Street Fighter 6 Review – Taking it to the streets

Reviewed May 30, 2023 on PS5

Platforms:

Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X

Released:

June 2, 2023

Publisher:

Capcom

Developer:

Capcom

It’s been seven years since Street Fighter V was released as part of the enduringly popular Street Fighter series, and while it was initially dinged for lacking in content, it eventually grew into a strong entry built on the foundation of razor-sharp fighting mechanics. Street Fighter 6 looks to course correct that launch by giving you a feature-rich package, including the first-ever “open world story mode” the franchise has ever seen.

But you know in those reality cooking shows like Master Chef (stay with me), where the contestant brings up a plate of food that’s something bizarre like “cucumber served five ways”, and the judges enjoy most of the elements, but the dish is let down by one or two components? They tell those contestants to scale it back and focus on the main important things on the plate, but overall as a judge, they have to take into consideration the whole meal that’s presented to them. That’s how I feel about Street Fighter 6. The core Street Fighter experience might be the best it’s ever been, but a milquetoast first attempt at an open world campaign just doesn’t live up to the quality seen elsewhere in the experience.

Fundamental fighting

What Street Fighter 6 does nail is the core gameplay that has kept this fighting franchise strong from generation to generation over the last almost 40 years. Fighting Ground is where you will cut your teeth, and that’s where the expected modes take place, including the traditional Arcade mode that has you competing in back-to-back fights against opponents, bookended by still imagery to tell a mini-story. These stories range from serious to silly like Zangief traveling across the world to find a tag team partner, not realising that the “partner wanted” poster he found was actually for a partner of the romantic kind instead.

“…the focus is on the fighting itself, which is where it truly shines.”

This kind of basic story mode is almost a trademark for Street Fighter at this point, but its simple nature means the focus is on the fighting itself, which is where the game truly shines. The combat itself will be instantly familiar to any Street Fighter fan, but a new feature called the Drive System adds some new elements that are visually flashy but also potentially effective in turning the tide of battle. You’ll have a Drive Gauge underneath your health bar, and as that fills you’ll have access to abilities; the first, Drive Impact, is a powerful strike that can absorb and negate an opponent’s incoming attack, and Overdrive moves take a special move and turn it into an Overdrive Art, which seasoned players will recognise as a new take on EX Special Moves.

Drive Parry allows you to parry an attack from your opponent, repleneshing your Drive Gauge if successful, while Drive Rush has you quickly rushing forward after a Drive Parry so you can reposition and move in for an attack. Overall, the Drive system adds another layer to what is already fast and furious tactical fighting, and the colourful way it’s presented with blasts of paint splashing all over the place would make Splatoon blush, while also signalling when the attacks are taking place so you can adjust strategy or avoid them if you’re able.

Looking too good to punch

Paint-splattering aside, this is absolutely the best that Street Fighter has ever looked. Backgrounds are truly dynamic, with lots of detail, whether it’s spectators watching, elephants lifting their trunks or ancient temples filled with monks. The large roster of fighters still look cartoon-ish and over-the-top, but have a more realistic style to them compared with SFV, which gives them more character and little details that stand out. In facial expressions alone, favourites like Ryu, Ken, E. Honda, Chun-Li and an older, wiser Dhalsim have new life breathed into them, and Zangief’s pecs now bounce in a way that is just mesmerising to this bear-lover.

Returning favourites like Cammy, Juri, Dee Jay, and cover-boy Luke combine with six newcomers who build out the base roster, and they all have unique fighting styles that feel different enough to warrant their inclusion, with strong personalities that mesh well with this fighting universe. Manon might be my favourite; this French supermodel, dancer, and judo champion rocks pink hair and mixes ballet with judo, as she prances around the stage, nailing high kicks and twirls like they’re no big deal. Lily is another fun one; she’s small, but don’t let the native Mexican fool you, as she’ll smash you up with long-reaching ball-headed clubs with fast agility and a slam.

Marisa is a large Greek muscle warrior woman standing at 6’8″, who moves slow but hits hard with strong punches, kicks, and slams, and the mystical JP harnesses a strange power that produces purple flames, making him dangerous at range or up close with his staff, as he struts around the stage reminiscent of Bayonetta. Child prodigy Kimberly and Drunken Fist kung fu connoisseur Jamie round out the crew. They all bring something different to the party, making for a diverse and interesting base roster with more to come via already announced DLC in the coming months.

Beginners welcome

Street Fighter 6 does a wonderful job of introducing players old and new to its various systems, offering different kinds of control types for the first time. Purists might take issue with the new easier control setups, but they come together to make this the most accessible Street Fighter (and potentially the most accessible fighting game overall) on the market. Classic is still there for those who want to play the game like they always have, and this will likely remain what is prominent in terms of the fierce tournament scene where this will live for years. But for others, there’s Modern and Dynamic options.

Dynamic is the one you’re going to want to set up when you’re passing the controller to a young sibling or perhaps a non-gamer, as it takes a lot of the work out of understanding which buttons do what, and how to activate combo moves. Instead, by pressing the Auto-Attack button, your character will automatically perform attacks and combos based on your position relevant to the opponent. Understandably, this control type can’t be used in online matches. The happy medium between Classic and Dynamic, then, is Modern, and after using it for a while to test it, I can see the appeal.

The Modern control type is designed for players who want to fight without having to memorise and practice special move button combinations, which is incredibly useful when trying out a new character for the first time. Previously, my early attempt at a new character in any fighting game begins with me perusing the various pages of combos, committing some of them to memory, and then learning on the fly. Now, it’s easier to jump in and enjoy straight away.¬† It was tricky to go back to Classic after this, but the appeal of learning how to master a character you love (using the various training modes in the game) persists and is there for the traditional types.

Everybody was Street Fighting

The main drawcard of Street Fighter 6 is its take on an open world story mode, World Tour. When first revealed, eyebrows were cocked with curiosity, and rightfully so. This genre doesn’t naturally lend itself to an open world format, yet somehow, they’ve made it work… with mixed results. Dropping into the city, your mentor, Luke, shows you the ropes as you look to become the best fighter in the city. Something more nefarious is brewing under the surface, but what follows is a light and breezy open world that is reminiscent of early Yakuza games but with less karaoke and lower stakes.

There’s an inherent campiness to proceedings that brought a silly grin to my face. You can challenge almost¬†anybody to a fight, simply by walking up to them and [ressing a button, which is when things flip to the standard 2D plane for the fight itself. Attacking businessmen in suits, shopkeepers, or even mimes and human statues in the street is goofy, and even old ladies will take you on with gusto. In this world, everybody loves fighting, and that makes it feel irreverent and fun throughout. You’ll level up your custom-made character by winning battles, and getting some perks along the way, but it’d be a real stretch to call this an RPG.

“…rampaging roomba robots, fridges, and other weird opponents…”

Some gangs (who wear cardboard boxes or TV sets on their heads, for reasons unknown), will attack you on sight, and they’re more prevalent at night. This can be irritating as you run from one mission to the next, especially as you grow stronger, as their fight patterns and moves are uninteresting, and they tend to get in the way. Some characters you choose to battle have mentors in the form of the Street Fighter cast, so they mimic their movesets, but for the most part, fights feel generic, so they become repetitive once the open world novelty wears off.

There are two “zones” which are open, and littered with side quests, that usually amount to you going somewhere, beating someone up, and then coming back to report the quest complete. Despite the fact these distractions aren’t super creative, I still felt compelled to do most of them, but they’re very simplistic. With rampaging Roomba robots, fridges, and other weird opponents, they’re a decent way to level up, and you’ll need to grind a little anyway to remain strong enough for the main story progression.

Other areas you’ll visit like the UK, Brazil, and Jamaica mostly serve as static backdrops to progress the story, but these locations are where you’ll meet the other memebrs of the base roster of Street Fighter 6, so you can learn their moves. You’ll be able to have your created character focus on one style, but then you can modify your special moves with your mix of favourites, which makes for some interesting combos. I like that you’re not tied to one fighter’s entire moveset, and I focused on combining moves that complimented each other, like using Ryu’s Hadouken at range but then following up with Manon’s slide to get up close, before smashing them to the sky with Ken’s uppercut.

It’s also endearing to see these loved characters in the “real world”, and as a fan of the series, I couldn’t help but enjoy being a student in Chun-Li’s school, hanging out with Blanka (who is chattier than I anticipated), or having a traditional sumo match with E. Honda. These cut-scenes are intentionally funny and weird, and seeing these favourites putting your eager-to-learn character through their paces made each encounter worth seeking out.

It’s a shame that other parts of the story feel more like padding. Grabbing a quest, only to be told that you have to come back at night, is especially annoying when that requires you to travel back to your home, change the time of day, and then travel back (while avoiding annoying grunts in the street along the way). Going into shops to buy new outfits is fun, but I ultimately went with gear that was linked to improving my stats, so I’m not sure why you’d sacrifice power for a cosmetic choice. And the fact that there are only two real “open” areas to explore limits your engagement, as these settings seem less compelling than the other destinations around the world you’ll pop in to visit. There are some cool ideas and strong fan service in World Tour, but it’s hampered by repetition and dated ideas, feeling a bit like a first draft at times.

I got next!!

The Battle Hub represents the brunt of the online modes and is where players can gather and communicate with one another. I managed to check it out for a few days during the review period, but it wasn’t overly populated. Still, I can see that this is where competitive players will be spending the majority of their time.

You can use your World Tour avatar here to run around and explore, with each Battle Hub hosting up to 100 players at a time. There are regular and extreme battle cabinets littered everywhere, and you simply sit down at one opposite another player to challenge them, as if it’s a giant arcade you’re populating – and you can even choose to just spectate others. It’s a nice touch, and there are other cute features like the ability to play classic Capcom arcade games or customise your avatar. The Battle Hub is also where you’ll enter tournaments, and the Capcom Fighters Network has been revamped, so you can easily manage your friends, clubs and view replays and rankings. It feels like a very robust and packed online experience that is sure to keep you occupied as you take on the best fighters in the globe.

8.5

Great

Positive:

  • Fighting gameplay is once again refined and stellar
  • The most accessible Street Fighter ever, with multiple control types
  • Colourful visuals with fighters looking better than ever
  • Battle Hub will last a long time for fans

Negative:

  • Open world story mode is campy, but repetitive

Street Fighter 6 provides the fast and furious action you’d expect from the refined fighting series, offering a dynamic cast of characters, new control modes to make it more accessible, and a variety of features to keep you busy. Its story mode is a campy take on the Street Fighter universe that doesn’t always land the winning blow, however; while it’s filled with distractions and civilian fighters to take on, it can be a little repetitive and shallow. Still, the technical foundations that Street Fighter stands on are as solid as ever, and with a whole world to battle online, there’s a lot of fighting on the menu in what is once again a polished, exciting fighting experience that will keep fans engaged for years.