Street Fighter is an intimidating series. It’s a staple at competitive gaming events. Many installments have multiple iterations. There are various move systems and special tactics in play. It’s easy to balk when a new installment approaches. Fortunately, Street Fighter V goes out of its way to welcome all comers. One of the best things you can do after getting the game is to spend at least two or three hours playing offline.
It all starts with the tutorial. It’s forced upon you the first time you play the game. Which is an odd sort of feeling. After all, you come to a fighting game with at least an idea of how things work. You use the left analog stick to move, the action buttons are each tied to an attack and, if you’re new to this particular game, you mash until you find some sort of rhythm that works. Except with Street Fighter V, it educates without talking down to the player.
Perhaps it’s because the tutorial isn’t terribly intrusive. Sure, it makes you show that you know how to walk back and forth, but it also helps you work out timing for dodges and goes through each light, medium, and heavy attack. It helps you understand how blocking works, and how to get past an opponent’s guard. Especially helpful are introductions to the new V-Skill and V-Trigger moves, with the former providing one skill that will help in a pinch and the latter temporarily powering up your character. It takes about five minutes to explain things in a clear, uncomplicated way, then lets you get on with your life. It’s appreciated.
The only important element the Street Fighter V tutorial fails to walk someone through is the V-Reversal, which is unfortunate. As a beginner, you’re going to be comboed into a corner. It’s a sad truth. Eventually, you’ll face someone who knows what he or she is doing. The V-Reversal is triggered by pressing forward, then all three punches at once, to launch a reversal move that will knock down the enemy. It’s one of the handiest moves you can learn, and I recommend going into Training to learn it as soon as possible.
Though, I found the next best thing to do was go through some of the fighters’ personal stories. It feels as though the Story mode is easier than it’s ever been before. Each one is certainly shorter. For most characters, it only takes a few moments to go through their entire, personal journey. Fun fact: Laura has the longest story at five segments. Characters like Ryu and Chun-Li have four each; M. Bison’s is only three segments long.
I’m not exaggerating. R. Mika’s four segment story took me under 10 minutes to complete. There’s no difficulty option, each match only lasts one round, and each storyline lasts three to five segments, with the last of the events being an all-text epilogue. It’s almost like the Street Fighter V Story mode isn’t there to provide actual background for the characters, though there are pretty illustrations and flavor text to offer a hint as to each one’s motivations. Rather, it felt like a tutorial of its own.
R. Mika’s route is a good example. Each of her three matches are against different kinds of fighters. It starts with a Zangief match, a fight against a grappler that relies on throws and getting close to his opponent for hard hits. From there, it goes into a match against Birdie, a charge character that focuses on a high defense and incidental offensive attacks. (In case you missed it, he’s the dude with a booger flick that can kill.) It ends with Laura, a mixup fighter that uses a wide variety of attacks. You’re getting experience handling three different sorts of situations with a character in a controlled environment.
Each Story mode path manages to show people why the Street Fighter V characters are where they are, while also giving people the opportunity to try using moves in an incredibly easy match against different kinds of opponents. It’s so helpful for a beginner, because you’re learning things you can use about the game’s lore and cast, but it’s handled in a way that isn’t condescending or treating you differently than any other player.
From there, it seemed like the Survival and Casual Match modes were the best place to pick up. Survival’s four difficulty levels, beginning with Easy, lets you see how you’d do against opponents that slowly get better and better. Once you’re comfortable with a person picked from Story mode and able to get through three to five matches in Survival on Easy, it’s okay to start broaching Casual Matches in the hopes of picking up real life experience.
It’s funny, because in my first three hours of Street Fighter V, I really felt like I learned something. The time spent with the game’s tutorial, Story, Survival, and Casual Match modes was both entertaining and educational. Each experience was teaching me something, even if I didn’t realize it. Street Fighter V never wore out its welcome and always made me feel welcome. This could be the best entry in the series for a beginner.