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We got to go hands-on with Street Fighter 6 at Summer Game Fest–here are some of the big takeaways.
What started as a somewhat nervous reaction to Street Fighter 6’s announcement–largely owing to a very generic logo–has quickly turned into an excited fervor around the game, at least among fighting game enthusiasts. The latest entry in Capcom’s storied franchise was arguably the main event at Summer Game Fest 2022’s show floor, where it was playable.
After spending a number of hours with the game, I can say that I’m considerably more excited for the future of Street Fighter 6 than I was when I first got my hands on Street Fighter 5. That’s not to say Street Fighter 5 was a bad game. It had its fair share of issues at launch, but over the years Capcom committed to updating and improving the experience, and it is in much better shape. Street Fighter 6, however, looks to be starting its round in much better shape.
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Capcom has clearly paid attention to what the community likes and dislikes about Street Fighter 5, as well as other entries in the series, and Street Fighter 6 feels like the result of carefully considering all of that. My hands-on impressions of the game provide a quick deep dive into why I think Street Fighter 6 is shaping up to be an exciting new entry in the series, but I’ll also break down some of the most interesting aspects of it below.
Street Fighter 6 utilizes what’s called the Drive System, which is made up of a number of mechanics all governed by a Drive Gauge. This is split into six segments which can be spent to execute a number of special skills that have both offensive and defensive applications. These range from Drive Impact, a powerful strike that can absorb a single hit of an incoming attack at the cost of a single bar (imagine a fully charged Focus Attack from Street Fighter 4), to an Overdrive Art, which powers up special moves at the expense of two bars, much like an EX from previous titles. These are just two of five mechanics that the Drive System is made up of, but they all are in service of a key design principle for Street Fighter 6: Creativity.
For longtime fans, that will come as great news. A major issue with Street Fighter 5 was the rigidity of its systems–there was very little room for creativity and mechanical expression. This meant that, at high levels in particular, good players usually played the same way, which in turn meant that their opponents would also behave in a very specific way. It became rote to both play and watch. Street Fighter 6, however, leans the other way by giving players more tools to work with.
Don’t wait your turn
The fundamental design of Street Fighter 5, and the aforementioned rigidity, had a knock-on effect in how each battle played out. Many aficionados have described Street Fighter 5 as feeling turn-based, which meant that the flow of combat felt very predictable. Sure there were opportunities for flourishes, but it was possible to see even those coming as there was a very specific time and place for them. Where Street Fighter 5 felt more like checkers, Street Fighter 6 is more like… Hungry Hungry Hippos. Yes, that was supposed to be a joke, but it also kind of works as the game’s mechanics allow for players to be a bit more opportunistic and, if they manage to execute their plan, get greedy in chomping down on an enemy’s health bar.
Drive Impact, as previously mentioned, will absorb a hit and then retaliate with a strike that leaves an enemy in a completely vulnerable state and open for a beating–you just have to make sure the opponent doesn’t counter with their own one. Drive Parries allow a fighter to repel an incoming attack and will replenish the Drive Gauge if successful–you just have to make sure you time it correctly. You can also catch someone off guard by canceling it with a sprint called Drive Rush, which quickly closes the distance. Drive Reversal, much like an Alpha Counter, will allow a player to push an aggressive fighter away from a blocking position to alleviate pressure. These, along with other techniques, make for a level of unpredictability that was sorely missing from Street Fighter 5.
To stop everything from descending into complete chaos, Capcom has implemented a system called Burnout. This functions much like a cooldown in an RPG where, if you expend all your Drive Gauge, your character essentially drains their stamina and cannot use any of the aforementioned Drive abilities. This is a big momentum shift opportunity in a fight for both players. For the player that still has Drive options available to them, they are able to press the advantage and open up their opponent by applying pressure.
However, for the player that is in Burnout, the focus shifts to ensuring their fundamentals are rock-solid and they’re able to maintain a defensive style until the Drive Gauge recovers. While in Burnout, there are also a number of other disadvantages applied, most notably an increase in damage taken. When playing against skilled opponents that are capable of applying pressure, staying solid is much easier said than done. The reason this is exciting is because it creates these moments that really shine the spotlight on pure player skill, which is when some of the most memorable fighting game moments happen.
A World Tour
Naturally, the most surprising new addition for Street Fighter 6 is a single-player adventure mode called World Tour. The interesting thing about this is the name of the mode itself. Capcom previously had a mode with the same name in Street Fighter Zero/Alpha 3 and, in that iteration, it involved players selecting a character and then traveling around the globe to fight battles. By doing so they would accrue experience that could be used to outfit their fighter with new defensive and offensive attributes. This, however, was all menu-based.
In Street Fighter 6, Capcom has opted for a more immersive approach with a fully-realized world that players can run around in and starts fights. Everything we’ve seen so far has been in Metro City, the location that Capcom’s Final Fight series takes place in, but it feels like containing the entire experience to just this city and then calling it World Tour doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I may be getting ahead of myself here, but I am hoping that Capcom has a bunch of other locations to reveal and World Tour will truly be a global journey where various street fighters travel the globe and grow as fighters. I asked Street Fighter’s director this specifically and was told, “It’s funny that you touched on the Street Zero or Alpha 3. That is something that we had in mind. And, you know, and we definitely like acknowledging that mode and the past games. We’ll have more to share with you down the line. So we hope you stay excited.”
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