Should You Play Street Fighter V’s New Story Mode?

by Brian Shea on Jul 04, 2016 at 04:00 AM

In February, Street Fighter V launched with strong gameplay mechanics, but not a ton of content. Over the past few months, Capcom has been balancing and adding modes, characters, and stages. The June update (which actually hit on July 1), was the most significant update yet. Not only did it finally implement the currency shop so that players could buy DLC with either Fight Money earned through playing or Zenny purchased with real money, but it brought with it two new characters and improved matchmaking. The biggest addition, however, is the cinematic story mode called "A Shadow Falls." I played through the new story mode in its entirety to give you an idea of whether it's worth your time or not.

A Shadow Falls is the first cinematic story mode to appear in the Street Fighter series. The many games of the Street Fighter series to this point have explained the narratives through different methods. At launch, Street Fighter V used illustrations with voiceover, which wasn't exactly action-packed. This new cinematic approach is a vast improvement, but it's not perfect.

The voice acting isn't the worst I've heard, but any faults in the acting are accentuated by the mismatched lips in the cutscenes. Other than the lip-syncing and the occasional glitch involving the characters' over-the-top hair, the cutscenes are well-animated and are much more entertaining to watch than the still animations that launched with Street Fighter V. I also liked how the characters continue dialogue into the matches themselves. That means that when a cutscene references an item both characters are trying to acquire, you'll hear them trade verbal jabs like "Why do you need it so bad anyway?"  

Chronologically, this story fits in between the events of Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter III. The narrative jumps around in its telling of the building battle between the World Warriors and Shadaloo, rarely letting you play as the same character twice consecutively. In jumping between the characters at a rapid rate and letting those diverse characters' personalities shine unhindered, Street Fighter V's story mode feels akin to that of Dead or Alive 5 in both structure and tone. I prefer the approach of letting you stick with one character for multiple battles as is seen in Mortal Kombat and Injustice, since that feels more cohesive and lets you get to know the characters more intimately, but I appreciate the approach Street Fighter V takes.

The campy, humorous kinds of moments found in the Dead or Alive 5 story are also present in Street Fighter V's new mode. For every intense moment of Ryu and Necalli facing off, there are moments like R. Mika and Zangief readying to take on Laura and Alex in a pro-wrestling tag team match, or F.A.N.G acting like a complete weirdo. I actually like that about A Shadow Falls. It would be strange for Street Fighter V to venture into the gritty tone presented in NetherRealm's fighting franchises. The personalities in Street Fighter V are colorful, and the developers do a good job of showcasing that here.

The two chief complaints of the character story mode that launched with Street Fighter V were the overall lack of difficulty and how little time it took to play through all of the content. With A Shadow Falls, those complaints are both addressed. In the character story mode, your opponents were not much more than punching bags. While the battles in A Shadow Falls aren't particularly difficult, they at least pose a competent challenge for most players. If, for whatever reason, you get stuck on a fight but just want to continue the story, the game presents you with a "skip battle" option. However, if the difficulty is too light for your skill level, a more difficult setting unlocks for the mode once you complete your first playthrough, with each difficulty rewarding you with fight money upon completion.

In addition, the story mode is substantially longer than all of the character stories put together. A full playthrough takes around four hours. The mode also allows you to select particular scenes to go back to if you want to relive some of the content with a robust scene and battle selector option.

Another cool thing A Shadow Falls does is it allows you to play characters that aren't yet in the game. In the first chapter, I was able to play as Juri and Urien, which is a cool way to let you test out the characters before they release. Also, if you missed the period where all the characters were unlocked while Capcom figured out its currency shop, you also get to play as current DLC characters like Guile, Balrog, Alex, and Ibuki over the course of story mode, essentially allowing you to test drive them. 

Though A Shadow Falls isn't my favorite story mode in a fighting game (that title still belongs to the Mortal Kombat games), I'm glad to see more games explore this route. The sometimes-goofy narrative is fun to follow, and getting to play as the full cast (and then some) is a great introduction for new players, or a great way to refamiliarize yourself if you took an extended break following Street Fighter V's launch. The lack of arcade mode and inability to play a single match against an A.I. opponent are still sore spots for Street Fighter V's offline offerings, but A Shadow Falls makes great strides in that category. I just wish that Street Fighter V launched with this mode.