Street Fighter 6 and its Closed Beta showed several things- the first, that Capcom has very much allocated the appropriate resources for what will likely be the next half-decade of Street Fighter. The second, was that fighting games need to be able to change for the different types of players playing it.
You see this a lot in the kinds of decisions made for the gameplay in Street Fighter 6- the game’s still at its core a very fundamentals-driven experience, but the game’s Drive System also adds a layer of depth and complexity that gets interpreted differently by players at varying skill levels.
Shut Up And Drive (Impact)
I really like how the Drive System is implemented in the Street Fighter 6 Beta- while meter for your Super Arts is still carried over between rounds, the Drive System replenishes at the start of every round. It encourages aggressive use of it- and aggressive play if you want to make sure you don’t run out and enter burnout.
The applications of the gauge itself are widely varied- you could probably burn your whole Drive Impact pretending your Daigo and trying to parry everything coming your way. But the most valuable use of the meter is through your offensive tools, which can laughably turn the tide in your favor.
Take, for example, the Drive Impact. This is easily the most contentious feature added to Street Fighter 6- for just a simple bar off your Drive Gauge, you get a powerful armored move to absorb hits, and inflicts absolutely devastating consequences in the corner as you crumple your opponent.
On the beginner levels, Drive Impact is incredibly powerful- players can throw it out super easily, and it’s a great way to force your way out of the corner if you’re under pressure. Just mashing Drive Impact became common enough that you can easily find threads of people calling it the most busted move in the game.
However, it’s that exact level of bustedness that makes it change entirely on higher level play. Like a game of Chess, fighting games are about already knowing what the opponent is going to do and being prepared for it. Once you know the most popular situations that call for Drive Impact, you’re probably going to prep its counters (backing off to let it whiff, or just running up and grabbing it). It’s not a game of “I hope they don’t do it”, it’s a game of “when are they going to do it?”.
And that’s just the Drive Impact- the game’s Drive System has plenty of other uses for that magic green bar too, including mechanics like an Alpha Counter to disrupt enemy pressure, as well as offensive moves like enhanced OD moves and Drive Rush to really put the pressure on. Using these are a lot less straightforward than Impact- Drive Rush itself is so technical that newer players will never see a need to use it, but it will be a key factor in ending matches quicker for the more learned players.
It really does feel like the game has a good gradient for players to get used to its rules this way. Naturally, you’d probably learn to use the Impact and how to deal with it first, before advancing to something like the Parry or Alpha Counter once you realize your opponent can’t always be hitting buttons. Finally, you’ll move on to learning how to permanently stop them from hitting buttons altogether via the game’s offensive tools. Sure, you’ll probably climb this gradient through many, many losses but getting slowly better at a fighting game is a much better strategy for retention than having someone hit the skill ceiling early on.
It’s not just the Drive system, either. You see the difficulty curve of Street Fighter 6 expressed in the Beta characters, too. Characters like Guile have perfect versions of some of their charged moves, rewarding you for hitting the buttons at the right time. However while the window for this would usually be much stricter in other games, Street Fighter 6 has a pretty generous window for you to hear Guile’s praise. Instead, it’s the regular Sonic Boom that’s hidden behind a wall of difficulty- you need to time it late enough that it avoids the Perfect window, but not so late that your Sonic Boom doesn’t come out at all.
Now it’s turned Street Fighter 6 into a game about even more deliberate decisions, and those decisions are usually locked behind mechanical complexity. Kock someone down? Your easy setup option is a good Drive Impact. Or maybe you want to do a slower Sonic Boom? Or what about parrying them to make them regret ever getting into fighting games? These kinds of oki setups are in every fighting game, but by layering your options with difficulty I think it’s great for players of every skill level since you don’t have to know every possible option- the mind games around each of the individual options is good enough.
Learning To Play
Of course learning is an integral part of actually getting better at the game. I really like Street Fighter 6’s training mode and how it has you do this- it’s got pages and pages of various settings, all aimed at helping you climb from “I’m just pressing buttons, teehee!” to “How the hell was that plus?!”.
I really like that the various UI options too- the game readily gives you frame data on your moves, and even tells you the inputs for your special moves after you do them (no more guessing what each thing was). Like it really feels like Capcom jumped into this one with the intent to not just make a game for new players or high-level killers: the UX seems entirely centered around players who want to do the climb, and make it more accessible for them.
The Social Aspect
One really underrated feature about Street Fighter 6 is just how social everything feels via the Battle Hub. Fighting game lobbies have been under a lot of scrutiny lately since Guilty Gear Strive proved good games are not exempt from terrible lobbies, after all. Aside from the low bar of just working, I actually really like just hanging out in the Battle Hub. There’s something nice about having everyone’s freaky character creations just walking around, even if they’re not going to run sets.
The soft PA coming on to tell you people are on winning streaks is a nice touch, too. It’s almost like the magic of locals, since you have the opportunity to all just kind of hang out, unlike many lobbies where you’re just en route to getting your ass beat.
If nothing else, it’s a testament to how stupid the idea of the grand corporate metaverse is- people have already found ways to be social online, apparently you just needed fursuits or arcade cabinets to do it.
I’m really excited for what exactly Street Fighter 6 is shaping up to be. The Drive System is a great way to catch the more defense-oriented Street Fighter 6 with other faster titles on the market, all without really losing what makes it inherently Street Fighter.
My main gripe with the Street Fighter 6 Beta was more to do with its roster- 3 of the already-announced characters were missing, and the lack of Zangief at all was disheartening since the public have yet to see how terrifying a Drive Rush into SPD would reshape the way we think about our own mortality.
The other gripe would be that it’s almost too social- with everyone mixing in the same Battle Hub, that ideal learning experience is probably going to be tainted since you’re still at the “Drive Impact is the best” while you’re opponent already sussed out to always grab you on wake up.
But these kinds of problems are normal for fighting games- and we’re only going to see new emergent strategies following balance, and more importantly, roster changes.
Street Fighter 6 Beta accessed on PC, with access provided by Capcom
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