Street Fighter 6 Combat Center Digitizes The Arcade Environment

Street Fighter 6 Combat: When compared to previous entries in the series, Street Fighter 6’s revamped and improved lobby is a significant leap forward—one that borrows heavily from the series’ storied history.
I was intrigued when Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 will have three discrete menus leading to mostly independent experiences, but I assumed this was just for show. From my time in the beta, I can say that the Battle Hub is much more than that; it’s a means of paying respect to the game’s history.

Street Fighter 6 Combat

The Battle Hub is really just a waiting area. If you’re looking for a match in Street Fighter 6, you’ll have to join a server and physically noodle about in a 3D area, as opposed to seeking matches via matching systems that run through ordinary menus like in Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter 5.

As with other modes, there is some degree of overlap. In the single-player World Tour mode, which hasn’t been shown off much so far, you’ll be able to design your own character to explore the world as. Thanks to the game’s astonishing degree of customization, you’ll be able to make some really terrifying heroes. Meanwhile, the fights you’ll engage in are lifted wholesale from Street Fighter’s vs ‘Fighting Ground’ mode, which I’ve detailed at length previously, although with an online component.

While the Battle Hub is in no way a haphazard compromise between the two modes, these assets give it that impression. It’s a clever approach to spice up the menus and put the focus on your unique character, both of which will encourage player expression and, yes, monetization, as you purchase items to make your character stand out.

Above all else, I’m excited because this mode seems to harken back to the kind of arcade-based adventures that Street Fighter has been migrating away from.

You have to be of a specific age, having grown up in close proximity to a bustling arcade, now reside in Japan, or have been there to really appreciate the unique atmosphere. However, when more and more fighting games migrated online and the tournament circuit was momentarily shut down due to the pandemic, a sense of the genre’s distinct culture being lost persisted. The goal of Battle Hub is to bring back some of that order.

Street Fighter 6 Combat
Street Fighter 6 Combat

There’s no denying that Battle Hub lacks the intensity of a game. The stale cigarette scent has completely disappeared. You can’t knock the machine while you win, lose, or watch. Nor can you put a penny into the machine’s corner to indicate that it’s your turn. As the person you want to lose frantically battles against a greater opponent, you can’t exactly yell “somebody’s being fucked” with a lovely melody. But… there is some truth to it.

The Battle Hub lobby was great for finding quick matches. Rather than randomly selecting opponents from a list based on connection strength and name (shout out to “Hadouken My Anus,” a PC Street Fighter 4 player from the early 2000s whose iconic name I still remember from this process), I’d instead stroll around the Battle Hub’s virtual arcade and inspect people at arcade cabinets.

I would inspect their unique avatar and the equipment they had equipped. It’s easy to foresee a day when a person’s level of ostentation in the arena is as significant a signal of their fighting prowess as their rank. To get a feel for who people were playing, I’d also scan the banners above the machines. Perhaps I would start by watching a few games before jumping in myself.

People are both funny and serious in the text chat in the corner of the screen; people are seeking for training partners to study match-ups, others are yelling out their GGs, and people are making jokes about the game’s meta. The constant stream of announcements makes the central area seem like an airport full of fighters; however, instead of announcing aircraft departures, you’ll be informed of who’s currently on a winning streak, allowing you to go find them and challenge them if you feel up to the task.

Many of these options are available in SF5 and other fighting games, but they are buried in unintuitive menu systems. The Battle Hub has a sense of vitality thanks to several extra features that aren’t strictly essential but are nice to have, such as the ability to do unique actions with your character’s emotes and the availability of vintage versions of iconic Capcom arcade games. It has a surreal, Second Life–like quality, yet it also manages to seem enough alive. Plus, it all builds up to spectacular battles, which is always a plus.

Having a few cabinets of my own and having played the SF6 beta on one of them, I can say that it seems correct, sensible, and a terrific addition. It’s the latest in a long series of smart moves made by the SF6 team as they’ve sought to honor the past while simultaneously looking forward. The more time passes, the more of a candidate for the best game of the year it seems to be.

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