Street Fighter 6 needed to do everything it could to right the wrongs of its predecessor. With fighting games enjoying a strong resurgence in recent years, it’s simply not enough to cater solely to the hardcore audience and Street Fighter 6 knows that. Where Street Fighter 5 would eventually fumble to the finish line as a competent product, Street Fighter 6 starts off stronger than ever with an appeal to all audiences. And while the roster isn’t as numerous as most of its contemporaries, it’s laid a foundation riddled with a vigour that can only auspiciously grow into Capcom’s greatest fighter yet.
Street Fighter 6 doesn’t mess with the genre too much. You pick a character and battle it out with an opponent until one of you wins. It’s a system that works. Street Fighters’ main schtick has always been the solid systems underpinning the flow of its combat, making up for its lack of melodrama or violence with good old-fashioned gameplay. Street Fighter 6 is no different. It leverages a solid battle system to appeal to experienced players but incorporates some much-needed changes to welcome new and inexperienced players to the fold too.
The most obvious change here is the three control options it offers up. Typical fighting games require inputting commands and buttons to pull off special moves or combos. This is still in Street Fighter 6, as the “Classic” control mode. But two other control modes simplify things for newcomers. “Modern” lets players pull off special moves and combos with simplified and less intimidating inputs. “Dynamic” is even simpler – allowing flashier combos and move strings with the mashing of certain buttons – it acts as a de-facto “party” mode of sorts for a super casual player.
I’ve experienced first-hand how newer players to the genre might find these games overwhelming, especially when playing against somebody experienced. These control schemes don’t feel like afterthoughts. They’re an earnest step in the right direction to break down barriers that might stop people from picking up the controller. Some aspects of the Modern mode, such as lower damage output, might seem controversial. But it only seeks to illustrate the strength of it – you can throw out moves and combos faster than the average player, so a damage compromise seems fair.
Another less obvious way that Street Fighter 6 feels more approachable is the Drive system. It feels significantly streamlined by incorporating parrying, blocking, cancelling, and all other kinds of gimmicks from previous games into one system. You can use your drive meter to absorb attacks, counter them, or even block or cancel out a string of attacks. Like in previous games, it can even be used to enhance special moves. Giving players so many options at the beginning of a match leads to a flow of battle that’s much faster and, more importantly, more flexible for players.
The Drive system really is ingenious. It manages to roll the cooler gimmicks seen in previous Street Fighter games into one, but it also provides a consistent set of skills that every character can access from the beginning. If you can successfully grasp the concept of the Drive system as a whole, you have a substantial collection of abilities to fight with no matter who you choose. It’s a much more intelligent and elegant system than in Street Fighter 5 – where every V-Skill and V-Trigger had to be remembered and chosen at the beginning of each match. Even then, they were all wildly inconsistent and unbalanced. The Drive system is a more straightforward approach with much more potential.
Appealing to a wider audience, there’s a nice amount of content here to experience as a solo player. The newest, World Tour, has been done in some fighting games in the past, though not to the extent seen here. The mode puts your avatar character into the world of Street Fighter in an action RPG-like mode, where you’ll travel the world to learn moves from your favourite characters and throw down with people on the streets. The transition between fighting and exploration is seamless and fun from a gameplay perspective.
World Tour is, for the most part, enjoyable. It was fun to see all my favourite characters behave outside of a match and learn abilities from them to build my perfect characters. It’s not perfect, however. The plot is certainly engaging, but the world just isn’t as interesting or as lore-rich as Mortal Kombat would be in adapting this formula. There was even potential to have satisfying exploration with Metroid-esque gates that only certain abilities could open, but there isn’t anything of that sort here. Most quests are also “move to this area and speak to this person”, so while World Tour does a great job of teaching you the basics of Street Fighter 6, it’s not something I could play for long bouts at a time.
You can take your avatar or any other character straight into Battle Hub, a more complex lobby system for the game online. The hub is like a giant meeting place, allowing you to organize matches with other players or buy gear for your character at numerous stalls. There’s even a massive screen up front that celebrates high-performing players in each room. It’s a great idea that feels like the most well-realised execution of “community” in a fighting game. However, only time will tell whether this concept will stick. I play most of my fighters privately with the same people, but for those who are more sociable, this is an effortlessly seamless way to play with others.
I was fortunate enough to do this with both the betas and the pre-release period for the game. Thankfully, online performance is solid. I had better matches with the random Australian that I ran into (thank you, whoever you are), but even against higher latency opponents, the rollback-based net code performed admirably. Online, as a whole, is masterfully executed in Street Fighter 6. Performance is great. Rematches are quick and snappy. Rankings can be maintained on a per-character basis. The online offerings for Street Fighter 6 are nothing short of the industry’s best and are what other fighters should aspire to be.
Fighting Ground is the other third of the game, and it’s really just a one-stop shop for all the modes the game has to offer. You can fight each other locally, fight other players with crazier rulesets, learn character-specific combos or even just about how to play your favourite character and engage with character-specific stories in the Arcade mode. Back in the day, everything included in Fighting Ground would’ve been enough for a fighting game, but to see this and much more included in Street Fighter 6 is encouraging. For the old-school fan who isn’t a fan of the flashier lobbies that Battle Hub provides, you can also set up private rooms here to invite your friends.
And while Street Fighter 6 looks to be doing so much so well, there was one big glaring omission that I can’t ignore – and that’s costumes. I’d argue they’re a series or even a genre staple, but nothing was included in the pre-release build. Hopefully, these will be included with the addition of a day one patch, for sure, but if absolutely all extra costumes are relegated to paid microtransactions, then this arguably feels like a step back from the Fight Money system that Street Fighter 5 used.
Of course, stylistically, Street Fighter 6 is on point. Powered by the same engine that has powered Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, RE Engine sees each character taking a more realistic approach as a base. But then, building on that base, the game has been heavily stylized to offer up this strange yet distinct visual style that looks better than most fighters on the market today. The animations are fluid, and the flourishes of paint that flick off special moves are bright and striking. This is easily the best that Street Fighter has ever looked.
All of this comes together to offer up a package that tries to right the wrongs of its predecessor and succeeds. It’s truly exciting to see what Street Fighter 6 will look like in the coming years, though if the team can save Street Fighter 5, think about what they could do with this.
Street Fighter 6 rights the wrongs of its past with multiple modes for every player and strong battle systems like no other. It invites new players into the fold with well implemented, simpler control schemes, without losing sight of the hardcore player. The World Tour mode won’t be for everyone, but Street Fighter 6 stands tall as one of the best fighters Capcom has made.