Street Fighter has to serve many different roles to many different types of fans. The series longevity and memorable characters appeal to casual fans, giving them an arcade mode and story to tear through, while its methodical pace and high skill ceiling give competitive players a lot to chew through. But when Street Fighter 5 came out back in 2016, fans across that spectrum were somewhat disappointed. The game’s lack of story mode or arcade mode made many people wonder exactly what they were spending $60 for, and its original roster wasn’t favored by pro players.
While a lot of additions have been made in the last two years — including 12 DLC characters and a three- hour story mode — Street Fighter: Arcade Edition finally puts the current game in a final package that should satisfy pretty much everyone. New skills for every character, a robust arcade mode and a cleanly defined visual style make this feel like the Street Fighter game we were expecting two years ago.
Street Fighter: Arcade Edition’s titular arcade mode feels like far more than just a welcome mat for casual players. It features simplified versions of the storyline for each previous Street Fighter entry, going all the way back to 1987’s Street Fighter. It uses the characters that would have been available in that title (or in some cases, appropriate stand-ins), with obvious spots to slot in fights from the third wave of DLC characters (like Sagat as the penultimate boss of Street Fighter 2). These fights made me wistful, especially when I was taking on M. Bison on a crisp, HD version of his Street Fighter 2 stage. They even include the ridiculous bonus stages, like barrel smashing.
The V-trigger system was Street Fighter 5’s most celebrated innovation, and Arcade Edition offers additional triggers for each fighter, which are selected before the match. These attacks power up characters in unexpected, nostalgic ways. Ryu’s second V-trigger is a counter that will crumple opponents when it connects, in the same way his focus attack would in Street Fighter 4. Ken gets access to a flaming, spinning kick that pulls opponents in, and Chun-Li’s new trigger — an energy blast that can be linked into combos — seems far more useful than her other V-trigger.
A couple characters get fantastic new normal moves too. As a Ryu player who has not enjoyed him as much in Street Fighter 5, his new Donkey Kick feels like a solid addition, with both reach and power.
The game’s new UI update is also pretty fantastic. I always appreciated the character art in this game, but it felt like the UI and game cohesiveness was lacking, especially when compared to the beautiful, thick ink brush strokes seen all over Street Fighter 4. In its new form, Street Fighter 5 sports glittery gold title cards, as well as wipes at the start of the match — little touches that are meant to invoke going live for a high-stakes bout.
The game also feels snappier. The PlayStation 4 version of the original Street Fighter 5 suffered from nasty load times for matches (and playing would sometimes kick my PS4’s fan to buzzsaw volume levels). Matches in Arcade Edition were noticeably faster to load into; I was honestly surprised when the first one popped up so quickly.
Street Fighter 5’s third season of DLC characters is just warming up with Sakura’s release. The series staple, who is now a little older than her previous high school iterations, plays with some of the same shoto moves as she’s always had, with some versatile additions. Her V-skill, Haru Kaze, is a speedy jump that can quickly put you in an opponent’s face, offering lots of combo opportunities. I love that Sakura blends the old and new, and hope she’s exemplary of how the rest of the season’s characters — a mix of favorites like Blanka, Sagat and Cody, and fresh faces like the mysterious G and Falke — flesh out the roster, taking what makes Street Fighter great and evolving it.
Capcom has always promised Street Fighter 5 will be a singular title, eschewing the many-versions-under-one-number system it had employed for previous franchises entries. While some players may be salty that Arcade Edition offers the game’s 12 DLC characters for free to new players (characters could be purchased as part of a season pass, or by earning in-game Fight Money from completing challenges and matches), they’ll still benefit from the arcade mode, UI adjustments and character balance changes, which are being patched in for all Street Fighter 5 owners. But Arcade Edition is the perfect invitation for new players or those who passed on the game the first time around. Now, more than ever, is the best time to jump in.