The apparent state of Street Fighter 5 part one: The success of Kage

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • January 14, 2020 at 7:58 p.m. PST

With about a month of play now under our belts, the early pieces of the updated Street Fighter 5: Champion Edition puzzle are beginning to fall into place. While there are still plenty of stones yet to be unturned, I do have some one-month reactions and suppositions with regards to general gameplay and balance that I think would be pertinent to share.

My latest personal project has been Kage, and I'll start with this: Given Kage's current design, I feel he's a decent barometer for measuring the balance of SF5's meta. If my perception of him is accurate then the better he does the better a look it is for the game.

Kage seems to be currently benefiting from both a substantial handful of buffs as well as a rise in popularity amongst both casual and competitive crowds. I see a lot of success in Kage thanks to the way Capcom has updated him as well as how they've updated the game around him, and I'd like to explore the particulars of why.

First and perhaps most simply, as a shoto character, Kage no longer appears to be suffering from the "why not just play top tier Akuma instead?" issue.

The community has clearly been testing and exploring the canonical version of Evil Ryu over the last four weeks (Ken and Ryu are getting a good amount more screen time too, it seems) implying that the problematic dominance Akuma has traditionally brought with him has subsided to a degree.

We'll wait and see what happens once competitive circuits begin and more chips are on the table, but this is a great early sign of success in at least one important avenue.

With where he stands now I feel that Kage is one of the better-designed characters Street Fighter 5 has seen. He is charismatic as an Evil Ryu reference, has ample tools that each serve observable purposes, is capable of doling out exciting and rewarding offensive sequences, but still must earn his openings.

Winning with Kage has almost always felt earned while losing to him (save for some pretty powerful 50/50's involving the threat of Raging Demon, and this goes for both wins and losses) almost always feels just. He has a wonderful variety of tools thanks to fun but fair normals, multiple fireball options, and usable V-Skills.

His V-Triggers provide the potential for fireworks that will do well on eSports stages, (especially in the hands of FAV|Sako) but they also don't leave opponents feeling robbed half the time.

This character is fun to play, digestible to lose to, and exciting to watch both from a technical and flashy point of view. He's the exact kind of character you'd want to have in the top 10 of your tier charts, and there's a strong case that he could actually land in the upper fourth of SF5's rankings.

There are other fighters who share this potential to varying degrees. I would argue that Karin sort of fit this same bill last season, (though I know many would argue she was too powerful, and hey, Capcom did give her a few nerfs) and that Chun-Li is a strong candidate for being good for the right reasons here in Season 5.

I will note that it's possible Chun's basic neutral is overpowered as it stands now, but I haven't seen much in game evidence for it yet. This will be another question answered more thoroughly after the competition really kicks into gear.

That all said, I, unfortunately, think that Kage will land around 15th overall. I'll follow this up with my reasoning as to why in part two, but I do hope that I'm wrong.

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