"STREET FIGHTER V: Arcade Edition," PS4, PC, $39.99, ESRB Rating: T for mild blood, mild language, suggestive themes and violence
After two years of struggling to gain serious traction with both casual and hardcore audiences, "Street Fighter V" has finally reached its potential with the release of its "Arcade Edition" update — an update making the game worthwhile to lapsed players and hesitant newcomers alike.
The recent update adds in a handful of long-awaited features and modes, including Arcade Mode, a staple of virtually every "Street Fighter" game. And while it's not quite at the pinnacle of the fighting game community like past "Street Fighter" games, "Street Fighter V" does a lot of work to accommodate beginners as well as expert players. Capcom has simplified the series' rigid combo system enough to help new players learn some basic bread-and-butter combos for any character, which also allows veteran fighters more leniency in devising high-damage combo links, giving players new ways to smack their friends around through various game modes.
At its launch, "Street Fighter V" suffered from a lack of crucial game modes, but "Arcade Edition" thankfully offers several gameplay options for players. The game's story mode options haven't changed since launch and are still confusing in presentation. The story involves the resurrection of Charlie Nash, and M. Bison and Shadaloo's most recent evil plans, but neither arc is very satisfying. Narrative has never been "Street Fighter's" strong suit, and the awkward pacing and character interactions are sometimes painful to sit through. After games such as "Injustice 2" have shown that fighting games can have compelling story modes, "Street Fighter V" feels like a missed opportunity in that regard.
Fortunately, online competitive play and the new Arcade Mode more than compensate for the game's weak narrative. Players can compete in ranked battles or casual matches that don't reflect on your stats. The game does a good job pairing players with opponents of a similar skill, and it goes a long way to ensure no player feels disadvantaged.
"Street Fighter V" also features a large, colorful cast of characters, and each one is a joy to play. In addition to the game's original roster of 12 characters, the "Arcade Edition" retail package grants players access to season one and season two characters, doubling the size of the game's roster. Some characters, especially a handful of female fighters such as Mika, Lauren and Cammy, suffer from awkward anatomy and comically revealing outfits. A few alternate costumes alleviate these issues, but players will need to plunk down in-game currency to buy the new skins. Regardless, there's enough diversity in the roster to prevent a handful of bad designs from ruining the game.
Thanks to the "Arcade Edition" update, "Street Fighter V" has become a compelling fighting game, and one that lives up to its legacy. Despite the weak story arcs, the game offers excellent online play, training exercises and a wonderful Arcade Mode. New, simplified mechanics help make the game more accessible to newcomers and experts alike, and the growing roster of "Street Fighter" characters helps the game shine. While its original release suffered from a lack of balance and content, "Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition" puts the series back in its place as one of the best fighting games ever.
Note: The "Arcade Edition" update is free to any current owners of "Street Fighter V."