Street Fighter 6 hands-on impressions: Fists of glory

Street Fighter 6 is the first entry in the iconic franchise that I’ve been overly hyped for in years. I had my fair share of excitement for the launch of Street Fighter IV and for Street Fighter V, only for both to be a letdown at launch. Sketchy online gameplay, limited characters, and lackluster single-player options had me convinced that there was no point in getting a Street Fighter entry in its first iteration — just wait for the “Ultra” or “Champion” editions when there’s more content.

With Street Fighter 6, Capcom may have learned its lesson. We’ve seen the amount of content that will be available right off the bat: World Tour, Fighting Ground, Battle Hub Game Mode. That first one even offers players the ability to customize their character from head to toe in a seemingly open-world adventure. There’s even Extreme Mode, a party mode that lets players mix things up with different “rules and gimmicks.”

This, along with the “back to the streets” vibe I was getting from the graffiti-filled footage we’ve seen, brought back the Street Fighter hype I had been craving for years. After a few rounds of playing the next installment in one of the most iconic fighting game franchises of all time at EGX London 2022, I’m delighted to say that my hype hunger has been satiated.

While I didn’t get the chance to try out all the new game modes, I played a few 1-on-1 rounds using a fresh-and-stylish Ken and (relatively) new character Luke, and I didn’t want to put the PS5 DualSense controller down.

Street Fighter 6 will be available in 2023 on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and Series S, and PC. Here are my first impressions of Street Fighter 6, but be sure to check back here for even more coverage in the lead-up to its release. 

Simplicity at its finest 

I got 30 minutes of playtime during my hands-on with Street Fighter 6, where I was pitted against an equally leveled player that hadn’t touched SF since Super Street Fighter IV on the 3DS (if you’re thinking that I had the upper hand because I had been playing SFV, you’d be wrong).

I was immediately impressed by the graphics on display. Street Fighter is known for its unique, artistic style over high-fidelity graphics, but SF6 appears to blend the two together. This time around, it’s more of a “back to the streets” aesthetic, and that’s very fitting for a franchise with “Street” in its name. I’m a big fan of the paint that drips from Drive Parry, making the graffiti art style shine in each match. 

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Speaking of, Street Fighter 6 introduces a new Drive System, which simplifies all the mechanics we’ve come to know in Street Fighter.

No more parry skills or special character arts, just an all-encompassing system that shows a six-segment meter below your character’s health bar. This is known as the Drive Gauge, which manages your character’s ability to pull off a special move. You can still use a Hadouken whenever you want, but a special version of it — what we’ve come to know as EX moves — will take up a slot or two. In my playtime, I didn’t take much notice of it, but for advanced gameplay, I can imagine a lot of gauge management throughout a match.

It reigns in my point about simplicity; Street Fighter 6 isn’t a hard game to pick up. In my first time playing Luke, the poster boy of SF6, I didn’t have to look at the character move list to know his unique moves. His shotgun punch is the same action as a Hadouken, and he even has a Shoryuken-type uppercut. My opponent’s character, the drunken-fighter Jamie, had a similar moveset, but with different unique moves to master. They felt great to play as, and that’s because they were easy to jump into. No overly complicated combos, just tactical kicks, punches, and special moves that we quickly pulled off. 

(Image credit: Future)

The new moves, such as Drive Impact to absorb damage while landing a satisfying punch and Drive Parry to catch an opponent off guard, are just a button away. That’s great for anyone new to Street Fighter, or those who still need to learn the ropes before pulling off crazy combos. It gives players a fighting chance, and that’s important for bringing new players into the world of Street Fighter.

There is a lot to master, though. My time with SF6 was limited, and I didn’t get the time to try out the many Overdrive moves. This would drain my Drive Gauge, meaning I would have to think about when I should use a special move. However, I did nail plenty of Super Meter moves, which is a separate bar at the bottom of the screen. These were satisfyingly stylish, and when I pummeled my opponent with a flurry of Luke’s shotgun blow, I felt the thrill of the fight. 

Ken is king

We then had some time for the classic “Ken vs. Ryu” match, with me taking control of everyone’s favorite Ryu clone. Okay, he hasn’t been a clone on Ryu for a while, but I felt more of a difference with his kicks in Street Fighter 6 than SFV.

Street Fighter 6

(Image credit: Future)

It’s clear Ken is a master of Shoryuken and kicks, as I even found a simple three-hit combo that played with hitboxes: low, medium, then high. This caught my opponent off guard multiple times, and he didn’t have the same moveset to do the same. I loved my time getting to know the differences Ken brings, and I’m a big fan of his Super Move that unleashes a flurry of fiery kicks — and it doesn’t need to land the first hit to continue punishing.

While I didn’t get any time with Ryu, my opponent was keen on his familiar moves, which was shown when he beat me in a few matches. Street Fighter veterans will enjoy the ease of slipping back into the usual rhythm of Street Fighter mechanics, while newcomers will have a blast easily pulling off special moves with a few basic button combinations. 


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