Street Fighter 6 gets things back to where they ought to be. Where Street Fighter IV revitalised fighting games on every level – casual gamers loved it, and a new era of competitive action formed around it – Street Fighter V just kind of existed. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t the industry-shaking experience that its predecessor was and the years of updates that hit the game only served to push casual players further and further away. Street Fighter 6 makes things right again. This is fighting game royalty to casual and competitive gamers alike, and the updated gameplay and sublime visuals of the latest entry back that up.
For the first time in a while, Street Fighter 6 actually makes you feel like this is a game about fighters in the street. The previous games had such sterile, arcade presentations, but not Street Fighter 6. Leaving the character select screen drops you into a pre-match animation of your fighters hyping up a crowd of onlookers, the menus and stage details covered in potent ink-splotches and classic graffiti art. There’s a raw and rugged feeling here, but it’s complimented by some of the most gorgeous character models and smoothest animations the series has ever seen.
I was always worried about the possibility of Street Fighter running on the RE Engine – nobody needs a photo-realistic face-scanned Ryu. Thankfully, Street Fighter 6 uses hand-crafted and stylized character models alongside realistic textures and mega-detailed lighting to drop a perfect blend of realism and style.
Once you get in there and start street fighting, Street Fighter 6 delivers an addictive blend of the best parts of prior entries. Attacks have the weight and oomph of Street Fighter 4, with familiar ink and paint-effects highlighting your EX and charged attacks. The Third Strike parry makes a comeback, but now in the form of an easy to execute long-lasting Drive Parry that stays active as long as you have the meter for it. V Arts don’t return, but the high-velocity footsies and rapid combos of Street Fighter V do.
It’s an electrifying mix of familiar ideas, but Street FIghter 6 isn’t without it’s own identity. The same meter fueling your Drive Parry also feeds other functions like EX attacks – use too many EXs in a row or parry for too long, and you’ll enter a state of burnout, locking your character out of these functions entirely until the meter very slowly recharges. This system creates layers of new mind-games that could only exist in Street Fighter 6 with moments of mirrored parries, or a sudden locked meter leading to a pixel-health turnaround.
More exciting is how Street Fighter 6 lets each player spec into their own specialties in order to balance meter and avoid the crash & burn. Do you go heavy on a combo-absorbing parry and forego your EX moves, or do you focus on beefy attacks and ignore the parry unless it’s an emergency? Do you dish these out non-stop at the start, or do you trickle them out throughout the match? It sounds simple, but when you combine it with the standard 3-bar super meter for your Critical Arts and Super Attacks, it creates a world of possibilities.
Also, nobody told Ryu about that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks; he has an entirely new move. This isn’t anything new for fighting games with returning cast members, but it’s Ryu. There’s nothing shocking about newcomers Luke and Jamie or the alterations to Chun-li’s kit, but it’s somehow bewildering to see an entirely new attack in Ryu’s command list.
I guess that’s what Street Fighter 6 is, really. It’s fresh, it’s different, and bewilderingly so. A franchise afraid to change it’s socks for the last decade has gone and swapped out the whole dang wardrobe, but even wilder than the big change itself is how absolutely perfect it is.
Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4 and PC in 2023.