Capcom has a lot riding on Street Fighter 6. Ever since Street Fighter IV embraced DLC content, Capcom has seemingly been feeling its way through how to launch it's premiere franchise and please everybody. Street Fighter V arguably dropped that ball, with minimal single player content, slightly doughy character models and mechanics that players struggled to fully embrace. However, over the life of the game, more characters were added, a proper arcade mode was bolted on and numerous character packs and outfit releases kept the money coming in for Capcom. Street Fighter 6 now has to bring it's own fighting style and create a bedrock that will keep players adding DLC for years to come.
So how does it do?
My first choice was whether or not to embrace the Collector's Edition of the game. £250 got you some exclusive DLC, a couple of Pop Up Parade figures (which are nice, but worth £30 each at best), the game which is worth £60 and some other fluff that makes up about £130 of the overall package. In the end I just couldn't justify an investment that was almost equal to Nintendo Switch, so I went for the Steelbook edition that Game were offering. Very nice it is too, especially as it didn't add to the RRP.
Maybe one old character and one new addition might have made the special edition more alluring...
There's a certain bombast to the opening credits, Street Fighter 6 is rather keen to let you know it's all about the "Street" in Street Fighter, giving you an urban soundtrack and some decidedly pop-art/graffiti visuals. It works too, with the game strutting its stuff and showing swagger with new "into the ring" animations before each bout. It feels hip in a way Dreamcast games used to, with the established roster having visibly aged and a slew of cool young upstarts here to make a name for themselves.
Getting the game set up is a bit fiddly, with the title asking you to link the game to your Capcom account - 5 minutes later this was all done, but it does irk me when a game requires a load of preamble before I can actually play the thing.
Once all the legal papers are signed and submitted, you're given 3 main areas of the game to work with - World Tour, Battle Hub and Fighting Grounds. Let's take each one of those in turn.
This mode is an open world RPG, allowing you to create your own avatar and take to the streets of Metro City (the stomping ground of Final Fight) and level up your character with a series of tasks and battles.
Avatar creation is quite fun and involved, with everything from body-types to facial features, moles and skin tones to pick from. You can create some incredibly freakish looking creatures in here, though I created one female avatar to suit my tastes and a male avatar to look like me. I wouldn't say it's photo accurate, but it's close enough and maybe even something to aspire to! Once you're free of the lab, you'll meet Luke in his gym and undergo some basic training before you're allowed to wander the streets.
Metro City is a well-rendered hub of activity - as well as talking to and fighting every resident in the area, you can also acquire items for your avatar in shops, buy food to keep you healthy between bouts and look for "Masters" like Chun Li in order to learn their fighting styles. It's been a fun distraction away from the main game, and I'm sure this will be expanded as time goes on.
This an open area that allows you to interact with other players, partake in classic video games, buy game items and play against others online. I have to say I'm not one for online play, preferring to play friends or the CPU, but as lobby systems go, this is lively and beautifully presented.
Ah, the main event. Here you can train, play arcade, fight friends and complete events that will earn you in-game currency. Arcade mode defaults to 5 rounds, which is actually a short and sweet way to re-acquaint yourself with your favourite characters as well as meet new additions to the roster. Menus contain myriad options and can be a bit daunting, but follow the tutorials and you should find your way around without much trouble.
Arcade mode provides you with 18 characters to start with - that's not bad for a base Street Fighter game (SFV had 16), but we're already eyeing up which of favourites could be making a comeback.
Gorgeous backgrounds, great character models and beautiful effects make the game a stunner
Enough talk, what about the action?
Before we get into the fighting, we have to talk about the control schemes, because Capcom has made a pretty bold move here. Most fighting games dictate their controls in order to create a level playing field, and Street Fighters light, medium and high kicks/punches have become the de-facto control scheme for most players. It's a great system that allows for a lot of flexibility and depth, but it's easy to forget that not everyone grew up with it, and that some people might not even have played a fighting game before. What can we do for these plucky newcomers to the genre?
capcom's answer is the "modern" control scheme, which comprises three attack buttons and one special move button. No longer do you require complex inputs, you can just press in a direction and press the special button, instantly firing off moves that might otherwise require complex movements or charging. The limitation applied to this "instant access" is a reduction in the scope of the moves you can pull off - your specials will be limited to medium strength too, so you'll not be able to match the full devastating power of your chosen fighter. It's a good compromise and allows the purists to retain an edge while giving less-experienced players a fighting chance.
Okay, so now we can talk about the action
I can honestly say that Street Fighter 6 has put the work in - combat is fluid, logical and absolutely beautiful, with graceful movements enhanced by graphical flair and creative camera angles that make every bout a work of art. It's genuinely exciting to play AND watch, which isn't something that can be said for every game out there. There's a pleasing crunch to attacks that satisfies those base urges, and at no point does any match feel unfair. True, some characters play a tad better than others (I've never liked charging moves as they're telegraphed a mile off) but I found when I lost a bout it was due to my strategy and not some unfair CPU advantage.
The new mechanics are what most Street Fighter players will scrutinise the most, and there are a few here. Drive Gauge is the most talked about, a resource that controls a number of powerful abilities such as Drive Impact - anticipate a move from your opponent and you can reverse it with a powerful attack that leaves them open to a follow up. You can also use it to parry and execute super moves, but overuse it and you'll lose those abilities and make yourself vulnerable. In the end, it's all mind games - bait your opponent into using a Drive attack and you could reverse it and punish them. If they hesitate you can use a Drive attack anyway and give them a good kicking. It's the very heart of what makes Street Fighter tick - not the action, but the possible consequences of making a wrong move. Anticipation has always been the strength of Street Fighter and Capcom has wisely harnessed it in full with this new mechanic. It will likely take years before we see it truly mastered by players, but it's a solid foundation that already has a legion of students ready to develop their prowess with it.
So, who do we have in the game? Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, Guile, E.Honda, Cammy, Dhalsim, Blanka, Zangief, Juri and (bizarrely) Dee Jay are here to fly the flag for the old(ish in some cases) guard, all a little more mature and ready to take on a new generation of fighters. I will say that I was delighted to see the classic costumes make an early entry into the store, and of course the purse-clutching elements of the internet losing their minds that we might see Cammy's butt in her camo uniform once more. It's only been out there for 40 years, but now's the time to get upset about it. I despair.
Old favourites still pack a punch (or kick!)
Anyway, we also have a new line-up - poster girl Kimberley is a graffiti ninja, Luke takes centre stage as the gym trainer, drunken-master and breakdancer Jamie, the diminutive Lily (T-Hawk's daughter?), big girl Marisa and french actor/model Manon. The new big bad is JP, a sort of Gandalf/Dumbledore elderly type in a natty suit.
I like Kimberley's design the most, it's colourful and imaginative (though the pout is occasionally comical), but I can't say any of the new intake grab me like Street Fighter IV's Juri did. Nobody has that instantly iconic look and feel, so I'm hoping we'll see some more new designs, or at least something that sparks more interest than gender swapped archetypes and hipsters. Luke wins bonus points for being very likeable in World Tour, but I haven't played him enough to decide if he's really all that memorable. I'll be interested to see what Udon comics does with the new intake.
Ultimately it's early days in terms of properly understanding everything each player has to offer, especially in a world of new mechanics and abilities. Honestly, learning where all the standard attacks land is a big job in itself, but couple this with everything else you have to balance and you really do get a feel for the huge amount of depth here.
Around the fighting itself, it has to be said that Capcom have created an amazing spectacle. From the walk to the arena featuring both fighters, general animation and attitude of each character, every interaction with the game feels rich and wholesome. Ryu's zen-like appreciation for the art of fighting is hilariously at odds with Juri's cackling fighting-mad insanity, but their interactions between bouts are fun and believable, bringing elements that should be at odds together with surprising skill. There's an almost familial aspect between everyone taking part in a brawl, right down to the passers-by in the World Tour - everyone is just a brawler looking to test their skills, and regardless of motivation, fighting is just the fabric of this insane world.
If I have any gripes, they're minor. The music isn't terribly memorable, and you certainly couldn't hum any of it. Some of the tunes, such as Chun Li's "Not a little girl" has discernible elements from her earlier theme, but it's still not an ear-worm. Some of the design choices are plain odd - the presenter for the Battle Hub, "Eternity" just seems like an odd fit for a fight announcer, more Ruby Rhod than Joe Rogan, even if this is clearly going for an "inclusive" vibe, I'm not sure it hits the mark. They've leaned in heavily - and I mean, no subtlety at all - on Juri's feet for some reason (day one purchase for Tarantino then) and the character creation is nightmare fuel when taken to extremes. It feels like they had the game locked and then someone came and messed with it. Nothing game-breaking, just distracting and, occasionally, a bit creepy. The sort of things that make you hope nobody walks in while you're playing to prompt the asking of awkward questions.
The Final Round
So, have Capcom managed to create that solid foundation for the next generation of Street Fighters? I'd have to say yes, and with some aplomb. The fighting mechanics, graphical flair and fluidity of the whole thing is truly next level. It feels fresh thanks to changing the input mechanics for the first time in the game's history, with the changes (weird stuff aside) genuinely adding something of value. It feels primed for more content, and I want to see Sakura, Ibuki, Vega, Dan, Dudley and Sagat getting the same fresh makeovers. Exciting times are ahead and Capcom should be brimming with pride at what they've achieved. Fight on!