‘Street Fighter 5’ puts franchise back in action
Commercially speaking, Capcom’s “Street Fighter” series is among the most important franchises in all of video game history. Since its debut as a cabinet arcade game in 1987(!), the game has spun off multiple sequels plus dozens of offshoot home console and handheld game versions – not to mention books, comics, animated series, tabletop games and one cosmically terrible feature film with Jean-Claude Van Damme.
For the unfamiliar, “Street Fighter” is the original 2-D beat-em-up brawler, in which players square off against human or computer opponents in goofy martial arts competitions. You punch. You kick. You jump. You grapple. The franchise is back in action with “Street Fighter 5,” exclusive to PC and PlayStation 4.
The new game sustains the franchise’s bizarre tone of cheerful violence and pseudo-mystical martial arts hogwash. Story Mode takes you through all 16 characters with a few bouts each to advance their stories. I’ve never been a hardcore devotee of the series, but I’ve dipped in enough over the years to appreciate Capcom’s approach with the new iteration.
Follow the main storyline and you’re gradually introduced to the game’s deep combat system. I play-tested on PS4 and felt relatively comfortable as each new tutorial segment introduced the button combos required for the aforementioned punching, kicking, jumping, etc.
The key is repetition. The more you fight, the more those dozens of key-combos get etched into muscle memory. Characters this go-around include mainstays like Ryu and Ken, plus four returning favorites and four brand new fighters.
Casual players and tourists can enjoy the button-mashing brawls and admire the game’s truly weird visual style. The traditional flat 2D animation is given a certain pop with deliberate shading techniques – call it 2.5D – and the backgrounds and cut scenes are always suitably bananas.
Hardcore players will want to spend some time grappling with the new V-Gauge system, which governs advanced tactical moves and power-up abilities. Word is that Capcom is putting huge resources into supporting the online multiplayer mode, which is where the real action is. “Street Fighter” has a worldwide base of rabid fans who love nothing more than beating on one another, virtually, and Capcom promises attentive online support and lots of DLC content. Knock yourselves out, kids.
MLB.tv on PS4
For those looking for a slower, gentler pastime in these tentative weeks of early spring, you can pipe another kind of game through your Playstation 4. It’s called Major League Baseball, and thanks to spring training and the MLB.tv subscription service, you can get to it all right now – weeks ahead of Opening Day.
Professional baseball’s official live streaming service, MLB.tv is a tremendous success story and one of my personal favorite deployments of high technology in the service of home entertainment. With MLB.tv, you can watch virtually every regular season game on the schedule, throughout the entire summer, piped via the Internet to your living room TV, laptop, tablet or phone.
In fact, the streaming service now supports more than 400 different devices, and MLB technicians have made the setup process relatively painless. Once you establish an account, you can access MLB.tv through your game console system, set-top box (like Apple TV or Roku), or direct to your Internet-enabled smart TV.
Similar to services like Netflix, your subscription also lets you access content on your iPad or other tablet, or even your smartphone, thanks to the included At Bat Premium app.
Depending on your device, and your level of baseball intensity, you can drill down through constantly expanding multimedia features like in-game highlights, picture-in-picture video and live statistical breakdowns.
In recent years, MLB.tv has expanded its coverage of spring training games from Florida and Arizona, which is genuinely good news for those of us who hate winter. The league has also introduced new tiered pricing plans. Right now, full premium service costs $110 for the season, or you can purchase the single team package for $85. There are also monthly options and pro-rated deals as the season unwinds.
One important heads up: If your favorite team happens to be the Baltimore Orioles or the Washington Nationals, be aware that games may be blacked out due to arcane MLB regional television deals – much of North Carolina is considered a home market for those teams.