Finally got platinum in ranked mode and finished the single player campaign. Let’s dive into this one because it’s a fun one.
Street Fighter is a franchise I have long enjoyed all the way back from my days playing Street Fighter II in arcades with friends back in the early 90’s. The series remains the flagship of 2D fighting games for good reason. Each numbered sequel tends to feel either like an evolutionary step forward or a kind of ‘coming home’ to the original World Warriors from 1991. Street Fighter III was a step forward with its huge cast of newcomers and innovative gameplay changes. Street Fighter IV was a coming home with the return of all 12 SF2 Champion Edition characters and combat that felt like a throwback to older games. Street Fighter V was a step forward thanks to several more new characters, the complex V-trigger system, and a story campaign that pushed the plot forward seriously for the first time in decades. Now with Street Fighter 6 we have a game that feels both like a ‘coming home’ and a step forward at the same time. This contrast becomes clear when we look at the gameplay and story.
Gameplay is by far Street Fighter 6’s strongest point and most daring. Thanks to the new drive system combat is faster and more dynamic than ever. [warning: fighting game lingo ahead] Drive rush adds tension and complexity to footsies and the neutral game. Drive impact creates a constant mental stack threat. The fact that EX-special attacks use drive meter with super moves using a separate super meter means that every round will be chalk full of flashy special attacks. This makes fights visually more interesting. Parries and throw loops create unique counterplay opportunities and the new burnout system offsets the steamroll potential of the drive system more generally.
SF6 is for my money the most fun to play iteration of the franchise. Bolstering this is the fact that the game is very accessible thanks to excellent tutorials and matchmaking. If you have never played Street Fighter before, this is a great place to start. The online mode is consistently excellent. The netcode for both ranked and casual matches has been solid. Less than 1% of my matches have had stuttering or connectivity issues. Battlehub makes it easy to make friends and even play some retro Capcom games. Support for custom private rooms and tournaments adds to the fun for you and your bros on Discord.
If you have absolutely zero desire to play online, you are in luck; Street Fighter 6 also includes a very strong single player offering. First you have World Tour mode, a unique single player campaign where you create your own character and go through the game’s story. The story here is where SF6 feels like a ‘coming home’ in that it seems to reset much of the main cast to their old default positions. This alongside the return of all eight of the original World Warriors characters I think is a deliberate attempt to make SF6 an easy place for newcomers to start the series; you don’t really need to dig into the lore of older games. As for the actual gameplay and plot of World Tour, well…It’s…interesting but not great. More on that below.
Better executed is the ‘Fighting Ground’ section of single player content. Here you get the arcade mode which lets you fight through each character’s story. It’s nicely customizable at 5 or 12 stages, 1, 3, or 5 rounds per fight, toggle on/off story and/or bonus stages, and eight meaningful difficulty levels. The options here make arcade mode endlessly replayable. There’s also a solid VS mode where you can fight the CPU as well as Team Battle and a goofy Extreme Battle mode with lots of bizarre gimmicks. Rounding it out is a very thorough training mode complete with character guides, combo challenges, and lots of recording options, frame meters, input histories, and numerous other configurations to ensure you get the most out of practice. Even for a single player focused gamer, ‘Fighting Ground’ on its own makes this game worth picking up.
Two flaws drag Street Fighter 6 down from an ‘A’ level grade. First and foremost, the single player World Tour mode. It’s kind of a hot mess. I appreciate the creativity of opting for a kind of open world RPG-esque experience. Mixing up special moves and fighting styles into your custom character is neat. The problem is that the mode is braindead easy even without using nearly infinite healing items and continues. Worse still is that the story is just awful. It is painfully boring and told slowly and stupidly. It relies on meandering fetch quests and the ending feels pointless. The most fundamental flaw is that the actual Street Fighter cast of characters have zero impact on the plot and never interact with each other. The characters are by far the biggest draw for any fighting game. NetherRealm understood this with Mortal Kombat and Injustice, investing a lot of effort into memorable character interaction. SF6 offers nothing.
I appreciated the extra color the ‘master’ system added to the franchise’s characters (loved getting text messages from Ryu). However just going by YouTube trailers it is obvious Tekken 8 and Mortal Kombat 1 will absolutely cook Street Fighter 6 when it comes to creating an engaging and memorable story mode. World Tour could have been saved by better writing, a multiplayer element, more fun postgame content, more interesting challenges and incentives. It’s still entertaining and worth powering through at least once, but it’s also a big missed opportunity.
The second issue dragging down Street Fighter 6 is simply the aesthetics. The stage design and music are very “meh.” The urban vibe meant to emphasize the “street” in Street Fighter came off effortless in Street Fighter III but here feels cringey and self-conscious. Overall I like the art style for the characters. The more realistic look I think is a nice change of pace compared to Street Fighter V’s cartoony look. I love the walkout animations as well before fights — it’s a great cinematic touch. However the weak soundtrack is unforgivable coming from the previous game’s large library of banger tracks from titles old and new. An ability to easily swap in your own music would be neat.
If history is any guide we’re in for lots of updates to Street Fighter 6 over the years. I’m sure there will be a “Super Street Fighter 6 Turbo: Arcade Edition Hyper Fighting Remix” at some point. Patches and DLC can fix both of my core criticisms. Additions to World Tour could make it more worth your while. More character costumes, stages, and music could also help. Sure it’s annoying having to pay a few bucks to get new stuff, but remember, back in the day you had to buy a whole new game just to get Vega or Cammy to be playable.
Street Fighter 6 is great fun and stands only to get better. It succeeds at the most important test for any fighting game sequel: Does it play better than the older games? For me it’s a strong “yes.” I have no desire to go back to Street Fighter III, IV, or V. SF6 is just a damn good time.