Street Fighter 6 hands-on: the series’ most exciting shake-up in years

Street Fighter 6 could be the game that expands audiences further than ever with impressive mechanics that feel like an amalgam of everything that’s gone before.

Street Fighter 6 is everything I wanted from a fighting game, even as a casual fan of the genre. Sure, I love throwing down like Scorpion, Kazuya and others, but Street Fighter as a franchise has always felt so focused on competitive play that my brief stint on Street Fighter 4 was an exercise in futility – like trying through a rock. to hit.

And yet, after only playing Street Fighter 6 for a short time, I may have become a true believer. It’s no longer a franchise I know by its characters – within an hour I was building strategies, layering mechanics and delving more into the genre than ever before.

Back to the street

Street Fighter 6 screenshot with GuileCapcom

Classic stages return

Since the first reveal of Street Fighter 6, the game’s art style has been etched in players’ minds. Avoiding the cartoonish look of previous games, there’s a bizarre realism in everything but the character models.

But perhaps most surprisingly, it works – every fighter (especially male characters like Ryu and Luke) is absolutely jacked, with biceps the size of cars and thighs to match. Whatever character you play (I had eight to choose from), animations are incredibly fluid.

That, coupled with backgrounds that range from the iconic aircraft carrier to neon-drenched alleyways, make the game look absolutely stunning in motion. The clever injection of graffiti-esque colors coming out of the Drive Impact attacks (more on that soon) makes it feel like something all on its own, to the point where screenshots just don’t do it justice.

Street Fighter 6 screenshot with KimberlyCapcom

Kimberly is probably very popular.

Nowhere felt that more than with agile debutante Kimberly, who, despite the stealth-focused origins of her ninjutsu fighting style, is brimming with vibrancy. From a paint can projectile to the ability to bounce across the screen, she’s full of character and makes a strong first impression with flips, rush-down attacks and flashy special moves.

take a ride

If you came to this Street Fighter 6 preview looking for all the Shoryukens, Hadoukens and, well, all the other iconic moves, I’m happy to tell you that they’re all there and accounted for. Beneath those classic quarter-circle entrances, however, is something quite impressive.

Street Fighter 6 screenshot with LukeCapcom

There are more tools than ever, both offensively and defensively.

Street Fighter 6’s Drive system feels like a refinement of everything added in the last few iterations, each folded into the last to form a whole that’s not just more than the sum of its parts, but the most fun that I’ve had in a fighter in years.

Players must manage a new Drive meter, with a series of special attacks that chop off different parts of the bar below your fighter’s health. At the lowest level, you’ll see the Drive Impact cause an explosion of color as players absorb an incoming attack and retaliate with one of their own attacks, much like Street Fighter 4’s focus attacks. EX moves also return, now known as Overdrive Arts who can change battle at the cost of two rods.

It’s not all about damage though, Drive Reversals offers counter-attack opportunities, while Drive Rush can help close the gap with ranged fighters to unleash a flurry of fists and feet. Perhaps most useful, however, is the Drive Parry, which can fend off all attacks except throws. That may sound like an overly casual addition, but perfect timing can lead to a Perfect Parry. This forces you to think about how to use your meter and handle almost any situation.

Street Fighter 6 screenshot with a Ryu HadoukenCapcom

Be honest, you’re saying it now, aren’t you?

In our short time playing Street Fighter 6, we were even able to time a Drive Impact into an opponent’s Drive Impact, slowing down the screen and pushing each fighter back with their feet planted, in anime style. It’s electric and it makes me itch to see the best players go from head to toe.

Classic and “modern” control schemes allow players to spend less time wrestling with the controls and more time wrestling their opponents. However, you lose a few crucial inputs that made the modern control system unsuitable for competitive play, as it excludes you from certain moves. However, if you just want to get your feet wet and do some flashing moves, it’s more than usable. That’s not to say the complexity is gone, and strategy is ultimately the most important thing in the game, but it will certainly make Street Fighter 6 more accessible to those who need it.

Return of the king?

It would be fair to say that 2023 will be a big year for fighting games. Between Tekken 8 and Street Fighter 6, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Still, after just a few games in Street Fighter 6, I’m more excited about the franchise than I’ve been in over a decade. It’s a fast-paced fighter that challenges you to play it slow, with a methodical pace that it’s sure to appreciate for new players and the best of the best.

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