As someone who doesn’t often game competitively, I’m always on the hunt for fighting games with great single-player content. Whether it’s a meaty story mode a la Soulcalibur VI or addictive arcade content like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I’m always happy when I can master a character’s move set in a low-stakes setting. That’s why I could never really get into Street Fighter 5, a game that was almost solely focused on multiplayer at launch. Later modes would rectify that, but it was largely built for the competitive scene — and I sure as heck wasn’t skilled enough to learn the game via trial by fire.
So I’m much more excited by the prospect of Street Fighter 6. Seemingly learning from its predecessor’s missteps, developer Capcom has put a lot more into the upcoming sequel’s single-player content. In addition to its classic arcade mode, World Tour is a full-on RPG that lets players beat the snot out of random people around Metro City. Players recently got a small taste of the mode via a new demo, but the full scope of it wasn’t entirely clear.
I’d get a much better picture of it during a more robust four-hour demo session. Not only would I get to try out every single fighter in the base game, but I’d get to play up to Chapter 3 in World Tour. That was enough to sell me on the mode, which seems like the exact thing I’ve always wanted in a fighting game. It’s Street Fighter in the style of Yakuza, a bizarre blend of styles that somehow melds together just right.
Before jumping into World Tour, I’d get to fiddle around with the entire roster in some of Street Fighter 6’s traditional modes. I’d start in Fighting Ground, where I could play one-on-one battles, team matches, and arcade mode. That would give me a lot of time to learn the ins and outs of its Drive Impact and counter systems, which lend matches a seesaw-like drama. I’d previously played the game in a much more casual setting, so the extra time would let me get far more comfortable with its controls and learn the fluid flow of matches.
I’d also get to try my hand at all 18 starting characters, giving me a better sense of how diverse the roster’s playstyles are. After not clicking with standard characters like Ken, I quickly began to find my groove with Lily, a lightning-quick fighter who thwacks enemies with two wooden pogamoggans. I’d diversify from there, clicking with Marisa’s powerhouse offense and Dhalsim’s unpredictable, long-ranged attacks thanks to his stretchy limbs. Just about every character feels distinct and I get a sense that I’ll have a few in my rotation rather than sticking to a main.
I got a better sense of how I’d likely be spending my time in Street Fighter 6 when jumping into Arcade mode. In classic fashion, I’d pick a character and fight through a few curated battles — complete with a car smashing minigame in the middle (though this time, the car is a big rig truck). What’s nice here is that Arcade mode actually tells stories for each character. When I start a round as Ken, I get some backstory about how he was framed for a terrorist attack and is fighting to clear his name. That little narrative touch gives me a better idea of who each character is, so I imagine I’ll be playing through each one before diving too deep into the rest of the package.
To close out my time in Fighting Ground out, I’d tinker around in Extreme Battles, putting together matches with goofy stipulations. The suite of options feels a little slim, but there’s enough here to create some fun diversions. My personal favorite was when I created a match where the goal was to knock my opponent down five times … and then I added a bull that would run across the stage and knock down anything in its path. Options like that bring a little levity to the package, something that would prepare me for the charming goofiness of its primary mode.
With the experimentation out of my system, it was time to dive into World Tour. Those who have played Street Fighter 6’s recent demo will already be familiar with the basics. It’s a single-player story mode where players create a custom character and take them through a 3D RPG as they navigate Metro City and fight traditional 2D battles along the way. The demo only offers a very limited slice of that experience though, as players are mostly locked to a tiny stretch of city. The actual game is much more expansive.
After clearing Chapter 1, where I’d fight strangers in a Times Square-esque area, I was free to roam the city. I quickly learned that World Tour plays almost exactly like a classic Yakuza game. Everything, from its food stalls to thugs that chased my character through the streets to initiate a battle, feels like it was plucked from that series. It’s a true brawling RPG that lets players fully traverse Metro City and hunt for items and secrets nestled in alleyways. Granted, the slice of the city does feel a little sparse so far. There were only a few buildings I could interact with, and I was mostly just fighting strangers in the street. Even so, it’s a lot more than I would expect from a fighting game story mode. World Tour punches above its weight class in that respect.
I’d get a much better sense of how the mode works in Chapter 2, where I was tasked with finding Chun-Li. I’d find her in a Chinatown area teaching a group of students her technique. After watching a delightful cutscene where she beats the snot out of a student by barely lifting a muscle, I learn her fighting style. And that’s where the RPG customization begins to make sense. When I equip her style, my character inherits Chun-Li’s basic move set. As I fight with that style, it levels up and I gradually unlock her special moves. Those moves can be equipped to my special slots and mixed and matched with any other fighter’s specials.
The skill tree plays into that customization as well. When I level up, I’m given a page of skills set up like a tournament bracket. I’ll need to choose between one of two skills in each “match-up,” with the one I don’t choose getting locked off. If I’m planning on doubling down on Chun-Li’s style, I might choose to prioritize kicking power over punching. It’s a bit ingenious, as it almost teaches players how to create and balance a fighting game character. By the time I got to Chapter 3, I was ready to start from scratch and start making my skill decisions with a little more purpose based on how I planned to mix character styles.
World Tour feels like it could genuinely revolutionize what single-player fighting game content looks like. It’s a smart way to teach players the ins and outs of the roster, almost acting as a set of gamified character guides. Beyond that, though, it’s a much more engaging way for a solo player to interact with a fighting game. The RPG hooks add a sense of progression that’s novel for the genre and 3D exploration gives players more to do between brawls. While I don’t have any ambitions of taking my Street Fighter 6 game online, I finally feel like I’m going to get a fighting game with a fulfilling single-player experience. That should open the door for even more players to get why the long-running series is still the king of fighters.
Street Fighter 6 launches on June 2 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.