Street Fighter 6 is a big and important fighting game where the PvP is very important. Therefore, we divide the review into parts and discuss the offline modes first.
No one can teach you to better yourself. That phrase, or at least that thought, you will encounter more often if you want to get good at fighting games. The genre has an unprecedentedly high skill floor. Anyone who wants to be even slightly competitive must be willing to work for it. Improving your game sense and mastery of your character takes time and energy. On top of that, it requires analysis and perseverance. No one can hand you that knowledge and skill. Only by playing and practicing will you get better. Even once it clicks, you’re not there yet. The road to improvement has no end.
Getting better easily
The above obviously applies to Street Fighter 6 – and the game fully embraces that idea. The introduction video asks you why you want to get stronger, and the music warns of the endless “grind” required to do so. However, Street Fighter 6 does make the road to improvement less bumpy. With a more than 15-hour story mode, extensive character guides and even useful combo trials, learning to play a fighting game has never been easier – and more fun. The online modes and cash shops are not yet available (in their completeness) during the review period – hence the review in progress. After the offline modes, though, I’m more than ready.
Street Fighter 6 has clearly learned from the mistakes of its predecessor. Where Street Fighter V barely had any single player content, 6 adds the massive World Tour mode. World Tour is basically an RPG where you go through a story, build stats and collect equipment with a self-created character. You take on quests from well-known and lesser-known characters in the Street Fighter universe, and you explore the streets of Mike Haggar’s Metro City, among others. The areas are filled with enemies, treasure chests, and even dungeons in the form of parking garages or construction sites. The big twist is that all the battles use the regular combat system, and it lets you secretly fathom that system.
Whether you like it or not, the World Tour forces you to spend hours of gameplay exploring its depths.
It does the latter in particular quite cleverly. Each type of enemy you fight has its own fighting style and weaknesses, which organically teaches you how to deal with different situations. There are flying enemies that you have to knock out of the air, violent roomba’s that you hit with low attacks, and enemies that just throw projectiles. Also, most enemies have a short period in which they are vulnerable, such as before or after a particular attack, or in between attacks. Thus, the game invites you to find an opening, and punish opponent mistakes. There are even some mini-games to improve your inputs, or to learn to parry more effectively, for example. Whether you like it or not, World Tour forces you to spend hours of playful depth.
It all does get off to a somewhat slow start – especially if you’re already familiar with the genre. For example, World Tour doesn’t tell you which attacks to block high or low until the final chapters. Only in the second to last battle are you really tested on this. In addition, you can often skip challenges or ignore them by simply spamming healing potions if you have made too many mistakes.
You also spend a good two hours before unlocking the Drive system. Each character now has access to an auto-filling “drive gauge” that you can use for better specials, an automatic parry, a sprint forward to start or extend combos, or a strong attack with hyper armor that leaves your opponent defenseless. You could say that the entire game is built around this system. So it is a mystery to me why it is not directly usable in World Tour.
At the same time, there is something to be said for slowly unlocking systems. It’s hard for me to gauge how a complete layman will experience World Tour, but I too enjoyed slowly getting to know the new, optional Modern Controls. Indeed, Street Fighter 6 doesn’t just try to better explain existing concepts – it also adds entirely new, accessible ways to control your character.
With modern controls, you don’t have to learn awkward motion inputs. Instead, it hides a wide (but not complete) range of attacks under a four button system: a light, medium, heavy and a special. You can automatically do combos by continuing to press the same button in combination with a trigger. It’s hard to say at this point what impact modern controls will have on the game and its meta. However, they do make a complex game a lot more manageable to learn. For veterans it will be a bit uncomfortable, but a layman can probably get along faster.
So while World Tour as a whole is well thought out, the finishing touches do leave some to be desired. For example, the engine is clearly not intended for an open world. The lighting is strange, there is very little detail in the backgrounds and yet, at least on PS5, the frame rate is not always stable. It is rarely so bad that it bothers, but graphically it is definitely a generation behind. Precisely because the rest of the game looks excellent – and runs even better – this is striking.
A meager story
The story of World Tour mode is not very special either. Don’t get me wrong, it did enough to keep me interested until the credits. It’s just nowhere so exciting or surprising that it could have stood on its own. Indeed, all the twists you will see coming from miles away. However, it does open a lot of doors for a possible sequel. Capcom has already made it known that it will gradually incorporate new characters and areas into World Tour, and there really is plenty of room for that. As the great villain ultimately points out, the end is not an end, but a new beginning. I am already very curious to see what direction Capcom will take.
What is notable about the story, however, is that so far it makes little use of the titular street fighters. Instead, most of these have been reduced to side quests and NPCs. You can unlock the entire cast as mentors and learn their fighting styles, skills and emotes to use yourself. By giving them presents, you’ll learn more of their backstory, and what they’ve been up to since Street Fighter V.
Those backstories are of the same caliber as the “character stories” from the previous game. For example, you help Blanka sell his hugs, and you put his chankonabe restaurant on the map with Emond Honda. So they are absurd vignettes rather than the heroes really contributing to the plot. By the way, if you expect to find better character-specific stories in arcade mode, you will also be disappointed.
Still, Fighting Ground, consisting of the arcade, versus, and training modes, is almost as strong as World Tour. Whereas World Tour familiarizes you with general systems, Fighting Ground has a set of guides and combo trials to teach you how to play a specific character. Now this in itself is nothing new: Most modern fighting games have such tutorials. Unfortunately, they are often of limited use. Guides are often brief, or assume a lot of prior knowledge. Combo trials are usually there more to challenge you than to teach you useful combos, or the situations in which you use them. With Street Fighter 6, this is different. The guides explain a plan of action for each character, give context around all the specials, and tell you which normals to use when. By extension, combo trials are divided into difficulty levels, and even the most difficult combos are perfectly usable in practice. Should you still want to practice a specific situation, the vastly expanded practice mode offers more than enough options to help you do so.
It should be clear that Street Fighter 6 is an excellent start for anyone looking to learn how to play the series or the genre. Of course, you will still have to put in time and energy to really get to grips with the game, but Street Fighter makes it more fun AND easier. Then again, in the end, of course, a fighter only really comes to life when you play against others. Whether that makes it worth the time and energy, you’ll read about it after the release, when I’ve had some ranked matches, experienced the final netcode, and know how the game handles its microtransactions.