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Experience of a Saiyan Elite: Closer look at Street Fighter V’s Story

Yes sir, we’re back around for another scouter check on Street Fighter V. I don’t think I’ll make a habit out of delving into each layer of SF5, but I don’t see any harm coming from it. If you don’t mind the spoilers jump right in and let’s get down to business.

Now, I cannot stress enough that I’ll be taking apart as many pieces as I can, so if you don’t care at all or already know please proceed. Last warning ***FULL SPOILERS AHEAD!***

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Y’all tucked in? Herrre we go… Once upon a time, not long ago, where Ryu wore pajamas & struggled with the dark hadou. I’ll stop, I couldn’t resist. Let me preface this with I didn’t expect much from the first organized Street Fighter story. True, there was the Alpha series, but there were some discrepancies with SFA2 & SFA3. On top of that, the endings had to be pieced together to see what really happened. What really set my standards low was that the Capcom creative staff were also the masterminds behind the Marvel vs. Capcom and Darkstalkers continuities. For those with expectations on this story, you were more than likely disappointed and I’m sorry for that because given the rocky road we’ve been on with this game, someone has to say it.

To give the benefit of the doubt, the storyboard and dialogue were most likely done in Japanese, so the interactions & humor might have not crossed over as anticipated due to cultural differences. Also, I understand there are rumors swirling around that there will be story DLC possibly every season, but be it as it may, they're just rumors at this time; this is my critique solely on 'A Shadow Falls'. To best summarize it, the whole thing feels rushed, like the rest of the single player content. For me, the humor felt awkward. I cringed more than I laughed, not to say that a story has to be serious all the time, though. It’s just the gags and animations were more miss than hit.

Plot’s pretty standard. You have your typical evil overlord in Bison (feel free to mentally fill in whatever trope terms I’m missing as you read along) bent on enhancing his power to critical mass while making the entire world subservient & the fate of the Earth is in the hands of the strongest World Warriors... sounds hunky dory so far. After the introduction, though, you get the feeling of having wandered into fan fiction territory the way the remaining good characters were assembled and thrown at Bison. This approach isn’t inherently bad, but can be sloppy if it isn’t executed right. Which leads me to the biggest flaw in 'A Shadow Falls': missed opportunities. Opportunities to flesh out the given roster, how they relate to each other, clarify questions on the canon and make more of an impact with this being the first packaged story handed down by Capcom themselves.

Case in point, Street Fighter is an expansive universe with colorful characters and very, very few were even referenced outside of the roster. The likes of a yokozuna caliber sumo, famous stuntman, master of bushinryu and the former king of muay thai weren’t on Karin’s top ranked list. This is the story told of how Shadaloo fell… considering the ties Sagat had and his reform as a character, not a single reference of him was a painful omission. To add to that, with Psycho Power being a constant presence, the connection that Rose  -- and I can’t believe I’m saying this, Ingrid -- have to it would warrant an appearance. Granted, from a developer’s standpoint you’d have to be wary of whom you include and tease to a fanbase at the risk of backlash, so we’ll see just what Capcom has planned should they add on to this.

Putting aside wishful cameos, we still have 22 characters and a Combofiend extra to watch as they deal with their own agendas. Start off with the guy who has been dead since 1998, Charlie Nash. The dead man living on borrowed time, consumed with vengeance and struggling between his humanity and monstrosity; it’s a solid concept. What missed the mark that we were all looking forward to were the interactions between him & Guile. No chemistry at all. Which can be understandable on Charlie's part, what with dealing with his own mortality and all, but on the part of Guile this is a detriment. The Family Man has been on a lone mission for revenge/searching for his dead friend and doesn’t pay so much as a ‘where you been?’ or ‘what happened to you?’ during the entire production. At the point that they seemed to be cool with each other again, they spent their time separate then (again if you’re this far, you spoiled yourself) Guile delivers a weak sendoff as Charlie sacrifices himself. What’s the sense of bringing back a character to axe him off again almost immediately?

Some characters played the part you would expect and it fit the bill. Take Dhalsim in the role of the sage. Passing down his wisdom and help to those that need it and providing the background on Necalli (thank you, Mr. Exposition.) He gets a few shots in and foreshadows that Alex will have his time in the sun (literally handing Alex his one note in the story). Like any elder mentor, he takes a backseat to the younger heroes and it works. Other characters left you unsatisfied in their role like Balrog. He’s destined to be the hired muscle with little brains and nothing more; although having this Ed kid around adds a layer to him. Given that Balrog has always been selfish, it’s interesting that he’s kept the kid around for as long as he has, even if it’s for the sake of taking advantage of him & his powers. Ed, however, seems to be hip to it, so I find it to be a curious dynamic at work.

There are a few pleasant surprises in the overall cast, for me Zangief and Karin stick out. Zangief has solidified himself as the Chuck Norris of Street Fighter by doing mind boggling things I haven’t seen since Heihachi in Tekken 6. Karin’s return was definitely capitalized on. Fully matured from her schoolgirl Alpha 3 self & asserted herself to the forefront of the battle by utilizing her resources to round up the World Warriors with her underlings… Nick Fury much? To one up these two in particular, Juri and Urien stole the show. Through this story mode, I finally understand what makes Juri so popular. I would go so far as to say she is the most developed on the roster, personality wise. For Urien, perhaps it may be that we haven’t seen him in forever and the anticipation is building for his release, but he commands presence in the two scenes that he appears in.

For the newcomers, we have a very mixed bag. Out of the four, Rashid receives the most development, starting off as a goofy man child then later displaying some emotional depth. He serves as the primary comic relief and establishes a bad blood rivalry with the secondary silly man in F.A.N.G. To give F.A.N.G’s character credence, the story has him as the architect of Operation C.H.A.I.N.S. and murders Rashid’s unnamed friend… seriously, I still don’t even know the gender of this person. For new characters in an iconic franchise, especially ones as annoying as F.A.N.G. is, you need to throw them a few bones to legitimize their place in the universe and that’s fine. This flamboyant underling did get a few chuckles out of me, so I give him due respect.

The other two see a steep drop-off. Laura left much to be desired as she was just there along for the ride. She also comes across as obnoxious. Not just by being an overbearing older sister, but in her interactions with the other heroes; whether this is really intentional for her design or not, it is what it is and it can leave you feeling disappointed. Necalli, well… I motion to remove any reference of Super Saiyan from him because it’s disrespectful to Dragonball Z. Necalli gets no development at all as a character and serves just as a physical manifestation of Ryu’s inner hurdle to overcome. I personally don’t care at all for this character; I think Blanka bops Necalli free. That’s just me and don’t let me stop you from liking Necalli at all. However, something I’ve learned throughout my 7 years of pursuing a professional career in writing is the telltale sign of a well-designed character is when you emote towards their actions and traits regardless of whether it’s hate or love. It is a crucial part of storytelling to have the working parts get a rise out of their audience. F.A.N.G. is annoying and clownish by design and you hate him for it, which is still better than being indifferent towards someone. Wrestlers lose their jobs when the crowd’s indifferent to their gimmick. Don’t be mistaken though, hating a character because it’s misused is not the same as fulfilling the role of a heel. Best example I can think of is look towards the reception Roman Reigns receives.

Backtracking to what opportunities were missed, another glaring omission was clarifying the canon of the past Street Fighter timeline. What really went down during the Alpha saga and Street Fighter II arc? I look to Nash, Bison and Vega as the main offenders in their involvement at the end of the Alpha series. Nash & Bison are self explanatory at this point, but supposedly Vega rescued Cammy and the Dolls from the explosion of the Shadaloo base at the time. Instead of a comment or banter about it, we get the usual Vega vanity speech where he’s talking in beautiful or rather ugly riddles. As a whole, you get the impression that the characters outside of friendship know each other by reputation because there is no nod towards past World Warrior tournaments or previous encounters foiling Shadaloo. Not even for the sake of humor, which would’ve benefited Birdie’s rank on the relevant totem pole. ‘Looks like you’re not sick anymore’ or ‘Whoa, you let yourself go huh?’ from an old SF vet towards the big oaf would’ve guaranteed cheap laughs.

For some characters, you didn’t know what to expect, but were underwhelmed anyway. You can say that as hired Kanzuki hands, the budding rivalry of Ibuki & R. Mika is something that’s going for the two. The strongest woman in the world had only one (1) playable fight, though. How does Chun-Li get lost in the shuffle like that? Our first lady of Street Fighter doesn’t even throw her weight around as an Interpol agent to street cops that don’t look Brazilian at all… I’m just saying. Cammy as a standalone character, I agree, falls under this category. However, her ties with the Dolls brought some emotion and closure to the story; one of the few highlights in 'A Shadow Falls'.

The Shoto boys, just like their in-game design, were a rock solid foundation that Capcom banked on. Ken is truly the family man now and portrays the eternal loyal friend & rival to Ryu well. Almost in the sidekick role to the chosen one, but we do get a nod to the mentorship of Sean. Even though there's no blatant confirmation, it is assumed by us knowledgeable players. It is interesting with what they done with Ryu, although it is textbook… then again, what isn’t textbook with Ryu? Very early, we start with his struggle with the Satsui no Hado, then he disappears for the middle portion to finally surface later, confronting his demon. It is there we see the transition to the mature Ryu that is rid of the murderous intent in SF3. 'A Shadow Falls' is the first cinematic story of SF, so no longer is it assumed that Ryu saves the day; he is clear cut chosen in similar fashion to Goku. Any DBZ fan can see the problem already with that notion. The face of your brand slays the big bad and that’s cool; the issue is the devaluing of the support heroes.

Bison is an enemy to all and powerful enough to fight them off by the bunch. More often than not, yes, it is one person to strike the final blow, but people didn’t even have a crack at Bison to at least wear him down. Charlie failed to put a dent in him… so where is that buildup, that intensity that we’ve seen for 25 years in Guile to crack Bison with a no look backfist? We didn’t see any kind of retribution from Chun-Li or Cammy for the hell that Bison put them through. Hell, Ken and Juri could’ve gotten some burn in a futile or collective effort. Alas, it wasn’t in the script, but what was... passes.

In the end, we see the fall of an empire as everyone watches on with us. The heroes celebrate their victory while the villains move on, maybe even fade away. For the Illuminati, they look to move in as we start to head towards SF3’s timeline with Gill (yuck) pulling the strings. This is all topped off with a sure shot way to close 'A Shadow Falls': a match between the two that’ve been in this from the start. Was it safe on Capcom’s part? Yeah, but you can never go wrong with a call back to the roots of what this franchise evolved from.

Too long, didn’t read: there are some good highlights for 'A Shadow Falls' that salvages it. I wasn’t impressed with the filler fights against NPCs, excluding the Dolls. Having the Dolls is a nice touch to give Shadaloo more presence in quantity. What concerns me is how Decapre seems to be pasted straight from Ultra, I really don’t want to go through another clone fiasco should she show up next year on the roster. As far as the story, I appreciated the Doll subplot getting closure… it was one of the few things that did. For all the answers that I’ve gotten playing through the game, I’m left with one big question: Is Capcom truly committed to killing off their characters?

This is way off in the future since SF5 isn’t even a half year old yet, so just bare with me on this. It’s not unheard of to bring back characters from the dead more than once and sometimes it doesn’t take a logical explanation; so what is going to happen to Nash, Bison and maybe F.A.N.G. come Street Fighter VI? Do you abide by the canon now and leave them dead for the rest of the series or compromise someway and have them on any future rosters? I don’t see how you leave Charlie & Bison out of a Street Fighter game, but time will tell with this situation.

My final grade, I give it a solid C+ with some noteworthy highlights and plenty of room to improve; because of this, I completely understand if you would give it a harsher grade. SF5 is successful in providing a robust tournament fighter and the 5000+ entries at EVO prove this. Outside of that however, it’s a slow work in progress to get everything up and running in the most ideal form.

Thanks for reading!

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