For better and worse, Street Fighter V has established itself as a very different game. It changed some key aspects of the series, emphasized online play and competition over single-player modes, and left out a number of key characters fans have come to love. And the characters who did make it in tended to be very different to their older iterations. Revealed at this year’s PlayStation Experience, Akuma might first look like he’s following that trend, with his lion’s mane and short front cut. But, as a character fans have been asking for, Capcom has kept the rage-filled character pretty faithful to his classic self. After playing a few rounds as him, this feels like the right move.
He’s kept his wide assortment of moves intact, including his aerial diagonal fireball, red fireballs Ashura Senku escape tool, demon flip, and dive kick. Considering that many characters’ movesets have been trimmed down in Street Fighter V, learning that Akuma had kept most of his was a nice surprised, though it made testing each one of them in-depth a little more difficult. His diagonal fireballs feel slightly faster than they do Street Fighter IV, though still nowhere near as fast as they do in Street Fighter II. His demon flip, which still allows him to transition into a dive kick or slide, feels stronger as a combo tool. Though I wasn’t able to pull them off myself, I saw plenty of people go for the demon flip mid-combo and connect it. The EX version of his aerial fireball is a bit different, however, since it has him stay up in the air for a moment then throw a second fireball.
I had expected his V-System to give him a new tool to play with, and it does. But it doesn’t feel nearly as special as it could have been. In essence, it’s a more aggressive version of Ryu’s, allowing him to parry. However, Akuma can follow his up with a punch or a kick move. This lets him not only more easily punish good reads he makes on his opponent, but lets him use it in combos as well. It’s a strong tool and I felt powerful using it, but I feel Capcom could have used the V-System as a way to further distinguish Akuma and Ryu. Instead, it feels like they’re playing it safe.
Akuma’s V-Trigger works as a power-up as opposed to a tool, which further associates him with Ryu. While powered up, Akuma can throw diagonal fireballs while jumping backwards, and all of this moves receive some buffs. His fireballs are more durable, his Goshoryuken move is slightly more devastating, and he throws out two fireballs while airborne in slightly different directions (similar to his EX air fireball in Street Fighter IV). It works as way to compliment his already aggressive toolkit, but again, it feels like it lacks the creativity of some of the other V-Triggers in the game. On top of his normal super (which is the Kongo Kokuretsuzan from Street Fighter III), he can use his signature Shun Goku Satsu move by using super while in V-Trigger. How feasible that will be in actual matches I can’t say for sure, that approach to the move feels like it’s including it just to have it there.
Akuma may be something of an olive branch of players who feel like Street Fighter V isn’t adhering to the series’ standard formula as much as they would have liked. For one, if you don’t like his new look, he has an alternate costume – named “Nostalgia” – that makes him look more like the Akuma fans have come to like. It’s not exactly what fans who feel scorned by the game’s lack of an arcade mode or more robust single-player options might want, but this is definitely the most traditional character DLC character Capcom has put out, both in terms of character choice and execution. Which, considering Street Fighter still has to win back some of its fans, might be the right step at this point.