A 20-match marathon testing out the newest take on Capcom's greatest fighting franchise, as the development studio give us the V - three of them in fact.
We discovered a few surprises during our twenty-match long session with Capcom's latest entry into the fighting genre, and not just with the new entrants to the character roster. One of the biggest was the switch for characters with charge attacks, whose supers are now activated with a quarter circle forward input instead.
A change that takes us a few rounds to realise as in lieu of Guile, we take Charile Nash (seemingly resurrected from the dead and touting a cyborg look) for a spin. Initially, we think there's something wrong with the joypad. He's still able to fire out projectiles and perform summersault kicks, but they're now performed akin to the Shoto fighters in the game. Sonic Boom is performed the same way as a Hadouken, and Sonic Scythe as a Tatsumaki Senpukyaki. The change-up is startling, and he feels like a different fighter.
It's the same for Chun-Li. Her Hyakuretsukyaku, that, with the exception of Street Fighter X Tekken, has remained the same since Street Fighter II, is no longer is performed by hammering the kick button but by a quarter circle forward and kick. It feels like a weird decision. Capcom explain it as a need to make the game easier to newcomers.
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Charge characters aren't completely eradicated from the circuit however, proven by taking out our third choice of the session, M. Bison, for a few rounds. Keeping down/down-back pressed is still standard practice. How widespread the changes to Shotan style is unknown as the full roster is still to be revealed, but as SFIV's lack of charge characters was one of our issues with the title, we hope this isn't a trend towards simplifying the series.
Critical Arts are V's version of IV's Ultras, spectacular and automatic combos with a free roaming camera showing the sequence of attacks from the best possible angle.
Different though and possibly of bigger impact to proceedings are the trio of Vs: the V-Skill, V-Trigger and V-Reversal.
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The latter is pretty much what it sounds like, and brings to mind a clumsier Parry system to that found in Street Fighter III, activated by pressing backwards and the three punch buttons simultaneously when attacked, and giving you a chance to counter your opponent. This'll undoubtedly be important come higher-level matches.
V-Skills differ from character to character, and give each a additional special ability without a super gauge cost. Hitting both medium attacks will allow, say, Charlie to absorb enemy firewhile charging his super gauge faster, while Chun-Li will jump from one side of the screen to the other.
V-Triggers require a full super meter and activate with both strong attacks pressed. Here things get interesting, as for example Ryu gets added damage to his attacks, and his Guard Break abilities are increased.
Stages are now more alive. We can knock out the lights on the Hong Kong level, while finishing with a strong attack in London slams our opponent into a nearby bus. Stage-specific finishers are something we're not particularly interested in, but it's fun to see Capcom try new stuff.
It's visually lush, though at a different end of the scale to Mortal Kombat X, which we still favour. However, Capcom do promise 1080p and 60 frames per second for the PlayStation 4 when the game finally arrives. While the new systems in play raise some question marks, we know it's just a matter of putting the time in to explore their potential. We're itching to do just that.