Street Fighter 6 is fun, fresh, and packed with content that fans and newcomers will love | Hands-on preview
The first time my editor and I dropped by Capcom HQ for a hands-on preview of the forthcoming Street Fighter 6, it was fair to say we were blown away. Not only did we not want the preview session to end, but we also spent the entire car journey back, and a few weeks of text messages talking about it like a pair of excited schoolkids. Having just been party to three glorious hours of the final pre-release hands-on, that excitement has just intensified ten-fold. I experienced things I wasn’t expecting, revelled in the solid brilliance of the core game, and even fully laughed out loud on a few occasions.
I was granted ninety minutes with two of the main modes on offer, starting with Fighting Grounds. Within this segment are four sub-modes. First up is the tried and tested Arcade, probably the first way most of us ever experienced a Street Fighter title and still the go-to when trying out a new incarnation. I was able to play halfway through a standard run using two of the roster. Like a pair of comfy slippers, series mainstay Ken is as familiar as ever, even if he is now looking grizzled and wearing a sheepskin jacket somewhat reminiscent of some of the latter forms of one Terry Bogard. You know what you are going to get with Ken on a fundamental level – excellent anti-air capabilities, time-honoured fireballs, an innate ability to get opponents into corners or juggle situations, and within the remit of the Street Fighter 6 Drive system, being able to cancel into a Jinrai Kick to smash a segment of his opposite number’s Drive gauge.
Lily on the other hand is an intriguing newcomer who is an indigenous Mexican fighter from the same tribe as Super Street Fighter 2 legend T.Hawk, sharing some of his moves within her DNA, but also wielding two alarmingly hurty-looking clubs called pogamoggans. As well as the Condor Dive and a decent command grab like our boy T, Lily can also use her clubs to generate Windclad stocks which can then be used to enhance the power of her special moves and her Thunderbird Level 2 Critical Art. She is a deceptively powerful and extremely interesting character with a genuine sense of depth.
The Arcade playthrough saw many of the beautiful stages come to life before my eyes, as well as being able to smash up a bunch of familiar and not-so-familiar opponents. It came to an end at each halfway point when a bonus stage interjected, demanding I employ my fighter to annihilate a vehicle in classic Street Fighter / Final Fight fashion. It is of course wonderfully cathartic.
Moving on from the exceptional core game was the terrific Extreme Battle, which I believe will be a smash hit online. It is essentially a versus battle but with a bunch of crazed variables, one minute you could be avoiding being zapped by giant electrical pylons, the next kicking ticking timebombs towards your opponent in the hope they get ‘sploded. Meanwhile, a bunch of other random stuff can be implemented, such as being unable to use special moves, jumping being banned, or having your character in a permanent state of burnout and the coinciding inability to access the best that the drive gauge has to offer. If you have ever dreamed of using a rampaging bull to extend a combo during your Street Fighter experience, then this mode is for you. It is astonishingly fun.
Combo Trial is as you would expect and gives you a great way of learning the most effective combinations for each character. I tried this out with Cammy who as always looks like she will be deadly in the right hands and somehow even more nimble and hard-hitting this time around.
If that lets you learn how to physically pull things off, then the exceptional Character Guide tells you why, when, AND how. Controlling the clearly evil, psycho-powered new face JP, this incredibly comprehensive step-by-step guide is a fine way for newcomers to learn the way the mechanics and moves of each fighter work, and for experienced heads to really get under the skin of each fighter. It’s a level of teaching that is rarely seen in the genre. I personally can’t wait to kick some serious ass with, and find out more about the motivations of the sinister JP!
Normally the modes above would have been plenty for me to be getting on with. Hell, Steet Fighter V shipped on launch with less out the gate.
But the sheer glee of what I experienced in the first 90 minutes was somehow eclipsed by the utterly bonkers World Tour that I got to try next. I knew there was going to be a hitherto unfamiliar game hiding in the Street Fighter 6 package, but not this, not this.
I can best describe it as a semi-open-world, fully-fledged role-playing game set in the wider Street Fighter / Final Fight universe, that clearly draws its influences from Yakuza and Shenmue, but has fighting incorporating a fully customisable, scaled-down version of the Street Fighter 6 engine. Did I mention that it also has Metroidvania elements? No? Well, it has those too. Have you ever wanted to use a Spinning Bird Kick to access an out-of-reach platform? It’s in here. Fighting games have tinkered with the idea of different modes and gimmicks before. Soul Calibur and Tekken have had Weapon Master and Tekken Force; Guilty Gear went a bit left of centre for Judgement. But never has anyone done anything as crazy and super fun as this. According to Street Fighter 6’s producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya, Capcom’s ultimate goal was to “make another Street Fighter game that’s not just for existing fans of the series, but for everyone,”
And it really is. You get to create a character using a wide range of base parts and models (even your own face, if you really want to go full-bore mental) and then customise it to within an inch of its life. Progress in the game sees you able to learn different fighting styles from Street Fighter legends and incorporate their techniques into your moveset in a wild crossover of moves and styles. There are skills trees, NPCs, a crazy, ultra-violent, and never-not-funny way of challenging bystanders to a battle
It gave me a giddy unbridled joy that was like someone had injected the essence of the SEGA Dreamcast into my veins. It is stuffed full of easter eggs and references to games of Capcom’s storied past, but crucially above all it doesn’t take itself seriously. It is as much fun as I have had on a videogame in 2023 and I can’t wait to explore this lunatic world once it drops in June.
So once again, I walked away from Capcom a very happy and excited boy, dreaming of an arcade stick purchase (although I must stress, due to the mechanics, World Tour is strictly pad only for my money), and working myself up into a frenzy about all the fun I am going to have soon. I have never been so sure that a game is going to stick the landing, and utterly usurp the game that preceded it. I am sure a lot of casual fans who may not be au fait with fighters will enjoy it too, thanks to the accessibility and ease of sitting under the exceptional learning tree Capcom have generously included. Bring it on.
Take a look at our video preview to see just how impressive what Capcom has done with Street Fighter 6 really is.
Street Fighter 6 is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S on June 2, 2023.