Street Fighter 6 (PS5) Review: The New Challengers

Our review of Street Fighter 6, developed by Capcom. Available June 2, 2023 for PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox X/S, and Windows.

Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter 6 – Chun Li vs. Ryu


The first of presumably seventeen editions of Street Fighter 6.


It’s great – and it’s accessible.


Gamers and non-gamers alike.

Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter 6 – Jamie vs. Luke


My favourite fighting game of all time is Street Fighter II. Specifically, Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, the fourth version of SFII and the one to introduce Bruce Lee analogue Fei Long, my favourite fighting game character, bar none. SFII was – is – a remarkable achievement, a video game so impeccably designed that even its bugs became permanent features of the genre.

I have played a lot of Street Fighter II, and some SFIII, and quite a bit of SFIV, and also quite a bit more of SFV. I am no fighting game expert – frankly, I kind of suck – but my love for these games is undying: I love the way they look, I love the way they control, I love the way they sound, and I especially love the characters. For me, the great joy of Street Fighter is finding the character I most respond to, whether it’s because of their move-set, their style, or some other aspect I identify with.

And as it turns out, in Street Fighter 6 that character is me.

Street Fighter 6 – Lily vs. Blanka


I realize I’ve been writing this a lot lately, but SF6 must be one of the most hotly-anticipated video games in recent memory. The previous entry, SFV, was released seven years ago, though the final downloadable character only arrived in late 2021. Still, by any measure, gaming is ripe for a new SF, and SF6 delivers in spades.

Right off the bat, this new SF defines itself with a bold, paint-splattered aesthetic that’s clearly been inspired by the inky graphics of SFIV, albeit with more vibrant colours. It also defines itself by presenting players with three new, discrete modes: Fighting Ground, Battle Hub, and World Tour.

Fighting Ground is where most players will spend their time: it’s where you’ll find all your standard SF content, like multiplayer matches (local and online), Arcade/Story Mode, Training, and so on. I highly recommend jumping in here first, as it’s the quickest way to try out the roster’s sixteen launch characters and get a feel for who you like best.

Battle Hub, meanwhile, is the online/social hub, where players can spectate other matches, enter into online tournaments, and interact with other players’ avatars. You can also trigger online matches against players you meet here, though that’s equally possible (and simpler) straight out of the Fighting Ground menu.

If you’ve been following any of the pre-release hype, then you’d know that the third mode, World Tour, is the odd one out: a quasi-open world RPG where you take your own custom character on a journey through the streets of Metro City (setting of the Final Fight games), completing missions which generally involve throwing down with anyone and everyone you encounter.

I’m just going to say it: World Tour is weird. Fun, but weird.

First, there’s its impressively (and distractingly!) robust character creator, which lets you build everything from a fairly accurate self-portrait to a hideously misproportioned monstrosity. Then, there’s the way it lets you pick a fight with nearly anyone you encounter in the streets, from garishly clad vigilante-types to pantsuit-wearing businesswomen. Weirdest (but most hilarious) of all is the way your custom character moves in combat, embodying not only the move-set but the poses and body language of the SF character you’ve modelled them on. Hence, the incongruity of a buff, bare-chested wrestler dude prancing about using Chun-Li’s decidedly more feminine animation, or a tiny, slim, swimsuit-clad fighter grappling and launching fighters ten times their size using Zangief’s animations. It’s gloriously silly, even more so when the custom character moving around on screen is the spitting image of you.

Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter 6 – Juri vs. Jamie


SF6 marks a shift for the series, away from the more complex “V-Trigger” system of SFV, and towards a much simpler to learn system that prioritizes parries and defensive play, not unlike Street Fighter III. In fact, there’s quite a bit of SFIII in SF6, with its hip hop sensibilities, graffiti-esque aesthetic, and costume and character design (down to several who are clearly riffs on SFIII characters). But where SFIII could be prohibitively complex (it’s my least favourite entry), with SF6 it feels like Capcom has gone out of its way to lower the barrier to entry.

It is extremely easy to pick up and play SF6, and the new mechanics – all built around a new “Drive Gauge” – are intuitive and mercifully simple to pull off. To parry, you simply hold two buttons down at the same time; it doesn’t even require perfect timing. To use a drive attack, which lets you break your opponent’s guard and open them up to combos, it’s a single button (L1 on PS5/4). To Overdrive – which is basically the old “EX” move of past SF games – you press two related attack buttons at the end of a move input, like tapping light punch + medium punch to fire a slightly more powerful hadoken. Honestly, you’ll probably wind up doing all these by accident, learning on the fly.

That said, it might be too easy to input certain attacks. One of the things that worries me about SF6 is that its Super Arts – those uniquely animated special moves which can decimate your opponent – rely on more or less the same button inputs as your “regular” special attacks, meaning that you’re likely to accidentally trigger them. This is especially frustrating when you’re trying to save up your Super Gauge to reach Level 3 for your most devastating Super, only to accidentally trigger a Level 1 Super and claw back your accumulated gauge. It’s not something I’ve experienced in other SF games, and I am not convinced it’s a wise design choice.

One thing I do like, however, is the way that your Level 3 Super transforms into an even more powerful “Critical Art” when you’re at low health. It’s a brilliant mechanic that can really turn the tide of battle, encouraging the kinds of comebacks which make for great gameplay and even better storytelling. Other developers take note: more multiplayer games should boost the losing player’s chances.

Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter 6 – World Tour Mode


As I said, though, it really comes down to the characters. And what a roster Capcom has handed us.

Returning from past SFs are eleven fighters, although, rather tellingly, ten of them originate with SFII (only Juri, who debuted in SFIV, is a relatively recent creation). Players will have their favourites – and lamentable absences (sniff, Fei Long) – but you’re unlikely to be disappointed by your choices of:
Dee Jay
E. Honda

As for the new characters…

Top of the line is Jamie, cousin to SFIII‘s Yun and Yang. His fight style, which can best be described as Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master meets Tekken‘s Eddie Gordo, makes for some of the most fun animation in the game. With his diversity of breakdance-inspired moves, he has the flexibility to take on nearly any opponent or play style.

Next among my favourites is Kimberly: quick, dynamic, and lively, she enters combat with old-school Walkman and spray paint cans in hand, zipping around the screen like Marvel vs. Capcom‘s Strider or SFV‘s Zeku. Kimberly is great, and has the right kind of old-school “attitude” which you can’t help be charmed by.

Next, since I’m always partial to characters who don’t look like a ridiculously proportioned hunk or babe, I’m also a big fan of the diminutive, nimble Lily, a spiritual successor to SFII‘s T. Hawk. With her easy-to-grasp combat style – she dual-wields melee weapons – and fun personality, she’s a great choice for newcomers.

Manon, the wrestler-ballerina (I know, right!), I’m not so sure about yet. Combining pirouettes and sautes with judo-style grapples, she’s remarkably slow for a ballerina and at the same time requires a surprising amount of space and distance for a wrestler, in order to land her highly unusual throws.

Marisa is, in a word, a beast. The first female character to take up a roster slot typically held by male giants (see: Hugo and Abigail, both of whom are MIA) Marisa enters battle in gladiator-inspired fashion wear, deploying a slow, wrestling-meets-boxing style which can absolutely wreck an opponent in only a few hits.

JP (Johann Petrovich) is SF6‘s M. Bison stand-in, a crime lord pulling the strings of a shadowy syndicate who fights with a cane and one arm behind his back. The right kind of cocky bastard, JP seems like another newcomer who will get a lot of play.

Finally, there’s Luke, SF6‘s poster child. Luke is obnoxious, and he is bland. He’d almost read as a parody of fighting game characters – generic, white, male, with a boring move-set – except that Capcom has invested so much in him – even making him the final DLC character of the previous Street Fighter – that I guess we’re supposed to take him seriously. Anyway, don’t bother with Luke.

Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter 6 – Dee Jay vs. Kimberly


So far, my feeling about SF6 is that the characters I least understand – like ballerina Manon or overpowered Marisa – will likely be the ones that rise to dominance: difficult to master, but devastating when used properly. Which, of course, is completely in keeping with SF tradition.

And is also a testament to the impressive work that’s gone into this game: even as so much of it is brand new, it never ceases to feel like the Street Fighters of days past. Some of the additions feel gimmicky – I can’t imagine World Tour will have much staying power, and the new (optional) play-by-play voiceover is simply dreadful, recalling the early days of sports video games when you just kept hearing the same few, stilted audio clips over and over again – but it’s already fairly obvious this SF is going to have a long and very successful shelf life.

With four DLC characters already announced – SFII‘s Akuma, SFV‘s Rashid and Ed, and the brand-new A.K.I. – there’s a lot to look forward to. Even some notable absences – the long-overlooked Fei Long (also missing from SFV), Canada’s own Abigail, with a maple leaf shaved into his hair – do little to diminish my excitement about what this game has in store.

SF6 is here, it’s fantastic, and it’s 100% worth your time… even if Ultra SF6 Turbo Championship Edition HD Remix is probably only a few years away.

Final score: 9/10 dragon punches.

Visit the official website for Street Fighter 6 here.