As what I’d consider the gold standard in fighting games, Street Fighter is never shy about reinventing itself, and with upcoming Street Fighter 6, Capcom is poised to do so once again. By combining many elements tried out in previous iterations, like Parry from Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Focus Attacks from Street Fighter IV, and V-Skills from Street Fighter V, this fresh take on the popular brawler places the Drive System front-and-center to fantastic effect. Managing the Drive Gauge’s energy bar and making deadly use of all the powerful stunts it afforded me became as important to success as monitoring my health bar. That game of calculated risks and timely reversals stuck out as a killer feature that I could see myself losing countless hours trying to master.
At the heart of Street Fighter 6’s intricate game of blitzkrieg chess is the aforementioned Drive System, which let me use powerful moves by expending energy in a finite bar called the Drive Gauge. With the right commands I could use this resource to absorb an opponent’s attack and smack them against the sides of the screen, parry my opponent to stop their assault in its tracks and launch a counterattack of my own, perform an extremely deadly Overdrive Art (which essentially replaces EX Special Moves from previous games), and more.
My personal favorite of these abilities is called the Drive Rush, which allowed me to quickly close gaps in a duel of fists and feet where spacing is all-important. Even better, although the Drive Rush maneuver had a hefty Drive Gauge cost under normal circumstances, that cost was reduced significantly if I managed to pull off a Drive Parry first, at which point I could get really close to my opponent and still have some energy available to me to make them pay a pound of flesh for deigning to assail me.
I also relied heavily upon the Drive Reversal – essentially Street Fighter 6’s version of the V-Reversal from Street Fighter 5- which allowed me to shove my opponent away after blocking an incoming attack. While not especially useful at dealing damage, it allowed me to stop a combo attack in its tracks and gave me some breathing room to collect myself before things started to slip away from me.
And although my Drive Gauge was continuously refilled throughout each match, relying too heavily upon it had dire repercussions – as I learned to devastating effect. Whenever my Drive Gauge ran on empty, my character would enter a Burnout state that reduced my speed, defensive abilities, and removed any abilities the Drive system afforded to me. What’s more, if I were to get hit by a Drive Impact attack and knocked against the wall in the corner, I would be put in a stunned state, giving my opponent an opportunity to hit me with a free combo. In other words, I was about as useful as a glass hammer. What’s more is that things like blocking or getting hit with certain attacks drained my ever-useful Drive meter, so I had to carefully use my Drive abilities to drain the opponent’s before they drained mine.
Street Fighter 6 also offers multiple control schemes: The Classic option, which felt familiar and offered me plenty of control at the cost of me learning complicated inputs, and a new Modern option which simplified certain attacks into a single button press with the drawback of being less flexible. As someone with a fair amount of experience in fighting games, I favored the Classic option, which works like fighting veterans might expect; pulling off combos required precise timing and practice, but allowed me control of my character down to the finest detail. However, the Modern option intrigued me as I could see it pulling some of my less seasoned friends into the fray with its approachability.
Instead of having to bother with complex commands, the Modern control scheme heavily simplifies inputs and even offers an assisted combo button where the game will execute certain combo attacks for you. I could pull off Ryu’s iconic Hadoken attack with a single button press, for example, removing room for error. This means even a completely new player can at least stand a chance of besting a veteran without having to rely on the good ol’ button mashing of yesteryear. However, because controls are simplified, it appeared that I wasn’t able to access the full breadth of attacks normally available to me in Classic mode, limiting my options as I pressed my attack. This means that although it’s a great entry point and provides a less sweaty fighting experience, I would think this mode might be eventually abandoned by those who get more serious about mastering their skills since the Classic option provides much more freedom.
My time with Street Fighter 6 left me feeling energized by the intricate systems they’ve built for this new iteration, absolutely gobsmacked by its beautiful presentation, and champing at the bit to play more. I’m looking forward to getting my chance to do so when it launches next year.