Street Fighter is a legacy unto itself. Thirty six years after the one-on-one brawler launched, we’ve had sequels, spin-offs, Marvel mashups and some forays into 3D. There’s been misses, like the Tekken crossover and on the silver screen, but there’s always a few bumps on the road to success. Next up in the critical eye is the eagerly awaited Street Fighter 6.
Coming eight years and several DLC’s after Street Fighter V, 6 (not VI, annoyingly) is the next progressive step for the long-running series. Bringing new mechanics, a fancy story mode and being a complete(ish) game at launch, it’s set to take the world by storm if the beta receptions are anything to go by.
But is Street Fighter getting long in the tooth, or is it back to show the Mortal Kombat’s and Tekken’s how it should be done? Well, you’ve selected me as you’re new challenger and I’m going to beat some words into sense and knock out a review.
Kick, Punch! It’s All In The Inputs
If you’re unfamiliar with Street Fighter, and there are some that might be, allow me to break it down in its rawest form: it’s a fighting game. Specifically, it’s a one-on-one fighter, in which players pick from a roster of fighters and do their best to knock seven bells out of the other. Inputs are initially basic: three punches and three kicks, all ranging from Light, Medium and Heavy in strength.
That’s the very basic premise. But, and thankfully, that’s only the bare minimum. What players want to pull off are special moves, a moveset that each fighter boasts to give them the upper hand. Specific characters like Ryu and Ken can pull of fireballs and spinning, flying kicks, whilst wrestlers like Zangief and the newly introduced Manon can utilise throws. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, the sweet science behind Street Fighter 6 (and any fighting game, really) is working out which fighter is best for you, and the fight itself. Standing toe to toe against Zangief, for example, is just going to see you eat Spinning Piledrivers repeatedly. Getting annoyed with a projectile-spamming fighter keeping distance? Then, my friend, you need to work out how to close that gap.
Whilst this isn’t a guide on all the footsies, pokes and i-frames that fighters have (yes, those are real terms), the best bit is figuring it out yourself. A fighter you might not instantly gel with could end up being your personal favourite. Fortunately, there’s a big enough roster here for all to try.
Now, if one is a Street Fighter veteran, then they’ll be pleased to know about the established fighters in the main game. Series stalwarts Ryu and Ken are here, as are other long-term heroes in Guile and Chun Li. Deejay’s back, with sumo fighter Honda and electrifying Blanka, both absent from SFV’s initial line-up. Stretchy yoga practictioner Dhalsim slides in, as does the bear-wrestling Zangief, as mentioned earlier.
Some of you may have noticed that a few of these were absent from SFV and added as DLC, whilst other series mainstays are absent. The claw-wielding Vega, for example, or main series antagonist M.Bison aren’t here. Where’s Balrog, or a lot of the fighters from earlier games? There’s no Ibuki, Gill, Seth… or even some introduced into SFV, like Necalli.
This is a debate that could go on for a while, but presumably a lot of it is down to feedback, reception and essentially, the desire to add new fighters to things. Whilst some may be upset that their all-time favourite isn’t here (personally, I miss Abel), there’s always something new to make it worth it. Fortunately, this is where Street Fighter 6 shines.
The New Blood
It’s essential that a fighting game introduce new fighters, lest a game fall on its laurels and become really stale. I like Tekken, too, but their variations and new DLC is mostly recurring characters. Luckily, Street Fighter 6 has players covered with its variety. Again, one could argue that some of the new ones echo older fighters, but… that’s not a bad thing. That bit where I said I miss Abel, the French Sambist? Well, newcomer Manon is a Judoka that has some similarities.
The biggest draw for some is Luke, the newbie that’s featured to an insane degree over all of the key art, box art and just about everything else. A brawler, he offers an accessible moveset for newcomers. Kimberley personally reminds me of Ibuki, another ninjitsu-based character introduced way back in SFIII. Zangief has a female “rival” in Marisa: a Pankration wrestler that hits as hard as her Russian counterpart.
In contrast to the heavyweights, there’s Jamie: a fighter that uses a Drunken Kung Fu style made famous by Jackie Chan. Native American juggernaut T. Hawk isn’t here, but newcomer Lily picks up the mantle. Whilst half his size, she has some formidable throws to back her up, as well as that bloody annoying Condor Dive that made T. Hawk a nightmare to hit with anti-air attacks. Thanks, Capcom.
And of course, where would we be without some kind of enigmatic bad guy? As mentioned earlier, there’s no M. Bison trying to kidnap the Queen of England this time (1994 movie reference, not poor taste joke). Instead there’s JP, an extremely dapper looking gentleman with some very sinister intonations indeed.
With eighteen base characters, there’s enough to get to grips with. I’ve racked up some four hundred hours in SFIV, so I know how to play a few of these. But, my favourite newcomer is Manon, blending strikes, air counters and some sweet throws in. There will be more, which is both Street Fighter’s blessing and curse (which we’ll look at later).
Fightin’ Round The World
Stories in fighting games aren’t an uncommon thing, but they’re usually interwoven with the fights. That’s still a feature here, with each character having their story told through the Arcade mode. But the other big draw in Street Fighter 6 is its World Tour mode. This time, however, you’re not playing as one of the main cast, but a Create-Your-Own fighter on a journey of strength.
Once created, and honestly the customisation is pretty staggering, the stage is set at Luke’s fighting school. You, the player character, are on a mission of self discovery. However, being in the over-the-top world of Street Fighter, soon things get deeper and weirder, with whispers of Shadaloo floating about…
Yet the strangest thing is how it plays. The easiest comparison is a Yakuza game, for those familiar. In short, players venture around hub-like areas, talking to major characters and others, learn moves and get into fights. This is twofold: you’ll get attacked by Mad Gear gangs, and others, and you can also instigate fights. Think that postman’s eyeballing you? Take him out. Kawaii-looking tourist looks ready to throw hands? Go and find out…
It’s a very strange mode, to say the least, but not an unwelcome one. There’s creative moments too: players can utilise special moves as means of traversal and progression. Like above, using Chun Li’s Spinning Bird Kick to cross some rooftops.
There’s also skills and levelling, allowing players to favour points into more vitality, stronger attacks or other factors. Finally, as you talk to other Street Fighters, their fighting styles can be used. Granted, it’s slightly odd seeing a masculine fighter pulling Chun Li’s poses, but if anything it adds to the absurdity.
Whilst I can’t spoil the story, it’s certainly a meatier part of Street Fighter 6 that shouldn’t be ignored. Not just for completion or trophies’ sake, but because it’s a full story in itself. It’s nice to see that Capcom have made some effort, rather than just stick out a half-finished product, like the initial launch of SFV. But what else is there to do?
A Community That Fights Together
The strength and longevity in any fighting game is its multiplayer. This is especially prevalent in modern times, as home consoles are more favoured over pumping coins into arcade machines. Street Fighter is no slouch in this regard, maintaining a strong online presence over the last few titles.
But this year they’ve stepped it up, for better or worse. Introducing above: the Battle Hub. Taking what looks like inspiration from Monster Hunter World, the Battle Hub is an active arena for players to meet up and fight in. Not only that, there’s shops to spend hard earned/paid-for-with-real-money currency in too. These offer all sorts, but mostly new gear to kit your avatar out in. Costumes for the fighters can also be unlocked, but one must do more World Tour for that gateway to fancier dress.
Whilst I didn’t get to play online this time around, due to real life commitments, I did play one of the earlier betas. It was limited, but the core concept is pretty cool: pick an arcade cabinet, sit down, and wait for someone to join you. It’s novel, adding a little retro, human element to proceedings.
Of course, if walking around the hub isn’t your thing, you can turn on Ranked and Casual matches to trigger whilst you play Arcade or practice. And practice will be needed, especially when it comes to the new control scheme.
Classic Combatants Or Modern Menace?
As I said earlier, this isn’t going to be a technical review, per se. Nor is it a guide on the best way to play, but there are some new mechanics to touch on. Firstly, the new Modern controls, which simplifies things. It reminds me somewhat of an ArcSystem game, like Granblue Fantasy: Versus, a sort-of single button hybrid system.
From what I did use of it, namely the bit it makes you in World Tour, inputs are easier, with special moves being one dedicated button. But, much as I would love to tell you how incredible it is, it wasn’t for me. I’m a rigid, default preset and controller player. I can’t even use arcade sticks well, let alone an entirely new way to play. However, I can see the benefit in Capcom making a new way to play for both old and newcomers to try out.
The other new system are the Drive mechanics. The two major ones, Drive Parry and Drive Impact, remind me heavily of the Focus system from SFIV. Holding the two Medium attacks (on Classic), will have a fighter stand and parry most attacks. Dashes can be added too, so you could tank a few hits then dash through to counter. Drive Impact, a two-Heavy attack follow up, is a strong attack that will crumple a player if timed right.
Lastly, there’s the Drive Gauge. This replaces the EX system, meaning enhanced special moves will consume bars of that rather that the Critical Art (big special) bar. So, for example, throw a Haouken with two punches for some extra power behind it, but don’t drain the bar too much. It’s all similar, but new too. That does make sense.
My Fight Money!
So, let’s run down what Street Fighter 6 has all in its favour so far: amazing visuals, a tightly woven combat system, Arcade and a seperate Story feature. It’s got a strong mix of classic and new fighters, enough to get players going. What could be a blemish on an otherwise perfect beat ’em up from Capcom? Ah, yes: the use of real world money to buy fighters and trinkets.
Now, I’ve gone on my soapbox before, and it hasn’t changed anything. But then, nor has my opinion and yet the world keeps spinning. Yet it still urks me that new characters can be announced as DLC before a game has been released. Double irk-age when it’s recurring characters, like Ed who was only one game ago. Or even flippin’ Akuma, a dark visage of corruption who landed in 1994 as a secret boss character.
When I hear the phrase “Battle Pass” or “Fighter Coins”, yes, I know they’re optional. Yet it’s a shame that we can’t just have a fighting game anymore where all of the characters are there already, to be unlocked via conventional methods. I know I’m pissing in the wind here, but it’s the only bleamish that mars not only Street Fighter but the genre as a whole. Capcom have gotten better at this, especially after the Street Fighter X Tekken “already on the disc” days, but until people stop buying it, it’ll keep on.
However, the above rant is my personal issue. Whilst I know I’m not alone, it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall experience. That, I can confidently say, is absolutely perfect. It’s hard to describe to you, any reader, how underwhelmed I was at Street Fighter V. The terrible launch, the drip-fed classic characters, just the anticlimax after how many hours I’d sunken into IV.
So it gives me the cheesiest of grins, as I type, to be able to say that you should pick this up [if you’re a Street Fighter fan]. I’m not technical, I couldn’t write a fighting guide. But I can say in layman’s terms that this is what fans will want from a Street Fighter title.
The fighting feels tight, the visuals making it a delight to play. The Drive system is well-implented, especially to Focus fans from IV. The old roster stalwarts haven’t had their movesets messed with, with the newcomers adding spice to those willing to try. Could I kick your ass with Ryu/Ken? Yeah, probably, but I’m having more fun learning Manon and Kimberley for something different. I’m just itching to get online when the game launches.
To conclude: Street Fighter 6 is a welcome return to form. A series that I’ve played since the Super Nintendo days, my worries were put aside after V and hopefully yours are too after reading this. This is beat ’em up to play against friends, either online or local couch fighting. The beauty of it is that there will be crossplay too, so I’m psyched to be able to fight my wayward Xbox friends again. But for now, I can’t say much more, I need to get some more practice in. See you on the streets!
Considering how botched the launch for SFV was, Street Fighter 6 has shown that Capcom do learn from their mistakes. A solid starting roster, some of the tightest combat the series has seen, and a story mode so crazy in concept that it only make sense here, the king of the fighting game is back for its crown.
Street Fighter 6 is available from 2nd June 2023 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (review platform), Xbox Series S|X and PC via Steam.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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