The intro for Street Fighter II (which first came out in arcades in 1991), features two nondescript dudes punching each other before flying up a nearby skyscraper to reveal the title. The two dudes not only aren’t playable in the game, but as soon as you slide your quarter into the machine you’ll realize that the actual characters are way cooler: Brown-haired martial arts guy! Blonde-haired martial arts guy! The army guy Jean-Claude Van Damme played in the movie! Girl! Green beast man!
But finally, with Street Fighter 6, the developers at Capcom have made a game about two nondescript dudes punching each other under the shadow of a skyscraper—a game, in other words, about street fighting. The cool fighters are still there, plus some more recent additions like a ballet dancer, a woman with hair like a Roman gladiator’s helmet, and … a little kid. But the Big New Thing in Street Fighter 6 is what they call World Tour. It’s a single-player story mode where you make your own up-and-coming Street Fighter, meet/fight the various main SF heroes and villains, and unlock new moves and clothing items to make your character look and act like less of a dorkus (or more of a dorkus, if that’s your thing).
That undersells just how impressively bonkers the World Tour mode is, though. Moment-to-moment, it’s like a low-cal version of Sega’s Yakuza series (now known as Like A Dragon). You spend most of your time in a place called Metro City—the setting of Capcom’s old Final Fight games, which makes for some cute fan service Easter eggs—talking to people, buying food to recover health, and fighting off the many rampaging gangs that wear goofy themed costumes and litter the streets. There are little minigames, you can unlock Street Fighter moves to do out in the world to find secret areas or break boxes to find secret items, and you can communicate with other characters with your—heavy sigh—in-game cell phone.
Let the record show that video games where you have a cell phone are a pox on this medium and should be eradicated as soon as possible. Reading emails and text messages, even if they’re from freakin’ Ryu, is stupid. It was stupid in Grand Theft Auto IV 15 years ago, and it remains stupid to this day. But, that is a minor annoyance compared to one beautiful, joyous, life-affirming aspect of World Tour’s design: You can street fight (almost) anyone, and it’s a core part of leveling up your character.
See a woman walking through not-Times Square wearing a dress and carrying a backpack? Hit one button and you can talk to her for some generic dialogue. Hit another, she’ll give you a nod, and the two of you will seamlessly transition into a Street Fighter game. Finish up a side quest with a guy who sent you on an annoying errand? Hit a button and you’re in Street Fighter. Get hassled by gang members five feet from a police station? Hit a button and drop some ACAB Hadoukens on those cops.
And it gets even better than that. The Street Fighter moves you can learn to do special things in the city can also trigger fights, meaning you don’t even have to talk to that woman with her backpack. You can walk up behind her—or anyone—and just do Chun Li’s Spinning Bird Kick into her back and jump right into a fight. It just might be one of the most consistently funny things to have ever been included in a video game, especially if your custom character is funny (like, say, if you couldn’t come up with anything so you painstakingly recreated a certain floppy-haired boy from Capcom’s other big hit franchise, and because you’re using Chun Li’s moves he does an overly sexualized hip-popping pose after he wins a fight).
Series purists might not care, because all of the regular fighting game content is here as well (including regular fighting with the regular characters, an arcade mode with a “story,” and online battles that are run through a nifty “physical” lobby where you can dress up your custom character and play both Street Fighter II and Final Fight), but this mode highlights an undeniable love for this series, its characters, and its goofier leanings. Again, this is a series where three of the most iconic characters are “brown-haired martial arts guy,” “blonde-haired martial arts guy,” and “green beast man.” It’s Street Fighter—mechanically and literally—taken to its logical extreme, and viewed under that lens, it is a total blast.
In a more critical, review-like sense, World Tour is also kind of tedious. If you think those Yakuza games can be dull and repetitive, then know that this is like one of those if there was less going on and fewer things to do. But the actual fighting feels nice. It’s as springy and energetic as ever, and there’s a “modern” control scheme that makes it play more like one of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. games. Playing with that setup won’t really teach you “real” Street Fighter and it might be a hindrance in competitive fighting, but it still requires managing your preferred distance to an opponent, knowing what your character’s moves will do, and knowing what your opponent’s moves will do. There’s still an art to it.
The fighting game community tends to be much more particular about minor mechanical tweaks than fans of other genres, and it remains to be seen how Street Fighter 6 will fare under that kind of scrutiny. But, if nothing else, this is an easy entrypoint for newcomers and a fun way to dip back in for people who still fondly remember seeing those two boring guys punching each other three decades ago.