Time to fight your way.
For the longest time, fighting games have existed in a weird space in the gaming community. While nobody can question the skill and dedication required to master the myriad of combos and mix ups, for your average gamer the learning curve to “git gud” is just too steep. Sure, anybody can button mash on a controller, but getting juggled ad infinitum by an even slightly more skilled player is enough to make anybody snap a controller in half.
To that end, Street Fighter 6 asks and answers a simple question: how do we bring new players into the fold of a storied franchise while still honouring our veteran players? It turns out the answer is even simpler: provide more straightforward casual controls and a sensible story mode that can introduce new players to core mechanics and ideas while further refining the same great base.
It’s no accident that the Street Fighter series has existed for over 30 years. As one of the big three mainstream titles, it’s continually mixed in new gameplay elements to keep things fresh and keep players interested. This time around that gameplay focuses around the Drive Gauge. This new bar system compliments the already established Super Arts to further encourage player creativity. These bars are consumed when blocking incoming hits, being hit by Supers or Drive moves or even whacked by the new Punish Counter, or they can be spent when using the new Drive abilities.
These abilities take the form of the Drive Impact, a flashy and hard-hitting two-part attack, or their perfect counter, the Drive Parry. There’s also the Drive Reversal and Drive Rush on offer for players to mix in too, while using Overdrive changes your regular special moves into an enhanced version that provides an additional effect.
You can build your own bar back up by taking a moment out of combat or going on the offensive with a flurry of moves of your own. Let your bar deplete too far though and you’ll enter Burnout. This state severely impedes your ability to weather incoming attacks and leave you open to stuns.
All around me are familiar faces
Street Fighter 6 is launching with 18 characters, and promising a further four to come in just its first season. Of that base total, six of those are brand new to the franchise while the remaining 12 are made up of series mainstays like Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li. Each character on the roster manages to maintain that unique vibe – sure, newcomer Marisa may seem to overlap with Zangief or E Honda on paper, but in a fight she feels totally different.
Of the new crew my personal favourite was Manon, the ballet dancing, judo-throwing, runway-walking French supermodel. Her move set is focused primarily on using her judo chops to throw opponents and build up her special resource: her medals. As you build up more medals, your throws move from relatively weak through to bar-shattering explosions of colour. Coming to grips with her mixture of long range gap closing attacks and powerful throws was absolutely a highlight of my time with the game.
I’m going to make a controversial statement here and say that of the big three fighting games, Street Fighter 6 has by far the best visual style. While Mortal Kombat 1 is edgy and violent and Tekken 8 is darker and a bit more plasticky, Street Fighter 6 is bright and vibrant. The art style perfectly conveys the lighter tone of the game – while there is a more serious undercurrent there, everything from the excellent soundtrack to the way the fighters just seem to be genuinely enjoying beating the crumpets out of each other gives the game a more enjoyable vibe.
Vanilla, the safe option
Gameplay options come in three main flavours in Street Fighter 6, the first of which is the Fighting Grounds. Over here you’ll find all of the stock standard stuff you’re used to seeing in titles from this genre. You have your Arcade Story mode that lets you choose a fighter and play through a series of matches as them against various AI opponents. Succeed and you unlock snippets of their story, but even a loss can still develop their character.
Then there’s your practice hub where you’ll find various tutorials and training options. This is the place to come to both learn the subtleties of a fighters move set through helpful watch-then-repeat lessons and how to play them at a higher level. This is my recommended first port of call for everybody, but especially those looking to try out any of the 6 new characters on offer.
Finally there’s the other mainstay options of Versus (local battles) and online matches, as well as the new Extreme Battle mode. These special matches throw more out there rules at your along with gimmicks such as a stampeding bull that occasionally interrupts your fight.
Strawberry, the weirder one
The next flavour on offer is a somewhat strange one… the Battle Hub. The Hub is its own zone where, rather than one of the roster of fighters, you run around as your own customized avatar. Here you can partake in online matches in the Casual, Ranked or Extreme Battle modes, or if that’s not your speed then there’s also a host of Capcom classic games on offer too like Final Fight on offer too.
Boasting up capacity for up to 100 players per Battle Hub instance, this Metaverse-esque take on a social space is certainly a unique experience. The arcade cabinets grouped around the giant room evoke a sanitized take on that classic, real world arcade experience. While no arcade I’ve ever been to has been quite this bright, white and shiny, maybe Street Fighter 6’s take on it is what all arcades aspire to be.
Chocolate, everybody’s favourite
That brings us to third and final flavour in Street Fighter 6’s neopolitan tub of game modes, World Tour. This bright and bubbly fever dream is the answer to “What if Yakuza X Street Fighter?”, or perhaps more appropriately, “What if Final Fight but 3D RPG?” Yes, World Tour mode is an RPG firmly planted in the Street Fighter universe and feature a whole host of familiar faces from throughout the series history. Chief among them are your Masters – the characters of Street Fighter 6 themselves.
You see this mode doesn’t ask you to pick up and follow along the story of an established character, that’s reserved for Arcade mode. Instead, you create your own custom character (the avatar from the Battle Hub, or a new one if you’d prefer) and then mix and match fighting styles to find something uniquely you.
I suppose it’s high time we talked character customization, as the options on offer here would make a Sims fan squee with joy. While not new to the fighting game genre as a whole – looking at you Soulcalibur and Tekken – this is the first time custom avatars have graced Street Fighter. You can tweak just about everything; from things obvious like height and arm length, both with gameplay implications of their own, right down to more precise adjustments like lat and delt size or *ahem* cake abundance.
No such thing as too much cake
Once you’ve created your own monstrosity, be it beefcake, beanstalk or beauty, then you’re unleashed on Metro City – first stop, Buckler Gym. Here you’re introduced to your first master and returning fighter, Luke. Luke debuted as a playable character in Street Fighter 5, and now is your over the top and excessively plucky guide in waiting.
The Gym kicks you off with the very basics of World Tour. Starting with basic movement controls, you’re then guided through the simple move sets combinations available to all characters. The Modern Control scheme is mandatory throughout Chapter 1 and serves as the best foundation for newer players. This significantly simplified move set does away with the usual 8 button + 8 direction scheme in favour of a much simple Low/Mid/High/Special layout instead. No more need you worry about difficult, multi-input long combos either – under the Modern scheme those are replaced by holding R2 while tapping your basic attack options instead.
While genre veterans are sure to despise this new scheme it’s undoubtedly more accessible to new players. Gone is the need to memorize long strings of inputs, instead replaced by what new players love best – pure button mashing. While there’s an argument to be made that the Modern controls won’t actually help new players get good at the game, what it does do is give them a way to pick up the game more casually and feel like they’re actually able to play. It’s kind of like using assists in sim racing games – they can help you race and keep pace with other drivers, but you’ll never be truly fast til you turn those off.
Once you’ve cleared Chapter 1 you can, like me, immediately switch back to the Classic controls and keep them there for most of the rest of the game. There are a few odd side missions that do require the Modern scheme to be selected. Don’t worry though, those aren’t overly common and switching is a quick exercise.
At this point you’ve probably found yourself asking “why are they forcing me to use this Modern control scheme?” Well the answer is simple – World Tour treats you as if you’ve never played a Street Fighter, or indeed any other fighting game, at all. From the very beginning you’re given the basics of gameplay, through side missions and main story alike. Hell, you don’t even unlock the ability to utilize the Drive gauge until Chapter 7 in the story. This is of course a very intentional choice. Your avatar is somebody totally new to the world of street fighting, and they’re treated accordingly.
Hit the streets
After Luke’s crash course you’re set free on the streets of Metro City and given the relatively simple task of beating somebody to a pulp. Metro City isn’t like most cities we know. Here they put the street in Street Fighter, with just about everybody you see being down for a quick curb side rumble. These impromptu fights can be initiated through an honourable challenge or, if you’re feeling devious, by using one of your masters special moves to give yourself a head start in the fight.
It’s these masters and their move sets that enable the true RPG factor of World Tour. You can enroll with each of the games 18 launch characters and mix and match their moves around to make your avatar’s fighting style exactly yours. Unlocking these abilities does take some commitment though, as you’ll need to use a masters fighting style to unlock more moves for it.
Take Chun-Li for example, the second master we meet shortly after stepping out into the city. Her fighting style is a fast paced one based on Chinese martial arts, but you won’t gain access to some of her most iconic moves until you’ve invested some time into being her student. As you go on you’ll unlock more and more of her special moves, eventually unlocking her Super Arts too to use as your own.
All of this combines to make World Tour a blast to play for newcomers and veterans alike. The character dialogue has its tongue firmly implanted in its cheek and never feels the need to take itself too seriously. The world itself is a basic one, but serves its purpose as a great place for punching people. More importantly though, World Tour serves as a smooth pathway into the game for the horde of new players 6 is sure to attract. It grounds them in the world and teaches them the basics one concept at a time to give them a firm foundation if they choose to go Online.
My little secret
It’s time for me to let all of you faithful readers in on a little secret – I’m rubbish at fighting games. Genuinely trash. From my earliest gaming days, I’ve always been spectacularly awful at every aspect of these games. I can rarely even win against the simplest of opponents – for some reason fighting games just don’t make sense to my brain.
I’ve tried many times in the past, from Mortal Kombat through to Guilty Gear, I’ve given fighting games a red-hot go. So then why did I take on Street Fighter 6 for review, you may ask? Well if there’s one thing that this instalment of the series drives home it’s that challenging yourself is important.
The fighting game community is one I’ve admired from afar for some time. A real outside looking in vibe. This time around though, things are different. Street Fighter 6 is more accessible than ever, and with its Modern control layout it may just be the most accessible fighting game out there right now. A story mode that slowly but surely introduces to the various concepts of the genre paired with the usual tutorials and exercises sets even the biggest plebs (me) up for success.
For fans of the series, this latest instalment is an insta-buy. It’s an easy recommendation for fighting game fans at large too. With a flashy and visually spectacular art style, excellent music and a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour, Street Fighter 6 should be on the radar of anybody looking to take a swing at a titan of the genre at its best.
Street Fighter 6 heads to Windows PC, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PS5 on 2 June 2023.
Street Fighter 6 was reviewed using a promotional code on PS5, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.
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