Street Fighter is a very, very old IP starting around the 1980s, it has continued to evolve all this time and it’s daunting to think that we have a game that’s still being played by everyone out here after roughly fifty years. Man, fifty years, the game is as old as some fathers out there. Happy Father’s Day by the way. But think about it, all that evolution behind a game, from simply trading hits to doing combos, to having super meters and cancels. Learning the complex nuances of this fast-paced one-on-one combat for somebody completely new to the genre will have a hard time, look at Dota 2 for example. I took a break from it for a year and I have no idea what’s going on with it anymore. The issue of who’s going to play this game next, the concept of succession has been floating about the fighting game enthusiasts for actually many years now. But if you try to make the game too simple or easy, you’ll also upset your long-time fans and players that have followed this series through the years. It’s really a catch-22 situation for a developer.
Another problem was how it would try again at the semi-live-service model that they attempted with SF5, which ran into the usual problems that live-service games do. A terrible launch, an insane push for microtransactions, terrible online experiences, unstable servers, and more. It continued to have issues even with patches and had balance issues that even their most stalwart players spoke out against.
So now we have three problems for Capcom to solve. First, to make a game that’s accessible for anyone to be able to play and watch. Second, to produce a compelling roster of characters to play, and a game system that’s interesting enough for even veterans to explore. And third, to serve robust enough content that would keep the interest of a broad audience to keep them engaged with a game. And you know what? They did it.
They hit a perfect middle ground of how to engage people in this game. The fights feel like they offer a lot of freedom, the characters are fun and unique from each other. And to top it all off, they even added a campaign mode that paces a person through a fighting game. I can’t remember the last time there was a story mode that actually made you have a custom character, in a fighting game, with a huge degree of customization. This is insane.
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me go through each of the points that Street Fighter 6 has done to really impress me with the experience I’ve gotten out of this title. Despite my saltiest losing streak in years.
Production (5 / 5)
Street Fighter 6 decided that it was time to take back down to where it all started, so welcome back to the streets. Not only did they go there location-wise, but took the aesthetic there as well. The effects accompanying special functions have this splattered paint look that we commonly see with street graffiti. This carries on with the versus screen as the next fight is loading, which I personally thought was an amazing presentation. It makes you feel the hype with the cheering, the personalities of the characters shine through as they march forward. It’s tense, it’s exciting and even lets the players toy with the expression while waiting. It’s very fun and impressive.
Another thing I’m impressed with is how they’ve translated the look of the characters in the game. In the previous iteration, we had a look that you can more or less describe as animated toys or figures. Especially with the hair and how their skin is textured. They do carry this look partway into SF6 but give it more of a realistic twist, with more subtle textures giving characters more definition. Also, thank goodness they’ve decided to change up the hair because Ken didn’t deserve that.
Given that Capcom has always been one of the developers who have been on top of the fighting game genre, it’s no surprise that they’re able to bring these larger-than-life characters to life in a convincing manner. They all also have updated looks to match up with where they are in their own stories, and also make sure they all look unique from each other.
Now it’s not only the characters that look great in motion but the entirety of the game itself. The supers, the flashes of color when there’s been a special function activated, the backgrounds and how they represent these wilder versions of different places all over the world. The combat looks distinct, easy to understand, and crisp. How the game slows down for a moment when characters have committed to actions like Drive Impact or Drive Rush makes it easy to understand what’s going on. It gives a huge emphasis on moments that will definitely change the tide of the game. This is a huge plus for anyone, as it becomes easier to watch and understand, making it good for even just spectators.
Now for the auditory dimension of this fighter, well, it remains consistent with the look. How the drums give a defined beat allows all of the character soundtracks to have an active street feel to them, and well, they’re definitely candidates for my next gym session, assuming I have a membership. The voices also pronounce the characters nicely, in whatever language you want to listen to.
Street Fighter 6 is undoubtedly a treat both on what you can see and hear.
Mechanics (4.5 / 5)
I’m just going to go over the newer parts of this fighting game because going through the entire thing is going to be a doozy. So while many of us already know that there are six buttons to press in the game for three types of punches and kicks. There are some new control modes that Street Fighter is offering for those who aren’t quite used to fighting games and believe me, it can be daunting. I play anime fighters and even I’m a bit overwhelmed by this game sometimes.
So these two new modes are Modern and Dynamic. Where Modern simplifies the button layout to something that would be more comfortable to play on a controller as opposed to the Classic controls that are best for those with fight sticks. I think it’s mostly successful, it makes it easier to pick up characters and, while it isn’t as flexible and fine-tuned as classic. It’s greatly accessible and can win fights until you get to higher-level opponents.
I also tried Dynamic for a bit, which is supposed to be AI-assisted where buttons change what it does based on the current situation. So, I have no idea how it worked at all. I pressed buttons, and things happen. Possible to win? Maybe. But you can generally press buttons and things happen, maybe if you mash hard enough, you’ll win.
Another huge change they’ve introduced is the Drive System. Which is more like bringing things back rather than making something new. Initially, it looked like it was going to be something like a guard gauge. I was caught by surprise when things like Drive Impact and Drive Rush were presented. Meaning the green squares below the life bar, that’s more like a stamina bar of things you can do. So instead of having to build up to being able to do powered-up moves or anything flashy, you can do that the moment the fight begins. But that’s not all, you can also access defensive abilities like snapbacks and parry so long as you have bar exhausted. Because once you’re exhausted the drive gauge has to build up to full before you can use it again, and that takes away so much of what your character should be capable of. This means that there’s a strong risk-reward gamble you are doing with this game for every interaction you’re trying to do. Are you going to push your offense to make a stronger combo or save it in case you need the ability to get out of a sticky situation? The super bar remains a separate thing from all of this, which allows players more freedom in doing what they want without losing their ability to do a reversal.
The end result of these systems in practice is a match that’s really fun to watch, you know that so long as they have those green bars available that they’re capable of staging an incredible comeback. No moment is boring. Street Fighter 6 has successfully brought back old mechanics but balanced them out in such a way that many play styles become viable.
Content (5 / 5)
For most fighting games, a starting roster of 8-10 characters is already a good offer. So finding out that the starting lineup for SF6 is 18 was pretty surprising. Sure, the roster is a mix of old and new characters, and it’s not like Capcom doesn’t have a wealth of characters to draw from. But they did change it up enough so that even the most familiar characters have something new to them. Ryu can modify how his fireballs work, Blanka has new toys that can activate when charged, and Zangief has a counter?! Zangief?! Well, that’s definitely going to be fun. Some of them are new characters that take after older ones, one of note is Luke, who’s wielding the banner for the game, and seems pretty close to Ryu while still holding some unique characteristics for himself.
The roster isn’t the only thing that’s quite plentiful in Street Fighter Six, it comes with a palatable arcade mode, and some special match modes to mix it up. It also has a lot of training content that will let you grow more familiar with how the game and its characters work. Combo challenges let you learn what you can do with the various characters, and they can even walk you through a character’s ideal strategy when in play.
The one I haven’t really talked much about yet is the World Tour, which is one of the more impressive achievements of Street Fighter 6. In a nutshell, it’s a world where you create your own character and make it go through a campaign where you get to meet and learn from the entire roster of SF6. It’s complete with open-world roaming, and character customization not only in looks but also in the move set, and even has RPG elements like sub-quests and developing bonds with your martial arts masters. When was the last time you’ve seen something like this in a fighting game? They made an entire game mode that can be a game by itself, and through it, you get to know the characters in the world of Street Fighter. On top of that, it paces you through the various mechanics and fighting styles within the game as it makes it part of your progression as a character through the story. That’s honestly amazing.
Features (4 / 5)
Two words are pretty substantial in praising Street Fighter 6 in terms of features and online play: Rollback Netcode. Seriously, even if you’re playing with WiFi warriors the connection can still feel good enough to play with. But aside from that they seem to have picked up from ArcSys’s attempts to create an arcade feel to online lobbies with the battle hub. It’s convenient since you just run around a large arcade with everyone and pick a cabinet to play on and just wait for somebody to come along and challenge you. Or even walk up to somebody looking ready to match up. It’s pretty convenient and you can even see the connection type and quality they have, so you can decide to pass up if you don’t like what you see. If you want to keep it small and personal, you can form private lobbies as well.
What I like the most about the online experience is the fact that you can watch other people fighting, this is unironically my favorite thing to do with fighting games. Watch good players punch it out to figure out who’s better, even if their level isn’t particularly high, there’s a lot to learn. It’s also possible to watch replays of matches if you want to further study how each one played out.
One thing that can get particularly entertaining to watch is fights with custom characters. Yes, that’s right, characters that people have painstakingly put together to either amaze, scare, or make you laugh can actually be used in online matches. It’s pretty neat to watch it happen, especially as size modifications will affect how their hitboxes work. I haven’t seen a system like this since Soul Calibur, and believe me that’s been a while.
Another thing I’d have to note would be the battle pass. It’s the typical 2-tier fare, where there’s a free and paid tier. Where you gain kudos for playing characters, which allows you to gain levels for your Battle- I mean, Fighter Pass. Mainly you get some cosmetics out of it, and you can get more stuff by buying the paid Fighter Pass. Now some of you might feel miffed that Street Fighter 6 plans to have this battle pass system along with microtransactions which feel really grimy for a full-priced game. But I don’t think it’s particularly bad. New characters will be made available as DLC and this has been their scheme to prolong a fighting game’s lifespan. This whole approach with the battle pass is more of the same thing.
While yes, I do have my reservations about that being part of a full-priced game, it’s also a complete game. It offers so much for new players and those who don’t really like fighting online or fighting people regularly. I know that sounds strange but I’m kind of one of them, who just likes to explore and learn the game rather than try to gain rank points online. It even has a campaign that has a lot of work put into it, rather than something that feels tacked on. So it really does a great game complete with features and content even before we get to the point where we talk about microtransactions and the fighter pass. Personally, I think it’s okay, so long as distinct gameplay advantages aren’t afforded those who choose to buy into Capcom’s offerings. Considering their history, it’ll probably be fine.
The more I sat on it, two things seem to be the focus of Street Fighter 6: Fusion and Succession. It synergizes the best of its older titles and combined them into the Drive System, offering a lot of options and adding new strategies and depth to the game. But also takes steps to keep the game accessible and easy to understand for new players and spectators. It even does a proper job of creating new and interesting characters without necessarily upstaging the classic characters, despite the classics being more of a side-character role. It’s pretty refreshing to see them not have to be involved in some world-domination plot. They just focus on being the martial arts masters we know they are.
I can see a lot of people enjoy this game even if they don’t necessarily like the idea of fighting other people online. Those who just want to learn how to play are given a wealth of resources to learn and experiment with. 18 characters is a lot of content to go through as well. And of course, the successful implementation of online lobbies is a great achievement for Capcom as getting a good netcode has been a problem in the series for some time now.
Anyone who decides to pick up this game will find a lot to exploit, explore, and express themselves with and I recommend it to anyone who even has a passing interest in fighters.
Capcom has shown that they’re in top form and a master of their craft. Scoring a 4.6 / 5.
Available on PC, PlayStation 4/5 and Xbox Series X/S.