One of the chief criticisms Street Fighter 5 has faced in the year-and-a-half since it launched is it doesn't have much of a fireball game.
This criticism revolves around the idea that Street Fighter 5 is a much more in your face, up close and personal "rushdown" focused fighting game than previous versions of the series. There isn't much zoning (keeping your opponent away with projectiles) going on because most of the projectiles in the game are pretty much useless, mainly because they're too slow and have too much recovery time.
So, you hardly ever see a good old-fashioned fireball war in Street Fighter 5. Well, over the weekend, at a tournament in Cologne, Germany we got one - and it was awesome.
In a match to determine who would advance into the winner's final at the Capcom Pro Tour Fight Club NRW 8 tournament, Japanese legend Daigo Umehara fought French hopeful Christ "Akainu" Onema in a Guile mirror match. If there's one character who definitely does have a decent fireball game in Street Fighter 5, it's Guile, who can unleash a torrent of his trademark Sonic Booms for an effective zoning style.
In the video below we see the final round of the match descend into a fireball war that rekindled memories of Street Fighter games of the past. Sonic Boom after Sonic Boom cancel themselves out at the middle of the screen as the round timer approaches zero and each character's hit points near their end. It's tense, dramatic stuff.
Ken's fireball? Not great. Chun-Li's fireball? Forget it. Ryu's fireball? A shadow of its former glory. Only Akuma and Guile have much of a fireball game in Street Fighter 5 - and it's the latter character who has the best. It took a high-level Guile mirror-match, then, for a fireball war to break out in Street Fighter 5.
Daigo's winner's final match against Chinese player Xijie "Dark Jiewa" Zeng also showed flashes of a fireball war, with Guile's Sonic Booms contesting Akuma's fireballs (if Guile has the best projectile in Street Fighter 5 right now, Akuma has the second best). In both matches Diago is the victor, his perfectly-timed projectiles combined with his ability to know when to block a projectile rather than contest it with one of his own clear for all to see. (You can watch the full tournament top eight in the video below.)
The tournament made me miss the Street Fighter fireball battles of old. Don't get me wrong - I love Street Fighter 5, despite some of the questionable decisions Capcom has made with the game - but I do quite fancy the "Street Fighter 101" of positioning your character in such a way that you repeatedly Dragon Punch a frustrated opponent who dares to jump over one of your projectiles. It might not be much fun to watch, but there's a satisfaction to be had from zoning your opponent to death - and you don't get much of that with Street Fighter 5.