It’s 1992, I’m nine years old on holiday in Cornwall, and upon entering the arcades for the first time, I see Street Fighter II. I had never played a fighting game before, but I was instantly hooked. My love affair with fighting has grown stronger over time, and thirty-one years later, having played every Street Fighter game going alongside many other fighters out there, I think Street Fighter 6 might be my favourite.
Improving a tried and tested formula is difficult. Many would argue that Third Strike was the series high and that, while Street Fighters IV and V were very good, Capcom never quite recaptured the magic. Street Fighter 6 is a different story.
From a technical standpoint alone, Street Fighter 6 has a very high skill ceiling with the flexibility of the Drive Gauge opening up so many avenues in gameplay for players to exploit. You can spend portions of your gauge to buff special moves like EX moves of old, or you can spend it on a Drive Parry – a parry made famous in Third Strike – while Drive Impact echoes Street Fighter IV’s Focus attacks, letting you absorb hits from your opponent and then delivering a blow that sends the enemy reeling. There’s also Drive Reversaling, an easy way to alleviate pressure from your opponents and to push them away.
The most exciting of the Drive Gauge applications is the Drive Rush. This lets you cancel out of animations early with a forward dash, adding frames to normal attacks in the process. For example, a crouching medium punch might be +2 frames on hit, but if done out of a Drive Rush, it will now be +6 frames, allowing for combos you couldn’t do before.
All uses of the Drive Gauge come with a risk/reward factor, where fully depleting your Gauge will leave you in a burnt out state, meaning you have no access to any of the Drive tools while it regenerates.
With these tools to hand, high level play is going to be a joy to watch, but that doesn’t mean casual players will be left out of the fun. Street Fighter 6 also does an amazing job of teaching you how to play fighting games.
One fundamental change is having three control types to choose from – Classic, Modern and Dynamic. It’s important to make games accessible to everyone and I feel the Modern controls scheme does just that, giving players one-button special moves and simplified attack controls. It’s great for newcomers to be able to start off slow, but you’ll need to step up to the Classic controls to be able to string together complex combos and truly get the best out of a fighter. Time will tell if the control schemes serve as a gateway to progression, but this feels like a strong effort from Capcom.
Beyond the controls, training options and tutorials are also abundant. Each character has an in-depth character guide, with each character explaining to you how best to use their own toolkits. There’s combo trials to teach you the best combos and a training mode where you can drill combos to your heart’s content. You can learn how to get better at anti-airs at the push of a button, and record your opponents doing certain movies so you can learn how to counter them. It really does have everything you need to get better.
The main story mode is the World Tour, featuring your own a customised fighter. The main story is a little weak, but that just lets the individual stories of the Masters shine. As you rank up your style level and bond with them, you discover a little more about their story and unlock art for the gallery. I got to the end of World Tour and ranked up one Master to max level, only to then realise I had another seventeen characters to max out if I wanted to see everything!
Maxing out a second Master took a little under two hours, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. It is still a little on the grindy side, but realistically most players are only going to max out a couple of Masters, and the progression of your main Master will come naturally as you play through the story. Plus, there’s something really endearing about having these random chats with your Masters, only to receive text messages from them after you leave, telling you about random subjects and sending odd emojis.
If you want more out of your offline story experience, then you’ll also find some comfort in the standard arcade ladders, letting you take on either five or twelve stages while digging a little deeper into the character’s current situations. This was something that was missing from the launch of Street Fighter V, and it was looked upon negatively by the casual audience as a result. Its mere inclusion in SF6 already has it back in a positive frame and in a better place than SFV was at launch.
But the real life and soul of Street Fighter 6 for years to come will be found in the Battle Hub. This shared space is designed to give you that sense that you are interacting with people in an arcade, having fun and finding either new players to match up against, or the challenge of the best players around. If you’ve ever been to an arcade, you’ll understand the feeling I’m on about! Even just watching two others fight it out is fun, and I must have spent the best part of an afternoon just observing players and what they were doing, picking up new tricks to try out for myself. It took me right back to the early 90s.
The roster feels well rounded, with a few of the fighters, JP, Cammy, and DJ feeing the strongest so far. It’s early days of course and until the pros have got their hands on everyone, we won’t really know for sure. What I can say is that every character feels good to play and there’s none that I would feel bad about getting on a random select.
There are, of course, online fights with the main roster, but if you fancy it, you can take the avatar you’ve spent time crafting and fight other player avatars. It’s all a bit of fun, especially considering the complete broken nonsense you can come up with. I can’t wait to see what barmy combinations people can come up with, but my avatar utilises Dhalsim’s teleport to get behind opponents and deliver Zangief’s Spinning Pile Driver which is hilarious!
Finally, I want to give a brief mention to the push in the competitive scene with Capcom dumping $2 million in the prize pool for the upcoming season. It’s a big commitment and it might even mean we see some new faces amongst the pros, making SF6 potential even more exciting to watch.