With the Street Fighter 5 beta now upon us, it's time to take a closer look at how the game plays and what's changed from previous Street Fighter games to now. While many of you haven't been able to access the beta and Capcom has even postponed it at this point, we figured this was a pretty good time to give you something to read while we all wait for the beta to go live again.
Street Fighter 5 introduces some new game mechanics, although they'll probably seem familiar, but it also goes to great lengths to remove a lot of the comebacks Ultra Combos presented in Street Fighter 4. That's not to say that SF5 is going to be harder to play than SF4, because it actually looks like it's going to be much easier to get into. What that means is that players will have to use their skills and raw talent to make a dramatic comeback, instead of simply going for a Dragon Punch made safe by a Focus Attack Dash Cancel (FADC) into an Ultra for 40 percent damage.
No Chip Deaths
The biggest change for Street Fighter players is that you can't chip someone to death in Street Fighter 5 unless you do so with a Critical Art (super move). Gone are the days of special moves chipping an opponent to death. If you have nothing more than a pixel of health left, your opponent will have to actually land a hit if they don't have a full super meter. You can block fireballs all day and you won't die.
This alone is a big change to way Street Fighter 4 played. It was commonplace to see a round end with a blocked combo into a Dragon Punch or fireball because the offensive player knew the chip damage from the special move would be enough to finish the job. Now, unless you have a full super meter you'll have to open up the opponent if you want to score a win when their health is low. Even if you have a full super meter, you still have to get into a position to get the super blocked, and that can be easier said than done with some of the new mechanics in Street Fighter 5.
It seems common in modern fighting games that backdashing to safety is just what you do. Sure, your opponent can anticipate that you're going to backdash and sometimes punish you for it, but from Street Fighter 4 to Mortal Kombat X, the first few frames of a backdash are invincible. That's going to change in Street Fighter 5. You can still backdash to move out of range of an attack or throw, but there are no invincibility frames during the backdash.
What this means for competitive play is that you no longer have to anticipate a backdash. Whether you think a backdash is coming or not, you can just do an attack that travels forward and chances are you'll hit the opponent if they try to backdash. It also helps that Dragon Punch special moves don't have the same invincibility they used to. For Ryu and Ken they have to rely on the medium punch Shoryuken as a reliable anti-air or wake-up attack. Any other strength and it will come out too slow or it won't have enough invincibility to work as a proper anti-air or reversal. Not to mention, without a FADC you can't just throw out a Dragon Punch and make it safe (for most characters).
One of the biggest hurdles for new players in Street Fighter 4 was landing max damage combos for many characters. In many cases, if you wanted to link a jab to a second jab it was a one or two-frame link. Astute players figured out a way to make that easier by plinking (quickly rolling your finger from one button to the next), but it was still difficult for even top players as it wasn't uncommon to see dropped combos.
Street Fighter 5 removes that barrier of entry to high-level play with the hardest links in the game being three frames or better. While a three-frame link isn't exactly easy to pull off, it's significantly easier than a one-frame link. It will still take some practice, but with the adjusted input buffering system in Street Fighter 5, landing your high damage combos won't be your biggest concern. You won't have to fight the system just to pull off a four-hit combo.
Replacing the Revenge Gauge (Ultra Meter) is the V-Gauge or Variable Gauge. It controls the V-Skill, V-Reversal and V-Trigger abilities. By default the meter fills by taking damage. Every time you get hit your V-Gauge will increase slightly. Not all characters have the same V-Gauge though. For example, Nash's V-Gauge is only two bars, while Birdie's is three bars. In addition, Birdie can fill his V-Gauge by using his V-Skill.
The V-Skill is a special move unique to each character. For Ryu it gives him the ability to parry like in Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. Birdie's V-Skill allows him to eat a donut, throw a banana peel on the ground, or roll a can toward the opponent. Meanwhile, V-Triggers are also unique to each character. Birdie gains increased damage and some of his special moves gain armor, Cammy's special moves become harder to push and gain juggle properties in some cases, and Chun-Li's attacks become two hits instead of one.
If all of this weren't enough, the Alpha Counter returns from the Street Fighter Alpha series in the form of the V-Reversal. When you block an attack, press Forward and all three punch buttons to execute a reversal attack that will drain one bar from your V-Gauge. It just gives players another defensive option, and with the V-Gauge resetting every round, there's no excuse to save your meter to use in the next round.