Remember: Street Fighter V [official site] is playing for the long run, trying to become a solid eSport, aiming to still be around a few years from now. At launch, our review praised the punching, but lamented that so much content would arriving months later in free updates.
The first of those updates is almost here, and it's very substantial, so much so Capcom have announced they're splitting it in two. March 28th will bring Challenge Mode, rematches and improved lobbies, while new fighter Alex and the in-game shop will make their debut on the 30th. There are also a couple of free costumes as an apology for the shaky launch, and a delay on the in-game currency tied to real money. Follow me past the break and we'll go over everything.
Let's take things one at a time: the first update, on Monday the 28th, will bring Challenge Mode, which is essentially a training area geared towards players of all skill levels. It'll have demonstrations and tutorials going over various concepts and game mechanics, from the basic abilities to things like "invincibility frames" and "frame advantage", and sections dedicated to each character's individual strengths and weaknesses. The trials complement this by offering challenges geared towards testing specific skills.
If it turns out to be half as good as it sounds, this could prove to be a great addition, and something I hope other eSports take up in the future: even those that do a good job of introducing the player to the basics often fail to explain high level concepts effectively and don't give players a safe space to practice specific abilities.
Also in this update, the online lobbies will be improved, going from 2 to 8 players and with additional options like spectating games. Rounding out this patch are online rematches - if both players accept, an online encounter can turn into a best of 3, for sweet revenge - and some minor gameplay adjustments and bug fixes which you can peruse in detail at the bottom of this post.
The second update, on Wednesday the 30th, brings back Alex from Street Fighter III and the in-game shop, so you'll finally be able to spend all that Fight Money you've acquired so far on characters (100,000 FM each) and costumes (40,000 FM each). I have no idea if that's a lot or a little, they look like radio station frequencies to me.
Alex then. I'll let Capcom do the talking:
"Alex returns as a powerful grappler that can inflict big damage with his close range Power Bomb command grab and his long limbs to fight from midrange distances. The threat doesn’t end there however, as Alex has a variety of special attacks that can cover a large portion of the screen for those times when the opponent keeps him out. Players looking for a methodical grappler who can do big burst damage up close, yet still do well at midrange, will find themselves perfectly at home with Alex."
If you want a more detailed look at his unique abilities head this way.
The Zenny store, where folks can buy unlocks with the in-game currency tied to real money, wasn't quite ready so they're holding it back for now. To make up for the temporary inability to buy new characters like Alex with Zenny, they're offering a free trial period on new characters to everyone until Zenny is ready. Those characters can still be bought with Fight Money, mind, and everyone who purchases the Season Pass will of course get them.
Finally, as an apology for the shaky beta and launch, two costumes, one for Ryu and one for Chun-li (screenshot above), will be free for all players, and Capcom have an additional gift in the works for Season Pass holders, in the form of a new stage.
Still no word on when a permanent fix for ragequitting will come, though. More characters are due in April and May, and the cinematic story mode is expected in June. As I said, playing for the long run.