For as much overlap and as many similarities as they share, Street Fighter games do tend to differ a decent bit from one another. The fireballs and anti-airs that made characters like Sagat and Ryu so effective in Street Fighter 2, for instance, were drastically less useful in Street Fighter 3 because of the universal parry mechanic.
There are countless other examples of how certain strengths and abilities don’t translate between games because of variances in mechanics and general battle flow, and I’ve got a bit of a theory about something that might stand out as being especially important for top tiers in Street Fighter 6.
First off, everything we discuss here should be taken with a natural grain of salt as Street Fighter 6 is still in development, and what we’ve seen in the beta examples can and likely will be tweaked between now and the game’s June 2, 2023 launch.
In a previous article I examined how I imagine the general flow of the game will be. Quick recap: it seems to me as though Capcom is aiming to tone down the overly offensive and sometimes neutral-skipping pace that tends to characterize Street Fighter 5, and encourage more thoughtful and methodical decision making in Street Fighter 6.
Developers have made it easier to see and react to whiffed moves in Street Fighter 6 by making hurtboxes linger longer and extend further forward. They’ve also made the punishment potential extremely large as players get four frame bonuses for hitting foes during the recovery of their attacks now, so there’s a lot more risk associated with pushing buttons.
With this information in mind, my conclusion was that the action would be slowing way down at higher levels of play, seeing two competitors who would be extremely wary of risking being whiff punished by the other.
Haitani’s Two Cents
Haitani, a pro player and one of the 5 Japanese “gods” of Street Fighter, recently shared some of his SF6 meta thoughts that were translated and posted in English by Genericremix.
Haitani points out the propensity for whiff punishing thanks to farther reaching attacks and longer lingering hurtboxes, but comes to a somewhat opposite conclusion from me, noting that he feels “SF6 will reward more aggressive play compared to the type of waiting in neutral that you see in SF5.”
Haitani seems to suppose that because players will be deterred from sticking out buttons to wall out and potentially hit confirm with, they’ll more quickly be able to walk right up into each others’ ranges and apply pressure with longer-reaching normals.
Because being cornered is so scary in SF6, playing in a manner where you retreat and try to cause your foe to whiff is a nerfed strategy compared to in SF5.
With all this in mind, the go-to strategy for SF6 meta might then be to move forward and be the first to attack with moves that almost always find their target (aka don’t whiff).
Walk Speed May Be King?
If things do indeed shake out this way, then I’d conclude that one of the most important attributes for individual characters to have is quick walk speed.
Being fleet footed in fighting games is almost never a bad thing as it’s a natural buff to footsie potential, and may be the key difference maker in SF6 if the goal is indeed to be the first to begin applying safe offense with normals.
That is to say, perhaps the very best characters will be those who are quickest on their feet (having relatively farther reaching normals doesn’t hurt here, either). Fast walkers will be the ones who can most consistently control the space and push their will on others if the goal is to be able to push buttons without whiffing.
There are other factors affecting the equation, of course, as neutral might be slowed by the power of things like projectiles and Drive Impact, or sped up by the power of things like Drive Rush.
The community is widely wondering about how the usually slower-moving grappler characters will fare this time around, though the general consensus right now is a fear that they’ll be overpowered because of the benefits of Drive Rush.
Conclusion: Hopefully it’s not that Simple
Perhaps all of the above will be relevant variables in SF6’s equation, and thus the whole experience will manifest as a relatively balanced series of rock/paper/scissors scenarios where one particular strategy is never without its practical counter. That’s always kind of the goal with fighting games, though if history has anything to tell us on the matter thus far, such hopes may be a pipe dream.
Our fingers are crossed that SF6 players will be able to flourish with a myriad of various approaches, both offensive and defensive, slow or fast paced. We’re not exactly sure what to expect, but we’re certainly excited by what we’ve seen and experienced thus far.
The fact that we can see so many different possibilities still on the table is very encouraging to us on this front, but we’d like to hear how you feel.
Given what we’ve talked about and seen thus far, how do you think SF6’s meta will shake out and what types of characters, if any, do you think will rise to the top of the pack? Has your answer on this changed over the last few months? Sound off and get the discussion going in the comments below.