The Street Fighter 6 beta from the eyes of a novice

I predominately keep my focus on older fighting games, because the arcade format still intrigues me to this very day. Still, when one of the most popular fighting franchises in the world gears up for a sequel, it’s difficult to ignore it.

Doubly so for Capcom’s Street Fighter 6, as the company looks to move on from the disastrous product launch of its previous entry, Street Fighter V. Street Fighter V did evolve into a respectable fighting game that recently brought me some enjoyment as it popped up with a few Taito/Nesica arcade cabinets in my area. But its shaky start effectively killed all of my interest in following it as a home-centric fighting game.

However, since news has started to trickle out about the rich feature set of Street Fighter 6, Capcom has been checking off a long list of boxes that suggests the company has learned from what went wrong when it released Street Fighter V. On top of the competitive feature set expected from the series, Capcom has also made great strides to talk about its community, causal and single-player features that include online hubs to gather with friends and an extensive World Tour mode.

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We’re still a good six months away from the release of Street Fighter 6, so all of these offline features will have some more time to bake in the oven. The recent talk about the game, though, is in its online mode, which recently received a second closed beta testing period.

I unfortunately wasn’t selected for the first beta test, but my fortune turned around on the second chance. Here is what I observed from my time spent in the closed beta test this weekend:

Again, the online hub was the only available option during the testing period. While the World Tour mode and offline modes were listed in the main menu, this version of the game blocked players from accessing those options.

Getting into the beta required players to sign up with a CAPCOM ID from the beginning, so loading the game for the first time prompted players to enter a display name and then dive into the extensive character creator. The beta test only allowed players to use eight of the Street Fighter characters while in a fight, but this created character served as the player’s avatar as they navigated the online hub.

I am not one to obsess over the details of a character creator – I just like to pick from some preset features and move on. However, those who do like to toggle every single detail in the creation process will no doubt be pleased.

With the creation out of the way, the online hub then opens up to the player, letting them run around a surprisingly large community area.

A number of North American servers were available during the test, so players were able to find one that wasn’t so congested at the time. Even so, when I joined a packed server that suggested it was “unstable,” I never experienced any issues.

Inside the server the hub offered areas that allowed players to use in-game tickets to purchase new clothing and accessories for their avatar, sign up for community tournaments, sit down at arcade cabinets that allow players to spectate matches or practice while waiting for an opponent’s challenge, take photos among stations set up with props and participate in gameplay and challenges on classic Capcom arcade games.

It didn’t seem like every category of clothing/accessories was selectable in the avatar shop, but it still provided a decent set with which players could customize their character. The purchases were made using tickets that were awarded by completing challenges. During the closed beta I was able to easily earn enough tickets to purchase a full set of clothing, so hopefully this ease of use carries over into the full game.

Perhaps what surprised me the most was that the classic arcade game feature was openly available through the testing. In my chances to participate, the machines featured Magic Sword on one day, and then Super Street Fighter II Turbo on the other.

I probably spent more time on these than I should have considering the limited testing period. You can casually play the machines to quarter feed through the games, but there is also a one-coin mode that offers a leaderboard based on your final score. I didn’t check to see if the casual mode allowed a second player to join on the cabinet with you, but, in fairness, this section of the hub was always empty every time I logged on.

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The Street Fighter 6 arcade cabinets are pretty straightforward, but there is also a special section that introduces special gimmicks to the fight. In the example I played, the round was won in tug-of-war fashion (slide a damage bar all the way to the opponent’s side just like in the World Heroes 2 deathmatches) while Mets from the Mega Man series could be struck and sent at the opponent to electrocute them.

Overall, the hub worked as intended and I do see it being a draw to the more casual players of Street Fighter 6. In theory, a player doesn’t even need to play Street Fighter 6 to enjoy the online community, but the base game is certainly the main focus.

The hub gives all of the game’s options a visual element, but for those who don’t want to wade through the fluff, you can still pull up a traditional text menu to search for matches and toggle all of your options. Digging into the options also allows you to fast travel around the hub, letting you get straight to your business.

I didn’t think I would use any of the hub features, but even at this point in development, Capcom has done a solid job of crafting a nice community space. This is definitely a positive step in shedding the impression that Street Fighter is only for super serious competitive players that enter tournaments. I’m guessing this hub is something that will continue to evolve as the game continues after release, so it could likely give every style of player something to dig into.

Most importantly, though, the closed beta test allowed players yet another opportunity to sample Street Fighter 6.

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To taper expectations right away: I am not a skilled, competitive Street Fighter player. Over the years I’ve dabbled in some local tournament play in games such as Street Fighter II, Capcom Vs. SNK 2, Street Fighter IV (vanilla) and even Street Fighter X Tekken, but the series has never been a competitive focus for me.

I did play Street Fighter IV on a bit of a routine through the early stages of Super Street Fighter IV, but then my time spent on the game greatly diminished as the game entered its Arcade Edition and Ultra variations. I did end up ordering Street Fighter V when it launched, but my time with the game ended very quickly when none of my friends had any interest in the game and it launched with minimal features. I hosted a Street Fighter V tournament at a local event and we had to twist arms just to get four people to enter it. The local interest in Street Fighter V just wasn’t there. I gave the game an honest shot, but I gave it up for good around the time Guile launched in the first batch of downloadable characters.

It wasn’t until August of this year that I got a couple of opportunities to sit down with the arcade version of Street Fighter V. It popped up at Galloping Ghost Arcade as part of the annual T20 competition, and then when I took my birthday trip to Round One arcade, I gave the machine another couple of tries.

It did seem like Capcom was able to turn the game around, and when you get into the meat of the fighting, it’s a fine game even though I wouldn’t consider it one of my recent favorites.

All of that explanation is in place to say I went into the Street Fighter 6 beta as a bit of a novice when it comes to the modern Street Fighter series. I have a pretty tight schedule, so it’s usually difficult for me to participate in beta tests, especially when they only last one day. Thankfully, Capcom’s Street Fighter 6 testing period was quite generous, so I was probably able to get approximately eight hours into the test.

Because my time was limited, I went against my better judgment and remained a character loyalist with Ryu. However, I did dabble with the other characters a little, and I’m looking forward to an opportunity where I have more time and more of the game available to sit and lab possibilities with these characters.

In a general sense, I’m glad Street Fighter 6 ditches the mechanic of having to select super arts that has been in place since Street Fighter III and the selectable V-trigger abilities that were introduced in Street Fighter V. I totally understand the competitive value of the selectable super arts and the sleight of hand of the mechanic making it seem like you are getting a “different character” with the different selections. However, I am more personally intrigued in how players and characters will be able to manipulate the overall tool kit presented to them in Street Fighter 6.

Street Fighter 6 - Closed Beta_20221217020906

Through Capcom’s previews, the drive mechanic has been discussed to death already, but if you haven’t seen it yet, Street Fighter 6 introduces a universal gauge that acts as a general resource pool for a variety of moves. This includes the drive impact, which cashes in drive meter to grant the player an armor-based attack (Street Fighter IV focus attack); parries similar to what was in Street Fighter III; EX moves that bolster the abilities and strength of the character’s special moves; and a drive rush that allows players to cancel certain attacks or parries immediately into a dash animation to extend combos (sort of like the Street Fighter IV focus attack dash cancels).

Street Fighter 6 is set up to revolve around managing the resources provided by this meter. If you get too aggressive and burn through this meter, you enter a burnout state. Not only can you not use drive mechanics until the cooldown period is over, but your character enters a sluggish state that allows the opponent chances to stun you. Still, going high risk with abilities that burn through your gauge in one go could be all you need to clench a victory if the opportunity arises.

Since these tools are available to everyone, it seems the system in place in Street Fighter 6 eases up on the comeback mechanics such as the ultra moves in Street Fighter IV. That’s not to say there aren’t comeback opportunities, though, as properly managing your drive gauge in tandem with using your super move meter can give you the resources you need to really put a hurt on the opponent.

During the beta test, the drive mechanics also seemed to allow players to use the characters in unique ways. I played against what was probably the most passive/defensive Ken player I’ve ever seen, and it still worked as any of the counter hits really hurt. On the other side of the coin, a lot of other Ken players were using the new tools, especially the drive rush, to really get into people’s faces and string together some really nasty combos.

I didn’t run into a lot of Ryu, Guile and Luke players, and it seemed like people were really favoring Juri, Kimberly and Jamie. Kimberly and Jamie seemed to give Street Fighter 6 some real gameplay flavor, and late into the testing period when people were hitting their groove, I started hitting a brick wall in trying to compete with these characters.

Still, I found Street Fighter 6 to be a bit of an interesting take on Ryu. It seems Capcom has officially accepted Ryu’s “hot dad” destiny (a la the alternate bearded appearance from Street Fighter V) and has relegated him to the grizzled veteran character.

Ryu received a new special move that bursts his hado out in a short-range attack, but I couldn’t seem to find a practical use for it that was better than other alternatives. I may have to experiment to see if it has a benefit in canceling out other projectiles or if it has an anti-air/low style of hitbox. I also noticed his denjin install command way too late, so this is another area I’d have to revisit.

shoryu

It seemed like Ryu had solid EX moves, especially his jodan sokutogeri (harking back to the Street Fighter III days, I still refer to this as the “donkey kick”). What did feel really great in Street Fighter 6 was the ability for me to quickly adapt to the hit confirming, so doing simple combo strings felt pretty natural from the get-go. The old standbys from Street Fighter II such as comboing out of the low forward kick are still here, and his axe kick (back + roundhouse) can put in some good work if you can get it to land. It’s pretty slow and gets beat out pretty easily in neutral, but it surprisingly combos out of certain attacks.

The EX donkey kick wall bounces the opponent, so it’s a tool most any player could use to extend combos after only a little bit of experience with the game. It’s nice that entry-level players will be able to find an easy way to combo into their super moves.

But much like any other fighting game tactic, it’s only as good as your ability to actually land these moves in a matchup. Against the game’s better players, this is easier said than done.

At this point, I can tell the drive rush will be the real sauce that skilled players will end up relying on when managing their drive gauge resources. I personally saw some really nice drive rush techniques with Ken and Jamie players.

The drive rush’s ability to allow players to extend their combos will no doubt get a lot of attention, but it also is a valuable tool to help you close in on the opponent. Canceling from drive parry to drive rush only costs one drive gauge meter, making it helpful to parry a projectile and then immediately get into the opponent’s face at a lower gauge cost.

The drive rush can also cancel select normal moves, which included Ryu’s axe kick. At my skill level, I was constantly weighing the reward the drive rush cancel provided, noting it sucked down three meters when I was getting more of a return using other options. At that point, I was experimenting on how I could more reliably cancel out of drive parry.

I saw the drive rush cancels paying a lot of dividends for players online, so there is probably something more efficient I could be doing with Ryu. But, again, the drive gauge system and resource management was planted in my head at all times while playing this game, so I think the intent of the mechanic succeeded.

Overall, I went into Street Fighter 6 knowing I wouldn’t be great at the game, and I left the beta confirming that I wasn’t great at the game. But, you know, it was still a ton of fun. Thirty five years after the debut of Street Fighter, I am here playing a new version of the game. More impressively, I am playing this new version, and the way it is set up with the drive gauge system, it feels like a fresh game where I am continually learning something new. Still, it has plenty of familiar elements that allowed me to roll into Street Fighter 6 with some of the bread and butter techniques that have served the series’ characters well through multiple iterations.

When the closed beta test started, I was getting some luck in being able to go 50-50 with most players. However, on the final day, I was getting absolutely washed – which is great as it shows players have been able to progress the gameplay of Street Fighter 6 when its release is still nearly half a year away.

I entered one of the online tournaments at the end of the beta period, and I can actually claim I got top 16 in a Street Fighter 6 tournament … because I got a bye out of the first round. That’s not an important detail, though. When I got into my matchup, it was clear that I was severely outmatched. It happens, but I got slightly more tickets as a reward for progressing one round.

The Street Fighter 6 closed beta test was a lot of fun for me, and I have to remind myself that this only shared a portion of the full content the game will have when it releases. I’m having fun and learning a lot about modern Street Fighter, but I wouldn’t count on me having a fighting game career any time soon. At any rate, those arcade cabinets with the classic Capcom video games will always be there to console me on my losing streaks.

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature, GemuBaka Preview

Author:djtatsujin

Arcade enthusiast and game collector. Affiliate Twitch retro streamer and games archive writer at Gemubaka (http://gemubaka.com). For business only: gemubaka at gmail

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  1. | The Best of GemuBaka in 2022GemuBaka - January 30, 2023

    […] The Street Fighter 6 beta from the eyes of a novice Yes, I assure you that sometimes I play current video games! I lucked out in being drawn for inclusion in the second closed beta test of Street Fighter 6, and it got me even more interested in the game. I may not be a modern Street Fighter expert, but I had a lot of thoughts to share on my experience. More importantly, I had a great time! […]

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