Street Fighter 6 is a fighting game for everyone. With control schemes that will let you do cool things simply by mashing the buttons, a sprawling single player mode, and a character creation system that allows you to cobble together whatever moveset you like, it feels like something designed to give you whatever you want out of a fighting game. Not that it’s leaving competitive players in the lurch, as its Drive Gauge system gives you plenty of tools to create wild combos from round start, an escape route from pressure, and an armored strike. Marry all this with a fantastic roster of new and old characters, and you have an exquisite fighting game.
Whether this is your first game or if you’ve been around since Street Fighter II, there are a few control schemes you can make use of to choose how you will be inputting your attacks and combos. Classic Control Type has the complex directional button inputs that long-time players will find instantly familiar. Quarter circle forward and punch to pull off Ryu’s Hadouken, for example. Many of these inputs can be challenging when you’re new at them, but since your special moves are tied to these inputs, that frees up more buttons for you to use light, medium, and heavy punches and kicks, as well as your Drive Impact and Drive Parry commands.
Being able to input complex motions can be difficult for some, especially when someone is punching you in the face. To make things a bit easier, Street Fighter 6 offers Modern Control Type. This features ties some special moves to a button, allowing you to use a fighter’s flashier moves by pressing one button or a direction and a button or execute its Super Arts with a direction and two buttons. (Like how DNF Duel can work with its special moves.) For the Hadouken, you just hit Triangle on the default PS5 controller. It also simplifies your basic attacks, only offering single light, medium, and heavy attacks each tied to one face button. As to whether that’s a punch or a kick, it depends on the character. Overall, it simplifies inputs and cuts down on the available choices to streamline the process of choosing what move to use, while making it easier to do your fancier attacks.
This makes for an interesting trade-off. The player using Modern Control Type loses access to the bigger variety of moves that come with Classic, but can pull off special moves with greater ease (and reliability, depending on skill level). Classic players have to do more complex inputs, but can play around with range and timing more effectively as they have more unique strikes than Modern players do. Modern players might find themselves having difficulty pulling over some more complex combos as well as they don’t have all those strikes to use as links, but they gain the ability to use assisted combos by holding R2 and hitting a button multiple times. They’re simpler combos for sure, but they still let the player do some multi-hitting strikes with vastly simpler inputs.
There’s a third input style in Street Fighter 6: Dynamic Control Type. This one reads your situation and tries to choose solid moves based on your distance and the moment. This can result in a combo that leads right into your super, all from just hitting buttons. You can mash away, and the game will just do cool stuff that can be very effective. It doesn’t matter which button you’re hitting. The trouble is that it can be hard to know what the heck your character is going to do, so planning goes out the window. You can bet it will be something useful that looks cool, though.
Between these three styles, I feel like just about anybody can pick up the game and have some fun with it. Classic gives you a huge arsenal of things you can do, letting you put together some devious combos and setups, since you have so much to choose from. You just risk messing up the movements. Modern eases up the input challenges to let players use special moves without trouble, but reduces your available kit of strikes, reducing what you’re capable of. Still, if you’re having trouble with complex inputs, this takes them off the table. If you just want to smash buttons and see awesome stuff happen, you have Dynamic. Suddenly, your smaller siblings can be a real menace instead of easy pickings.
These style choices alone open Street Fighter 6 up to a much wider audience. I won’t lie: for many years, I was one of those people who didn’t play fighting games because of how hard the inputs were. I really wanted to love Street Fighter IV, but getting those inputs to work on a 360 controller D-Pad was making me furious. I didn’t see any point in trying to get good at these games, because I just couldn’t get the characters to do what I wanted them to. I’d had similar problems years before that when I was far younger as I’d just panic and jam on the buttons when the opponent came after me back when I was playing Street Fighter II as a kid. I loved the characters and the idea of the genre ever since the original, but the inputs were just too much for me for a variety of reasons.
These control styles eliminate all of the challenges I’ve faced with fighting games over the years. It’s a little late as I finally embraced the nuances of complex inputs a few years ago thanks to some training with a friend (and because Guilty Gear Strive is a stunning fighter), but for people going through the various challenges I faced, these tools open up so much opportunity. I could have been playing fighting games for twenty or thirty more years if these Control Types had been there to let me do fantastic moves by mashing as a kid, or by simplifying those inputs on a frustrating controller years ago. Now, I can see them allowing whole swaths of new people to enjoy this franchise and fighting games in general.
Lots of people are going to want to play this game because the roster is fantastic, too. Ryu, Guile, Chun-Li, and several other classic fighters make their returns, and all with movesets that feel instantly familiar and super satisfying to put into action. What’s really impressive is that the new cast members feel like they’re just as fun and interesting. I’ve tried playing many fighters that introduce a lot of new characters before, but I lose interest quickly. Maybe it sounds like I want the same old thing, but I come to a lot of these games because I like the fighters I’ve been seeing over the years. I usually bounce off the new kids.
Street Fighter 6 adds some incredible new characters, though. Manon mixes up ballet dancing and judo, combining flowing kicks and some beautiful, but painful, throws. Those throws increase in damage and complexity as she lands them, making her ever-more threatening as the matches progress. Marisa is a massive practitioner of pankration, and she uses long reach and some armored attacks (which require multiple hits to knock her out of) to just steamroll through whatever your opponent is doing. JP is a ferocious zoner that uses Psycho Power to create traps, launch energy blasts that hit high/mid/low (and also grab), and teleport around. Lily has high mobility that will send her flying toward the opponent in moments, but also some vicious throws that make her even deadlier up close. I tried them all and just don’t know who to pick.
The visual designs look great as well (mostly). Shirtless, beaded Ryu exudes this sense of confidence and calmness. However, that serenity fades when he hits you with some of his Super Arts, his face twisted with exertion and a near-rage. I initially was hesitant about Ken’s shabby look, but watching him go wild with his fiery kicks looks so good. (Plus the banana hair from Street Fighter V is gone.) Marisa has this grinning confidence as she performs all of her moves that makes them feel all the more satisfying to use. JP has a similar feel with his hand behind his back and the way he lashes out with his cane. I’m not a big fan of overalls on Blanka and Manon’s oddball outfit, but for the latter, it feels so good to watch her mix ballet and brutal throws that I just don’t care.
Street Fighter 6 sounds great with every hit, too. The characters roar and shout with such force that you really feel the power, confidence, disdain, and enjoyment going into each attack. I stuck with the Japanese voices for my playthroughs, and they’re just so well done that they add a ton of enjoyment to everything I did. Combining them with the heavy slams and crashes of combat in general and you really believed in the weight and impact of the combat. You can feel the exertion going into these fights, and it makes all your moves feel really good to use. There’s a twinge on pleasure in even the most basic of movements just from the sound design alone. Well, that and because they already look good, too.
If you can’t decide which of the characters you like, Street Fighter 6 lets you “combine” them. The game features an open-world mode called World Tour, during which you will make your own character. This allows you to use a character creator to make the usual monstrosities and neat warriors, then take them on a journey to gain strength and train under the various main playable characters of the game. With this training, you can start customizing your moveset. If you like Manon’s throws and Marisa’s armored strikes, you can equip individual moves into various slots for the character. You can’t double up on two that use the same input, but you can really make some wild creations that pull from multiple fighters.
Best of all, Street Fighter 6 gives you a specific mode in the Battle Hub, where players can use these creations to fight online against ones others made. As you’d expect, these fights can be fairly silly. The game factors in the arm and leg length you chose in character creation when it dictates your ranges, so you can have some downright ridiculous striking distances. Where anyone can have just about any move, you spend a lot of the match just figuring out what will happen and finding yourself surprised, too. The fights are absurd and unbalanced, but since anything can happen, they’re a ton of fun, too.
World Tour itself also has its own experience and equipment systems, playing more like an RPG where you explore Metro City and the world beyond with your created character (which I talked a bit about before). You’re free to fight almost anyone on the street as you wander, steadily growing money and power as you work through a neat storyline that, as I said, connects you with much of the cast. This strength not only helps you progress in this mode, but your bonuses, levels, and equipment can be used in those specific character creation Battle Hub matches as well. This tends to make things wildly unbalanced, but as a mode just for fun, it’s a blast.
World Tour isn’t without some issues, though. They’re minor ones, but they can still get annoying. Some of the damage dealt feels fairly unbalanced, with certain foes cleaning out your life bar despite being a similar level as you are. Also, since you can fight more than one opponent at a time, the game does have some trouble figuring out who you want to attack, so some of your inputs might not work if you switch foes or the direction you’re facing. There are healing items and other tools to mitigate these issues, but these issues can create some frustrations while you’re playing through World Tour. Again, this is a small irritation that really didn’t take away much of my enjoyment, but it did get on my nerves a few times whenever I played.
I’m not saying that the World Tour is only good in how it gives you a character for the online Battle Hub in Street Fighter 6, though. As much as I’m here to fight live opponents, the character connections in World Tour are quite entertaining. The story is fun too, don’t get me wrong, but having small chats with the various main characters helped flesh them out. It also made me build a connection with Chun Li, Marisa, and Dee Jay as I learned their skills, spoke with them, and brought them little gifts. You get to see other sides of these people that you don’t get to experience in the fighting matches, and it was just really pleasant to get to know them all. There’s all these silly, touching, and fun moments with the characters that made me like them even more.
Meeting the characters and talking with them is honestly what helped me experiment with them more. Once you start to like them, you can’t help but want to play with them. Thankfully, Street Fighter 6 offers some fantastic character guides to help you get started with everyone. With most games, I’ve done this by turning on a move list and practicing. You CAN do that here, but the character guides actually walk you through all of the moves, their applications, and even some more ‘advanced’ basics that will show you what their full game plan is, as well as how to get some of their simple combos together. These give you a really good starting point with the character without even having to leave the game. They’re a godsend when you’re completely new with someone and are not sure what to do with their capabilities.
The best way to really get to know the character is to then take those new skills online. Street Fighter 6 was running well during the Beta, and online matches throughout the review period were smooth, too. I didn’t experience any problems with slowdowns or disconnects while playing, and just found things worked really well. Being able to sit at an arcade seat to wait for an opponent in Battle Hub was a nice way of meeting up with fighters, too, while being able to practice until someone sat down with you.
You don’t have to sit and wait in Battle Hub, though. You’re free to open yourself up to Casual or Ranked matches and just have people enter fights while you walk around a vibrant arena filled with screens highlighting matches, players battle one another, and created characters duking it out on the floor. This mode does a fun job of capturing an arcade/tournament feel (or as good as you can get as a digital facsimile), letting you enjoy seeing what’s going on in a small slice of a Street Fighter community before a challenger pops in and you’re brought into a fight.
I have a few more compliments for this system. Rematches start in seconds, letting you get round after round in without much downtime. I loved being able to get right back at it. I also loved being able to meander while waiting for a match. The Battle Hub even has older Street Fighter games you can play while you’re there, making it a fun space to wander while you’re playing or waiting to play. It’s just really well designed as a hub for being between matches, and gets you caught up in a sense of the bigger community around it all.
This is a silly thing to like, but I can’t help but bring it up. Street Fighter 6 lets you make faces with your character before a match starts. You have a choice of four different ones, but the character go through a little facial change from neutral to frowning, roaring, smiling, blowing out their cheeks, etc. You can tap the directional buttons to make these faces, but by doing it at different speeds, you can make them look like they’re laughing or doing some really goofy things and gestures. The online players I ran into all seemed to be acting as silly as possible with the faces (which I initially felt would be a throwaway element), and I just got caught up in it. Making faces created this sense of fun and connection at the start of the fight, and ended up being a fantastic way to say hello to the opponent. It’s such a small thing, but shows the playfulness and care Capcom put into the title.
You can see that playfulness in Fighting Ground, too. You get your usual local matches, arcade mode, online, and other s, but you also have Extreme Battle. These matches make you fight for who can get more knockdowns, who can dodge a bull while still laying beatdowns, and more. It’s another playful mode built around adding goofy elements to fights, demonstrating that Capcom was willing to put just about anything into the game if they thought it would add some fun. Playing these matches feels less like serious competition, but getting some buddies together to fight around explosives (with Dynamic Control Type to ensure cool moves are happening) is a laugh riot.
When things get serious, though, there is the Drive Gauge system that fuels it all. You start with six bars at the beginning of every match in Street Fighter 6, which you are free to spend whenever you like. Want to jump right into using an Overdrive version of a move (an enhanced version of one of your Special Moves, basically) at round start? You can. Drive Rush to slam someone with an armored attack out of the gate? Maybe they won’t expect it. The benefit of this system is that wild things are possible right from the beginning of the match rather than near the middle or end, adding some exciting moments all throughout.
The Drive Gauge also fuels many of your Drive abilities. Drive Impact lets you do a colorful, armored strike against you opponent to blow them back or knock them down. It’s great for just powering through someone’s special attacks or normal strikes, surprising them and giving you a moment to slap them around. If you see your foe doing this, you can hit the buttons and launch your own Drive Impact, which stops their Drive Impact and lets you hammer them instead. This tends to open them right up for a Super Art, so if you can time these right, you’re going to have a good time.
Street Fighter 6 also has a Drive Parry, which lets you block and counter incoming attacks. You can hold the button to do so, making it easier to pull off (but it costs more Drive Gauge to do so), or you can try for the perfect parry by timing it exactly right. This lets you inflict a little pain back on your foes, making it a great tool to use (plus it’s often faster than trying to counter with your own Drive Impact, and works in more instances, I feel).
Getting stomped? If you’re blocking, you can execute a Drive Reversal to smack an attacking opponent back and get a bit of breathing room. It’s not much, but it can at least break their pressure for a moment so you can get your head together. If you’re the one exerting pressure and want to continue it, though, you can double tap forward during certain moves (like cancellable normal strikes) to rush ahead and continue your assault.
However, if you spend all of your Drive Gauge on these various moves or see it drained from blocking, you’ll enter Burnout in Street Fighter 6. Bad place to be. Normally, you Drive Gauge takes small chips of damage instead of your health while you have some bars. Once it’s drained, your health starts to take little bits of damage while blocking. You lose access to all the Drive powers as well, and if you take a Drive Impact while you’re in the corner, you’ll be stunned for a few seconds. You’re wide open and defenseless in this state, so expect a vicious beating if that happens. The Drive Gauge does refill over time as you land hits and avoid getting smacked, but does so much more slowly once you hit Burnout.
As the Drive Gauge fuels so many special abilities, you’re going to want to use it. Use too much and take too many hits, though, and you’ll be in a dangerous Burnout state. So, do you go all out and risk it anyway if you can keep up pressure? Save it for specific openings? It adds a lot of extra layers to each match, and the potential for some surprise upsets and turnarounds depending on how you use it. It’s a fantastic, flexible system that keeps things exciting throughout the match in ways that layer on top of the already-compelling ebb and flow of basic character attacks.
There’s a control type for everyone. There’s a character for everyone. Modes that are serious and silly. Characters you can build yourself and then take online to horrify and delight. Hubs to meet the community and share in the spectacle of a fight. Practice tools to really help you learn characters. The ability to just make funny faces at people. A complex system that adds further complexity to the already-intriguing movesets of the game’s many characters. Street Fighter 6 is playful, but still filled with depth for skilled fighters or those who just want to enjoy fighting games on their own terms. It’s a wealth of content for just about anyone with an interest in the genre.
Most of all, it’s the game I wish I had thirty years ago – the one that would have welcomed me to the genre when so much about it was scaring me off. I’m so happy that this is what people get to experience in this genre now, and am looking forward to meeting the new people this inclusive title will bring to fighting games.
Street Fighter 6 will be available on June 2, 2023 on the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.