Street Fighter V’s F.A.N.G is the Best New Fighting Game Character in Years

It’s no secret that I love Street Fighter V‘s new character F.A.N.G. As the main villain’s second in command, he’s flashy, he’s flamboyant, and he’s very committed to giving enemies and allies alike a hard time. But when I wrote about how great of a character he was before, it was after a superficial assessment. Back then, he looked like a character I would love, and his apparent personality suited me fine. He also had an amusing obsession with the number “2” (an aspect of his personality that inks its way into his gameplay). But after experiencing the prologue stories that Street Fighter V had at launch (with a more involved story mode coming in June via DLC), I was shocked to discover that F.A.N.G is one of the greatest new characters created for a fighting game sequel in existence. Obviously, he’s different from the rest of the Street Fighter cast (he was explicitly created with that goal in mind) and that freshens up the roster, but F.A.N.G also happens to be the fighting game lore equivalent of an L-Block. Besides having a unique play-style revolving around the usage of poison (a series first), he also completes the puzzle that is Street Fighter‘s story. He himself has perhaps the most developed and nuanced character arc in the series (all told within a prologue story that spans 5 minutes!), his existence answers so many questions about the Street Fighter‘s primary antagonistic force Shadaloo, and his interactions with other members of the cast help develop them further. In many ways, he’s the most important edition to the series to come in this installment of the Street Fighter.

F.A.N.G’s Story

F.A.N.G is an assassin for a criminal cartel that rose to prominence as the strongest killer in its history. He was kidnapped as a child and forced to learn the ways of “The Poison Hand” – a deadly art that allows its users to use the natural poisons in their body and turn them into weapons. The process of learning this technique has a high mortality rate, and F.A.N.G grew up watching everyone around him die. This is the most defining aspect of his history, because characters who grow up with death tend to learn to accept it and that’s where their strength comes from. However with F.A.N.G, his strength comes from his intense drive to live, something that is often written as a sign of cowardice, but is played here as something that displays F.A.N.G’s strength. It’s possible there were many times when he was growing up and going through that grueling “training” process that he wished for death to escape the pain, but he pushed forth and lived, and is that quality that impressed M. Bison the most.

Despite attempting to take M. Bison’s life, F.A.N.G was spared and allowed to officially join Shadaloo because he was strong enough to survive his onslaught. The poison he now uses to kill in the name of Shadaloo was once the thing he had to overcome to survive, and in an interesting twist, he uses that same will to live as yet another weapon against his enemies. Every obstacle, every opponent, and every threat to his life is just like the poison he fought off to survive as a child. It’s a surprisingly involved character study for something to come out of a fighting game story, and it makes F.A.N.G by far the most complex of the new characters.

F.A.N.G’s place in the world of Street Fighter

One of the most remarkable things about F.A.N.G is how it just makes so much sense for a character like him to have existed behind the scenes all this time. Shadaloo is supposedly this massive international criminal network that deals in arms, drugs, and all-sorts of grimy black market dealings, however no one in the upper management seems like the type of guy that’d sit through organizing such an operation. Can you really imagine M. Bison having the patience to deal with the squabbles among his lower ranking officers? How about Vega sitting through a meeting? Or Balrog? It had to be someone that could act as the ultimate undertaker, a character whose goals actually aligned with M. Bison’s and someone with the brains and meticulousness to see Bison’s vision through to the end. As Shadaloo’s head of research (and now one of its Four Kings), his presence also serves as an explanation for many of the organization’s more diabolical inventions.

He also plays off well with several of the other members of the cast. His complete disregard for elegance in the pursuit of results immediately earns the ire of his colleague Vega, his devotion to M. Bison is both comical and very understandable, and its hinted that he comes into conflict with Balrog over the existence of a powerful teenage boy named Ed (something I’m looking forward to seeing expanded on when Balrog is available for download). His interactions with the heroes are equally as compelling, as seen with his taunts towards Cammy over her past life as an unwilling killer for Shadaloo. F.A.N.G manages to at once be a breath of fresh air and a character that feels like he’s always been here.

F.A.N.G and the development of other characters

Before his interactions with F.A.N.G, I did not have a clear idea of what to say about M. Bison. He was evil obviously, but what else was there to him besides his need to conquer/destroy everything in sight? Through his recruitment of F.A.N.G though, we were allowed to see something within him that explained a great deal about his actions. He’s not just obsessed with attaining power, but he’s also obsessed with power as a concept. To him, only strength exists, and despite F.A.N.G’s underhanded to attempt to kill him, he wanted him on his side because F.A.N.G possessed the one thing he respected. By contrasting him with F.A.N.G, we gain a picture of a man that does not care for the bureaucracy involved in running an organization, or things like rank and loyalty, he only seeks to attain strength and his single-minded pursuit of it, along with his respect for those who have it, is what ends up defining him. We also see through F.A.N.G’s interactions with Vega layers of the latter’s psychotic nature that are interesting. He doesn’t respect the use of “Dolls” (a mind-controlled assassination squad for Shadaloo that F.A.N.G worked on) not because of the moral ramifications, but the inelegance associated with using them. There also seems to be trouble brewing between F.A.N.G, Balrog, and the child Balrog rescued back in Street Fighter IV, now grown into a teenager which could potentially be very interesting.

Usually when a new character is introduced to a world whose presence is a pervasive as F.A.N.G’s is, the results are often clunky. Either they’re the out-of-nowhere hero who the whole story was about from the beginning, or the villain that was really behind it all. Not often is a character as important as F.A.N.G introduced in a subtle yet interesting way, while also existing as someone that works really well as a character on their own, while at the same time being fun and unique from a gameplay perspective as well (AND having a groovy theme song to boot!). It’s because of all this that I say F.A.N.G is the best new characters to come out for fighting games in years and certainly one of the best characters to ever come out of Street Fighter. Kudos to Capcom and their development team for creating such a twisted and beautiful gem.

Praise be to Yoshinori Ono and the Street Fighter team for this!

Quote of the Day:

“I will survive this. I will remain on the side that kills, not IS killed.”

– F.A.N.G, Street Fighter V.

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