If there’s one genre that’s never clicked with me, it’s fighting games. It’s not that I haven’t played them. I goofed off on ancient Street Fighter and Tekken cabinets at the arcade when I was little. I dipped my toes into Marvel vs. Capcom 2 with the fellow nerds in my college dorm. But the barrier to go from hypercasual to competent has just never seemed worth the effort. I just don’t know if I have it in me to learn and reliably execute a bunch of different inputs to pull off special attacks, let alone master the intricacies of building good combos.
Well, I’ve gone hands-on with Street Fighter VI, and it might just be a godsend for people like me, thanks to the addition of one crucial feature: Modern controls.
While I’ll admit the name is a bit obtuse—perhaps in the interest of inclusivity—the idea is pretty straightforward. The inputs for attacks are drastically simplified. If you want to perform a special attack, like Ryu’s iconic Hadouken, you just have to press a single button (Triangle on PS5). If you want to pull off a combo, all you need to do is hold down the right trigger and then mash one of the face buttons—each has a combo of its own. It essentially removes the need to learn a bunch of different inputs while still offering a pretty robust set of tools during every fight.
And according to a Capcom rep I spoke to during my hands-on time, there’s no plan to splinter off those who use Modern controls from the rest of the community. You’ll be able to use it in every mode, against anyone using whatever control scheme they want.
Of course, there’s a trade-off, because there has to be. If you’re using the Modern control scheme, you don’t have access to each character’s full suite of attacks. The simplified control scheme is necessarily going to run out of options faster than a mix of stick and button inputs. But I do feel like, speaking as a perpetual novice, that’s actually the best possible approach.
Think of it this way. For one group of players, Modern controls will be a dead end. They’ll be able to dive into the game, enjoy the (apparently open-world single-player experience, World Tour, and maybe even hop online for a bit. They can hop straight into the game with friends who might have more fighting game experience, and probably hold their own at the most basic level, rather than being completely at a loss for what to do while their opponent humiliates them. These players will get their money’s worth by mastering a version of the game that meets them halfway, allowing them to succeed on their own terms. Then they’ll probably move on to something else.
But for another group of players players—and this is where I think the idea’s real potential lies—modern controls will be an onramp. They’ll learn what attacks their favorite characters can do and pull them off. They’ll learn about spacing and combos and controlling the pace of a match. They’ll start playing online, and, I have to imagine, reach a point where they’ll start to be curious about how much more they might accomplish if they made the leap to the classic control scheme.
In that scenario, there would still be a big adjustment period, of course, but I suspect it would be much more tolerable because you’d have a high-level knowledge of the game—you’d just be relearning how to pull of moves with more complicated inputs and adding some additional ones to your repertoire.
One additional feature that might help with that sense of growth, albeit one I’d need a lot more time and knowledge to fully appreciate, is the new real-time commentary system. Essentially, this gives the game an announcer akin to what you’d find in most sports games, with Street Fighter caster Jeremy “Vicious” Lopez providing the English-language audio. From the framework of easing people into a fighting game, what I saw provided an obvious benefit. Lopez’s lines were all pre-recorded, of course, but they weren’t just simple reactions to or recaps of me doing damage. They seemed to hint at a deeper strategic layer.
In one instance, Lopez said I tried to bait my AI opponent with a Hadouken, and while that definitely wasn’t my intention, it was instructive. Now I know: I can bait opponents with ranged attacks, and that’s a big enough factor in high-level fighting game play that they recorded commentary for that situation.
The big question here is how limited the feature will be in its full implementation. But if it works as intended, it should be a neat addition that, like the Modern controls, helps break down the intimidation factor for newcomers.
I’m still not sure which of the two categories of player I’ll fall into when Street Fighter VI launches next year on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PC. Maybe I’ll just use the Modern controls as a crutch and then walk away from the game. But for the first time in my life, I can envision myself—maybe—being that second kind of player. I might, honest to goodness, actually learn to play a fighting game. And that’s a pretty exciting thought.