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Street Fighter 6 gets a crucial component of fighting games right: personality

Character counts

Image: Capcom
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Capcom appears to be making all the right moves for Street Fighter 6. On top of a solid one-on-one fighting game, Capcom has built a lightweight RPG, a deep set of training tools catering to newcomers and veterans alike, and a proper arcade mode. It’s a far cry from the barebones, esports-focused launch state of Capcom’s last flagship fighting game effort, Street Fighter 5.

I recently dabbled with Street Fighter 6’s various modes, including the fun, Yakuza-like open-world exploration of World Tour, where players can take their custom character to the streets of Metro City and fight virtually any inhabitant there. It’s not as slick nor as pretty as Street Fighter 6’s other modes, but it is the most newcomer-friendly place to start; World Tour teaches players the most basic of fighting game basics before sending them off on a meet-and-greet adventure with the Street Fighter cast. It’s also where players can make their ideal fighter, or their weirdest — Capcom offers immense anatomical liberties with character creation in SF6.

Marisa knees Luke in the face in a colosseum stage in Street Fighter 6
Marisa takes a knee to Luke’s face
Image: Capcom

The mode I spent the most time in, and the one I can’t stop thinking about, was Street Fighter 6’s Fighting Ground, playing against Polygon executive editor Chelsea Stark in casual 1v1 fights. We had the chance to experiment with the SF6 roster — 18 fighters at launch — and it feels almost impossible to pick a favorite.

Nearly every character in the Street Fighter 6 roster is alluring, whether that’s a classic character like Ryu or Chun-Li, who feel immediately familiar and newly refined, or fresh faces like Marisa (a hulking Italian kickboxer) and JP (a vascular dandy who might as well be a wizard). Those latter characters ooze personality: Marisa rivals Zangief both in size and pride, yet she delicately carries away her defeated opponents at the end of a match; JP brings a sense of refined style and apparent Psycho Power abilities to fights, callously stepping over his opponents when walking away victoriously.

Style and personality bookends fights in Street Fighter 6. In addition to post-fight flair, the game gives its fighters proper WWE-style entrances, and they can mug meanly at each other in pre-match face-offs. Capcom showed off that feature, called Game Face, quite some time ago, and after toying with it, it feels infinitely entertaining to see the game’s World Warriors grimacing, growling, and sticking their tongues out at each other. Game Face is just one of hundreds of careful touches Capcom is bringing to Street Fighter 6, all in the name of making fighting games fun for the masses again.

The Street Fighter 6 roster is incredibly diverse, with big bruisers like Zangief and Marisa fighting alongside speedy fighters like Cammy and newcomer Kimberly. Kimberly can teleport using her modernized version of ninja smoke bombs — spray-paint cans — and she feels like she’ll be a real weapon in the hands of fighting game pros. Her rushdown abilities let her sprint at an opponent and behave unpredictably, with follow-up moves like slide kicks and jumping leg grabs that will keep opponents guessing... and frustrated.

Capcom has even managed to breathe new life into veterans like Dhalsim, Honda, and Blanka, all of whom feel completely authentic to their Street Fighter 2 versions, but updated in ways that lean into their designs. Dhalsim is more terrifyingly rubbery than ever, Honda looks and moves more like a real sumo fighter, and Blanka looks equal parts man and wild beast. Capcom has amplified the character designs and personality traits of Street Fighter’s veteran cast to their peak, but somehow managed to not turn them into caricatures of themselves.

Cammy strikes JP in a London stage in Street Fighter 6
Cammy takes on Street Fighter 6 newcomer JP
Image: Capcom

No member of the cast — which also includes returning fighters Ryu, Ken, Guile, Juri, and Dee Jay — seems to have been overlooked. Whether it’s new looks that distinguish them from past versions, like Street Fighter 6’s default “Hot Ryu” and “Hobo Ken,” or newly polished move sets, Capcom appears to have taken the “there’s something for everyone” approach not just to game modes and features, but to the characters themselves.

Street Fighter 6 and its new batch of World Warriors come to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X on June 6. At least four more characters are planned to join the game as downloadable content in the game’s first year, including Akuma (who debuted in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo), Ed (first playable in Street Fighter 5), Rashid (also from Street Fighter 5), and AKI (a brand-new fighter).

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