Here's what Red Bull's Street Fighter V pros want from Street Fighter 6
Street Fighter 6 promises to bring some massive changes to the iconic fighting game series – but what do some of the most notable Street Fighter experts want to see in Capcom’s next big project?
Capcom is on a roll. Despite a shaky start to the beginning of the last generation, the publisher proved to be one of the most consistent companies by the end of the PS4 and Xbox One cycle. Resident Evil has been brought back from the brink of obscurity, Monster Hunter has broken through to the mainstream audience, and Street Fighter is in the best shape it’s ever been. The fighting game franchise, now nearly 35 years old, is one of the best-selling game series in the world – boasting over 45 million sales at the time of writing.
Though Street Fighter V stumbled out the gates when it first launched in 2016 (mostly thanks to a skinny content offering and some dodgy netcode), the game matured and grew over the following years, leveraging seasonal updates to evolve into an altogether different beast. With two huge updates in Arcade Edition and Champion Edition revolutionising the game in 2018 and 2020 respectively, Capcom has proved that even the roughest diamonds can be refined into cold, hard classics.
But what's next for the world-famous fighting game? Capcom has yet to shed much light on what’s on the cards for the esteemed series, but there are a few things we do know for sure about whatever comes next for the iconic brand. First up, long-time Street Fighter boss (and de facto face of the franchise) Yoshinori Ono had left Capcom. The exuberant manager and executive producer stepped away from the series after nearly 30 years, gracefully passing the torch to a ‘new generation’ of staff to steer the ship he’s helmed for almost three decades. Ono noted, on his departure, that he looked forward to seeing the ‘new Street Fighter brand and how it’s going to be expanded’.
Safe to say, then, changes are afoot. The 2D fighting game has long been lauded for its ability to reinvent itself; experimenting with new setups, mechanics and gimmicks with every iteration. From expanding the Super Combo systems in Alpha, to introducing parries in Street Fighter III, rethinking counters via Focus Attacks in Street Fighter IV to layering the V-Gauge revenge mechanic in Street Fighter V, Capcom has always managed to tinker with the formula just enough to make each new game feel exciting… but familiar.
First thing’s first, though: Capcom needs to hit the ground running. “Street Fighter V at launch was not a complete package,” Giants Gaming’s Alfonso Martinez “ VegaPatch” Pozo explains. “The online experience was not good at all, and the single-player modes were not enough. The core game was good enough, but if 2020 proved something in the gaming world, it's that you have to launch your game when it's ready. Fixing it later is so much worse in the long run."
That’s a sentiment shared by Red Bull athlete and fellow professional Street Fighter competitor, Adel 'Big Bird' Anouche. “First impressions matter,” Adel explains. “And I would be lying if I said Street Fighter V's first impression was good. The next game needs to have a better build at launch to attract new players. I didn't really care about the content it had at launch because I only cared about playing versus other players, but newer players don't feel the same way I do."
For competitive players like these, getting the online systems laid out is essential; tournaments tend to start up relatively quickly for fighting games once they’re out in the wild, and training against players of a similar skillset (who may not necessarily be local) is a vital part of a pro’s process.
Netcode and games as a service have come a long way since Street Fighter V's 2016 launch. A thorough alpha and beta testing period is essential to lay solid online foundations for the series' next iteration. “Fixing the net code is the main issue,” notes VegaPatch. “If It worked differently, Street Fighter would reach a much bigger audience. For the next game, this is mandatory. Street Fighter V does have a saving grace online-wise, though, and that’s crossplay – it needs to keep that.”
The athletes would also like to see more helpful systems added to the next game, too – the idea being that more robust onboarding tools will help casual players start understanding the more advanced elements of the game. “I feel like the game needs to have a good tutorial to welcome beginners and newcomers to the game,” Adel notes. “Like, Capcom should give them a proper fighting game introduction. Fighting games have never been popular with newcomers compared to other esports like Dota, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends and so on, so they need to add incentives for casuals to play and get them interested in the genre.”
Street Fighter V has done well with new characters: the latest additions to the roster all added something of value to the setup. Often, in fighting games, you’ll see the old favourites stick around as newer characters fall by the wayside. Street Fighter has never been one for convention, though, and when Street Fighter III launched in 1997, the series dropped every recurring character except Ken and Ryu – a far cry from the likes of, say, Tekken, which cycles back a core cast of characters in every game.
"Street Fighter is a long-standing and widely recognised series, so I think tossing in some classic characters is inevitable," says Daigo 'The Beast' Umehara, Red Bull's veteran Street Fighter competitor and all-round expert on fighting games. "What Capcom did with Street Fighter V was start off with some of those old-school characters but tweak their abilities into something we hadn’t seen before. So I think there are any number of approaches on the table for the developers this time around."
“I'm the kind of guy who is all in on brand-new characters, especially if they can do completely new stuff,” adds VegaPatch. “I think a base roster needs a mix of old and new. Street Fighter V did a great job of that. I would be extremely happy if Capcom did the exact same thing again for Street Fighter 6, as far as new characters go!”
Speaking of new characters, VegaPatch has some thoughts on how they should be catered to fit to a new title. “I think creating a whole new moveset is the best way to introduce new fighters,” he replies when we enquire about his feelings on new characters coming in and ‘adopting’ elements of old characters’ movesets. “For example, Abigail comes from Final Fight, as Hugo does, but he plays completely different – if I was a Hugo player and saw Abigail doing the exact same moves, I really think I would be mad, like ‘they stole moves from my man!’ Characters are not only functions, we tend to like them not only as a set of tools, there is some personal attachment to them.”
And that’s never more obvious than when it comes to Adel and Rashid: Adel’s main (and the character that helped him rise to acclaim within the scene) is Street Fighter V newcomer, Rashid; the first combatant to represent the Middle East in the series. “I'd love it if they introduce more characters based on regions,” Adel explains. “Although Rashid is a great choice and a very good addition as an Arab character, he only represents the Middle East, so I'd like to see a character that also represents North Africa. And you can never go wrong with brand-new moves and gimmicks. Rashid, Laura and Necalli are all great – Capcom shouldn't be afraid to go out of its comfort zone, and you can see that with these latest additions. These characters are loved because they're unique.”
New – and unique – characters are tricky to balance, and often they can take a while to show their true colours in a game’s meta: take Fang in Street Fighter V. The poison-obsessed charge and zoning character is best used when inflicting damage over time (only the second Street Fighter character to employ the technique, the first being Gen in Street Fighter Alpha 3). At first glance, that was a strange choice in the world of Street Fighter, but four years on and there’s certainly a niche for the eccentric villain.
“It’s an unpopular opinion, but don't forget about Fang please,” laughs VegaPatch when we ask him about who he’d like to see make the cut in Street Fighter 6. “Or maybe add Phantom, Fang's apprentice instead. And I would really like to see Hakan again, he was so much fun, too!” So, between Fang’s unlikely poison mechanics and Hakan’s bizarre penchant for oiling himself up and slinging himself at his opponents, there’s certainly a taste for the off-beat in Street Fighter. Who knew!
“I'd love to see Guy return,” adds Adel. ”I'd also love to see C.Viper return along with Rolento. Those were my mains along with my secondaries in Street Fighter IV.”
Red Bull's Masato ‘Bonchan’ Takahashi agrees that a fine balance of old and new would be welcomed by pro and casual players alike. "The Street Fighter series has a long history and I want to see the old characters!" he tells us. "I'd also like to see new characters, though, so a 50/50 split would be ideal."
Characters are just one part of what makes a fighting game great. A good character is nothing without a good system behind it. Street Fighter is never a series to rest on its laurels, with the fundamentals of each title’s gameplay seeing a shift in focus and setup with every iteration. Street Fighter V removed the Focus Attacks that defined so much of the Street Fighter IV experience for casual players whilst adding in the V-Gauge and the V-Skills, V-Reversals, and V-Triggers that came with it.
The V-Gauge and its attributed elements layer a lot of mechanics into the game; some characters can use V-Skills to parry, for example, whilst others can repel projectiles with the input, or flip combos on their heads with devastating counters. Considering how much Capcom likes to get under the hood and pull at the wires in between games, though, can we expect many of these meta-defining elements to stay in place for Street Fighter 6?
“I don't think it's a must, but it'd be a welcome change [seeing some alteration to meters, health bars on so on] and I'd like it,” says Adel. “It would make the game feel new again which is always a good feeling! As far as gimmicks go, I'd love to see a Focus Attack-like mechanic [from Street Fighter IV] or parry come back, but that's wishful thinking!”
“The two only things I would change would be a noise announcing that a player got enough V meter to activate it, and a thicker stun gauge” adds VegaPatch. “I've met some people that can't see that one at a glance; it's too thin. The rest works great, in my opinion!”
Masato concurs with VegaPatch's appraisal, too, and is eager to see some work done on the optics of the game's on-screen information. "I don't think there's a problem with meter UIs, but the animation for text-based information like First Hits and Counter Hits could be improved so they are easier to read," he explains.
"I think Capcom can take on lots of new challenges with Street Fighter because it’s such a big brand," Daigo adds. "As long as Capcom doesn't deviate from the brand too excessively, I think they’re allowed to have some variety. I, as a player, changed a lot with Street Fighter V. Tactics that worked in the rest of the series prior stopped working – that’s a tremendous change. And I think it’s okay for Capcom to keep making big changes like that with Street Fighter 6."
But what specifically would Daigo like to see return in Street Fighter 6? There's a lot of history to the Street Fighter brand, and a lot of ideas the developers have flirted with in the past. "The throws from Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Alpha 3’s Guard Crush, and Capcom vs. SNK’s Groove system are the ones that spring to mind," Daigo notes. "But if they’re implemented verbatim, there’s no evolution. I think they should keep changing things. So I’d like for them to take inspiration from those games’ key systems and produce something new with it."
"I don't have a lot of requests for characters, but I think adding the guard break system is a good idea," Masato says when we ask what he'd like to see in the next Street Fighter game. "I think it would be more exciting to have a system that weakens the defense and gives the offense an advantage, so having guard breaks would strengthen that point."
These days, you don’t just release a fighting game. Console fighting games used to be pushed out, and that was that – in most cases, that’d be the game that was played at tournaments and in leagues, and it was all locked in place until the next major release. Now, as the ‘Games as a Service’ revenue model infiltrates more or less every corner of the gaming market, developers have the chance to push out meaningful updates with a predictable cadence. And that’s music to pro Street Fighter players’ ears.
“I think the way Capcom is doing it now is alright: one patch a year/season isn't bad, and I feel like it's perfect to keep the game in shape,” Adel appraises.
VegaPatch agrees, but has some suggestions for what he’d like to see from a whole new entry in the series, too. “What I would like to see in Street Fighter 6 is a consistent update schedule: maybe two balance patches per year, like in previous seasons.” Street Fighter V has operated in seasons, usually adding in multiple characters per season whilst each new patch tinkers with balance on the back-end, too. VegaPatch wants to see these seasonal shifts feel bigger. “From season to season, Capcom should shake things up a lot, and take the opportunity in the mid-season patch to buff underperforming characters and only nerf extremely broken moves. Basically, what I want is a complete new game and meta each season, and a fix during it.”
"I think it’s a tough balance — if the updates are too frequent, you don’t have time to dig into them; too infrequent and the game stays too static," explains Daigo. "That said, I think the updates could be more frequent than they are now — about once every three months seems appropriate. Updates that make major changes to the gameplay would be problematic, but if they increased the frequency of bug fixes and more minor adjustments that have significant merit and improve the game, it would make me happy as a player."
That might sound drastic, but that’s more or less what Street Fighter V has been doing over the past four years (albeit not that consistently). “I'd have to say when Capcom introduced scaling on crush counter and V-Trigger activation combos, they felt like the biggest changes to the game – along with changes to throw loops prior to that,” Adel reflects. “Those two changes made the game change drastically.”
“The biggest leap of Street Fighter V, I think, was from Season 2 to Season 3 (Arcade Edition)” adds VegaPatch. “Season 2 was extremely wild and then Arcade Edition changed the game to what is right now.”
“These patches change the game, so it keeps it fresh for players,” Adel continues. “I feel like it's a new game every time I play on a new update, and obviously new characters accompany the updates, too.” These new updates keep things fresh, and often result in a new stream of players arriving in the game, too – that’s incredibly helpful for both Capcom’s revenue streams, and for the health of the active Street Fighter community. Though Daigo thinks getting the balance right is tricky.
"One major update per season is probably too long a wait for the average player," he notes. "Looking at it as a competitive pro player, it’s something to be thankful for, but ultimately change makes the game more fun for serious players, including pros."
Street Fighter 6 will no doubt be the marquee game of the new console generation. With a new platform, and likely a multiple-year support plan in place, the upcoming title will be one of Capcom’s biggest projects – and the focus of a wealth of the publisher’s resources. Long-time director Yoshinori Ono’s departure from Capcom will no doubt have a big impact on the game that eventually launches, and chances are it’s going to feel a mite different from what we’ve seen in the series before
The upcoming fighting game has the opportunity to present something truly special to the world that broaches the gap between casual and competitive players, and brings a whole new generation of players into the colourful, complicated world of the fighting game community. Start reading up on your combos and practicing your fireball inputs, a new challenger surely isn't that far away.