Street Fighter 6 is simply the best the series has been in years. Here’s our review of Capcom’s triumphant fighting game…
Capcom is all about avoiding past mistakes. The launch of Street Fighter V, hampered by technical issues, a basically unfinished single player mode and unstable netcode, is a thing for the past. That’s why the planned and slow launch of Street Fighter 6 felt like a crucial and calculated step for the Japanese studio, which went out of its way to make sure both fans and critics got to go hands-on before its release. That kind of care has definitely paid, with Street Fighter 6 emerging an undeniably strong return of the beloved series.
Let’s start from the beginning. If you’re looking for the classic 2D fighting game experience, you’ve come to the right place. Select a fighter, choose how many rounds to go through (five or 12), difficulty, character’s costume and off you go. As it is now tradition, some of the arcade stories do add interesting bits of Street Fighter lore, others are just there for laughs. Examples include E. Honda fighting in a Parisian theme park to find a better place for his restaurant or Blanka just… looking for a mascot?
The biggest change in the fighting mechanics, which already has some players divided, is the Drive system. This is a stamina gauge with six bars, which fills up over time, allowing your fighter to pull off special moves, counters or parries. Using it too much means your fighter will go into burnout, turning a whiter shade of pale. During that brief period, it’s impossible to pull off special moves, and even blocking leaves you open to damage.
While the other special bars are still there, the Drive Rush / Impact is definitely the greatest addition to the fighting mechanics in SF6. It also might take a little while to get used to, since it might easily make a huge difference in a match. Even if a fighter is able to parry a strong Drive Impact, it still leaves them open to subsequent combos. An aggressive fighter might choose to open up a match by piling Drive attacks, then go in defensive mode to enjoy that strong opening.
Some have complained about the control system already but, honestly, there are so many options that even the loudest complaints can be put to rest. Sure, the modern control system may allow “noobs” easy access to special moves with the press of a lever plus a button. But that speaks loudly to Capcom caring about accessibility, allowing less able (or expert) players to feel they can, at least, have a shot at a balanced match against veterans. If you want to choose the classic control mode, it’s there, as well as further customisations.
It’s fair to say that the greatest problem with SF5 has been comprehensively fixed. Indeed, Street Fighter 6 is ready to go for multiplayer, with online matches being smooth and issue-free – most of the time, at least. From the ease of finding matches, to the presentation and the glorious amounts of different options and modes to select from. The ease with which even someone who hasn’t played a fighting game in years can pick up a controller, in casual mode, and still have a decent shot at a balanced – and fun – match is an incredible accomplishment. But that’s not all.
In the Battle Hub, the sense of community that Capcom is aiming to create is on full display. Players are able to build their own avatar, then wander around an arcade, much like they would in real life, playing classic Capcom games from the past, interacting with other players and also challenging them to a fight. The avatar creation is rich with detail, allowing you to both spend time recreating a faithful virtual version of yourself or just go wild and make a long-haired Final Fantasy villain (I went for the latter). While an online hub is far from being a new idea in the genre, the way Capcom has presented it speaks to fighting games’ unique ability to bring people together.
Graphically, Street Fighter 6 uses the now tried and true RE engine, which shines through in all its graffitied glory. Granted, I did encounter some technical issues here and there, especially in the early days. Textures took a while to load and, at other times, the game would just hang for what seemed like three whole minutes. But issues have definitely cleared up more recently, with the past few days being mostly issue free. By SF6’s June launch, most of these issues should hopefully be a thing of the past.
The starting character roster – to which there will surely be seasonal updates – isn’t huge, but it’s packed enough to offer something for everyone. There are mainstays such as a gelled-up Guile, a weathered Ryu and a depressed Ken. Among the new additions, I wasn’t a fan of my fellow countrywoman Marisa and her Colosseo arena stage, but Manon is a good French counterpart. She’s nimble on her feet and quick to close up distances, and perfect to go against a more powerful character. Luke takes centre stage in SF6, playing pretty similarly to a SF 2/3 Ken but with more agility. Interestingly, having him as your first master in the single player World Tour mode does make it easier to appreciate his character.
Indeed, the open world single player mode might be one of the most interesting additions to the series in a while. Taking inspiration from Yakuza and Shenmue, World Tour allows you to travel around and fight just about anyone: waiters, law enforcers, old women: everyone’s fair game.
Except for the random fighting, everything else will feel familiar. You’ll track down masters to learn the basics of combat, gain experience points to level up and unlock new moves, tackle minigames (which felt a bit half-baked), collect new items of clothing, and so on. There’s a quite varied and inclusive cast of characters, which is a pleasing touch. The globe-trotting story feels slightly forced – such as a mysterious informant asking us to go to Japan to take a picture of Ryu – but the strength of the narrative isn’t really the point here.
World Tour functions wonderfully as an introduction to the game’s mechanics and Street Fighter’s colourful world. The tutorial is essentially a long string of missions that will keep you busy well beyond the first ten chapters of the game. Granted, if you go into Street Fighter 6 expecting – for some reason – an emotional, wacky story akin to the Yakuza series, then you’ll be disappointed. But I feel that’s not what Capcom was aiming for.
Rather, it’s a fascinating walk into a living and breathing Street Fighter world. Where the series’ characters previously felt as though they were trapped in their own individual dioramas, they now get to live and breathe in a much bigger, ‘real’ space. The open world also feels like a breath of fresh air for any Final Fight fans who’ve been itching to return to Metro City, especially after the disappointingly terrible Final Fight Streetwise.
Street Fighter 6 is arguably one of the best series entries we’ve had in years. The newest additions to the gameplay modes might need some future balancing, but they still offer fun matches that just about anyone can enjoy. Not only is SF6 great looking, but with an incredible amount of content to discover, it’s a wonderful gift for both veterans of the fighting genre and newcomers taking their first dip into this huge universe.
Setting the World Tour mode in Metro City is a great idea, and finally gives the series its own starting point. Most of all, having the chance to see again the huge, blonde haired Damnd after so many years – and being able to beat him up in a brief match – brought a nostalgic tear to this Final Fight nostalgic’s eye.
Street Fighter 6 once again establishes Capcom’s dominance in the fighting genre with what is one of the best entries in years.
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