meIf there’s one name synonymous with fighting games, it’s Street Fighter. Dominating arcades in the late ’80s and ’90s and spawning the living room-conquering Super Nintendo classic Street Fighter II, Capcom’s beat ’em up became a cultural phenomenon. But since the death of the arcade, fighting games have become more niche. While 2016’s Street Fighter V slowly became a competitive esports sensation, it lacked the universal appeal of previous games. Now, 31 years after Street Fighter II, Capcom is reinventing its prize fighter for a new generation. Visually, Street Fighter 6 is forging a new identity for the franchise, with an eye-catching aesthetic that combines unattainably bulging biceps with attacks that explode in an explosion of color.
“I want to make Street Fighter a game that everyone can play, like before,” producer and series veteran Shuhei Matsumoto told the Guardian. Offering a radical overhaul of its controls, Street Fighter 6 is a more accessible twist on the kick-and-fireball fighting spectacle. A newbie-friendly control option ditches the classic six-button setup of high and low jabs and jabs in favor of a simpler three-button structure, allowing first-timers to throw a Shoryuken without spending months developing muscle memory.
Wisely, though, this new control method is entirely optional – veterans can still get their KOs the old-fashioned way. “This is our concept for Street Fighter 6: not only to meet the needs of fighting game fanatics, casual gamers, and those who love the world and characters of Street Fighter, but also gamers who are thinking about start with this new game. game,” says Matsumoto.
The fiction and characters of Street Fighter, mostly explored in the manga and anime spin-offs until now rather than the games themselves, actually take center stage in an intriguing new adventure mode inspired by the classic Dreamcast Shenmue. “The game is expanding beyond battles to include a World Tour mode, where you can explore the game world,” says Takayuki Nakayama, director of Street Fighter 6. Instead of fighting a lineup of opponents in a tournament, World Tour has players. guiding a custom fighter through, say, the graffiti-covered streets of Metro City.
“I felt that most Street Fighter games in the past have only been able to offer a versus mode and a training mode,” adds Nakayama. “So I wanted to approach SF6 as if the versus mode was end-game content, and before you got into it, you’d have an introduction to the world of Street Fighter… a way to understand the game.”
This contrasts favorably with the offline offline experience offered by Street Fighter V, which launched without even a single-player arcade mode. It wasn’t until years later that V packed enough content to justify its hefty £49.99 price tag. “I know we have to make sure the volume of content in the game is satisfactory,” Nakayama says, when asked what lessons have been learned.
“One of the lessons from SFV was that communication with the fan base is key,” adds Matsumoto. “For SF6, we definitely want to make sure that players get a very clear message from the director and the development team about what we’re doing and what we want to achieve.”
As one of the first properly competitive video games, Street Fighter should also be one of the most watched sports in the world. Thanks to the massive health bars, mesmerizing attacks, and simple 1v1 format, fighting games are contests that casual viewers can immediately understand. But despite this, the viewing figures for beat ’em ups lag far behind shooters like Call of Duty and Fortnite. Is this something the creators of Street Fighter 6 want to pursue?
“I think the straightforwardness and readability of fighting games makes them ideal for esports. But I don’t think the fighting genre necessarily needs to be the most watched in the world to have a significant impact,” says Matsumoto. “I’m happy that we have a great fan base and fighting game community that have been playing the games for years, and will continue to do so as long as we can publish them. I appreciate the support of the FGC [fighting game community] …that’s all I need!”
Street Fighter 6 is still a year away from release, so much of Capcom’s colorful recreation remains a mystery, leaving the internet to generate its own fun theories. Thanks to snippets of dialogue from the trailers, and a particularly haggard-looking redesign of the iconic character, Ken, fans have come to the conclusion that his old rival Ryu has stolen his wife. While the developers sadly declined to comment on the “Hot Ryu v Divorcee Ken” meme, a hit like this is creating a buzz in the gaming world.
“I really think we’re making a new kind of Street Fighter in SF6,” says Matsumoto. For the first time in decades, Street Fighter feels unpredictable again.