Street Fighter franchise is considered godfather to all fighting games, a brand that is synonymous with whole of the fighting game genre and defined its success. Street Fighter pioneered the current genre, Street Fighter II polished and popularized it, and Street Fighter IV single-handedly resuscitated the genre in mainstream from near-death state in the aughts.
On the other hand, commercial failure of Street Fighter III was one of the main factors in decline of fighting games in the 2000s and Street Fighter V’s launch state was such a disappointment that was never able to compete with the quality and success of its contemporaries.
Is Street Fighter 6 able reach the heights of its predecessors or is it another disappointing effort? One thing is for sure, Street Fighter 6 isn’t some low-quality rehash of past games; it features a myriad of changes that show Capcom has paid heed to and learned from the failures of its past efforts.
The soul of any fighting game is in its collection of eclectic characters and Street Fighter 6 is no different in this regard. At launch Street Fighter 6 contains a base roster of 18 characters, some classic, some fan favorites and some brand new. While this number is certainly not as impressive as base rosters of Tekken 7, Mortal Kombat 11 or Smash Bros Ultimate, it is still marginally better than 16 characters available at the launch of Street Fighter V.
One way this roster differs from the last one is how it aims to cater to the tastes of old school fans of Street Fighter franchise by featuring the return of all 8 classic World Warriors from Street Fighter II.
None of the iconic fighters are omitted; from the wandering warrior; Ryu, brash martial-artist; Ken, mistress of kung fu; Chun-Li and sumo master; E.Honda, to the Brazilian beast; Blanka, wrestling cyclone; Zangief, esoteric yogi; Dhalsim and the military brawler; Guile, all are playable from the start.
Also returning are certain fan favorites from more recent Street Fighter games like the British commando; Cammy and the Jamaican dancer; Dee Jay from Super Street Fighter II, Juri from Super Street Fighter IV and Luke, the last DLC character added to Street Fighter V in November 2021.
While these 12 returning characters retain their classic movesets and overall playstyle, they are not rehashes or ports from the past games. For the first time since 1999, the story canon in Street Fighter has moved forward from Street Fighter III timeline, and with that the characters have aged and evolved.
Not only can this be seen in their changed appearance bit also in how they play. In addition to having more moves, the returning Street Fighter 6 characters also have many more tools at their disposal that allow for more setups, vortexes, techs, reversals, and overall more player freedom to employ offensive and defensive tactics on the fly.
Besides these recurring familiar faces Street Fighter 6 also features 6 brand new characters to its roster. Taking center stage is Jamie, practitioner of the drunken fist, and canonically the main rival, and “Ken” to Luke’s “Ryu”. The other newcomer featured heavily in game’s pre-launch marketing is Kimberly; who is a spunky practitioner of Bushinryu Ninjutsu and plays like a mix between Guy and Ibuki.
Totally different from those two is Marisa; a Greek gladiator powerhouse that packs an explosive punch and plays like an MMA striker. Manon on the other hand is a fashionable ballet judoka whose graceful movements belie her grappling, reversal and poking mix-up potential.
Lily is a spirited sprite of a character that has long range due to her clubs and plays like a speedier version of T.Hawk. Rounding up the roster is JP, a regal businessman who serves as Street Fighter 6’s main antagonist; he is a zoner that can control screen from any position, and plays similar to Glacius from Killer Instinct and Testament from Guilty Gear.
In addition to the above mentioned roster of 18, Capcom has also announced 4 additional characters as part of its first wave Fighter Pack, which contains 3 returning fighters; Rashid, Ed and Akuma, as well as one brand new character named A.K.I, scheduled to be released as DLC characters during the first year of game’s launch.
It is one thing to have a roster with good mix of character types and playstyles, but what really matters is how players are able to control these fighters, and the tools at their disposal that inform their playstyle in-game. Street Fighter 6 is no slouch in that department and offers a robust set of core mechanics as well as different set of control types to help execute them.
For the first time in mainline franchise history, Street Fighter 6 offers players 3 different control types to play the game; Classsic, Modern and Dynamic.
Classic controls are the standard 6 button layout that require quarter circle, back-forward and down-up movements to execute special moves. This control scheme, while daunting to pick up, offers the complete control over the character and accommodates widest possible range of playstyles.
Modern control scheme is designed for players wanting to play without learning special move button combinations. It allows players to execute special moves with one button press and perform combos with simple button combinations. It focuses on simplicity and ease of execution while limiting access to specific moves and combos, and while it offers less versatility and move selection, Modern controls can be successfully used in online and offline competitive environments.
Last control scheme available in Street Fighter 6 is called Dynamic. This control type further simplifies control layout to just 3 auto-attack buttons, that allows player characters to automatically perform attacks and combos based on their context and position relevant to the opponent.
This is basically a control scheme for pure button mashers, and suitable for party-play where friends and family are able to play a quick, casual game, without having to learn a character or game mechanics. This control type is limited to certain modes in Fighting Ground section of the game and is not available for use in online matches.
Another new system that Street Fighter 6 introduces is the Drive System; which combines various mechanics from past Street Fighter games into one cohesive structure. The visual representation of this system is the Drive Gauge, found right below the character health bar to the side of the time clock at top center of the screen.
Each round starts off with a full 6-bar gauge, that auto fills with time and each strike landed, but depletes with each hit consecutively blocked. Every hit blocked takes away small portion of gauge while keeping player’s health safe from any chip damage.
The Drive Gauge is primarily used to execute drive system moves. There are in total 5 difference drive system moves, each requiring different number of drive gauge stocks to activate.
Drive Impact (Focus Attacks from SF4) costs one bar and is a powerful move that can absorb a hit and guard break the opponent to open them up for immediate attacks. Drive Parries (Parries from SF3) cost half a bar and is used to repel enemy attack without taking damage and gain back drive meter for every successful attempt. Overdrive Arts (EX moves from SF3) cost 2 gauge bars and allow players to buff up certain special moves to attack faster with more hits/damage
Activating Drive Rush (FADCs from SF4) costs 1 bar for immediately canceling a parry, or 3 bars for canceling a normal move, and rushes character forward to close the gap, increase pressure on the opponent and raise combo potential. Drive Reversals (V-Reversals from SF5) cost 2 gauge bars and let players do a counterattack after they block opponent’s attack, this acts as a get-off-me move and decreases pressure on the player.
While these moves cost meter per use, the fact that the Drive Gauge replenishes through time offers up more opportunity for use during match, especially for stingy and indecisive players that are often afraid of using EX moves for the fear of losing meter for the rest of the round.
However, its use isn’t without its own set of risks, for example, if one ends up depleting the entire drive gauge in the middle of the battle, their character will enter a Burnout state.
In Burnout State the players are at a massive disadvantage as their character loses access to all these drive system moves until the Drive Gauge fully refills. Moreover, during this state the player character receives significant de-buffs, making them slower, deal less and receive more damage.
Furthermore, each hit blocked now chips away health bar as well as Drive Impacts can no longer be blocked and when hit, will stun the player character leading to even more damage.
The Drive System offers a great system of checks and balances; it gives players plethora of tools, informs players’ offensive and defensive tactics, adds layers of meter management, dissuades passivity, and often dictates the flow of momentum in a match. Almost any interaction sees Drive Gauge swing from one way to the other as one character gains meter while the other loses it due to each other’s actions.
However, it must be noted that not everything hinges on Drive System; Super Arts, special multi-hit combo moves (called Supers in SF2 and Super/Ultras in SF4), are not linked with the Drive Gauge. Super arts are now linked with a separate Super Gauge.
Each character has three levels of Super Arts that cost one, two, and three bars of the Super Gauge respectively. Since EX moves (Overdrive) now only use Drive Gauge, it leaves the use of Super Gauge solely for executing Super Arts, incentivizing more frequent use of Super Arts in combos and reversals.
The primary area where players can go to practice all these control schemes and game mechanics is in Street Fighter 6’s Fighting Ground section. It is where players will find the basic game modes expected in modern fighting games; from arcade, training and tutorials to local versus, special matches, and online ranked and casual matches.
Arcade section is the standard bare-bones CPU ladder that shows each playable character’s story through completion of 5 or more stages. Following the footsteps of last few games, Street Fighter 6’s arcade mode doesn’t offer much in terms of production values.
There are no animated cutscenes to be found here, as most of the story is told through beginning and ending slide-show of 4-5 drawn pictures narrated with dozen or so voiced lines. Completing the stories and beating certain challenges unlocks various art pieces that can be viewed in the game’s galley section.
Versus mode is the crux of offline play in Street Fighter 6, where players can duke 1v1, play against CPU or play a mix of both in Team Battles mode. This mode allows players to select multiple characters and play in teams of 5 or less in in best-of team battle, single-elimination or double style matches. Mind you, these are not Marvel styled tag battles but more battle-by-battle team matches.
Special Match section contains ability to play Extreme Battle, which is a party-style mode akin to playing Smash Bros with items or challenge matches in Mortal Kombat. In Extreme Battles players can set their own rules and gimmicks to spice up matches. Rules allow players to customize parameter for winning a match and Gimmiks add environmental hazards like bombs, drones or rampaging bulls that periodically interrupt flow of the match.
The Online section provides the standard selection of ways to play against other online players. Ranked Matches allow players to be matched against other players near their skill level and earn League Points (LPs) to rank up and face tougher competition. Street Fighter 6 changes ranking process by making LP earned per character basis, which allows for a less stressful environment to test out new character without fear of losing points and moving down the ranks.
If the stress of competitive rankings becomes too daunting, the game also offers Casual Matches, that are just regular online matches with no LPs at stake. Players can also create and join custom rooms to play against players with customized rulesets available in any of the other modes in Fighting Ground mode.
Practice section is the best place to learn Street Fighter 6’s mechanics. Tutorial mode offers guided gameplay detailing mechanics ranging from basic mechanics like movement and blocking to advanced skills like hit-confirms and perfect parries. Character guides contain videos on each characters moves and intended playstyle, while Combo Trails are where players can go practice curated combos for all 18 playable characters.
Finally, Training mode offers a highly customizable environment to practice everything learned in other modes and tweak everything from CPU behavior and placement to recording and repeating player/CPU moves all the while viewing varying input history, attack and frame data.
However, if generic practice and training regime seems too boring or overwhelming, then Street Fighter 6 has a very fun and engaging alternative to learn its mechanics and character moves through story-driven single player experience called World Tour.
Street Fighter V’s story mode was an embarrassing effort that clashed with its staple campy and over-the-top style. So now, instead of competing with quality of Mortal Kombat/Injustice style cinematic story modes, Street Fighter 6 wisely decides to play to its thematic strengths and offers a single player experience reminiscent of Konquest mode from Mortal Kombat Deception.
World Tour is a purely single-player action-adventure brawler RPG meant to be a mix between Final Fight and Street Fighter, that plays mostly like classic Yakuza games of the past. And like many action RPGs, this mode starts the players off with creating their custom avatar.
The character creation suite allows players to craft their character appearance which can be that of a handsome fighter, a rugged brawler, an exotic creature or an absolute ill-proportioned monstrosity and everything in between. It has a fairly detailed creator options when it comes to body morphing and color details, but seems a bit limited when it comes to facial features and hair selections.
Players can then take their avatar and explore Metro City and travel to other locations to meet and learn from legendary fighters, practice their skills through street fighting, improve their skills and attributes, as well as forge friendships and rivalries, all in an effort to learn “the meaning of strength”.
Metro City is a large open-world hub that contains hundreds of NPC characters; some are generic gang enemies, others are item sellers, some offer side missions, most are fellow fighters that can be challenged to a street fight, and few are legendary fighters that teach their fighting styles and moves to the player character.
The core gameplay loop in World Tour involves learning a fighting style, battling various street fighters to gain XP and Zenny currency, use XP to level up skills and attributes, use Zenny to buy clothes and items to improve stats and buffs, do missions to unlock locations and progress storyline to meet next legendary fighter.
World Tour features a number of mission types; Main missions teach fighting styles, moves and unique attacks of legendary characters, Master missions are tasks given by legendary fighters that improve your bond with them and reward with more moves and character lore, Side missions teach various gameplay mechanics, and Mini-games littered around the world provide fun distractions from constant fighting.
The world area, while not humongous, is well realized, full of details and references, and contains lots of side alleys, nooks and crannies to explore. It also contains various shops that offer clothing items to accessorize player avatar and foods that replenishes health or offer in-battle buffs. The streets are littered with cool secrets including artwork and even some classic playable easter eggs littered around the world.
Overall, the World Tour mode offers an expansive single-player experience that is easy to pick-up and play, and teaches the fundamentals of the game in a more creative and less tedious way than rest of the fighting games do.
While the tone of story here is often absurdly goofy and most of the dialogue is campy, it has great production value, its quests are interesting and gameplay engaging enough to offer hours upon hours of fun, and an experience that is the closest we will probably ever get to playing a Street Fighter RPG.
Avatars created in World Tour can also be brought into Street Fighter 6’s online multiplayer focused Battle Hub. This mode is a virtual environment that tries to simulate a sterilized version of arcade experience that is core to the history of fighting game community but has been lost to the sands of time.
In Battle Hub players can gather, communicate and interact with avatars of other players and sit on virtual arcade cabinets to fight against other players or spectate their matches. Players can also create and join Fighters Clubs, a customizable group chat an let group of players meet in-game and even represent themselves with emblems and matching uniforms.
The Battle Hub stage features big screens on its sides showing banners and screens displaying ongoing winning streaks, featured clubs as well as the names of MVPs of the day. There is also a physical section called Event Counter that allows players to view information on current and past tournaments in Event Hub.
Another section of Battle Hub has the Extreme Center of cabinets where players can play specific variations of extreme battle options that are also available to play in the aforementioned Fighting Grounds mode.
There is also a Game Center that has cabinets with certain classic/retro Capcom fighting games and brawlers, a Hub Goods Shop where players can exchange avatar clothes and items, and Body Shop where players can change their avatar’s appearance for Drive Tickets.
Drive Tickets are the game’s virtual currency and since it also comes with Street Fighter 6’s Deluxe and Ultimate editions, it is reasonable to assume that it will be purchasable for real money. Even though, right now it can only be used to purchase cosmetic items for player avatar character in Battle Hub, there is no telling how that will change as it seems to be Street Fighter 6’s backdoor to future microtransactions.
On the whole, while fun, Battle Hub feels like more show than substance. It just feels like lots of extra steps to get to things that can be experienced quicker and more efficiently in the Fighting Grounds section of the game.
The only thing unique to Battle Hub is the ability to do Avatar Battles. By going into the central area of Battle Hub players can request to battle with others’ avatars. These are the same avatars that players have created, leveled up and customized in Street Fighter 6’s single-player World Tour mode.
While battling custom characters with varied items, stats, level and moves is a silly, fun and novel experience, it is still a gimmick that can get old real fast due to its random and unbalanced nature.
Moreover, Battle Hub needlessly complicates choice of Classic or Modern control style for its quick online matchmaking by making control selection process separate for each character regardless of what is selected in main options menu, and then further exasperates the issue by keeping it hidden behind the battle settings menu in online player profile section.
While it is difficult to ascertain the quality of online matchmaking for casual matches during the review process due to dearth of players before the game’s launch, the League Point system seems to be working at the moment by matching up players relative to their rank for leveling up in Ranked Matches.
Furthermore, Street Fighter 6’s roll-back net-code also seems to be an improvement over Street Fighter V’s online experience, as it does a commendable job maintaining fast, responsive and relatively lag-free gameplay even when matched with players across continents cross-playing between PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
One of the major mistakes Capcom made last generation was playing it safe with the art style of Street Fighter V, making the game look too much like Street Fighter IV. Thankfully, Street Fighter 6 features a distinctly different art style that is brimming with personality and combines its classic exaggerated anime-inspired looks with modern street art aesthetics; with every impactful moment highlighted with bold paint splashes and spray lines mixed in with stippling and cross-hatching effects.
The art style not only provides visual flare to the game but also offers several, much needed, benefits to gameplay itself by clearly visualizing its mechanics through bold, yet un-intrusive, in-game effects.
Using Drive Impact and Drive Reversal causes an immediate bi-colored paint splash, parrying a move makes character flash blue, enhancing special moves with Overdrive causes characters to flash yellow, Drive Rush leaves a colored trail behind character and entering Burnout State mutes the character colors, with white highlights and bright spots circling their head.
The Street Fighter 6 developers have utilized RE Engine to create great looking character models that animate well during gameplay and look amazingly detailed during closeups and in-engine cutscenes. Their skin glistens with sweat, muscles visibly swell, tighten and stretch during moves, character models move smoothly in the heat of action, clothes animate well without clipping through models and stages are brimming with detail, animation and moody lighting.
Another neat detail is how characters now also show battle damage to their skin as well as show scuffs and dirt on their clothes. It’s just a small addition that further adds to immersive quality of its visuals, but is kept optional as it can be turned off if it is not to any player’s liking.
The new art style also works well with Street Fighter 6’s varied roster type. No longer do some characters look perfect while other look out of place. The art style suits well to each character model and their respective archetype.
Whereas characters like Ryu and Ken ooze stoic grit, others like Luke and Blanka are brimming with goofy charm; while hulks like Zangief and Marrisa look menacingly bulky, nimble characters like Lily and Kimberly look petite and others like Manon, Chunli and JP look dashingly chic.
Complimenting this art style is Street Fighter 6’s music direction that mixes techno with hip-hop, and takes a decidedly urban western influence on its overall soundtrack. While previous Street Fighter games have had soundtrack reliant on self-referential tunes, this time around the composers decided to do a complete pallet refresh by relying only on original scores.
Although this does add to the direction which makes Street Fighter 6 feel distinct from its predecessors, the absolute lack of any covers or arrangements might feel a bit jarring to longtime fans of the series.
However, it is undeniable that the game’s soundtrack does noticeably lack the distinctiveness and prominence of iconic character themes. Street Fighter 6’s character tracks, though fresh and catchy, the motifs highlighted in them focus on being upbeat rather than distinct style and identity that evokes the essence of each character.
While the rest of its sounds affects remain satisfactorily punchy and impactful, where Street Fighter 6 differentiates itself is how these sound effects contribute to its new focus on Sound Accessibility. Players now have ability to turn on some, or all, sound effects that indicate the distance between fighters, when attacks hit high, mid or low, cross-up hits, as well as to indicate how full the health, drive and super gauges are in-game.
Street Fighter 6 also features real-time commentary tracks aimed at giving the matches more broadcast tournament-style feel. Taking notes from sports and wrestling games, the game has option to choose from eight different commentators, that can offer play-by-play and color commentary in English, Japanese or both.
The style and language of commentary is dependent on the commentators chosen from a selection that includes actual FGC commentators, e-sports casters and some hosts and entertainers. As with all other sports games, the commentary tracks can get repetitive in the long-run, but are a fun way to add e-sports broadcast quality from time to time.
While it is a marked improvement over Street Fighter V and contains a plethora of new additions, but when compared to its fighting game peers, Street Fighter 6 still doesn’t have the biggest roster, the most cinematic story mode, the most in-depth mechanics or the largest variety of modes.
However, unlike other games, it doesn’t lack in any single of those departments and offers a full-fledged robust package that caters to newcomers and veterans, casuals and hardcores, single-players and multiplayers, offline and online players alike.
Street Fighter 6 is a solid fighting game that doesn’t skimp on quality in whatever it offers and is thoughtfully crafted to focus on variety and accessibility without compromising its depth and complexity.