For non-initiates, fighting games can seem impenetrable. The innate complexity of a series like Street Fighter is part of what makes it so beloved by fighting game fans. But it also makes it tough for casual players who might want to pick up and play the game without spending dozens of hours memorizing complex combos and counters. Street Fighter 6’s answer to this conundrum is a new “Modern” control scheme that Capcom hopes will lower the game’s barrier to entry and let players of all skill levels jump right in and feel competitive.
Street Fighter 6’s Modern controls basically halve the number of buttons the player needs to worry about for basic inputs, while assigning certain essential functions to their own dedicated buttons. Rather than having six separate buttons for light, heavy, and medium kicks and punches, the simplified control scheme puts light, medium, and heavy attacks on the controller’s face buttons. That means players using the Modern controls have less precise management over exactly which attacks their fighter uses with each input — you can’t choose between a heavy punch or a heavy kick, for example. Instead, when you press the heavy attack button, the game chooses for you based on what character you’re using.
The fourth face button is dedicated to each character’s special attacks, which will vary depending on which direction you’re pushing the control stick, not unlike in the Super Smash Bros. series. That makes it easier to execute flashy specials without needing to memorize complex combos or land exact timing. Super attacks are performed by pressing the heavy and special buttons together.
Meanwhile, the triggers have specific functions that are easy to understand. Grab attacks are assigned to L2 (when using a PlayStation controller), while L1 executes “Drive Impact” attacks that use up your Drive meter, one of Street Fighter 6’s other new features. These attacks are powerful, but if you use up your entire Drive meter, you won’t be able to enter parry stance — which is assigned to R1. Holding that stance causes your character to crackle with blue energy, blocking any attack that comes your way (with the exception of grab attacks) without the need for precise timing. This, too, uses up your Drive meter, but it also refills it rapidly when you successfully block attacks. Finally, holding R2 and pressing the face buttons will execute various predetermined combos without the need for more complicated inputs.
Less-precise control over their fighters may not be what high-level players are looking for, but the Modern scheme is designed for those who might otherwise resort to frenzied button mashing. A Capcom representative told Polygon that the Modern scheme can act as a stepping stone for players to eventually adopt the “Classic” controls; for example, while Modern controls let you use grab attacks with L2, you can also use grab attacks by pressing the same combination of buttons as in the Classic scheme. That way, players can start working in the more complex inputs at their own pace, while sticking mostly to the new Modern style.
“We want to have many more ways to play and have anyone from all skill levels, whether you’re an esports competitor, to even a first-time fighter,” said Jackie Simmons, senior brand manager working on Street Fighter, during a recent hands-on event with Street Fighter 6. Simmons said while she enjoys the Modern controls, other members of her team still prefer the Classic scheme. Yet she feels like she’s able to go toe-to-toe with them.
Indeed, during our demo, we played against another, more experienced player. Our competitor used a fight stick and switched between Classic and Modern controls, while we stuck to Modern controls and used a traditional gamepad. Our competitor certainly won more rounds, but we won some as well, even while switching between multiple characters, including Ryu, Jamie, and Chun-Li. The more nuanced aspects of each character, from their varied move sets to specific character traits like Jamie’s drunkenness system, are all still in play, and will take practice to master no matter what control scheme you prefer — as will the new Drive system, which adds strategic layers to each fight.
The most skilled players will still have an edge using the Classic scheme, with more precise control over exactly what attacks their fighters use at every possible moment. Plus, high-level players will be able to more easily counter those using Modern controls, since the Modern scheme puts limits on which attacks each character has access to.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Capcom has attempted to add a simplified control scheme to the series. Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO and Street Fighter 4 3D Edition featured similar ideas, to varying success. But this might be the game where the feature sticks.
“[The developers] have taken the input and feedback from people who aren’t as experienced in fighting games, as well as having people that were ex-competitors/ex-FGC members, playing on both sides to kind of have this balancing act in terms of gameplay,” Simmons said. “You don’t have to panic as a first-time fighter and go straight to button mashing. You actually feel like you’re interacting in the game.”
Street Fighter 6 arrives sometime in 2023. Capcom’s new fighting game is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.