A strange thing occurred about halfway through my Street Fighter 6 preview session. I’m told that what I’ve experienced in World Tour will be made available to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 owners two days later. Of course, this means you may already know about every part of the character creation process, what the first few fights entail, and have a sense of Metro City’s version of Times Square. However, I have seen the glorious nonsense that lies beyond.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. After all, the most anticipated fighting game of the year has many modes on offer, and I got to see significantly beyond the demo, which will be available on Steam by the time you read this preview. First off, when the Street Fighter 6 release date rolls around, it will launch with a bonafide arcade mode, with stylish illustrations bookending each character’s journey. You can choose between a short or default-length campaign, with the usual 1v1 bouts against a computer-controlled opponent. Unfortunately, I didn’t complete the arcade mode, as progress halts in the preview build after a bonus stage, where I repeatedly kicked a semi-truck until it exploded. Still, its presence is welcome after Street Fighter 5 ommitted the popular single-player mode.
While you’ll now have access to one of Extreme Mode’s rules and gimmicks, namely Down & Out and Bull Stampede, you’ll only have seen snippets of the rest. These rules either affect the win condition or, in one case, what moves you can perform. These are a blast to play when combined with gimmicks such as Mecha Fiend, which sees Mets from the Mega Man series join your side and fire pellets at your opponent.
I also got to play around with the combo trials as Cammy and the character guide as JP. Combo trials are nothing new, though there are more than you’d probably expect per character. The difficulty of these trials ramps up nicely, teaching you combos you would use in an online match. Character guides do a great job of introducing the Street Fighter 6 roster, as they explain far more than just what super moves do. For example, JP’s guide describes him as a character that excels at keeping foes at a distance, otherwise known as a ‘zoner’ to fighting game enthusiasts. However, it never uses jargon, instead opting to demonstrate how each move works and when to use it. It even allows you to take control at any time to practice. I wish it were more explicit when there’s a new interaction for you to try out, as some prompts have the same inputs, but it’s otherwise a fantastic teacher of the basics.
All of this couldn’t prepare me for what was to come – the main event: World Tour. After creating one of apparently many monstrosities birthed throughout the day, my would-be prodigy was let loose onto the streets of Metro City. Most NPCs here have levels next to their name; if that’s the case, they are up for a fight. Of course, I could just opt to win the bout and gain experience, but achieving objectives rewards you with extra Zenny to buy health-boosting meals from the pizza stand or equipable gear from the shop. All that’s on offer at first is a garishly pink cap, but my options soon expand. This immediately brought to mind the ProZD sketch about “ass-kicking outfits”.
So what do I think about Street Fighter 6’s World Tour? Honestly, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s ridiculous in all the right ways. I would say that it’s similar to the Yakuza games but with the casual violence and item-hunting gameplay from Mortal Kombat: Deception’s Konquest mode. You can, for example, punch any NPC with a level to start a fight, slicing off a chunk of their health bar in the process. Is the chaos fun? Indeed it is. Does it create some odd scenarios? Yes again, especially so when I clock a cop with my foot and their nearby colleagues remain entirely unfazed.
Along the way to visit Chun-Li, I see a ladder to the left, and curiosity gets the better of me. Climbing up, I find not only a few healing items and a permanent upgrade but also a level 27 NPC who looks like a superhero, complete with spandex. He asked me about destiny and how I could lead a better life. So, I respond to his preachiness by giving him a swift uppercut to his perfectly chiselled jawline.
This is the point where I discover that, with enough skill, I can take down an opponent many levels higher than me. The main trick is to look for when they shine brightly, as this highlights when they’re in a counterable state that leaves them vulnerable to follow-up combos. Wailing on this so-called crime fighter was simple, but he hits much harder thanks to the level difference, so it was a bit nerve-wracking.
Continuing through the game as intended, I find Chun-Li and quickly adopt her fighting style. With every level up, I can choose new skills, with completed skill tree brackets unlocking a new set of perks which primarily affect your regular stats. On top of this, I can assign moves from different fighter styles, such as Luke’s Flash Knuckle, even though I’m using Chun-Li’s basic actions. I also get a present partway through the following chapter, which I can use to increase my relationship with fighters, thus improving the mastery of their style and unlocking new moves to buy. I can imagine saving on these until I find a fighter whose style clicks with me, but I find the incentive of opening up new special moves to buy is a good compromise if I’m not a big fan of a fighter’s regular moves.
It’s the fights against significantly more formidable foes that stand out most. Much later on, I biffed a construction worker in the chops. It turns out that the gimmick fights from Extreme battle mode make their way into World Tour, too, so there were falling girders adding to the chaos as I tried not to get wiped out by a knife-wielding level 28 foreman. Incidentally, this NPC is also one of the minigame vendors, of which I discovered a few, ranging from crushing the arcade mode truck to making pizzas by quickly punching in buttons.
Not everyone waits for you to bop them on the snoot, as plenty of NPCs will come right for you. They’re typically Mad Gear goons wearing boxes on their heads, but I’ve also had to fight weaponised Roombas and drones. While you can fight more than one fighter at once, similar to Dramatic Battle modes from Street Fighter Alpha 3, there is a limit to the number on screen at once. That said, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many reinforcements can jump in afterwards, making for some tense fights at nighttime when more enemies are present.
The other thing I enjoyed a lot, outside of being able to use Chun-Li’s spinning bird kick to cross between rooftops, was just how many references I saw to Capcom’s history. In Metro City plaza alone, there’s a fire juggler wearing the same outfit as the Molotov cocktail-throwing enemies from Final Fight, a ‘walk of fame’ listing forgotten Capcom fighting games from the past including Dreamcast 3D fighter Plasma Sword, and billboards advertising ‘Hakan Special extra virgin olive oil’ – a reference to Street Fighter 4’s oil wrestler of the same name. There are plenty more spread liberally throughout the game, and I did have to pause regularly to work them out.
All of this is to say that Street Fighter 6’s World Tour is at its best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and luckily that is most of the time. It clearly wants to cater not just to those who haven’t played a fighting game in a while but also to veterans who love Capcom’s back catalogue and silly nonsense. In my preview, I couldn’t leave the confines of Metro City, but I can imagine the other locales filled with wild fights. Who knows, perhaps Zangief’s training montage is just him wrestling a whole family of grizzly bears.