Over the past week, we've connected with a few notable tournament players to share their thoughts on the first major balance patch for Street Fighter V. Season 2 has taken an interesting direction for the game that most are still coming to grips with due to a variety of meta and character-specific changes.
Keeping in mind that the game will take some time to adjust, there's a good chance polarized views in the scene may change in the coming months. As we continue our Season 2 interview series, we caught up with tournament veteran Kevin 'Dieminion' Landon to discuss his thoughts on Capcom's refined approach for the game. [Cue Guile theme.]
Now that you’ve had a chance to play, what are your overall thoughts with the new update?
So far the game is the same aside from what some characters (Ibuki, Juri, Rashid for example) can do with their moves. The main difference is the addition of Akuma in SFV. The game seems to be going in the right direction in terms of quality game play.
Previously it was difficult to tell if the game came down to the better player winning. At this point it still may be that way since players have to delve into the new meta, but more time with the game will tell that part. For me personally, the game will feel the same until the five new characters start to get into the mix. The game will become for interesting for me.
How would you describe the new direction for Street Fighter V?
The game looks like it's going in the direction from mindless set play and in the direction more neutral play. In terms of game play, Capcom seems to have collected enough data from the first season to know how they want the game to play.
The first release of a game can always be iffy. With more time and updates, the game can become polished enough to appeal to players, spectators and even the developers themselves. When the tournament season starts we will see how the game plays out whether intentional or not.
Do you think the game needs additional sub systems or combo variances to give it more depth?
Being the first Street Fighter to actively appeal to the masses, it has to have a sense of simplicity for new viewers and the major majority of the masses to truly enjoy the game. Too many mechanics can be confusing and uneasy on new eyes trying to understand fighting games.
Personally I still feel that characters aren't separated by how unique they feel, like Capcom has intended for version two. The V-trigger mechanic for a lot characters doesn't make them feel different from some other characters at all in fact. It's basically just power up of existing moves. Some exceptions are Karin with her rekka combinations, Rashid's big tornado, Nash's teleport etc. Those are moves they don't have access to normally and that defines unique for me. More characters need this.
What are your thoughts about the recent changes to Guile and FANG?
Guile was really good in Season One. Something that alerted me when he released initially was his ability to easily make comer combos, something that took more charge skill to execute in SF4. In season two, his corner combos are toned down and his overall damage, but his potential damage with the two bar V-Trigger is better in the corner with combos if you can execute them and he can use it twice every round.
That also means has more chances to turn the tides in neutral as well. His sonic boom also got a ten damage buff increase, something I don't necessarily agree with since his zoning game is so strong anyway. Also because Nash's sonic boom didn't get a damage buff. All in all Guile is solid, just a bit changed to put more more effort to win with. I'm satisfied with his changes.
I'm disappointed with FANG, honestly speaking. His V-Trigger is just the ability to do charge moves without charge AFTER you've made contact with a normal. It's a lazy idea. His new combo from standing light punch into standing heavy punch is super situational. All of his setups from season one are either altered or removed.
His neutral game is the same, but hindered since all of his important buttons gained more startup. His crouching light punch was useless, but now EVEN MORE useless since standing medium kicks' startup was slowed down. It was the only thing you could combo into on counter hit only before. Laura received a true buff to her cr.LP, which was bad before, but FANG didn't (too powerful for him I guess). His zoning is literally the same outside of a three frame reduction on his ex poison balls and his MK Ryobenda (trap) lasts for 20 more frames.
So I'm inferring he should be played more defensively. Offensively he's worse. He didn't receive frame advantage to needed moves, like his standing heavy kick and his crouching light kick. So characters with meterless 3rd frame invincible DP's can always interrupt him if he starts with those moves, even Guile's meterless flashkick now, which FANG's cr,LP has it's only use previously. Standing HK slowed down by TWO frames (WHAT?).
His HK trap lasts for 20 frames longer as well, but received 3 more frames of recovery. Ok so he got frame advantage on some normals, but that is only because his normals got slower so they needed to account for that in order for him to keep his original frame advantage. If they want him to be played more defensively, how when his pokes got slower? His zoning is not better, it's the same as season one with no damage increase to his fireballs or trap like Guile's sonic boom.
The only difference I've noticed zoning wise is when his V-Trigger is activated, his HP poison balls have a slightly different arc. His moves are now too slow to effectively punish overheads and he lost his only confirmation from a low attack, so he can't break defense. His main issue is that characters he had trouble with got better and characters he did well against before got buffed, ON TOP OF HIS NERFS.
I'm wishing good luck to anyone that sticks with him for this year, should his changes stay the same.
Do you have any plans to explore other characters?
I have been experimenting with other characters on the side, Alex and Ibuki namely. Players of Alex from season one are overall not happy with his changes and his changes looks similar to FANG in which his pokes were slowed down. He's my top three favorite characters in the game but if he's nerfed overall I won't be using him competitively. I'll have to play more with him before the season starts before I can see his usefulness in the field.
Ibuki on the other hand looks amazing! Her health is on par with Guile, Juri & Nash. Her new ability to do normals after her kite glide gives a whole new exploration. She was already pretty good in season one, but she takes a ton of knowledge and can afford to drop combos for opportunities to get started. She takes a lot of games to finally put the pieces together.
So I feel like players of Ibuki can shine even more so due to her rarity and what it takes to be good with her. Paired with Guile as a team looks like they can cover the majority of matchups as well. She should be a main focus for me going into the second season.
But I'm really interested in the new characters. Everyone think the first silhouette is Helen/Kolin who works with Urien & Gill. She looks really interesting and I'm eager to see who the other new characters will be.
Do you feel the update will allow players to play a more reactive, neutral game?
Just a bit I think. In the beginning it was hard since the game was new and players were gradually becoming adjusted to the game in general. But the nature of SFV makes it tough anyways so it's just a matter of being on point or just staying out of situations that makes it troublesome to play reactionary.
It's really about who makes the first move and if the person defending can react to said move properly. I feel the game can't be more neutral based since it's basic to begin with. There are no extra layers to neutral compared to a game like Marvel vs. Capcom, Guilty Gear, King of Fighters or Tekken. It's a bare bones fighter. Currently SFV has the least options so you just have to work with what you have and make what you think the best move is.
If it works, great. If it doesn't, at least in season two the mindless set play has been reduced so you're likely to get another chance.
Based on your first impressions, what characters do you forsee being the strongest or weakest in 2017?
In the beginning, I think Chun, Ryu, Ken, Karin, Laura, Cammy, Necalli, Guile, and Balrog will be effective since players already have a grip on how to play them. Down the line I see Akuma, Ibuki, Urien, Juri, Rashid, Dhalsim, and Zangief since they require more exploration.. Nash I think got some things normalized, but nerfed since people started to figure him out towards the end of the season.
Weakest characters: I can't say but FANG is in there. His deficiencies and what he can't do is incomparable to the rest of the cast.
North America demonstrated that the caliber of play is much closer to Japan compared to previous years. What steps must be taken for this region to level up as a whole?
For starters, the character balance are closer. Top Japanese players are known to play the strongest characters in the past and season one was no difference. For instance, no Japanese Alex, FANG or Zangief player from season one made an impression in the Capcom Pro Tour. So as long as trying to put characters on an even playing field a much a possible remains a priority in balance, there are no excuses for another region to fall behind unless they don't play and study as much as another region.
Speaking of studying, that is another factor when it comes to keeping up. Studying players, why they do what they do when the choose to do it, setups, spacing, overall neutral, play styles, all these factors are important. Talk about the game a lot with other players in your region who have similar interest and drive as you do. Don't just play, play, play. Breakdown high level or notable matches and see what you can gather to use and innovate new ideas.
Lastly, it just comes down to what you can do under tournament pressure, which separate tourney players from everyone else when money is on the line. Staying in good physical and mental health a very important factor. Mind-execution coordination is something you need to keep sharp to be consistent. Keeping your hands, or whatever other body part you use to be competitive in good health, so that you can hit buttons at the right timing. Gamers are known statistically for having below average health, but another topic for another time.
Where would you like to see Street Fighter V a few years from now?
Well, people are working hard behind the scenes to make Street Fighter and fighting games as a whole bigger and more known to the world. Since we are known as esports, I would definitely love to see Street Fighter on the same level as the more popular esports titles.
It really just comes down to getting the masses interested in the games and making it accessible for them to understand. More likable and household personalities, more content creation from popular players etc. At least now we know it's heading in the right direction, we just have to master the formula more. The future is looking bright for fighting games as a whole.