I approached Street Fighter 6 this weekend expecting to be disappointed.
You can’t really expect to be disappointed, I suppose, but the game had a number of things working against it from the outset. To begin with, when I made an appointment for a secret Capcom game at Summer Game Fest, I kind of expected it to be Resident Evil 4. I mean, that’s kind of on me, but that was unfortunately strike one. Strike two was that the Street Fighter 6 demo did not feature some of the game’s more exciting features, like that new lobby system or the single-player world tour mode that the State of Play trailer made so much ado about.
I did not expect to be quite so blown away once I finally did play it.
There’s an artistry to making a game feel good — one everyone thinks is a science, something that can just be tuned and replicated with known values, and that a failure to do so is a dereliction of game development. But there are some games where you just touch them and know they feel correct. In my experience with this demo, Street Fighter 6 is one of those games. It feels right in a way not every game — or even every Street Fighter — does.
To some extent, that feel is aided by the visual flairs that litter the screen before, during, and after a match. Street Fighter Senior Brand Manager Jaclyn Simmons explained that Director Takayuki Nakayama and Producer Shuhei Matsumoto made it a priority to really bring those aspects up.
“We wanted our audience to know that Street Fighter 6 is a modern game with modern sensibilities,” Simmons said. “Part of that is making things like match intros more interesting and exciting.”
The mantra of “Street Fighter 6 should be more modern” seems to permeate all aspects of the game’s development. I imagine there are some more traditional players that might cringe at the thought, but Capcom is being deliberate about what they modernize versus fixing what’s not broken. At its core, Street Fighter 6 is still Street Fighter, but there’s a realm of other fighting games out there to learn from — its developers seem to know it would be silly for the series to ignore that.
This even informed the decision to bring Street Fighter forward for the first time past Street Fighter III in the story timeline.
“The audience knows story movement,” Simmons said when I asked why the series is finally moving past III. “We wanted to do right by them and show them something fresh and new. It’s hard to do that when you’re stuck in the past. This is a new age of Street Fighter.”
This has meant redesigning old characters and introducing new ones, the ratio of which has been “an agonizing decision,” according to Simmons. While there’s a pretty massive leak of Street Fighter 6‘s roster already out there — the extent of which is genuinely staggering — not every fan-favorite can make the cut. Despite the leak, Simmons says there’s still plenty to look forward to in terms of reveals before the game’s release.
One example is that the game will have the traditional Arcade mode. If you just want to roll into a few AI battles without messing around in the still vaguely-detailed World Tour mode, you have that option.
I also asked Simmons if Capcom has any solutions to pro players wanting to use The Grid, Street Fighter‘s boring-looking but decidedly level training stage — a problem Capcom has acknowledged with official endorsement mods to change the level just for spectators. She said they have nothing to announce right now, but acknowledged they are aware of this and will have “announcements about network features later.”
But the general current mood within the Street Fighter team is validation and relief. The overwhelming positivity that has come from the game’s reveal and impressions from Play Days has given the team renewed vigor. Once upon a time, the general consensus in the gaming market was that fighting games were dead and buried until Street Fighter IV made a splash big enough to let all sorts of games back through the door. Now, fighting games continue unabated, but it’s Street Fighter that needs to tell the bouncer to check if their name is on the list.
I think, based on what I have played and seen, Street Fighter 6 will have no problem coming back with all the force it once had and then some.
Play Days is part of Fanbyte’s Hot Game Summer coverage, where we’re bringing you recaps and commentary on this summer’s game presentations like Xbox’s showcase, the PC Gaming Show, and the all-encompassing Summer Game Fest hosted by Geoff Keighley. If you’re interested in seeing all of Fanbyte’s coverage, check out our Hot Game Summer 2022 hub.