Street Fighter V launched incomplete back in 2016, missing many of the features and much of the depth that characterized its predecessor.
To its credit, Capcom has continued to improve it in the four years since, with a mixture of DLC and free updates leading the way. In Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, the final major update for the game, that is made evident in how complete the game now feels. It may not reach the highs of other fighting games in recent memory, but it is a pretty damn good Street Fighter regardless.
Street Fighter V: Champion Edition is available in several formats. The simplest is picking up a new physical or digital copy, provided you have not previously purchased an earlier edition. If you have, Champion Edition is available for purchase as DLC, giving you access to all the characters and most of the paid costumes and stages. And even if you don’t want to purchase the upgrade, a free update ensures that you’ll have access to all of the latest system changes.
Whether or not you purchase that upgrade depends on how much you want that DLC. While the costumes and stages don’t encompass every paid microtransaction for the game (the Capcom Cup stages are notably not included in Champion Edition), the addition of 24 characters, dozens of stages, and hundreds of costumes make Street Fighter V feel like a finished product in all the ways that the original release wasn’t.
That extends to the bounty of new modes that Capcom has steadily added over the years. Some, such as a classic arcade mode and character-specific missions and challenges, are worth diving into. Others, such as the abysmal cinematic story mode, are tedious at best. It’s faint praise to say that more ways to play Street Fighter V make this newest edition superior over others, but considering the state it originally launched in, it is noteworthy.
Much more worthy of admiration is how balanced Street Fighter V feels. Each fight is a tense experience that rewards patience and timing far more than blind aggression or tenacious defence, and it’s got a rhythm that makes it unlike both previous Street Fighters and other fighting games on the market. This wasn’t always the case, however. Speaking as a player who does not compete at a high level, Street Fighter V felt good to play in its original form but lacked the depth that would be necessary to elevate a fighting game to a higher level.
New characters alleviated this somewhat, but it wasn’t until the addition of a second V-Trigger ability for each character— special moves that can be used a couple of times per fight — a few years ago that the games potential began to be realized. The recent addition of a second V-Skill, which is a quick executable ability for each fighter, expanded on this to the point that several characters have become much more interesting to play. Here’s looking at you Birdie.
Now, choosing a character is much more strategic. There are so many matchups and options to consider that rarely did I feel like the gameplay was stagnant. Conversely, this further highlights how inadequate Street Fighter V’s tutorials actually are in comparison to its competition. In order to become even an adequate player, you’re going to have to put in the hours to grind out training mode or else wallow in the lower ranks of online matchmaking. It’s a process that will inevitably turn off some players, and a better explanation of Street Fighter’s mechanics would go a long way in alleviating this.
One major thing to note about Street Fighter V: Champion Edition is how it completely negates the in-game economy. Capcom long touted the ability to unlock all DLC for free by playing in-game to earn fight money, but in practice, it served only to direct players to buy each piece of DLC in lieu of spending far too much time earning the pitiful amounts of currency. That is still present here but serves no purpose now that most of the DLC is unlocked. It also makes the obnoxious in-game advertisements that much more jarring.
On a technical side, load times have vastly improved, to the point that I don’t feel like I’m wasting away while waiting for a training match to load. A recent netcode update has improved online matchmaking somewhat, but more work needs to be done to, as it is not nearly as stable as it could be. Whether further updates improve it remains to be seen, as it’s clear that Capcom is aiming to sunset Street Fighter V in the coming years.
But that end isn’t in sight yet. Disregarding the reputation of the series and its immediate predecessor, Street Fighter V: Champion Edition is a fantastic fighting game that has finally evolved into a form I’ve long-awaited. Its balance in gameplay and depth of modes makes it worth playing regardless of whether you’re a newcomer or veteran. And when it does finally give way to its eventual successor, I think I’ll look back on Street Fighter V fondly and be thankful that it managed to become the game that it did.