After years of Street Fighter 5, it's wild to step into a new chapter in the long-running fighting game franchise and see how drastically different it is. It's not just different visually, but the upcoming Street Fighter 6 has a fresh swagger about it. With a more lifelike presentation and more expressive characters than ever before, it feels like the freshest approach to this franchise to date. It even has a new control scheme, one that I tried out at Summer Game Fest's Play Days event. This is where I learned that I may be a little too old for modern fighters.
Upon first glance, the Street Fighter 6 Modern Control Type look simple. The idea is to perform special moves by tilting the arcade stick in one direction and hitting a dedicated face button. Punch and kick buttons are likewise simplified into straightforward light, medium, and heavy attacks. The result is something that just about any fighting game novice can grasp in minutes and requires no memorization of complex button combinations. So why was I having so much trouble with it?
The answer came to me when I switched back to Classic Control Type. As I was back to throwing Hadoukens with ease, I started to realize that in order to grasp these newfangled modern controls, I would not only need to put more time into it, but I would also have to relearn everything I knew about Street Fighter. After spending three decades inputting quarter-circles and knowing the Shoryuken input by heart, suddenly being asked to play Street Fighter closer to the way I'd play Smash Bros. was a big ask. The special moves weren't so much of an issue, but nailing the timing on Super Arts requires some adjustments.
Indeed, playing with the Modern Control Type means that instead of doing the double quarter-circle, performing a Super Art like Ryu's Shin Shoryuken requires hitting the Special and Heavy Attack button simultaneously, similar to what players would use to perform V-Triggers in Street Fighter 5. Getting the timing of that down threw me for a brief loop, but it's something that I feel that newer players will grasp in a heartbeat. Likewise, they'll come to love the Assisted Combo system, which requires a press of the right shoulder trigger, face button taps, and a semblance of timing.
To put aside any concerns, the Modern Control Type does not make Street Fighter 6 easier. It just helps players get started a little faster. Mastering the game still requires reading your opponent, timing your moves, and nailing down the intangibles. The only difference is that getting from Point A to Point B requires different buttons.
Regardless of which control type gets used, Street Fighter 6 feels like a breath of fresh air. For players of all skill levels, the Drive System will take some time to get used to. The biggest change will be working to understand the new Drive Gauge and how much of it gets depleted after certain actions. This will prove crucial in the final version, just because it's possible to put yourself in a Burnout state if you try and use an empty Drive Gauge.
This is an exciting time for Street Fighter fans, largely because the Modern Control Type should be welcoming to new blood. Similar to how Street Fighter 4 ushered in a new generation of players and how Street Fighter 5 brought in its own crop of talent, so too will new blood come into this new incarnation of the franchise, bringing along a new way of thinking and new approaches to battle. It should be fun to witness and I'll be ready to join them, just as soon as I can rewire my near-40-year-old brain.
Street Fighter 6 is coming to PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 4 in 2023.
This preview is based on hands-on impressions from an early demo present at Summer Game Fest 2022's Play Days.