Street Fighter 6 looks like a huge leap forward
In its original incarnation, Capcom’s Street Fighter V was much maligned for hitting shelves in what many considered an incomplete state. A handful of characters and a business model that didn’t fit the spirit of the franchise, it took several years before it finally reached a point where it felt close to representing value for money, but even so, there was still that fearsome paywall, and gameplay that for me didn’t reach the same dizzying heights as genre redefining Street Fighter IV, a title I’d spent literally entire years of my life playing online .
Amazingly, even though there are only eight fighters announced and three backgrounds, my editor and I left Capcom HQ in complete agreement that we’d be happy to drop our hard-earned bounce on this build. embryo of Street Fighter 6, just so we can keep playing it. It feels like a huge upgrade from what came before it, the same way IV came along and gave the series a drastic and instantly enjoyable reboot. It expertly combines and builds on elements of everything we love about Street Fighter gaming, while removing or reworking some of the mechanics that may seem prohibitively complex for casual fans.
I found SFV’s front end to be a mess, loads of ads, confusing menus and an annoyance. Even in this current form, 6 dispenses with the clutter offering the simple option of selecting a scene, a fighter, and then getting into the meat and drink kicking ass. First then, the proposed fighters. The pillars of the shotokan series, Ryu and Ken, are obviously present. They look grizzled, battle-worn, and brimming with old-man strength. Guile still has the extra-AF flat fade and the same veteran looks, while Chun-Li is now an elder stateswoman with her age-old blend of speed and unexpected strength. Deadly in the right hands, Korean villain and taekwondo expert SIN Juri is another old face given a new lease of life.
It’ll take some time to figure out exactly how many, but all of the oldies have new attacks and abilities to master, while feeling instantly familiar to anyone who’s played any game since The World Warrior. Returning from SFV and almost bridging the gap between the two games is the handsome Luke, the newly anointed series mascot, who here feels absolutely sensational – the agreement between us was that he felt “meaty” – with a real weight and weight to its crushing offense and unusually fast projectile.
It can be daunting having to learn a host of new characters, so luckily we only had to find our feet with two, and what a great pair of diverse brawlers to kick things off. Jamie is a complex but deadly anomaly who employs drunken master style offense and has a number of swaggering chain combinations to learn. He feels like someone I’m going to spend an inordinate amount of time with. Kimberly is a super-fast kunoichi, trained by Final Fight legend Guy, who has an instantly appealing feel and aesthetic influenced by neon-splattered graffiti and ’80s hip hop. She brings the roster of characters into modernity, but in an extremely cool and expertly crafted way that will appeal to fans new and old.
The main draw of SF6 will be the Drive system, which already looks like an awesome crossover of different systems pulled from a plethora of modern fighters. There is what can be called a traditional Super meter, which is used only for your Critical Art supers, although even these have new and unheard of variations and possibilities, thanks to the introduction of Drive. The Drive gauge is at the heart of almost everything you do. It primarily lets you hit Overdrive variations of your signature moves, just like the EX attacks of yore.
A Drive Impact is a beautifully animated Focus style move that can absorb an opponent’s attack and has a defensive variant called Drive Reversal which is a handy counter way to escape a sticky situation like being hit by pressure. Drive Parry is the best and most interesting of all functions since it allows you to parry attacks in the same way as Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike or Garou: Mark of the Wolves, but can also be used continuously by holding the buttons pressed, leaving you vulnerable only to throws, or the Drive gauge running out of juice. Drive Rush rounds things out and gives you the option to dash after a parry or a cancelable attack, and adds an additional element of surprise that acts as a form of defense and attack possibilities.
You start each fight with a full stock Drive, with each of the various abilities – and in the case of some characters, their special moves – devouring various Drive segment denominations. They regenerate over time or when you land hits on your enemy, but once you’re out your fighter enters a state of exhaustion, slowing them down and preventing the use of the many valuable perks offered. This makes every match an interesting tactical balancing act and will deter spam.
In a cool nod to the popularity of esports and the massive fighting game community, SF6 also includes commentary from real-life personalities such as Capcom Pro Tour mouthpiece and Sagat lookalike Jeremy. “Vicious” Lopez, fighting game historian James Chen and an EVO alumnus. Tasty Steve. I was wary of this inclusion, but I shouldn’t have been – the game-by-game and color aspects actually add to the gameplay, as they dispense precise guidance about your in-game situation, like reminding you when your stock Drive is about to run out, or when might be a good time to think about doing a Critical Art. Their vocals don’t detract from the rest of the aural delights, which include excellent brand-new character themes and the usual nice array of growls, thumps and “Hadoken” squeals.
As for the controls, I played Street Fighter 6 with a traditional arcade stick, but there is also a simplified control scheme designed presumably for controller sticks and for those new to or new to gaming. combat that allows for easy auto combos and specials using triggers and analog stick swipes. I’m all for more accessibility like this, and it certainly hasn’t hurt other great titles I’ve played recently like KOF and Guilty Gear. But I feel like to really master this one, you’ll have to learn the classic control methods to get the most out of the Drive system and all it has to offer, due to the high possibility of entering very burnout quickly if you overdo it on easy-to-execute pyrotechnics.
I felt we had only scratched the surface of what you can really do in Street Fighter 6. I left and watched more videos and footage, still excited about the possibilities. I’ve noticed that just by looking at footage of the delicate and mesmerizing Jamie, it seems possible to continue a chain of combos right after a Critical Art if done correctly.
The gameplay is beautiful, then. But my lord, it looks phenomenal too. Capcom’s unmistakably wonderful stylization is a marvel to behold, with huge, intricately detailed models brimming with personality and smooth-as-silk animation. The three scenes on offer are all-new but bring instantly familiar throwbacks and fanservice – like a smiling Damnd courthouse in Metro City, or Guile’s classic airplane-studded backdrop.
I feel like even after a little over an hour in its clutches, I could still write a few thousand words about Street Fighter 6, such was its impact. It feels like a huge step forward for a series that was, quite frankly, desperate for a reinvention and overhaul. To say I’m so impressed, so early in its lifespan, bodes very well for the future. I’m already planning on getting myself a shiny new arcade stick when this one drops.
Street Fighter 6 is scheduled for release in 2023 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PS4 and PS5.