Years ago, I can recall frequently spending hours playing Ultra Street Fighter IV on the PS3, bouncing between the various homes of friends throughout my teens, haplessly spamming my mix-up queen Ibuki against them whilst barely being able to distinguish whatever the hell a command grab was or reliably pulling off complex supers on those tiny PlayStation gamepads. Fast forward too many years and past a wee bit of a misstep from Capcom’s esports-themed Street Fighter V and its meager launch, we’re now facing the release of what is the most fantastically accessible and expansive iteration of the fighting game genre in Street Fighter 6.
With my eyes keenly peeled ahead of SF6 dropping, my goal for 2023 was to rise above my unskilled, button-mashing teenage self and put some real work and effort into becoming - at the very least - a somewhat adept fighting game player. When approached with the chance to play the next step in fighting game history early, I gladly dove right in and can undoubtedly say that after 40+ hours spent across the Open Beta and the soon-to-release full version of the game, it’s an all-around banger.
Capcom has both skillfully and wisely crafted an experience designed to celebrate a long-standing series and fanbase in Street Fighter 6, one that simultaneously welcomes new players both in accessibility and easy-to-understand tutorials and re-vamped control schemes. These come in tandem with an exciting mix-up of gameplay conventions for veterans in its brand new Drive gauge mechanic and a whole single-player adventure mode in World Tour with style reminiscent of the earlier urban-themed Third Strike days, made wholly gorgeous in RE Engine. New players will be welcomed to their first foray into fisticuffs with not one, but two wholly new control types - Modern and Dynamic, with Classic controls remaining intact for those already experienced as world warriors.
The new schemes are inclined towards simplifying and lowering the at-times high barrier to entry into fighters and do so pretty efficiently, erasing the need for complex input strings of quarter and half circles and managing your multitudes of punch and kick types featured in the OG controls. Those complexities are now replaced with a dedicated SP (Special) move button along with assisted combos that can be pulled off if you can meet certain conditions in the fight. Naturally, these options are ideal for casual players or newcomers who simply want to land a punch or two, but in my little bit of time spent on Modern controls, my already cemented understanding of how to generally play similarly input-heavy games like Guilty Gear Strive meant that Classic suited me more. Certainly, Modern controls feel like the perfect middle ground for casual play or at least a solid stepping stone with which to get to grips with the general gameplay themes before opening up Classic’s full toolbox of options.
Speaking of options, the latest mechanical inclusion of the Drive Gauge has blown wide open the standard “footsies” meta that Street Fighter is known for, offering so many new combo extensions in Drive dashing, get out of jail (not quite for free) cards in Drive Impacts, adding a massive number of risk-reward scenarios that miraculously never feel unfair to lose to. In my time in Battle Hub - the online-focused lobby mode where you’ll potter around and hop into cute digital cabinets against other players - I challenged a number of other players of varying skill levels but never once did I think “No, that’s bull****, how did that happen?” when getting combo blasted across the stage, simply because it was visually obvious as to what was happening at all times. Experiencing say, a meticulously performed blueprint-level Ken combo of flaming kicks into a super, intermingled with the green paint spatter of the new Drive dashes and parries is both a visual treat and something to learn from while being catapulted around the shop. Having the ever-loving fudge kicked out of you is an opportunity to watch how to make the most of a confirmed hit and to see the best ways of stringing your moves into serious damage output while balancing your gauge.
I’d truly urge anyone picking this game up not just to relish whenever you pop off, but also when your opponent does as it’s more than often a lesson in how you could have stopped that from happening, or how you could incorporate that into your own set of martial mastery tools. Coupled with highly stable rollback netcode, an easy-to-use lobby, and custom room system, with an albeit bloated but encompassing battle and character settings menu, Capcom have created their best online mode yet.
It wouldn’t be fair of me to sing so many praises without mentioning World Tour, the surprisingly expansive RPG adventure mode included as standard, which sees your custom avatar star in their own journey to become a world-renowned fighter, starting from the bottom in Metro City. While certainly a ridiculous concept, especially given how truly weird you can get with the in-depth character creator, there’s an enormous degree of heart and passion for the world of Street Fighter, and by extension, other related properties like series predecessor Final Fight to be found here. I spent about 25 hours alone in World Tour, meeting legendary fighters and creating my own custom moveset, and don’t feel anywhere near finished with the story. There’s some teething to be experienced here for sure, most of the content can feel a bit dated and fetch quest-y at times with some understandable frame drops often occurring due to the very populated sandboxes, but the overall presentation and leaning into the silliness of it all helps it stick any of those rocky landings.
All in all, I’ve absolutely adored my team with Street Fighter 6, it may soon become my favorite fighting game, ever. It’s loaded with content for any taste level, and has never been easier to get into for newbies and I truly cannot wait for the FGC community at large to embrace Capcom’s finest entry to the series yet.
Never been more welcome to newcomers, perfect to pick up and play.
New mechanics spice up gameplay in all the best ways.
Oozing style and substance with a great soundtrack.
World Tour can feel and look a little dated at times.
Somewhat confusing Battle Hub menus take time to get used to.