While the basics of Street Fighter 5 are the very same that have underpinned the fighting game series since the groundbreaking Street Fighter 2, Capcom has tweaked its mechanics in some subtle, but important, ways. And while there are a raft of excellent resources online, Street Fighter 5 itself does an awful job of explaining what's new. The less said about the frankly terrible tutorial that's currently in the game, the better.
So, we thought it would be useful to run through the biggest changes for those moving from Street Fighter 4 to Capcom's latest. Have a gander, then get stuck in.
V-Skill, V-Trigger and Critical Arts
Street Fighter 4's Focus Attack has been ditched and replaced by a V-Skill, which works differently for each character but retains the same medium punch and medium kick input command. Nash, for example, absorbs a projectile. M. Bison reflects a projectile. Ryu's is a parry. Birdie has three: he can eat a doughnut to fill his V-Gauge, eat a banana then drop the skin on the ground, or down a can of pop then roll it slowly along the floor (best). It's worth experimenting with each character's V-Skill to see how they work and which suits your play-style best. They're fun!
If you have a full V-Gauge you can use your character's V-Trigger (hard punch and hard kick pressed together). This alters the state of your character so that they, typically, do more damage and move faster. But it's worth digging into the V-Triggers because they also change the way some special moves work, adding hits here and there, and open up new combo potential. Nash's V-Trigger is a cool teleport. Oh, and make sure you check out Necalli's V-Trigger. It's over 9000!
Street Fighter 4's cinematic high damage Ultra Combos have been ditched in favour of Critical Arts, but they work almost exactly the same. To do a Critical Art you need a full Critical Gauge, and, typically, they involve two quarter circle motions and a single button press. Give them a whirl - some are pretty cool to watch!
Crush Counters, Stun Gauge and Quick Rise
One important new mechanic for Street Fighter 5 is the Crush Counter. Each character has a couple of normal attacks that cause a unique stun state if they hit the opponent at the right time (the early stages of your opponent's attack). This opens up a brief window of opportunity for you to launch a devastating combo of your own. Crush Counters usually require just a single button press, so players of most skill levels should be able to utilise them.
Have you noticed the small Stun Gauge that sits underneath your character's health bar? This is really important, as it lets you know how close you are to dizzying your opponent. As you land attacks in quick succession, the bar fills, encouraging you to stay on the offensive. Street Fighter 5 really is a much more aggressive game than Street Fighter 4.
In Street Fighter 5 you can quickly get up after being knocked down in almost all situations by pressing either two punch buttons or two kick buttons as you land. This helps deal with the "vortex" style of attack that was prevalent during Street Fighter 4's early days. But remember, you may not want to get up quickly in all situations: staying on the floor for a bit may throw your opponent's timing off.
New characters, old favourites and new mechanics
While 16 launch characters sounds a little limited, some of the characters in Street Fighter 5 really stand out through the use of new, interesting mechanics. Nash, for example, has a special move that, if successful, actually removes meter from his opponent's Critical Gauge (players are already working out Nash playstyles based around this Critical Gauge denial tactic). The mysterious F.A.N.G chucks out poison balls that do damage over time (this "DOT" only ends when F.A.N.G is hit). One thing that took me a while to work out: F.A.N.G's V-Skill chucks out a slow-moving purple ball that poisons his opponent without hitting them in the traditional sense. (If you're facing F.A.N.G you can simply walk through this ball, although it will poison you.) This is how it's supposed to work. Keep those poison balls coming!
Capcom has done a good job or re-jigging returning characters so they feel fresh. Ken is perhaps the best example of this. He has a new haircut, new outfit and a new fighting style that's a lot of fun to play with (his dash run is great). Birdie works completely differently now compared to his Alpha incarnation. And Nash is no longer a Guile clone. He's not even a charge character. Have a mess about with old favourites. You may be surprised.
Chip damage and backdash nerf
In Street Fighter 4, you could K.O. your opponent with chip damage. In Street Fighter 5 you can't unless you use a Critical Art. So forget about chucking out a slow-moving projectile timed to land just as your opponent wakes up. You need to get stuck in if you want that win.
In Street Fighter 4, backdashing granted your character brief invincibility, and it was used by many players to escape tricky situations. In Street Fighter 5, backdashing lets you escape a throw attempt and helps you get out of range of some attacks, but it no longer grants your character brief invincibility. So you need a new game plan for wakeup. Perhaps consider the new V-Reversal, which consumes one bar of your V-Gauge.
The new training mode is worth a look
Street Fighter 5's training mode improves upon Street Fighter 4's in almost every way. There are a raft of new options that let you practice your combos, mix-ups and defence. Your control over your "dummy" is absolute. Give it a whirl!
Speaking of training mode, while there's no arcade mode in the game currently (boo!), you can simulate it to a degree with training mode, which lets you set parameters for a K.O. Not ideal, I know, but better than nothing.
You can set Street Fighter 5 to search for a ranked or casual match in the background while you dabble in pretty much any mode, which is great for those looking to practice in training with the occasional ranked match thrown in. This is how I play, and it works great!
Street Fighter 5 can be played offline. Well, the few single-player modes in the game right now can, as you'd expect. But really everything about Street Fighter 5 is geared towards you being signed in to Capcom's servers, so it really does feel like an always online game. For example, you can't earn Fight Money, the in-game currency, without signing in with your Capcom ID. And you really want Fight Money, because you'll use it to buy stuff, such as new downloadable characters, from the in-game shop, due to open in March. Be warned.
Got any cool tips? Let us know in the comments below.