How Street Fighter 6’s fighting fools helped me finally master fighting games

April 21, 2024
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Oh to be a fly on the wall when they pitched the Street Fighter 6 intro movie. See, there are rules for fighting game cinematics. You need a montage of assorted beefcakes, flexing and strutting for the camera, then coming to blows against the crescendo of a heavy rock track. These conventions are sacrosanct and cannot be broken. Everything from Tekken, to Guilty Gear, to King of Fighters, to Street Fighter 5 follows the same recipe. Only this time Street Fighter 6 decided, no, let’s not do that, and instead how about we do a 1970s proto-rap-style piece of rhythmic poetry a la Gil Scott-Heron? With a neon graffiti aesthetic? And in lieu of a social message, let’s get really existential about the meaning of strength! Reader, I do not know how this got past upper management. I cannot imagine how they sold it to shareholders. I don’t understand why one of the biggest franchises decided to fiddle with the formula. But it’s a breath of fresh air and poses that crucial question: What is strength?

This might seem trivial, but in the context of fighting games, it almost makes sense. These games are notoriously difficult. Many use motion inputs, which for newcomers can take days to pull off reliably. Then you have to link them into tightly-timed, multi-hit combos. And then you have to whip out your combos in the middle of a match, all while blocking everything your opponent is hitting you with, desperately looking for an opening, and anticipating whatever sinister mind-game nonsense they’ll throw out next. And for what? So you can go online and, maybe, if you’re lucky, not get utterly eviscerated by some rando in their bedroom halfway across the planet. Why bother? The SF6 cinematic reaches the only obvious conclusion. ‘We’re all a bunch of fools’.

I’m a bigger fool than most. For years, I’d get so hyped on fighting game trailers that I’d buy them all at launch. I paid full price for Tekken 7 and Injustice 2 and Samurai Shodown, and each time I’d enter ranked and just get humbled or humiliated or teabagged by Batman. When Street Fighter 5 came out, I wanted to get good so badly I even got a professional arcade stick, angrily rattling it while yet another Ken shoryu’d me in the face. So when I bought Street Fighter 6, I knew it was a mistake. Except, this time, miraculously, it clicked. I don’t 100 percent know why this was the one, but it has something to do with Street Fighter 6’s wonderful cast of fighting fools.

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