As what I would consider the gold standard in fighting games, Street Fighter is never shy about reinventing itself, and with the upcoming Street Fighter 6, Capcom is ready to do so once again. Combining many proven elements from previous iterations, such as Parry from Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Focus Attacks from Street Fighter IV, and V-Skills from Street Fighter V, this new version of the popular fighting game puts the Drive System at the forefront and – center for a fantastic effect. Managing the Drive Gauge energy bar and making deadly use of all the powerful stunts it gave me became just as important to success as monitoring my health bar. That game of calculated risks and well-timed reversals stood out as an excellent feature that could see me wasting countless hours trying to master.
At the heart of Street Fighter 6’s intricate blitz chess gameplay is the aforementioned Drive System, which allows me to use powerful moves by spending energy on a finite bar called the Drive Gauge. With the right commands, I could use this resource to absorb an opponent’s attack and slam them into the sides of the screen, parry my opponent to parry their attack and launch a counter of my own, perform an extremely deadly Overdrive Art (which essentially replaces EX Special Moves from previous games), and more.
Street Fighter 6 screens
My personal favorite of these skills is called Drive Rush, which allowed me to quickly close gaps in a fist-and-foot duel where space is king. Even better, while the Drive Rush maneuver had a hefty Drive Gauge cost under normal circumstances, that cost dropped significantly if I managed to perform a Drive Parry first, at which point I could get really close to my opponent and still have some energy. at my disposal to make them pay a pound of meat for deigning to attack me.
I also relied heavily on Drive Reversal, essentially Street Fighter 6’s version of V-Reversal from Street Fighter 5, which allowed me to push my opponent back after blocking an incoming attack. While not particularly useful for dealing damage, it allowed me to parry a combo attack and gave me some breathing space to recover before things started slipping away from me.
And while my Drive Gauge continually recharged throughout every match, relying on it too much had dire repercussions, as I learned with devastating effect. Every time my Drive Gauge went empty, my character would go into an exhausted state that reduced my speed, defensive abilities, and removed any abilities the Drive system would allow me. What’s more, if I was hit by a Drive Impact attack and hit the wall in the corner, I’d be stunned, giving my opponent a chance to hit me with a free combo. In other words, I was about as useful as a glass hammer. What’s more, things like blocking or getting hit with certain attacks depleted my ever-useful Drive meter, so I had to use my Drive abilities carefully to drain the opponent’s before they drained mine.
Street Fighter 6 also offers multiple control schemes: the classic option, which was familiar to me and offered me a lot of control at the cost of learning complicated inputs, and a new modern option that simplified certain attacks to a single button press with the downside of being less flexible As someone with quite a bit of fighting game experience, I preferred the classic option, which works as fighting veterans might expect; performing combos required precise timing and practice, but allowed me to control my character down to the finest detail. However, the Modern option intrigued me, as I could see it drawing some of my less experienced friends into the fray with its affordability.
Instead of having to bother with complex commands, the modern control scheme greatly simplifies inputs and even offers an assisted combo button where the game will execute certain combo attacks for you. He could pull off Ryu’s iconic Hadoken attack with the press of a button, for example, eliminating the margin for error. This means that even a completely new player can at least have a chance of beating a veteran without having to rely on the good old button mashing. However, because the controls are simplified, it seemed like I couldn’t access the full range of attacks normally available to me in classic mode, limiting my options while pressing my attack. This means that while it’s a great entry point and provides a less sweaty fighting experience, I think this mode could be ditched by those who are more serious about mastering their abilities, as the classic option offers so much more freedom.
My time with Street Fighter 6 left me energized by the intricate systems they’ve built for this new iteration, absolutely stunned by its beautiful presentation, and eager to play more. I hope to have the opportunity to do so when it is released next year.