Despite the many successful fighting game franchises that flourished since the iconic Street Fighter II, which took the genre to unimagined heights, CAPCOM's series continued to be among the most famous, despite some stumbles in both popularity and quality. After the release of Street Fighter IV, which rejuvenated both the series and the genre after the excellent but not exactly popular Street Fighter III, many expected Street Fighter V to set the world on fire. That didn't happen due to the game's launch issues, including a lack of content, game mechanics that didn't allow for varied playstyle or player expression, and a terrible online multiplayer experience. The development team turned things around in the final years of the game, but the damage was done by then.
From the very moment the game was first shown to the public, it looked like Street Fighter 6 was going to be a completely different beast than its predecessor, with tons of single-player content at launch, a new approach to online play, and a more rounded gameplay that looked to do away with the heavy rushdown, blending focus of its predecessor. After spending dozens of hours with the game, between the three beta tests and the final version, I can say that Street Fighter 6 is not only a much, much better game than its direct predecessor, but also one of the best contributions in series ever, whether you are a casual or competitive player, sets the bar very high in terms of gameplay, online experience and accessibility.
In terms of content, the biggest change introduced in Street Fighter 6 compared to most of its predecessors is the full-fledged story mode that mixes the game's fighting game mechanics with role-playing features called the World Tour mode. In this mode, players will create their own avatar via a fairly deep character creator that allows for ample customization, and embark on a journey to discover the meaning of strength where they will become involved in a conspiracy that moves the history of the universe forward while cultivating bonds join the Legendary Fighters, the 18 characters in the main roster, and get to meet all sorts of unsavory individuals.
While at the end of the day the story isn't anything special, it's very enjoyable thanks to the silliness of the whole experience. In the world of Street Fighter, every person is seemingly capable of fighting, so players can challenge almost any NPC they find in Metro City, Old Nayshall, and the smaller single-screen maps in this game mode. These NPCs are also quite different from each other, and some are downright crazy, like the superhero who tries to protect Metro City at night, the members of local gangs who can be identified by the cardboard boxes on their heads, and so on. The silliness doesn't stop at the NPCs, as the minigame driven side jobs are just as wild and pretty fun to play as well.
When it comes to both tone and gameplay, the Street Fighter 6 World Tour experience is very reminiscent of the Yakuza / Like a Dragon series. As mentioned, this mode has two larger maps, Metro City and Old Nayshall, and several smaller ones based on the main stages of the game. All maps, both large and small, are filled with NPCs to interact with and fight, shops that sell consumables that restore health and Drive and provide temporary buffs, gear to customize your character's appearance and abilities, and tons of secrets, many of they can only be detected by using Master Actions. These special moves characterize the fighting style of the legendary characters that make up the main roster. For example, you can use Chun-Li's Spinning Bird Kick or E.Honda's Sumo Headbutt to fly from one roof to another, or you can use Blanka's Electric Thunder to power up units, or gain an advantage over an aggressive NPC by attack them from afar with Ryu's Hadoken or Dee Jay's Air Slasher.
With the exception of Luke's Rising Uppercut, which is learned automatically at the start of the campaign, all the other Master Actions must first be learned by being apprenticed to the corresponding Legendary Fighter. Once registered, your character's unique action can be used while on the field and their fighting style becomes available. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to avatar customization in Street Fighter 6's World Tour Mode.
As the avatar wins battles with a specific style equipped, it will earn experience points and eventually rank up. By doing so repeatedly, you'll be able to learn special moves belonging to fighting styles, which can be freely equipped for your character as long as they don't share the same move input. For example, it is not possible to equip both Hadoken and Sand Blast, as they both perform with quarter circle movement input. However, you can equip one of them and Guile's Sonic Boom, for example, since it's a charge move, turning your character into a master zoner. Equip these moves while using Dhalsim's style and no one will ever be able to get close to you.
This unique zone layout only scratches the surface of the possibilities offered by avatar customization. Some special moves interact with each other in unexpected ways, allowing players to come up with powerful combos that can destroy most NPCs and even more powerful characters. None are truly broken, but even if they were, it would all be in the name of fun, as avatars cannot be used to play in any other mode in the game, with the exception of the Battle Hub mode, where you can battle other avatars . This great feature will surely push your avatar customization to amazing heights.
While veterans of the series will certainly relish the opportunity to finally mix and match special moves of iconic characters and catch the many references to both the Street Fighter and Final Fight series in history, the World Tour mode has clearly been developed as a learning tool for newcomers and I must say it is a most effective one. All of the main game's basic mechanics are gradually introduced over the course of the story, and some side missions provide even more guidance on how to use mechanics like Drive Rush and Drive Impact, Critical Arts, and so on. While this feels a little limiting to long-time Street Fighter players, even veterans will have a lot of fun with the training wheels off in World Tour mode, which has to be the best single player. content ever seen in the series, towering over all other offerings, including Street Fighter Alpha 3's own World Tour Mode.
While the World Tour mode may have been enough as a learning tool, Street Fighter 6 has a few others that make the game the most accessible entry in the series. Unlike the basic character guides seen in the previous entries in the series, those in the new game go into quite a bit of depth, focusing not only on the characters' general game plan, but also on their special moves and their nuances, which can be inserted. in action in the Trials, which are split up depending on their overall difficulty. Surprisingly, some of them are not easy to complete at all, highlighting how the development team took the criticism regarding the low execution barrier in Street Fighter V to heart and provided something for those who love to perform difficult combos during real matches, even if they are not exactly optimal in terms of damage.
In terms of accessibility, Capcom went the extra mile in Street Fighter 6 by introducing two additional control options alongside the classic six-button scheme that has been in the series since the days of Street Fighter II. Dynamic controls, which are only available for offline play, are designed for casual play as they allow players to perform all kinds of moves and combos at the touch of a single button. Modern controls, on the other hand, can be used online, and they are already the subject of much heated discussion, as they allow not only special moves that can be performed by pressing a single button, but also for auto-combinations, with just a small damage penalty compared to classic checks and the inability to use certain normals. While some feel Modern controls are a bit of a cheat, I don't mind them. I've played close to 70 hours between the three betas and the full game at the time of writing, and there hasn't been a single time where I've felt like I was at a disadvantage for using classic controls, but to be fair, on high Platinum, Diamond rating very few players who used them. Ultimately, making the game accessible and welcoming new players to the community is, in my opinion, far more important than any perceived unfairness, so I definitely support the introduction of new control types.
This would mean very little if the launch characters were boring to play, but luckily that's not the case. Unlike Street Fighter V, where all the characters felt like they played almost the same, Street Fighter 6's characters all feel very different and are incredibly fun to play.
While the returning characters, such as World Warriors, Cammy, Dee Jay and Juri, all retain the fighting styles of their previous iterations, they have been updated considerably and in some very fun ways. Ryu, for example, can use Denjin Charge to boost Hadoken, Hashougeki, and Supers for more combo options and damage. Ken can use the dash lifted from Street Fighter V to speed up his Shoryuken, Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, and Dragonlash Flame, or even cancel the animation of certain normals to perform some intricate combos. Blanka now has a very unique back jump divekick and the ability to use Blanka-chan Dolls to access a ranged attack that can also be used to extend combos. Dee Jay's basic fighting style has been augmented with feints that can fatally confuse him. Zangief's range of goal combinations helps him rush penalties and cut down to put the opposition in a dangerous fifty-fifty situation. E. Honda has a sort of command streak that makes him more than just a defensive character, and so on.
The new characters introduced in Street Fighter 6 are just as interesting as the returning characters, offering even more unique play styles. Luke may not be as deadly as he was in Street Fighter V, but he's still a force to be reckoned with, with his excellent normals and deadly Flash Knuckle combos. Marisa is able to break through her opponent's attacks with her armored special moves and counters, which makes for a very unique playstyle. Kimberly and Manon bring a lot of unpredictability with their mix-up oriented playstyles, while JP takes the zone playstyle to new heights with a complex moveset that can trap the opponent to the opposite side of the screen if used correctly. Rounding out the new characters are Lily, who is likely to be a big problem with her huge normals and special moves that allow her to get close to opponents easily, and Jaime, with his unique drink mechanic that gives him energy and gives him access to more special move in the middle of the match.
All of the Street Fighter 6 characters' unique abilities require a lot of practice to use them to their full potential, but the universal game systems mean that even without complete mastery of the characters, the game can be a lot of fun. The Drive system, which gives access to Drive Parry, Drive Rush, Drive Reversal, Drive Impact and Overdrive versions of special moves, is the one system that dictates the pace of the match. At the start of each round, both fighters start with a full gauge, which is depleted using one of the techniques listed above. Although the meter regenerates automatically, with regeneration faster by engaging the opponent, it doesn't regenerate quickly enough to unleash a barrage of Overdrive Moves and Drive Impacts, so players must manage the meter to the best of their ability. When depleted, a character will enter a burnout state, making them vulnerable to chip damage and stun if hit by a Drive Impact in the corner, while also degrading frame advantage on the block. This creates incredibly tense matches where players can either go all out or be conservative, creating some great moments in the neutral game where just one mistake can be fatal against a fully driven opponent.
The implementation of these mechanics, in conjunction with some other changes, also made it so that Street Fighter 6 is not the rushdown madness that was Street Fighter V. If you want to rushdown in this game, you have to use bar, as most normals are negative on block, and only become a plus if canceled in Drive Rush, which takes three bars of Drive meter. This, combined with the slightly slower speed of the experience and the many defensive options, also makes Street Fighter 6 a game that is easier to follow and understand. I've lost count of the number of times I raged against Street Fighter V because I lost a single exchange and was cornered with few defensive options. In Street Fighter 6 I haven't because the reason I lost had nothing to do with not being able to guess what my opponent was doing over and over again.
The more relaxed time I've had in Street Fighter 6 is also thanks to the online experience, which is ahead of its predecessor in every possible way. The rollback netcode of the game is, simply put, a kind of magic. In my 70 hours, the only games that weren't perfect were those played against opponents very far away, although that wasn't always the case, as I managed to play some near-perfect games with opponents on the east coast, and I'm in Italy. I even managed to get a somewhat playable match against a player living in Japan, which was completely unexpected. Matches with European and North African players, on the other hand, were flawless, so much so that it was easy to forget that they were online matches. Unfortunately, the game still has the input lag increase that can change between one round and the next, but these changes were far less aggressive than they were in the betas and weren't a problem at all. To test, I even tried playing on a Wi-Fi connection (don't ever do that!) and the matches were good most of the time, although less stable for obvious reasons.
Alongside the usual ranked and casual matches, the Street Fighter 6 online experience offers the best digital transposition of the arcade experience with Battle Hub. By controlling the avatar created for World Tour mode, players can sit by lockers to train and wait for other players to join, play Avatar matches in the center of the hub, enjoy extreme matches with different conditions with other players, and interact with others with emotions and text messages. This innovative hub system is a far cry from what's seen in Street Fighter V and any other fighting game, and highlights how the arcade feel remains central to any fighting game experience. However, it could have worked better if there was an option to go into the character selection screen after a match or set and not have to leave the cabinet entirely to switch characters.
Even when it comes to other offline game modes, Street Fighter 6 fully delivers. Alongside the aforementioned character guides and trials, the game has an excellent training mode, complete with options that allow players to practice many of the basics, such as anti-airing and whiff punishing, an Arcade Story Mode with some additional story content, Extreme Battles, which get the game to lean more into a party game type of experience, Versus and Team Battle modes. While offline games against the CPU can't compare to playing against a real human opponent, CAPCOM did an excellent job developing the AI, as the CPU Level 8 is incredibly competent and attempts to do things a human player would do to win, such as bait throw
When it comes to the visuals, Street Fighter 6 also fully delivers. All the characters are incredibly detailed, the scenes look vivid, and the kind of hip-hop inspired aesthetic, which I wasn't really keen on when the game was announced last year, works great in motion, even if the color splashes of Drive Impacts , for example, feels a little excessive sometimes. The PC port is also extremely competent, with several graphics settings to adjust to achieve the best possible performance. Refreshingly, the game doesn't suffer from any performance issues like stuttering, it runs extremely well on my system (i7-10700 CPU, RTX 3070 GPU, 16GB RAM), although the frame rate can get a little choppy during some World Tour mode matches. Fortunately, none of this happens where performance really matters, such as in regular online and offline matches. World Tour also suffers from some texture loading issues, which occurred at both 1440p and 4K resolutions, so they are likely caused by a bug rather than the somewhat low amount of VRAM on my graphics card.
When I tried Street Fighter 6 for the first time during last year's first beta, I had the feeling that I had played something special, and the final version of the game only confirmed those feelings. With its excellent game modes, attention to accessibility, near-flawless online experience, and incredible gameplay and character design, Street Fighter 6 is not only one of the best entries in the series, but one of the best fighting games ever made, a game that is more than worthy of a perfect score .
PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.
Products mentioned in this post
Street Fighter 6 is the culmination of the experience CAPCOM introduced to the video game world back in 1987. With extremely solid game mechanics, a wealth of excellent single player content that teaches the basics in an extremely fun way, flawless online experience, amazing character design and attention to accessibility, Street Fighter 6 is in a league of its own, and one of the best fighting games in decades.
Today I will be reviewing Street Fighter 6, which is not only likely to be the best fighting game of 2023 but one of the best fighting games of all time! In …