Loading up Street Fighter 6, Capcom’s latest entry in the legendary fighting franchise, I was apprehensive. After the absolute farce that was the launch of Street Fighter V, I didn’t have high hopes for 6. V was barebones with only a handful of fighters and only a few modes. It was tragic. Suffice it to say, Street Fighter V is now a formidable entry in the series after the plethora of updates it has had. Booting up 6 almost instantly squashed any worries I had. After a small panic when the RE Engine screen flashed up, thinking I’d started up the wrong game, the onslaught of visuals dissipated the worries smartly.
Street Fighter 6 is chock full of style. Flashy visuals that are unapologetic and in your face, draped with spray paint, graffiti and hip-hop music. Street Fighter 6 is here, and it wants you to know about it. The main menu contains three categories that deepen into subcategories. I couldn’t believe my eyes at how mode-rich this game is. Fighting Ground is the Street Fighter of old section. It has all your one-on-one brawling modes here, whether you’re playing solo or with friends. Aside from Versus and Training modes, which are your standard fair, there is Story. Here each fighter has their own story and reason for fighting in the latest tournament, which is told via a beginning cutscene and an ending. This mode is perfect for finding out about each character and getting the jist of the overall plotline of Street Fighter 6.
Battle Hub is the online element of Street Fighter 6. You create an avatar and enter a hub with other players in real-time. Here you can interact with each other or participate in casual or ranked battles. You can also use your created avatar from World Tour mode (more on that later) to fight other players or play the arcade games emulated within the game, such as Final Fight. Fights in the Battle Hub were silky smooth, although this seems to be heavily dependent on the connection quality. I didn’t encounter any lag when fighting other people, which was seriously impressive. Street Fighter 6 supports crossplay too. Players on a PlayStation 5 can fight PC fighters, and the rollback netcode handles it like a pro.
Here is where Capcom has pulled the rabbit well and truly out of the hat. They have included a fully fleshed-out role-playing game within Street Fighter 6. In World Tour mode, you create your very own fighter using an impressively deep customisation suite and then embark on your journey to become stronger alongside your fellow trainee, Bosch. Together, you train under the guidance of Luke, who is one of the main characters in the game; however, it isn’t long before Bosch gets frustrated and goes it alone, with your character shortly following suit. After leaving the training centre, you’re free to explore Metro City, yep, THAT Metro City from Final Fight. Gameplay-wise, we have here a Yakuza-style adventure game where you control your avatar and explore the streets of Metro City, which is littered with NPCs. Some are after your blood, like the gangs that are hanging out around the city, some are citizens just going about their lives. The impressive feature of World Tour mode is that you can fight anyone. Walk up to an NPC and options appear above their head to talk to them or fight them. Fighting them triggers a one-on-one bout, and it is vital to do this a lot to grind up the levelling system. This is one of the bad points of this mode: grinding. It takes too long to earn experience and level up enough to fight the next major character that carries on the story. Side missions certainly help though. Doing tasks for people, such as ridding the subway of hoodlums, performing certain actions before the time runs out or collecting items, are a few of the jobs available here.
World Tour takes you out of Metro City and to the many countries represented by the main game’s roster. This is accompanied by meeting key characters, such as Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li, and asking them to take you under their wings. This allows you to develop a separate levelling system that improves your relationship with them. Levelling up each character’s relationship grants you access to their moves, Super Arts and eventually allows you to use them as support during fights. World Tour mode is impressively deep, but it fluctuates in enjoyment. What I mean is that at times it can be an absolute scream as you fight recognisable characters from Final Fight, drones, rogue fridges (yep, I said fridges) and watching the cutscenes that are exclusive to this mode. On the flip side, it can become a slog as you are constantly running backwards and forwards talking to people and engaging in fights, and it doesn’t deviate away from that loop. Some activities within World Tour add variety though, such as cooking. These activities take away the feeling of staleness, and when things do feel stale, Street Fighter 6 introduces something else to take it away; it is seriously impressive.
The roster in Street Fighter 6 is diverse and colourful, populated by faces of old and new that sport variety and balance. From old favourites, such as Ryu and Ken, to newbies Manon and Kimberly, each fighter brings something unique to the battles. At the heavier end of the scale, brute Marisa can utilise her massive upper body strength to unleash some devastating punches, and series veteran Zangief has a wealth of wrestling throws, such as his acclaimed spinning piledriver. At the other end though, nippy ninja Kimberly uses explosive cans of spray paint beside her quick ninjutsu skills, and Jamie drinks from his flask to enable different abilities from his drunken kung fu style. Each fighter has special moves, unique skills and three Super Arts at their disposal. Super Arts differ depending on which level of the Super Art gauge you use situated at the bottom of the screen. For example, Ken uses Dragonlash Flame Kick as his level 1 Super Art, his level 2 Art is Shippu Jinrai-kyaku (the kick combo to Rising Hurricane Kick) and his level 3 is Shinryu Reppa (a devastating Triple Dragon Punch). Connecting level 3 Super Arts rewards you with a flashy animation that gives off how brutal they are.
The crux of Street Fighter 6 battles comes in the form of the Drive System. This is the feather in the cap of each player, and using it effectively can mean the difference between wining or losing. Under the life bar at the top of the screen sits another bar separated into segments that are used up depending on which Drive move you use. Using Drive Parry, which places your fighter in a defensive stance that blocks attacks, decreases the Drive gauge slowly, unless you successfully block a move that refills a segment. Using Parry at the same time as an opponent’s move connects refills the entire gauge; this is called a Perfect Parry. Tapping forward twice whilst in the Parry stance causes your fighter to sprint forward; this is the Drive Rush. This offensive ability allows you to launch into combos with ease. Getting hit whilst Rush is activated loses some of the Drive gauge, so use it correctly. Then there is Drive Impact. This is a huge move that is accompanied by a flashy and colourful effect that, if it connects, renders your opponent open for more punishment. This move uses a lot of your Drive gauge, but it can negate the impact of two moves from your opponent. This move is perfect for turning the tide of a fight, but using it too much will empty the Drive gauge very quickly. What happens then? Well, an empty Drive gauge places your fighter in a tired state. You flash grey, and blocking attacks chips away at your life bar. If you get hit back into a wall, this then puts your fighter in a dizzy state that leaves you wide open for anything your opponent throws at you (level 3 Super Art, anyone?). The Drive gauge has one more use. It can be spent by performing a special move using two buttons instead of one. This powers up that move and not only allows it to do more damage but also extends the move too. Seriously, learn to use the Drive system properly, your success in fights depends on it.
Street Fighter 6 feels like Capcom’s apology for the mess that was Street Fighter V. That game is great now, sure, but we cannot ignore that terrible launch. Street Fighter 6 though brings everything to the table, from a diverse and colourful cast new and old to that fully fleshed-out RPG and a fun online lobby. All this plus the breathtaking visuals and animation makes Street Fighter 6 one of the best fighting games available today.
Platforms: PS4/5, PC, Xbox Series X/S
Release Date: 2nd June 2023