Street Fighter V, which was released a whopping seven years ago (how time flies!) was a terrific fighting game experience. Street Fighter 6, however, is something even better: A terrific video game experience that you’ll lose yourself in for weeks upon weeks on end.
This is how a franchise can grow, learn, and evolve. For years, the Street Fighter series has delivered topnotch fighting game mechanics, and a perfect competitive environment. But it’s gradually been passed by other franchises (Mortal Kombat!) when it comes to storytelling and breadth of content. Street Fighter V delivered the guts of a good fighting game, but not enough else.
Capcom learns from that experience with Street Fighter 6, delivering a game that has all the fighting game nuance needed to make tournaments exciting – and plenty of broader content for gamers who just want a little fun and enjoyment. It’s a game-changing experience in many ways, marrying role-playing games, tournament fighters, and more relaxed fighters into one package. And it offers something for everyone.
Let’s start with the fighting game core, because that’s where Street Fighter’s fundamentals have always lay. And they’re as good as ever in Street Fighter 6. At a base level, this game plays like Street Fighter, but instead of the V system of SF V, you now have a Drive meter. This is unique in fighting games in that instead of building up some gauge, you’ll start each round with a full Drive meter – and that opens up new battle tactics. Suddenly, you can start a battle with a Drive Rush, an aggressive push to close ground between you and your opponent, instead of having to wait to push the action. You also have Drive Parries and Reversals, and Overdrive moves, which essentially function like Ex special moves.
While this is all accessible from the start of each battle, you still must be tactical: When it depletes fully, you go into Burnout mode. In this state, all your enemy’s attacks do extra damage, you can’t use any Drive moves, and your opponent’s Drive attacks are even more vicious. It’s a state to avoid, although you can still win from here; there are a host of paths to victory in each Street Fighter 6 battle.
There are also a host of ways to play the game at a fundamental level. Reality is, for non-fighting game fans, fighting games are incredibly complicated, and it can get wildly frustrating to think you’re hitting the right blend of buttons for a Hadoken, only to have nothing happen. Street Fighter 6 delivers an elegant solve for that, though: You can now choose from two control schemes, each of which delivers a different experience. (Technically, there’s a third Beginner mode, although there’s no nuance or upside to that.)
There’s your traditional six-button layout, but there’s also a button layout that gives you attack buttons and a special move button. The intent here is to let you play Street Fighter Smash Bros. style, making special moves a bit easier to perform. It’s still plenty satisfying, and you still have solid control over your character; expect this to be embraced by a host of gamers who want a more relaxed fighting game experience.
Street Fighter 6 forces you to learn the simplified control scheme in World Tour, a new, RPG-type mode that reminds me of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. World Tour casts you as a fighter you create, and has you chasing down what it means to really have “power”. The storyline and dialogue are hokey, but the mode itself lets you fight just about everyone in the open world while crafting a fighter who has, say, a kick from Chun-Li and a punch from Ryu. I’ve spent far too much time with World Tour, to be honest, because it’s an underrated blast, the perfect mode to play when I want to run around an open world without thinking too much and get in a few fights. It’s a fun, throwback standalone experience: I’ve been waiting for Final Fight on new consoles, and maybe this is it.
Beyond that, there are more standard ways to play (vs. mode, arcade mode, etc.) and Battle Hub, the hub for all online play. Battle Hub works exceptionally well and can keep you entertained when you’re not in a fight (it’s also fun to spectate brilliant fighters). And the other modes are satisfying as well. The story for our fighters seems thinner than it’s ever been, perhaps because so much time was put into World Tour, so don’t expect a Mortal Kombat-level tale. There are a deep well of unlockable scenes and visuals from the game as well.
The roster of fighters for Street Fighter 6 is solid, and it’s going to grow over the coming months via DLC. There are solid options to start with already, headlined by classics like Ryu, Chun-Li, and Guile, and heavy hitters like Zangief and E. Honda, as well as newcomer Marisa, who seems built to go toe-to-toe with Zangief. The 18 starter characters offer a strong mix of playstyles and moves to master – and there’ll be more on the way, too.
It all has Street Fighter 6 off to an absolutely spectacular start. Capcom has learned its lessons well, and it’s crafted a terrific fighter that has room to grow. – New York Daily News/Tribune News Service
5 out of 5 stars
Available on Xbox platforms, PlayStation platforms, PC
Reviewed on Xbox platforms, PlayStation platforms