Street Fighter V's Season 4 update went live during Capcom Cup 2018, giving players a big surprise and a lot of changes to adapt to. With a large portion of the top tier characters seeing major nerfs, and low tier heroes receiving substantial buffs, the meta of Street Fighter V has turned on its head in an instant – thanks in no small part to Kage, the series' latest addition. As the embodiment of the Satsui no Hadou ('surge of murderous intent' for the uninitiated), Kage marks yet another addition to the Evil Ryu/ Oni saga, with a stylish moveset and a flashy set of V-Triggers.
Join us as we break down the latest addition to the Street Fighter roster, and what you can expect from Season 4.
The answer lies in destroying everything
Much like Evil Ryu's Street Fighter IV incarnation, Kage features an amped up moveset, and even a similar physical appearance to Ryu's more sinister side. However, many fans noted that both Kage's normal and special attacks are similar to Dan Hibiki’s moves in SFIV – especially his Hadouken, which has a shorter range in comparison to those of other shoto fighters.
While this attack may disappoint some fans, Kage's V-Trigger I opens up special opportunities for the character, giving him access to an in-air Ashura Senku that provides ample juggling potential, as well as bigger damage from his V-Skill. Alternately, his V-Trigger II unlocks a jumping downward strike, which is safe on block, and can be cancelled into via normal and special moves.
Many players have noted that Kage's weaknesses lie in his neutral game, with a limited number of options available to engage opponents, and land a hit. Additionally, Kage's red fireball is easily telegraphed, with a greater number of startup frames that render it a relatively unsafe option in comparison to other projectiles.
With Season 4 still in its baby stages, competitive players are busy working out a place for this new character in the tier list, but fighting game historian and commentator James Chen predicts that fans will see a lot of Kage in upcoming tournaments.
"While he seems like he has some really cool tools and V-Triggers, all of the Triggers are also gimmicky, and the mixups, particularly V-Trigger I, won't be real after were all used to them," Chen explains. "They really seem like Capcom built him to appeal to SFIV fans, though. We'll see a lot of him in Season 4 in my opinion, but his tool set is so eclectic that I think the word is still out on him."
Cammy White down for the count?
The word is still out on a lot of staple characters in the game, thanks to the Season 4 balance patch shaking up SFV's relatively solid tier lists. Previously strong characters that dominated competitive tournaments, such as Abigail and Cammy, saw major nerfs, while lower tier fighters like Ryu and Alex may have finally returned from the grave.
Cammy was a major complaint amongst a large part of Street Fighter V's competitive playerbase, with many pleading with Capcom to nerf the Delta Red agent. Capcom answered these prayers in the Season 4 patch, cutting her stun even lower than before, and even trimming the distance of her forward throw after landing a hit. With 900 stun and 900 health, Cammy is in a relatively fragile state of being, but Chen feels that both she and Menat (another widely bemoaned character) weren't significantly nerfed, after all.
"To be honest, I'm really surprised at how little Cammy and Menat got nerfed," he notes. "I really don't think their gameplay is going to change much, which again adds to my feeling that the patch was really well done. I was expecting both characters to get absolutely pummeled by nerfs, but the changes were acute, and not over reactive. I think we'll still be seeing Cammys and Menats do well at events."
Okay, let's rumble
Chen also predicted that Alex will be a staple character at upcoming competitions, and he could be right. The New Yorker was notoriously low on the totem pole before the patch, and didn't even receive a character reveal trailer. Now he could be a major threat to the rest of the cast, with his standing heavy punch granted anti-air properties, and his V-Skill now cancellable out of special moves, like his Air Stampede.
"I really think Alex is going to be the character to look out for in Season 4," Chen admits. "Not that I think he's top tier, but he's definitely the character very seldom seen at events that's now suddenly going to get a lot more play. I won't expect him to win any events right away, but I do think an Alex will win a tournament this year."
In the same vein stand Ryu and Zangief, who saw considerable changes that even delighted the likes of Daigo 'The Beast' Umehara, as you can see from his thanks to Yoshinori Ono below. However, one character could be the ruin of all others; Shadaloo boss M. Bison, who received a significant damage boost, and a powerful addition to his V-Skill.
While Kage's introduction, and the ensuing balance patch, shook up SFV's meta in a big way, the game's future is still uncertain. Fans expected much more than a single character reveal following Capcom Cup's Top 8, and considering Capcom's statement claiming that things will be different moving forward, there's no telling what could come next for the title.
Be that as it may, the 2019 Capcom Pro Tour is looming on the horizon, and with a major shift in character strengths and weaknesses, this coming year could bring some of Street Fighter's hypest moments yet.