Capcom makes it clear that newcomers are more than welcome to hit the streets
“Street Fighter 6” (Credit: Capcom)
“Street Fighter 6” just might be the most accessible fighting game in years. Available for purchase across platforms Friday, the release from developer Capcom makes clear that newcomers are more than welcome to hit the streets in this hit franchise’s latest sequel.
Fighting games have a history of being complex, highly technical experiences where muscle memory, razor-sharp reflexes, and oodles of psychological strategy collide in the most stressful of ways. Exhilarating for gamers who love those elements, but a daunting wall of challenges to overcome for those who just want to spar with cool-looking characters amid scenic backdrops. Thankfully, “Street Fighter 6” dares to offer both types of players a fun time.
Regardless of your skill level, the core experience is the same: You and another fighter square off in an arena and smack each other around until one person runs out of health. But that’s where options emerge.
Fans of the classic experience can fight an opponent on equal footing. However, players have the option to assume advantages such as extra health or extra damage output. This is an excellent feature for when friends of different skill levels want to play together, helping level the field.
Furthermore, the game offers three control schemes, including a classic option for fans who want the gameplay as complex as it’s always been. But “modern” and “dynamic” simplify the experience so cool moves can be executed with less taxing controller inputs. Dynamic goes so far as to pick your moves for you, depending on your positioning relative to the opponent. Modern makes for a nice middle ground that many casual players will appreciate.
These modernizations are meaningful individually and, when combined, put “Street Fighter 6” on a whole separate level from other fighting games in terms of how smoothly it onboards players and encourages them to stick around.
There are three major play categories in “Street Fighter 6,” with one of them being a section that houses all standard-form “Street Fighter” content. This ranges from regular one-on-one battles to arcade ladders and online matchmaking, as well as an “extreme” mode that adds wacky variables to standard fights. (Random bull rushes, Tesla coils, and seesaw health bars — oh my!)
Detached from that umbrella of standard offerings is a full-fledged World Tour mode featuring a custom character that you make, alongside a Battle Hub that acts as a virtual arcade for people to meet, interact and play “Street Fighter” against each other.
World Tour is an interesting experiment, albeit a little wonky, bloated and not quite captivating enough. The premise is rich: Drop a homemade avatar into Metro City (the “Street Fighter” version of New York City) and roam around, starting impromptu street fights with folks while meeting legendary franchise characters in a breezy story that doesn’t take itself seriously. (The World Tour story is wholly separate from characters’ arcade mode stories).
The issue is, there aren’t enough captivating second-tier characters to justify putzing around Metro City ad nauseam, reducing the incentive to explore and do side quests. Writing is quirky but underbaked, meaning while dialogue may make you laugh at how bizarre it is, it won’t actually incentivize you to bother with whatever chore a character assigns. If you want a game series where this kind of open-area formula works as intended, try out “Like a Dragon” (formerly labeled “Yakuza” in the west).
World Tour’s Metro City also suffers from the occasional frame rate dip when dynamic fights occur. (Note: this occurred on multiple machines, including a gaming PC armed with an RTX 4070 graphics processor.) This may or may not be a problem going forward once patches are applied.
Despite the aforementioned issues, it’s still decent fun to see your custom avatar running around and throwing down. And the avatar creator, much to Capcom’s credit, is incredibly detailed. Want your character to have a pin-tip-sized mole on the back of their left shoulder, a faint layer of neon-green eye shadow or oversized, ultra-hairy forearms? Just about whatever you want, you can have.
A True Virtual Arcade
Battle Hub, the third big play category of the game, is a genius idea excellently executed. Seemingly conceived to combat both the disappearance of in-person arcades in the west as well as the fear of another coronavirus situation closing arcades in the east, Capcom has more or less created a metaverse substitute for the classic arcade experience.
Using your custom avatar from World Tour, you can roam around a big room loaded with arcade cabinets and activities. Here, you can dynamically sit down and face off against opponents much like you would in real life, spectate others’ matches and talk with other onlookers, invite people to play with you, join clubs, play classic “Street Fighter” games (yes, there are entire other “Street Fighter” games inside of “Street Fighter 6”) and more.
One particularly wild element of Battle Hub is the ability to use your custom fighter in impromptu battles against others’ custom fighters. These matches are wildly unbalanced and unregulated — much like a real street fight — in that they’re based on your stats from World Tour, but the novelty of getting your ass kicked by someone else’s homemade creation is a delight.
Really, it can’t be understated how fun it is to chat with others in the Hub and spectate others’ fights with a crowd. It’s like “VRChat” for “Street Fighter.” If society’s future is to be built around virtual connection over physical connection, it could look a heck of a lot worse than Battle Hub.
While there are certainly gripes to be had with what content isn’t available in “Street Fighter 6,” such as the somewhat limited opening character roster that omits fan-favorites like Ibuki, said problems are tiny. The bold swing with World Tour, the grand slam that is Battle Hub and the game’s commitment to accessibility thoroughly overshadow the title’s weak points.
“Street Fighter 6” is available for PC (Steam), PS5, PS4 and Xbox Series X & S on June 2.