Capcom’s reveal of Street Fighter 6 at the conclusion of this year’s Pro Tour set the table for the next entry in perhaps the most beloved fighting franchise of all time. Following meager offerings at launch, Street Fighter V, which launched in 2016, rebounded to give fans a ton of features, fighters, and content by the end of its lifecycle. Street Fighter 6 hopes to avoid those initial stumbles by including various modes of play from the get go, but my hands-on time during Summer Game Fest 2022’s Play Days in Los Angeles, California was all about seeing how matches play out.
The core gameplay is rock solid from the three matches I experienced, but I’m perhaps most intrigued by the real-time commentary. This feature, provided by recognizable members of the fighting game community, is such a smart evolution of the genre; after all, sports games have had real-time commentary for decades, and esports have become such a huge part of the fighting-game community.
During my demo, I could choose between two play-by-play analysts: Jeremy “Vicious” Lopez and Aru. Vicious provides dynamic commentary in English, while Aru is there for players who want Japanese analysis. Before entering a match, you’re able to select a play-by-play personality, as well as a color commentator. I can’t wait to see the final roster of analysts and how they match up to complement one another. Unfortunately, no color commentators were in the build I played, leaving my play-by-play guy to take on the daunting task of going it solo.
After choosing Vicious’ English commentary, I select from two stages and four characters (Ryu, Chun-Li, Jamie, and Luke). While loading into the fight, you can use the four d-pad directions to choose which face you want your character to make – while the face of determination always looks good on Ryu, I opted for the fierce gritted-teeth look (you can change the face as many times as you’d like until the match loads, leading to some hilarious face-contorted moments if you so choose). Once you’re in, the combatants enter the arena with unique walkout animations and even a screen showcasing their vital stats and interests they have outside of fighting.
The matches play out in familiar fashion, with Hadoukens and rising uppercuts flying about, and even the one-man commentary booth does an apt job keeping up with the action. During my playtime, Vicious recognized and called out things like using projectiles to feel each other out, overly aggressive actions, and even when a character was cornered and taking on a lot of damage. I also appreciated how the commentator didn’t just react to special attacks or situations; when I ended a match on a basic low kick, Vicious made a remark about how I threw a kick “out of nowhere” that my opponent didn’t expect, while the tension ratcheted up once he made it known we both had our supers ready.
The commentary is a great feature to help evolve the series and the genre as a whole, but make no mistake: The gameplay is equally as impressive. I loved taking control of Ryu as I fought the familiar foe of Chun-Li and took on the new challenger, Jamie. Jamie’s Chinese drunken-fist style provides a unique puzzle to solve, but thanks to my familiarity with Ryu, I didn’t have too much trouble. Meanwhile, I enjoyed experimenting with Luke’s high-energy, fast-projectile style, particularly since he debuted in Street Fighter V after the last time I checked in with that title.
Street Fighter 6 is making all the right moves so far. While I was a little hesitant about the commentary thanks to years of repetitive analysis in annual sports titles, my hands-on (and ears-on) time with the game gave me confidence of what a dynamic, two-person commentary booth that you can customize might be able to provide to not only the atmosphere of a match, but also how it could expand my knowledge of Street Fighter tactics in general. After getting my hands on Street Fighter 6, 2023 can’t come soon enough.