Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 19th April 2020.
Street Fighter V: Champion Edition (PS4 and PC, £24.99)
THIS has been on a real journey since its launch four years ago. Fans weren’t overly impressed and it seemed like the bare bones of the game it really should have been. The key, it seemed, that Capcom could build on those bare bones. However, they took a few wrong turns along the way. Now they are trying to put things right and hoping that the blood caused in the community isn’t terminal for the patient. History has shown that Capcom often revise their brawlers and Street Fighter V is no exception — but the Champion Edition is how many would have liked the 2016 version to have looked. Many of the bugs and issues have been ironed out. Capcom have listened to the fans who stuck with the game and they have patched and rebalanced their little souls out. The result is that Champion Edition is the most refined version to date.
Fans who bought the 2016 game will have seen the improvements in updates, so what does this actually bring to the table? The answer: content. Lots of it — from modes, challenges, 200 costumes, 34 stages and every character that has ever been released for the game. That’s a 40-strong roster plus Gill from Street Fighter 3 and Seth from Street Fighter 4. Spoiler alert: you may get characters but you don’t get every piece of DLC for the game. Capcom have also done a bit of rebalancing so some moves have been buffed and there is a new V skill which changes up the core combat too. Also, if you already own the core game, you can buy this Champion Edition as a lump add-on which is cheaper than the full package although that may annoy fans who invested in past DLC.
The fighting is still really satisfying and enjoyable. Yes, we know the hardcore fans will say different and we understand that if you spent hours learning a main move only for them to change could be upsetting. Very upsetting. But if you’re throwing it on when a mate comes round for a few fights, it is brilliant fun. The solo section could frustrate you because the difficulty yo-yos all over the place. But, if you master the arts, test yourself by going online and throwing a challenge to the world. You’ll soon find out just where you sit in the overall ranks. And that may not be pretty because you may think you are good, but there are thousands who are better. However, you can still take your lumps, learn and get better then climb that ladder. It has taken four long years to get this game where it should have been at the start. The core system is right now. The additional characters are a big attraction. Capcom have put the work in to put the past behind them. This is a cracking fighter. If you can forgive and forget, you will love it. But it may be too late for many.
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[cl-r] (PS4 and Switch, £32.99)
WE’LL let you into a little secret. We like short, punchy names. They are easier to remember and, often, come with lashings of action. So, what were they thinking when they decided a game should be called Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late [cl-r]? Seriously? They couldn’t have called it Void after the monster in it? Rant over. Put the name aside and you’ll find a super stylish fighter. You get to throw a real mix of anime-inspired characters into battle and there’s a pretty decent story behind it as well. A hollow night happens during a full moon and, if you get caught within it, you’ll be taken to the realm of a monster called the Void. Good name! Then, if you are bitten by the demon and escape, you’ll discover new powers and you can control existence. See, sounds deep, but the big thrill is that it’s a 1v1 brawler.
Each character has plenty of depth with their own tale eeked out during a 15-hour visual novel. But the fun is in the fighting — you have three basic attacks that you can mix up to make combos. It is a bit on the simplistic side, but it is fast and frantic without ever shutting the door on newcomers. Fighting games are always about learning the systems — here, it is the grind grid. That’s a bar both fighters are aiming to fill up so they can earn power-ups and extra moves. It all adds a neat level of strategy to the fights. If you are new to the game, don’t fear — you will get shown the ropes. There is a deep tutorial with 169 lessons. Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late [cl-r] is a bit of a unknown series, but being featured at EVO last year gave it a stage beyond the hardcore fans. If you can say or type the whole name without mistakes, go for it. But it will be Void in your head.
The Key Master
YOSHINORI Ono is the Street Fighter guru and has seen his baby grow from a development idea into a worldwide phenomenon. But he is most proud of the way the game has crossed the border between arcade stick and controller. He said:
“People of a certain age will remember that sticks versus pad was the classic divide between the arcades and at home with the console. But we started work with Intel, who are very big in the PC market, and it struck me that a lot of PC players are using keyboards. I really think the generations have shifted where we are moving on from that divide and now looking at people playing with whatever input device they have on that hardware. Even the legendary pro player, Daigo Umehara, has recently been looking at people playing with keyboards and saying this may be the way things are going, so he’s been practising with a keyboard now apparently.”
Yoshinori believes keyboards will open up the game to new players, but that comes with its own challenges. He added:
“There are four movements to a dragon punch — pushing and returning the arcade stick — but there is no need to return to neutral on a keyboard because it’s direct inputs on the keys. If you have some sort of W,S,A,D set-up, you have up, down, left, right and the quarter corners you can just hit forward, down and down right which is three steps rather than four. But then do we have to look at putting a wait system on the keyboard side so players have the same times on inputs? It’s a bit like a 100-metre race where every extra centimetre will get you ahead. If you take it on key presses or button inputs, every match in Street Fighter 5 has around 5,000 to 7,000, so if a stick player is doing 7,000 inputs but a keyboard player is only doing 5,000 you suddenly see there is a real aggregate that can be seen as an advantage. So do we have to change our rule book and get everything on the same level? That is a challenge we face now because some people are making a career from the game and if they can only fight with the arcade stick and not the keyboard like up-and-coming players then that could really affect their lives.”
Granblue Fantasy: Versus (PS4 and PC, £49.99)
YOU may not have heard of this before — this was more of a shining star in Japan than over here. But 2D fighting game masters Arc System Works have flipped the hugely popular MMO mobile RPG title into a fighting game. And they have bossed the action. This is a stunning looking brawler. However, it is held back by a tale that gets confused and a core story mode that fails to hit the spot. As a brawler, Arc show their rich history — this is the perfect balance between high-level play and a warm welcome for newcomers. Button-mashing is not punished here, but timing is key. And you can up the ante when you feel up to the task.
There are 11 fighters, each with pros and cons like being lightning quick or mega powerful but a bit slower. Finding your favourite will take time. Pointer: there will be more characters introduced with the DLC — five have been announced so far. But we can’t help thinking that is a bit of a cheeky move so close to the release. The core 1v1 battling features in a number of modes, but things get interesting when you head into RPG territory. That offers a new tale within the Granblue Fantasy universe. It also tries to blend ideas from the series’ roots as RPG elements leak into the gameplay like a sort of loot system. Fans will enjoy it, but again it is a little jarring as an outsider. The mode also starts to grind when you aren’t fighting bosses — you battle the same low-level enemies with the same backdrops. It is a typical Arc fighter. It will be a new thrill to many and a neat entry into the Granblue world.
Nacon Daija Arcade Stick (PS4 and PS3, £129.99)
YOU can’t beat an arcade feel to the controller in a fight game. It helps you land the biggest punch. But the Nacon Daija delivers that buzz then adds even more oomph and excitement. Part of the reason for that is the fact that it was designed in collaboration with pro fighting player Kayane. She helped shape the development of the arcade stick so that it does the business for pro gamers and weekend warriors. It is fair to say that arcade sticks live and die on the quality of their parts, and the Daija ticks that box. It has responsive buttons with all eight having a satisfying feel to give you the confidence to pull off those lighting fast finger moves to nail a combo. The joystick also moves freely and feels solid as you hammer away in the heat of battle. Another neat trick is having all the buttons from a core controller hidden away on the side, including the touch pad. But, beware, there is no locking button so they are live all the time. There is also a trap door that hides the 3m USB cable when you’re not playing.
We really liked the level of customisation — it makes it an excellent starting point if you fancy building a custom arcade stick. It also comes with all the tools you’ll need. The Daija was great with all the games on this page — it added an extra layer to the overall experience in a similar way that a good wheel can spice up a racer. But, like a wheel, the catch is that the Daija is built for one job — fighting. That means it is a fair price for one bit of kit. But it does pack a punch.
Thrustmaster eSwap Pro Controller (PS4 and PC, £149.99)
GAMERS are always looking for an edge and manufacturers are always claiming they have the next big thing. They are all pretty much jumping on the mod controller bandwagon — and Thrustmaster have just thrown their hat in the ring. They are known for high-end racing wheels and flight sticks, but they have adapted that knowledge for a piece of quality kit. The eSwap Pro may not look very different from other modded controllers on the market, but it has a few tricks. Its biggest selling point is that you can pop and move the sticks and d-pad in seconds to suit your style and the game you are playing. The rivals often have lock guards that need Allen keys. That’s a faff. Here, you simply pull them out when you want and they are all held in place by magnets. Even more interesting is the fact that Thrustmaster have released a number of mod kits which come with different modules so you can change the side grips and/or d-pads.
At the minute it is more of a colour thing although there is a fighting pack. You should also note that these packs will set you back an extra £25 each. But, away from all this popping and locking fun, the controller is a weighty unit that sits nicely in your hand. It is solidly built which is good considering it comes apart so easily. You can also only use the controller wired which will put a few people off, but we didn’t think that was a deal-breaker, and we liked the heavy duty braided charging cable. It will take a bit of time to dial in your preferences on the playing side, but when you get it sorted, it is great. We played the likes of Warzone and all the fighting titles below using the standard build and fighting mod pack and the more time we spent with it the better it got. Then we got confident and started playing around with the four back buttons and things went up a level. We would have preferred a set of back triggers instead of buttons and physical rather than digital trigger stop settings. It’s solid and there is a world of possibility with the mod packs.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…