option select” defensive techniques such as crouch-throw-teching has similarly been removed purposely to further trim out go-to defensive techniques that cover a wide variety of things the opponent might try when they have you cornered. Finally, even simply blocking has the disadvantage of taking chip damage from normal attacks, although the damage taken in this way is recoverable over time as long as your opponent doesn’t land a successful hit.

Meter management is more important

The super meter is now only divided into 3 subdivisions down from 4 in the previous iteration. As a result you have less resources to throw out EX moves generously and you have to make important decisions quickly as to whether it’s worth burning some bar to use such a move, especially given the huge damage potential of landing a Critical Art and also being mindful of the opponent’s comeback potential if you don’t tack on that little bit of extra damage to close out a round.

Easier execution raises the bar instead of lowering it

One of the most notable differences is that in general the inputs for performing damaging combos and some special moves have been made more lenient in an effort to make the game more accessible. In SFIV there were important combos that required 1/60th of a second timing in order to perform, while in SFV these “link” combos have been made more lenient on their input timing. While at first glance this would appear to be a move to cater to beginners and make the game more approachable to the novice, it also sets a certain precedent that mastery of these techniques is a basic demand of the competent player. Dropping your combo or flubbing your special move is now a much more fatal mistake, since you have to assume that the opponent is less likely to make the same error when the opportunity arises.

Ryu

-MP one of his best buttons

Ryu players will find themselves using his MP button much more than in any other iteration. The reach of this move is noticably further, and it can link into itself for hit-confirms and is the starter for his target combo MP HP HK, as well as being cancelable making this one of his most useful poking and footsie tools. Similar to previous games if you land an air-to-air MP, you can follow up with an EX special move or even a Critical Art upon landing.

-Denjin mode incredibly threatening

Ryu’s V-trigger makes him tremendously dangerous by giving him access to the Raidou Hadouken. When in Denjin mode, fireballs can be charged up by holding down the button to give them guard-breaking properties at maximum charge, making his fireball gameplay a huge threat. While the opponent is unlikely to let you land a full-charged fireball from the neutral game, the EX fireball charges up significantly faster, try canceling into it when the opponent is scared for a possible setup. Upon a successful guard-break, use forward HP to lunge in and follow up with MP into his target combo or anything else for staggering damage.

-Fireball zoning less effective

Hadoukens are still an integral part of Ryu’s gameplan but you must be much more mindful about tossing them out. The characters have various tools spread amongst them such as Bison and Nash’s V-skills specifically to counter fireballs, and the higher damage of the game also makes a good read by the opponent hurt a lot more if they catch you throwing a hadouken when you shouldn’t have. Furthermore, even the time-old crouching MK, hadouken string is punishable on block at certain ranges by certain characters.

-Hit confirms important to see if opponent is crouching

Many of Ryu’s combos that use the target combo string will whiff on the final HK if the opponent was crouching when they were hit. If you know the opponent is crouching, try throwing in a crouching HP which will force them to stand, then cancel into a special move/critical art.

-Don’t try to abuse parry

Ryu’s V-skill Mind’s Eye closely emulates the Third Strike parry system, but don’t be tempted to overuse it. The main fatal flaw is that there is a whiff animation if the parry doesn’t catch anything, potentially causing you to eat a counter-hit. Also note that you can’t parry while airborne.

-MP shoryuken invincibility

A very key thing to know is that currently the MP version of Ryu’s shoryuken sports the most invulnerable frames. Outside of combos, the MP shoryuken should be your default when fishing for reversals or to stuff an obvious attack attempt.

Birdie

-Not really a grapple character, well rounded toolset

Birdie is currently the only character with a command grab, but landing his command grab is not the centerpiece of his gameplan like it is with more traditional grapplers like Zangief. Instead, Birdie has a well rounded selection of moves to make him threatening in a variety of situations. Most of his reliable damage comes from landing simple heavy-hitting attack strings rather than his special grab.

-MP HCF+MP is your go-to punish

Birdie’s standing MP is an incredible move. It has lengthy reach and is special cancelable. Cancel into the MP Bull Head for easy 20% damage when the opponent does something unsafe.

-Jumping MP crossup, MK air to ground, HP for jump-in

Birdie has several aerial moves that are useful in different situations. MP is the closest thing he has to a body splash type attack which is crossup-capable but the hitbox doesn’t last long. You must hit with the jumping MP close to the ground in order to go into a combo. Jumping MK has a steep angle and good range making it a great air-to-ground attack. If you know the opponent is open, jumping HP is your best bet for a combo starter due to its good damage and big hit-stun.

-Armored moves

Notable in Birdie’s arsenal are some moves that have hit-absorbing properties to discourage incessant attackers. Forward HP seems to have armor when holding down the button. His variations of Bull Head also gain armor when in V-trigger.

-HP and cr. MK for footsie bullying

Birdie has exceptional range on his normal moves and he can stay at a position where he can threaten with his long reach while being out of range of the opponent’s normals. Try using standing HP and both standing and crouching MK to tag the opponent just out of the reach of their normals.

-V-skill necessary to reliably get V-trigger

Birdie has a 3-stock V-gauge meaning it takes longer to fill than other characters. Look for opporunities to use his V-skill to build the gauge in order to unleash his overpowering V-trigger mode.