Why Street Fighter V is my final fight – Reader’s Feature
A life-long fan of Street Fighter explains why he’s gone from loving the fourth entry to abandoning the fifth one and its online economy.
My relationship with Street Fighter spans over 25 years. Bewitched by a string of perfect scores in gaming magazines and the promise of arcade quality graphics, I imported Street Fighter II: The World Warrior from Japan in 1992 to play on my SNES and never looked back. My teenage fingers spent months perfecting dragon punches, hurricane kicks and sumo headbutts until it all became muscle memory.
Street Fighter II was an ‘event’. Cabinets were in arcades, chip shops, and video rental stores. It brought people together to compete in that social way the biggest arcade games of the time would. We had competitions at school – 50p in, winner takes all! I look back with the same nostalgia people feel for a favourite family holiday and that sense of connection with the series has never left.
In truth that was a peak though. Various incremental updates with staggered character releases, a questionable 3D offshoot, and the abomination of Street Fighter: The Movie all contributed to other games and interests taking centre stage. Until the glorious return of Street Fighter IV. Capturing everything good about the one-on-one fighter it ‘felt’ like Street Fighter should.
Stripping away some of the technicalities previously introduced, at its core was a game that offered incredible depth to those willing to master its intricacies, whilst still welcoming newcomers who just wanted to throw a fireball. An extensive roster of characters brought to life with a beautiful art style, generally robust online play and, of course, an Arcade mode.
The fire was re-ignited and I poured hundreds of hours into it. In truth I’ve never been great with the Shotokan characters but still learnt each move-set inside out, before settling on my main of Honda (my go to since Street Fighter II) and Cammy as a secondary. The high school competitions had evolved into online tournaments and I could more than hold my own. The culmination was an unexpected match at an Electronics Expo against the Guinness World Record holder for longest winning streak on Street Fighter IV where I walked away with a 2-0 victory!
The passion was back. The finger muscles alive again. And then came the announcement of Street Fighter V, a full new entry in the franchise. With a gap of 11 years between Street Fighter III and IV, then a further eight years since Street Fighter IV, a new release does not come along often. But with anticipation at a high I was unprepared for just how completely Street Fighter V would let everyone down…
The state of Street Fighter V upon release has been well documented. With a focus on the esports market Capcom promised an online-focused fighter where the only purchase you would need to make was the base game. This promise addressed the issue of early players having to re-buy the game multiple times with the inevitable release of future Super, Turbo, and Arcade editions. The earning of in-game currency would allow you to buy extra characters, stages, and costumes (if that’s your thing) as they released. Currency which could be earned simply by playing the game.
What Capcom forgot to include, or simply underestimated the importance of, was a single-player mode worthy of note. For the first time the franchise had no Arcade mode, no ability to simply fight through a roster of computer-controlled opponents through to a final overpowered, cheating boss. The survival mode was bare bones. If you wanted to fight you had little option but to go online.
The in-game currency, Fight Money (FM), appeared reasonable at first. Through practising with each character and playing a few online matches you accumulated enough to unlock a player or two, maybe even some stages. But this ‘generosity’ quickly ran dry. The more your character levelled up the less FM you earn, extending the grind.
Capcom began to further tweak (read: reduce) the currency to the point where an online match today earns a paltry 50 FM. For context, to purchase a new character costs 100,000 FM. That’s 2,000 online fights required just for one character. For a day one purchaser the game included 16 fighters. Today there are 38. Yes, there are other ways in-game to earn FM but at today’s rates it would take 44,000 online battles to obtain a full roster. And then Capcom included loot boxes.
These free-to-play mechanics in a full-priced game are anathema to me. Of course, I could pay real money for these additions, and with the belated release of E. Honda as a playable character in the latest update I almost did. But as my finger hovered over the Purchase button I asked myself how much I was prepared to embrace this new normal.
The economy of having large sections of the game locked behind a paywall, of facing a grind I would never reach the end of, convinced me that I was no longer prepared to play Capcom’s game. My time with Street Fighter V is done. If this is the DNA for Street Fighter VI and beyond, my journey as a World Warrior has finally, bitterly, reached its end.
By reader ProEvoSan78 (PSN ID)
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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