Welcome to yet another “Through the Lens” article, a segment in which I give you detailed visual analyses of games through the lens of an artist! Here, we will take a look at Street Fighter V, and talk about the unique characteristics that set this game apart from others and how that stylistic difference impacts the overall feel for the game.
The character designs in this game are “beautifully hyper-stylized,”with the first notable thing that applies to all characters across the board being the oversized hands and feet. Most characters have larger than normal overall proportions, but all of them have hands and feet that are specifically, dis-proportionally larger than they “should” in comparison to a realistic depiction. According to Street Fighter creator, Yoshinori Ono, they specifically designed the characters like this in order to make it easier to follow attacks and to feel the impact of each hit. If you take a look at Ken for example, you can see exactly what I mean! You know what they say about guys with big feet! Big… shoes!
Speaking of big shoes, another stylistic thing you’ll notice about this game are the large proportions in other places! Many of the characters have exaggerated features which are either for the sake of playing to a particular character’s in-game strengths, like Chun Li’s larger than life legs, or “Cheddah Gief’s” massive mountains of muscle. With other characters, Capcom chose to exaggerate the more tantalizing or sexy features, like Vega’s chiseled facial features, or R-Mika’s voluptuous figure. Characters are purposefully portrayed as larger-than-life characters, rather than realistic or “appropriate” depictions. There’s no mistaking that many of the characters, both male and female, are intended to be “sexy” in some way. But that therein, lies the beauty of what Capcom has done with this game’s visuals.
In addition to the proportions on the characters, there are vibrant colors, and beautiful calligraphic brush strokes permeating throughout the title. The artists seemingly took inspiration from their traditional Japanese artistic roots, and incorporated a beautiful watercolor, and black ink style into several aspects of the game, which can be seen in the promotional artwork for each character, the introduction video that plays before you jump into the game, and specific in-game animations (“EX” moves, “V trigger” activation, and “Critical Art” animations for each character, with different colors associated with different characters). Overall, I feel that it adds a layer of personality not seen in other fighters, and one that pays homage to the series’s strong heritage in the gaming scene.
On the flip side, the skimpy “story mode” is a disappointment in a lot of ways. I won’t go into the gameplay reasons, as I’ll save that for the review. The illustrations gamers are presented with aren’t very good. Art, of course, is subjective, but it’s very clear that this work was very quickly put together for the purpose of providing some storyboard concept art for an actually fully animated sequence. It’s possible that development time, and/or money became a factor in what gamers were ultimately given. Characters often don’t look that much like their original concept art counter-parts, positions and angles are awkward, and many of it seems disconnected from the beautiful character art and in-game models. I hope either that artwork is updated, or that story mode is patched with the full scenes they are clearly setting the base foundation for.
Speaking in technical terms, this game harnesses the power of Unreal Engine 4, meaning it’s taking cutting edge technology, and utilizing it in a way that’s very much in line with the fantastic work Aksys did on Guilty Gear XRD, which is still one of the most impressive looking gaming experiences to date, and the game runs silky smooth at 1080p, 60fps. Capcom producer, Bochan Kim, stated in an interview, “Our goal with the next generation of Street Fighter is to take our beloved fighting game franchise and bring it to our fans in the best way possible. In order to fully deliver on that promise, we know we have to incorporate the latest and greatest technology available, which is why we partnered with Epic Games to power Street Fighter V using Unreal Engine 4.”
There are some very specific benefits to Street Fighter V utilizing the Unreal Engine over alternatives. Some of those are related to material instancing (for alt colors), Physically Based Rendering (PBR), Screen Based Ambient Occlusion (SSAO), strong global illumination, a more fluid animation system, simulated objects (for rigid vs soft bodies), and simplified multi-platform porting tools.
Characters are animated beautifully, and it’s a true visual delight to watch the action unfold. The game is fast paced, and requires a lot of focus to play for long durations. One thing I’d like to point out in regards to the technical aspects of this game’s visuals, are the reduced quality in the background assets. I imagine that this game is pushing a lot of information and visuals, but some of these backgrounds look less refined in comparison to the high quality in game character models. Of course, many of this can be attributed to keeping system resources low so that online play is s as smooth as possible, or that upping the polygon count, frames per second, and resolution on many of these background elements would distract from the action going on in the foreground.
Despite the alleged cancellation of Tekken X SF, the team almost made SFV look like a realistic rendered version, as opposed to the hyper stylized approach. Although it would have been interesting to see the game like this in 1080p 60fps glory, I’m glad they went with their current approach. It would be awesome if we could have a mode, or filter during gameplay that made the characters more like their realistic counterparts.
Overall, I feel Capcom did a great job with making this title look interesting, unique, and appealing to the eye. I’d recommend some changes to the background elements, and perhaps more scene/level transition content, as the only level that has any of that is the bustling China Town level.