Good fortune seems to come in even numbers for Street Fighter. That’s not to say other entries in this 36-year-old fighting game series are bad per se – but gamers around in the early 90s will remember what a seismic influence Street Fighter 2 had both at home and in arcades. Street Fighter 4 then saw a huge evolution in the series’ move to 3D graphics and online play. So it makes sense that Street Fighter 6 is set to rejuvenate not just the series but fighting games for a whole new generation.
A lot of this comes down to not completely rewriting the rules (it’s still mostly about using flashy moves to beat the stuffing out of each other, after all) but putting together all the fundamentals of what made past entries so good, opening them up to a wider audience, and expanding the ways non-hardcore purists can enjoy what’s on offer. The result is one of the most complete and confident games Capcom has released in years, which coming after big hitters like the remake of Resident Evil 4 is really saying something.
The greatest hits
We found lots to like about Street Fighter 5, but it warranted criticism for its dearth of content at launch. Street Fighter 6 comprehensively addresses that right out the gate. This game is properly packed across three modes: Fighting Ground, Battle Hub, and a completely different single-player story mode called World Tour.
Fighting Ground contains everything you’d expect a fighting game to have, including versus modes, online matchmaking, private lobbies, training mode, and the traditional arcade mode, which sounds pretty straightforward until you recall Street Fighter 5 took a whole year just to add the latter.
The visuals have also taken a beautiful leap forward thanks to Capcom’s fantastic RE Engine, as first seen in Resident Evil 7 and that series’ modern remakes. But rather than go completely photorealistic like its rivals Mortal Kombat and Tekken, it retains its own unique style, now with street art flourishes seen in some of the new techniques that make the screen absolutely pop. Fights are still on a 2D plane but it’s staggering how much depth and detail is in the backgrounds of each stage.
What really makes Street Fighter 6 stand out the most is how it’s also finally a move forward in the series timeline since Street Fighter 3. The impressive roster of 18 fighters at launch includes all of Street Fighter 2‘s eight original world warriors, so it’s fascinating to see how they have grown older and wiser. Other fan favourites have also had a makeover (yes, they finally found some trousers for Cammy). Joining them are some exciting new additions that provide diversity in both representation and function, such as tricksy African-American ninja Kimberly or brawny Italian gladiator Marisa.
Better still they’re complemented by an excellent soundtrack, which not only gives familiar characters new themes to reflect their own growth but also harken back to the hip-hop influences heard in Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. We’ve never felt so pumped during the character select screen.
There’s plenty to get stuck into working out each character’s quirks, such as French fashion model Manon, whose specialty in judo grants her medals that make her throws more powerful and balletically graceful throughout a match. Other fighters have similar unique mechanics, such as how sadistic Korean assassin Juri has a kick that gives her a resource called Fuha that makes her other attacks more powerful. Hongkongese breakdancer Jamie has a special (supposedly non-alcholic) drink that will permanently buff his powers in a round after he’s taken four swigs.
On top of that is a new Drive system that replaces its predecessor’s convoluted V-system. It essentially takes the coolest mechanics from across the series, such as powerful EX moves, the third game’s parry, and the fourth’s focus counter, and neatly ties them all to one readable gauge beneath your health bar. You also have to be mindful of how you use it since these abilities can still be countered, while overuse puts you in a knackered ‘burnout’ state.
For new players just trying to get to grips with the basics, these mechanics as well as each individual fighter are very well explained in a pretty robust training mode. More importantly, you can also choose between the classic six-button control type or a new modern, Super Smash Bros-style control scheme that lets you pull off special moves without having to memorise or execute complex inputs.
There’s even a third Dynamic Control option, purely for the button masher where all the moves are AI-determined based on your distance from your opponent. It mainly feels like a way of appeasing completely casual or clueless players who still want to have a fun time, which is wisely only available in the local Fighting Ground mode.
Metro City Beatdown
Just the above would make Street Fighter 6 a bonafide must-buy for any fighting game fan, but perhaps facing the pressures of current trends where online multiplayer games are steadily becoming free-to-play affairs, Capcom has gone out of its way to make this entry justify its price with additional modes.
While purists will happily just search for a fight online via Fighting Ground, the Battle Hub is a virtual social space. The hub itself harkens back to the good old arcade days as you actually sit down at arcade cabinets while someone else comes over, sizes you up, and then sits down at the cabinet opposite to challenge you. You can also just hang out using text chat or use earned in-game currency to kit yourself out in different fashion styles to express yourself.
Most expressive is how the character creator is detailed enough for you to make an avatar as truly representative of yourself – or as bizarre and cursed as your imagination will take you. These same avatars are also used in World Tour mode, where you get to embark on your own journey from rookie to world warrior in open hub Metro City and eventually around the world. It’s basically Street Fighter as a 3D action role playing game, not unlike Sega’s Yakuza series with its urban brawls, mini-games, and a wacky yet earnest 20-hour story campaign.
Most fights won’t phase seasoned fighting game players, though it does succumb to RPG pitfalls such as grinding against over-levelled opponents that you’re more or less encouraged to use healing or stat-buffing items to succeed, as well as some very annoying non-human opponents in the latter half. Nonetheless, it makes for a more substantial offering than the excuse of a story mode released post-launch for Street Fighter 5 while giving players something to do besides just constantly trying to get good against other players online.
The highlight comes from rubbing shoulders with Street Fighter 6’s roster, with the opportunity to unlock each fighter as your master where building your bond with them allows you to unlock more of their moves to use yourself. There’s also a grind to this, since you’re building up your bond with each master through fights or gifts that raise your relationship level with them. As they also unlock at different stages of the story, sometimes by completing specific side quests, it can also mean your favourite fighter doesn’t unlock until much later.
But it’s also your opportunity to make your ultimate fighter, one that might mirror Chun-Li’s style but can also pile-drive like Zangief and teleport like Dhalsim. You can tweak this on the fly to use in the story but even better, challenge other players in the Battle Hub via Avatar Battles. It’s a great way for how the modes feed into one another, and we can’t wait to see what the community comes up with.
Street Fighter 6 verdict
Its predecessor had to struggle though years of updates to feel like a finished product, but Street Fighter 6 confidently comes out the gate as the full package, rammed with a diverse roster of fighters and an abundance of modes for fighting game fans of every skill level.
This puts the game on a blinder of a head start as future updates, including four characters for its first season have already been announced, starting with Street Fighter 5 favourite Rashid this summer. We can see a healthy life ahead of it for both tournament pros and a new generation of fighters.
It’s looking like a healthy year for fighting game fans as there’s also Tekken 8 and the recently announced Mortal Kombat 1 coming for the crown, but they’ve got their work cut out for them. Because the king of fighting games is back at the very top of its game.
The best fighting game in generations with a full package that’s got something for everyone
Fantastic roster of fighters both old and new
Deep fighting mechanics made approachable with new simplified control options
Packed full of different modes to suit hardcore or casual players
A lot of grind when customising your avatar fighter
Some annoying enemies in the latter half of World Tour