Well it’s been about a week since E3 wrapped up and I’ve had some time to process what I’ve learned about SFV. Keep in mind that these impressions are after playing as much as I had time over the course of the 3-day event. Although I’m a longtime Street Fighter player, there may be some things that I got wrong and there will almost certainly be things that change in the game as we get closer to release.
The game will be available at different events and locations, as well as July 23-28 during the online beta (available for those that pre-order), so if you plan on going to any of these events and want to have a leg up on the competition and start formulating a strategy, here’s a quick primer on the main differences that stood out between SF4 and SFV.
The most noticeable difference between SF4 and SFV is the V-System. In SF4, the equivalent is the Revenge Gauge aka the Ultra Meter, which allows you to unleash a Level 1 or Level 2 Ultra Combo.
In SFV, this has been changed to the V-Trigger Meter which is built up similarly, but not quite the same. The V-Gauge, like the Ultra Meter, fills up by taking damage and resets every round, however, that’s where the similarities end. V-Gauge can also be built by using your V-Trigger move effectively and by blocking your opponent’s attacks. Also, some characters have a two-stock V-Gauge such as Ryu and Cammy, however others have a three-stock meter such as Birdie and M. Bison.
Rather than giving you access to an Ultra Combo which was used as a comeback mechanic in SF4, filling up your V-Gauge gives you access to V-Trigger Mode and V-Reversals.
Each character has a unique V-Skill that can be used by pressing Medium Punch (MP) and Medium Kick (MK) simultaneously. Some characters like Ryu, Nash, and M. Bison have a parry or parry-like move that can deflect regular attacks and projectiles. Others, like Cammy and Chun Li, have attacks that can be used specifically to fill holes in their general gameplans.
V-Skills build V-Gauge when they make contact with the opponent, even if they are blocked. However, a parry V-Skill will not build meter if whiffed. Parry V-Skills seem to build about ⅓ of one V-Trigger stock if you land one successfully. For a character like Ryu or Nash, that means that if you successfully parry six projectiles, you will have a fully stocked V-Gauge and can activate V-Trigger.
Birdie has a slightly different approach to his V-Skill. Instead of it being a parry or an attack, Birdie takes a bite of what seems like a candy bar which builds his V-Trigger gauge about ⅓ of a bar.
V-Reversals are SFV’s version of Alpha Counters from the Street Fighter Alpha series. They are performed by pressing forward and all three punches or all three kicks, depending on the character.
They cost one stock of V-Gauge and can be used to quickly create space between you and your opponent when they are applying pressure. If V-Reversal is used when the opponent is grounded, it pushes them just outside of throw range. If it is used when they opponent is airborne, they get knocked down further away.
One notable difference is Nash, whose V-Reversal is a teleport that puts him behind the opponent and can get him out of sticky situations.
V-Reversal can be used to save yourself from taking chip damage, even if you are about to be chipped out by a Critical Art. For example, if Ryu does cr. MK xx Critical Art, Birdie can V-Reversal the cr. MK to avoid being hit by the Critical Art.
V-Trigger is available when your V-Gauge meter is fully stocked, with either two or three bars, depending on the character. Once V-Trigger is activated, your character becomes specially powered up, usually allowing for faster movement and higher damage on various attacks.
Special moves also become enhanced with different properties such as Ryu’s Denjin Fireballs becoming unblockable, faster, or creating a momentary stun if blocked. Other moves, such as Cammy’s Spiral Arrow go faster and through the opponent if blocked, making them harder to punish and allowing additional juggle possibility if it successfully hits.
When activated, the V-Gauge starts to shrink slowly, lasting about 13 in-game seconds for two-stock characters such as Ryu and Cammy, however it can last up to 35 seconds on characters with three-stock V-Gauges like Birdie.
There are a few factors that can shorten the length of V-Trigger once it’s activated. Some characters such as Cammy, seem to use up some of their V-Trigger gauge when using special moves like Spiral Arrow, especially if they are blocked by the opponent. Your V-Trigger gauge is also shortened when taking Counterhit damage in these instances.
Other characters like Ryu seem to not have their V-Gauge affected when using special moves when V-Trigger is active.
V-Trigger can be activated by pressing Heavy Punch (HP) and Heavy Kick (HK) together, either in the neutral game or cancel a special-cancelable move like Ryu or Cammy’s cr. MK. This allows for V-Trigger to be used in combos as well as in the neutral game or after a knockdown.
Although technically it could be considered a comeback mechanic, it’s not a traditional comeback mechanic in the same way that Ultra Combos are in SF4 or X-Factor is in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. You still definitely have to earn the extra damage potential that V-Trigger affords.
One notable difference in V-Trigger activations is Nash. Whereas most other characters have enhanced damage, speed, or movement properties that last for quite some time, Nash’s V-Trigger is a controllable teleport that puts you either behind, in front of, or above and behind the opponent. This allows for extremely dynamic mix-up potential as well as a way to get out of sticky corner pressure situations.
With V-Trigger being built up relatively quickly, it’s possible to activate twice per round or to use one stock on a V-Reversal or two throughout the round and have enough time to build up a second V-Trigger gauge towards the end of the round.
Additionally, V-Trigger does have some start-up frames, meaning that characters can be hit out during its activation. However, even if you get hit out of the V-Trigger startup, you still maintain your activation and the special properties your character gains.
It will be interesting to see how V-Trigger usage strategy develops and evolves as people gain more experience with the system and the game.
The Combo System
The combo system has been revamped a bit with SFV. From my understanding, there has been additional input leniency added to the game to make very tight one and 2-frame links easier to perform. Also, priority linking (plinking) has been removed so this technique used in SF4 to make combos easier is no longer necessary.
This reduction in precision required aligns with what seems to be a shift in design philosophy. With V-Reversal, V-Trigger, and V-Skills requiring no complicated motions or precision, increased input leniency seems like a step in the right direction.
SF4 combos starting frequently with cr. LK or cr. LP no longer work the same way in SFV. For example, Ryu’s crouching Light Punches still chain into each other, but don’t seem to link into cr. MP the same way.
Instead, SFV makes more use of Target Combos than in SF4. Ryu, for example, can do st. MP, st. HP, st. HK with relatively little precise timing required. Nash, in particular, has a plethora of Target Combos to keep opponents in blockstun or to do extra damage if he gets an opening.
This emphasis on Target Combos and less focus on the tight timing of links should result in more players being able to spend less time on difficult execution training and more time on strategy development.
A new meter addition to SFV is the Stun Meter. Although Dizzies have been present in all Street Fighter games, SF4 did not have a Stun Meter visible, making it sometimes hard to tell how close your opponent was to being Dizzied. This is a feature most recently seen in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, and is a welcome addition to SFV.
In 3rd Strike, it was relatively rare to see a dizzy because most combos didn’t do a large amount of stun damage. However, in SFV, the Stun Meter builds up quite quickly in lots of situations, making it easy to tell when you should be keeping the pressure on your opponent.
Conversely, when you are on the one about to be stunned, you can use the Stun Meter to your advantage if you anticipate your opponent getting over-eager trying to land the last hit or two required to dizzy you.
The Magic Pixel refers to the last bit of life you have in your health bar. In all previous Street Fighter games, if you had 1% or less health, you could be chipped out by a special move such as a Fireball or a Super Combo. In SFV, you cannot be chipped out by special moves, making it always possible to mount a comeback with smart decisions and clutch play.
One notable exception to this rule is that you can still be chipped out by a Critical Art. However, Critical Arts take all three stocks of your EX Gauge so it is a relatively expensive way to end a round if you’re not going to win the game.
Throws & Crouch Tech
In previous Street Fighter games such as 3rd Strike and SF4, it was possible to protect against throws with a “crouch tech,” an Option Select that allows the defending player a usually less-risky option than whiffing a standing throw.
In previous games, if you blocked low and hit LP and LK simultaneously, this would tech the opponent’s throw and you would safely escape. If the opponent did anything but throw such as block, attack or jump, a cr. LK would come out, making it a relatively low-risk way to escape throw pressure. Combined with the fact that lots of characters in SF4 can start combos with cr. LK, crouch teching became a technique widely abused by players of various skill levels, since it seemingly had very little risk with high reward.
In SFV, crouch teching has been removed completely. In this game, any time you press LP and LK simultaneously, a throw is executed. This means that even if you are blocking low, if you attempt a crouch tech, a standing throw will come out, leaving you extremely vulnerable if your opponent is anticipating it and can punish accordingly with a high-damage combo.
Apparently, there is some evidence that it is possible to crouch tech via plinking LP and LK, however, the timing is extremely strict and it's possible that this may be removed later in development.
No Focus Attack
One glaring difference between SF4 and SFV is the absence of Focus Attacks. Executed in SF4 by pressing MP+MK, Focus Attacks were used to absorb one hit from your opponent and counter-attack with an attack that could crumple the opponent if charged long enough.
Focus Attacks were frequently used in SF4 in the neutral game to control space and with some characters like Fei Long, Akuma, and El Fuerte having relatively strong Focus Attacks compared to others like Balrog and Rose, this created a somewhat unfair playing field for certain characters.
They were also used to cancel special moves such as Shoryukens to either get out of sticky wakeup situations safely or extend combos into Ultra. This has been removed in SFV.
Focus Attacks in have instead been replaced with the V-Skill, which is a move unique to each character.
No Backdash Invincibility
One controversial feature that was frequently abused in SF4 was the backdash invincibility that all characters had. Most characters in SF4 have 8 frames of backdash startup invincibility, combined with the fact that they are airborne as well, made characters like Rose and Chun Li extremely hard to pin down after a knockdown.
Additionally, techniques like Focus Attack Backdash made it possible to absorb one hit and then use the backdash invincibility to escape offensive pressure after being knocked down.
SFV has done away with the backdash invincibility, although you are still considered airborne during its startup. This makes having strong defense as well as the ability to tech throws even more important since there are fewer practical escape options since there are no crouch techs and no way to Focus Attack Dash Cancel (FADC) a wakeup Reversal such as a Shoryuken.
White Damage on Blocked Normals
This is a feature brand new to the Street Fighter series. In previous games, if you were blocking, the only way you could take damage was from chip damage from a Special or Super move or from a throw. In SFV, you take a small amount of White Damage when blocking normals.
Similar to White Damage in SF4 when absorbing hits with a Focus Attack, White Damage regenerates once a few seconds have passed after avoiding the opponent’s attacks. However, if your opponent connects successfully with an attack while you’ve taken White Damage, you lose the White Damage and it will not regenerate.
This is to dissuade heavy “turtling” players that are content with blocking low, blocking overheads high, and reacting to throws with crouch techs. This was a frustrating element of SF4, as some players with very strong defense were able to block nearly everything an opponent could throw at them with relative impunity.
In SFV, you must be conscious of the White Damage you incur through blocking normals and with the absence of crouch teching, it becomes even more dangerous to be locked down in the corner. This encourages more movement the the usage of high-risk Reversal options like Shoryukens because it’s no longer safe to just hold down back to block.
Overall Higher Damage
One noticeable change to SFV compared to SF4 is the overall increase in damage that combos, special moves and Critical Arts do. Higher damaging combos makes for faster, more exciting rounds that make the game feel faster and less forgiving than SF4.
Combined with a visible Stun Meter, V-Trigger activation and Magic Pixel, comebacks can definitely happen quicker than in SF4, although they have to be earned through several decisions rather than one decision resulting in an Ultra Combo that did a large chunk of damage.
You Start on the Same Side you End On
In every previous Street Fighter game, if you were on the 1st Player side, you start every round of the game on that side, no matter which side you were on when the round ended. In SFV, the side you start on is the same as the side you ended on. I’m not really sure what the purpose is of this, except to make it somewhat more realistic like a real street fight.
This change is not quite as pronounced as in other fighting games like Mortal Kombat X, where not only do you start on the same side, but you also start in the same position on the screen. In MKX, this is extremely important because if you lose a round in your corner, you start the next round at a significant disadvantage because you’re already in the corner.
SFV is more forgiving in this regard because you still start in the center of the stage. This can be confusing in mirror matches because if you’re not paying attention, you might forget which side you’re on and spend the first moment of the match confused as to why your character is not moving the way you intended.
That’s about all I have for this installment. Please leave comments and feedback and let me know if I missed anything or got something wrong.