The one thing I didn't like about Street Fighter 6’s closed beta is that it was almost too good

Lest any of you who don’t get the reference think I’ve taken a job as conductor on the Capcom hype train, the title of this article is a callback to a now legendary quote from the earlier days of EGM regarding the quality of Gears of War 2.

And yet, while I’m embracing the meme on a playful level, it also comes with some amount of seriousness behind it. Everything that Capcom had shown up until this point for Street Fighter 6 had me excited for the future of the franchise, and I saw my entry into the closed beta as a chance to get in some matches, check out the new characters, and satisfy a bit of my curiosity as we wait for the game’s full release next year.

Image credit: Capcom

I now come out of the beta harboring unexpected feelings. My curiosity is far from satisfied. Where I thought I might feel fulfillment, I feel regret. I now recognize that joining that sneak peek into Street Fighter 6 may have been a terrible idea, because it’s left me wanting more. NOW.

I love Street Fighter V. While I appreciate and understand the importance of Street Fighter IV and its revival of the franchise, SFV was just a better, more polished, and more interesting game all around in my eyes. Sure, it had flaws, and faults, and I didn’t always like how it treated its cast or its gameplay, but it felt like an effort to truly find a proper direction for Street Fighter after so many years of aimlessness. And, yes, I know that the game was rough for those who like to focus on single-player content in their fighting games. But as someone who sees little value to the genre when I’m not playing against other human opponents, I never took issue with the game’s solo content (or lack thereof), even at launch.

After a mere weekend with access to only a fraction of Street Fighter 6’s modes, however, I’m ready to delete Street Fighter V and never look back (even if it does mean I’ll have to say goodbye to Karin for some amount of time). We’ve had reason to expect a new direction for the series after internal shake-ups at Capcom a few years back, but no amount of trailers or gameplay reveals or official Capcom blog posts can prepare you for just how different everything feels here. There’s an energy and an excitement to SF6 that SFV never had, neither in its earliest days nor during its well-received final season of character additions.

If you’ve been following the game at all, I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere about the “new blood” working on Street Fighter 6. And while that’s true, just throwing some younger or fresher talent onto a project doesn’t automatically mean good results. What’s important is not that the game we’re getting here is being worked on by a rejuvenated team, it’s that we’re getting a game from a team that is putting an unbelievable amount of effort into introducing or expanding upon ideas never before seen in Street Fighter, if any fighting games period.

Digging into the complexities of Street Fighter 6’s fighting engine on a technical level is something I’m neither interested in nor properly capable of doing here, so instead I want to hit upon some of the other points that I and others came across in the beta. One of the additions that blew my mind the most is something that seems so obvious in hindsight: the ability for players to face off against each other on different stages. For example, maybe you prefer always fighting on the tried-and-true training stage, and I want to face off on any stage except that one. Now, in SF6, we can be playing against each other in the exact same match, but each of us sees a different stage, depending on what we’ve set as our preferences. Again, it’s a concept that’s so simple, and so obvious, yet one that now feels like a huge new feature for the game. 

Another is that, should you encounter a match that’s too laggy to bear, you can suggest forfeiting the match to your opponent. If they agree, then you both drop out without either of you receiving a penalty. Why haven’t we had something like that before? It’s a fantastic idea. I will say, though, that in my entire time with the Street Fighter 6 closed beta, I never once ran into a match that wasn’t perfectly playable. We’ve heard a lot about the rollback netcode that Capcom’s putting into the game, and so far, I’m a believer. Things were so good that I never even thought about how each upcoming match would perform, and I’ve heard equally positive experiences from others online.

My first match against another player in Street Fighter 6 wasn’t an elegant match,
especially given I’d never used the DualSense for a fighting game before, but hey, it didn’t go that bad.

Even though the closed beta strictly focused on the Battle Hub, Street Fighter 6’s shared public space, little touches like those and countless others were waiting to be found all over. I know this is far from the first game to feature such an area, but what Capcom has created with the Battle Hub feels like a great expansion for the ways we as players find others to fight against, without that experience ever becoming cumbersome. Sure, you can run your character up to a cabinet that someone else is sitting at to hop into a match, but you can also just set yourself to automatically search for ranked or casual matches—or even both at the same time—without moving an inch.

The Battle Hub isn’t meant to be the one and only source for matchmaking in SF6, but rather a place where you can share your love for the game with others, or even just feel like you’re playing against actual human beings instead of faceless usernames. Even with some of its functions unavailable for the beta, there was still plenty to do, from finding matches or hanging around a cab to watch two players go at it, to checking out the updates of who’s on a hot win streak, to dressing up your avatar and having some goofy fun with other custom characters, to even wasting some time with classic Capcom arcade titles.

The Battle Hub hints at what might be the strongest element of Street Fighter 6 in my eyes: fun. For the past two games, “fun” has often come from character designs or story segments that too often are just plain goofy. You were never supposed to take Street Fighter too seriously, but it sometimes seemed like even the creators themselves felt embarrassed by what they were presenting. SF6, at least so far, takes itself much more seriously in the ways that I want it to, while simultaneously not being afraid to lighten up on things that could use some fresh takes. So much of what I experienced during the closed beta came across like it was produced by a team taking pride in what it was making, while also finding ways to have fun with the series and its characters without making fun of them.

Newcomer Kimberly, who I focused most of my time on during the beta, could have turned out so badly given how we’ve seen some previous characters end up—but man, she just exudes charm, charisma, and coolness. Meanwhile, little touches like being able to change your character’s expression on the Versus screen or fully customize your “here comes a new challenge” splash are small additions that bring genuine personality to the game. (And, no doubt, they’ll also bring plenty of options for microtransactions in the years ahead.) Extreme Battles, where you can set different win parameters and hazards for a match, are totally gimmicky but also totally enjoyable. Sure, they’re options that could grow stale over time, but I think Capcom has come up with some decent ideas in that area that could remain fun over the long term—and, if not, it’ll be easy for the team to go crazy with additional ideas in the future, be them born internally or from fan feedback.

Image credit: Capcom

It’s easy to say that Street Fighter 6 is shaping up to be a far more expansive, feature-rich, and complete game than Street Fighter V was. That’s obvious, and an incredibly easy statement to make. Much more than that, though, what truly hit home for me after playing the beta was just how much there is to SF6 beyond options, or multiplayer features, or quality of life improvements. This isn’t just Street Fighter given another new body for a new generation of hardware, but a resurgence of a level of style and soul that the series hasn’t seen in years.

Everything I experienced in the beta leads me to believe that Street Fighter 6 is shaping up to be something special, and I’m now left stupidly excited for where the full game is going to take the series, while also somewhat miserable that it’s still going to be months before we get to experience that first full step into the future of the franchise.

It’s almost enough to make me say that the one thing I didn’t like about Street Fighter 6’s closed beta was… well, you know.

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