V-Triggers are a good idea with a few bad oversights, here are some general changes I'd implement to help this SF5 mechanic toward its full potential

We've already come a long way, but there's still more Capcom could do

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • October 4, 2019 at 7:40 p.m. PDT | Comments: 44

V-Triggers are simultaneously a major piece of Street Fighter 5's unique identity within its franchise and the source of a lot of grief. The mechanic is actually clever in theory, and some characters' Triggers are well-implemented into gameplay. Some, however, have stuck out like sore thumbs distracting players from enjoying the SF5 experience.

Using a 20/20 hindsight perspective, I have a few ideas for how to better design this mechanic so as to maintain the potential for comebacks and a lively show without sacrificing the integrity of competition to achieve those things.

The idea is good at its foundations: give every character a unique comeback mechanic (either a buffed status or a new, super-powered attack) to help them stay in the fight and make sparks fly near the end of rounds.

It's no secret that developers like Capcom want to include exciting, crescendo forming mechanics that can make for great come-from-behind storylines and firework filled finishes so as to make their games as watchable to audiences (both casual and hardcore) as possible.

That's not a bad thing in and of itself. It's a bad thing when the pizzazz begins to detract too heavily from the foundational contest of skill that we all ultimately play and watch competitive fighting games to determine.

Capcom's decision to move away from a mechanic that affects all characters in a universal way (such as Street Fighter 3's parry) instantly made for a TON of work as every single character had to have their own personalized V-System moves that needed to augment their specific style as well as balance across the system (Triggers/Skills/Reversals) itself.

For every fighter you'd need to design a V-Trigger buff, and then a V-Skill move that they could use to help unlock that buff, and then a defensive V-Reversal that might be worth using to stay alive despite it hindering your progress toward Trigger. Obviously, and somewhat understandably, not every character's final design hit the mark here.

Though much has already been done to fix such issues, one of SF5's biggest flaws has certainly been overly powerful V-Triggers. The worst of these we've unofficially deemed as "robbery" V-Triggers as they have a tendency to become the deciding factor in round outcome despite any advantage an opponent may have mounted before the mechanic comes into play.

Overpowered Triggers can become a series of near-mindless guesses that carry very little risk and massive reward, but a well-implemented V-System will actually make for more thoughtful play and critical decision-making. I often refer to this sequence featuring Rhoto|Tokido vs. a Balrog back from Season 2:


Click image for animated version, skip to the one minute mark for the main attraction

Start With A Balanced System

I believe Necalli's is one of the best-designed (but not perfect) V-Systems in the game and thus an excellent example to inspect. His Trigger sees him enter a powered-up state with improved walk speed, dash distance, and a bit better frame data and damage on certain attacks. (He also gets a new move in each of his Triggers, but those are seldom-used because they're pretty wack.)

His V-Skill is his seismic ground pound which plays directly into his standard gameplan. He can use it similar to a projectile to pester foes, but he also can choose to use it in bread and butter punishes instead of his most damaging BnB.

Necalli players make the active choice to either go for corner carry and damage or to build their V-Gauge, and I think this is an absolutely brilliant design choice by developers. It's by no means an easy feat, but a perfect SF5, I imagine, would bake this type of decision making into all characters' designs. As it stands now, many fighters don't have a practical way of using their V-Skills and thus rely on taking damage to build gauge.

Though the allure of gaining Trigger is strong, there are still times where Necalli players make the deliberate call to sacrifice a chunk of precious gauge on V-Reversal to escape pressure, stun, or even death. While V-Reversals are widely viewed as underpowered in this game, perhaps correction on the side of the overpowered Triggers would be enough to make V-Reversals sufficiently worthwhile.

These tools are all very useful, but not overpowered. Necalli's V-Trigger can still be quite frustrating, but if you're one who feels like he's too strong as is, hear me out with these general V-Changes I'd make to better refine the way the whole system works.

No More Free Activation

First thing's first, no more free activation for most characters. Not only are Triggers massive buffs, but you can cancel traditionally unsafe (and therefore usually very strong) attacks into them.

Not only does a low-hitting, Crush Counter move like sweep become safe, it actually can lead to heavy frame advantage with the threat of a massively damaging 50/50 right behind it. Why this is still part of the game is beyond me.

I think most characters should follow in the footsteps of Birdie's VT2, which is one of the few Triggers that is not safe upon cancel activation. Even after their gauge is full, Birdie players must earn a knockdown, be extremely far away, or sacrifice a good chunk of life in order to access the very powerful "Birdie Time."

Getting rid of free activation would clean up probably a good 30%-40% of the salt that currently comes from VT situations. No more Urien getting Aegis mix-ups from brainless EX Shoulder, no more G tossing out low-rush to enter Superman mode, no more M. Bison using sweep from half screen and canceling into his version of Marvel vs. Capcom.

The power of many Triggers would immediately be dampened with this change, and the game of "how do I activate/stop my stocked opponent from activating?" would add to the excitement for both players and onlookers alike.

Also, no more Akuma activating VT1 from whiffed fireball. Hallelujah.

There could be some exceptions to this, especially concerning characters that gain access to single moves instead of powered up states. Vega, for instance, might still be able to sweep into his Rose throw as it doesn't lead into gnarly, thoughtless, round-ending sequences.

As far as safe attacks go I'd suggest that if you do a normal that's plus on block then activating could still leave you positive, but never more positive. Necalli, for example, could pressure with a blocked standing medium kick (+2) and activate into a situation where he's +2 from there. If he activates off of negative normals or special attacks, however, he should be punishable or at least -2. Particulars here should probably be a case by case basis.

I also think this mechanic should more reward players for efficiently using V-Skill than for taking damage. This would require updated or all-new Skills for some of the cast, but we're doing fantasy requests here so that's just fine. To specify, I'd reduce the amount of V-Meter gain from being hit by a good 20%-40%.

If these two changes were made, there'd be no doubt in my mind that Triggers like Necalli's and Birdie's VT2, which teeter on the line of being perceived as fair/balanced, would become significantly more digestible.

I'd go as far as to say that perhaps even characters like G or Urien, who tend to cause the most salt these days, might become balanced enough through these alterations.

I'd hold off final judgment until seeing things in action, but this would move the pendulum in a very good direction.

You'd still get the fireworks and the huge advantages that come with finally getting beyond activation, but the road there wouldn't be a ten-lane freeway with no speed limit.

Don't forget we're playing a game where you do want a little bit of OP dust sprinkled in to keep things interesting and fun to watch, making the road a little harder helps to justify the destination.

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