Back in the summer of 2022, I visited Capcom’s offices in London to go hands-on with Street Fighter 6, and specifically the game’s at the time newly announced Modern control scheme.
The control option, which allows special moves to be mapped to a single button and directional input, with the option for automated and simplified attack combo inputs, instantly caught my attention when it was announced, because of how perfect a fit it sounded for my specific cocktail of disabilities.
I struggle a lot as a disabled gamer with both memory and coordination, both of which impact my ability to play most combo and input string driven fighting games.
Remembering a string of specific inputs that need executing in order, then accurately making my hands reproduce those inputs without errors, quickly enough to be recognised as an input string, is incredibly challenging for me.
An hour at Capcom’s offices playing with their new control scheme was enough to convince me that this was going to be a game changer for me, and my relationship to fighting games.
Street Fighter 6 finally released a few weeks ago on June 2nd, and while June has been a pretty busy month for me trying to put together accessibility focused coverage, between Summer Games Fest streams and the Access-Ability Summer Showcase, I’ve been playing a decent amount of Street Fighter 6 in my downtime from work, and want to take some time today to talk about how I feel about the game, now that I’ve had time to play around with Modern controls outside of a curated preview setting.
Spoiler, Modern control mode is everything I hoped it would be.
So, how does the new simplified control setup work compared to the game’s classic controls? Well, it works by trading a little top end flexibility and a little bit of raw damage output for a reduced barrier of entry to play.
Rather than featuring the classic control scheme’s six buttons for selecting light, medium, and heavy kicks and punches, Modern control mode features just three buttons, combining kicks and punches of a given weight into a single button, with attacks selected based on character and context.
The remaining face button, Triangle on PlayStation, is a special move button, and functions very similarly to the B button in the Super Smash Bros. series.
Generally, special moves are executed by pressing this button, while having the analogue stick pressed in a given direction. There are a few exceptions to this, such as one of Chun Li’s special moves needing you to specifically hold a direction long enough to charge up that attack before pressing the special move button, but generally a control stick flick and press of the button is all that you need to execute these special moves.
When it comes to using your super moves, all you need to do is hit the special and heavy attack buttons together, plus a directional modifier, assuming that you have the meter energy required to expend.
At its core, this is probably the most notable reduction in input complexity offered by Street Fighter 6’s modern control scheme. Gone is the need for quarter circle inputs. Gone is the need for complex multiple button input strings, replaced instead with a simple control scheme that basically functions the same from one character to the next. If you can fire off one character’s specials and supers, you know how to do it for most of the roster, with only minor character specific input quirks to learn.
Beyond that, the rest of the game’s inputs are mapped to the controller’s four trigger buttons.
L2 functions as a simple grab. There’s nothing else to it, that’s all the button does.
R2 on the other hand acts as an automatic Combo modifier. While your heavy, medium, and light face buttons all control their various attacks, holding R2 before mashing Heavy will execute a dedicated heavy attack combo. You can’t switch up attack weight mid combo, so if use this automated button by holding R2 and start mashing Light Attack you can’t start swap instantly into a medium weight combo, but by either spotting where your auto combo ends, or manually cancelling it by releasing R2, you can manually start a new auto combo as the previous one ends.
One really nice aspect of how the auto combo system works is that the auto combo only seems to execute if the first hit of the combo connects with the other character.
This means that if you attempt an R2 auto combo, and your first attack misses, you’ll have an opening to back away or swap to a defensive stance, rather than being committed into the next hit of a combo that didn’t connect.
Lastly, there’s L1 and R1, which both make use of the new Drive Meter, a type of energy meter that players need to manage during gameplay.
L1 is mapped to a Drive Impact attack, which is a single very powerful attack that is fast and damaging, but uses up a large chunk of your Drive Meter, and if it runs out completely, you’ll become exhausted and be unable to use either Drive Impact attacks, or Drive Parry.
Mapped to R1, Drive Parry makes your character invulnerable to any attack beside grabs. You can hold the button down to be invulnerable to non grab attacks for as long as you like, but it does slowly consume Drive Meter to use. However, any time that you use Drive Parry to block an attack, your Drive Meter will refill, which is the main way to keep the gauge topped up.
And, basically, that’s it. In modern mode you simply have a light, medium, and heavy attack button, a combo modifier, a special button that’s modified by analogue stick directions, a two button simultaneous press for super attacks, a grab, a Drive Impact attack, and a held parry. No more complicated combos or inputs required.
As a gamer with Dyspraxia, Autism, and ADHD, this is the most accessible Street Fighter game I have played in years. The new simplified input scheme doesn’t require me to remember character specific combo strings, and execute them with precise fine motor control hand movements in the heat of the moment. I generally struggle both with remembering fighting game combos, and getting my hands to reliably execute them outside of training environments, but with this new control scheme I feel much more in control while playing.
I’ve talked previously on this channel about the fact that Super Smash Bros is the only fighting game series I’ve ever really been able to hold my own in vaguely competitively, and a lot of what works about Smash Bros carries over to make Street Fighter 6 and helps make it feel approachable.
As someone who knows fighting game theory and strategy fairly well, and is largely held back by my own inability to execute on inputs mechanically, I’ve found both in the game’s expansive RPG style story mode, and online fights with other players, that I’ve been able to keep pace with combat much more reliably than I do in other fighting games.
Now, on paper, it is important to note that there are some aspects of the game I am missing out on. I don’t have access to absolutely every special attack for every character using these controls, I don’t have full control over my basic combo strings, but for me that slight loss of a few combat options was a well worthwhile trade. I’m also aware that my attacks deal slightly less damage than they would if I were using classic controls, but for me that trade off is more than worthwhile.
That said, modern controls don’t lock you as a player out of those missing special moves entirely. If you learn an input string for a missing special move, you can still use that input string in combat to activate the move, which is a really interesting choice, and one that I really appreciate being considered.
I am under no illusions that Modern Controls will put me on an even footing with tournament level players taking advantage of Classic Controls to get a few extra options out of combat, but for regular play against average players, I feel a lot less like I’m frantically button mashing, and a lot more like I’m making calculated choices about which moves to use in combat. I may not be playing with the full suite of moves, but every move I use is deliberate, and reliably executed when I need to, and that means I’m able to have a lot more fun, and play a lot more competitively than I would be able to otherwise do.
Sure, a top end professional player will have an advantage against a modern control player but, for casual matches with friends, modern controls really impressively hold their own.
This is not the Street Fighter series’ first attempt at introducing methods of offering easier access to special moves, Street Fighter 4 on 3DS for example offered players touch screen buttons for super attacks, but this feels like the first time it’s been offered as a serious option rather than a one off gimmick, and I genuinely think that, for most casual players, this control scheme is going to make it easier to play more competitively. Without the input barrier of combo strings present, it’s much easier to think about what you need to do, and then to do it when the right moment presents itself.
With combo complexity less of a factor, things like watching your distance from the opponent, keeping an eye on your meter, executing an attack that capitalises on a momentary opening, and learning what openings can be effectively punished, becomes a lot more reasonable to players who might otherwise be distracted trying to pull off a precise quarter turn into a rapid face button input string.
Taking a moment to discuss a different aspect of this game’s accessibility design, while it’s great that Street Fighter 6 has introduced a bunch of new accessibility settings designed to help blind players more easily compete in fights using audio cues, the game’s move to a 3D open world that serves as a menu system rather than a traditional 2D menu screen unfortunately makes getting into some matches more difficult for blind players than it was in past games in the series, which is pretty disappointing.
As a casual fighting game player, I do want to note how much I am loving Street Fighter 6’s single player story mode content. The way that it gradually teaches more complex combat techniques through play, and gradually introduces the player to the specifics of different fighter’s control styles, all wrapped up in a silly and exaggerated narrative, is the kind of high effort offering I’d love to see more fighting games commit to.
The game’s use of colourful flourishes to emphasise dramatic hits, the soundtrack, and even the in game commentary all give Street Fighter 6 a really strong identity of its own, one that I’m deeply enjoying.
I am well aware that there is a portion of the Street Fighter 6 playerbase who is, to put it mildly, upset that modern controls exist. There is a portion of the playerbase who feel that because they had to memorise and practise executing these combo strings, playing with a simplified input method is cheating. There is a portion of the playerbase who believes that Street Fighter 6 should be gatekept behind classic controls as a barrier to entry, and that anyone who cannot execute the skills that classic mode requires should not be a part of the fighting game community who gets to engage with this game.
I am disabled. Without accommodations like Modern control mode, I face barriers I cannot reasonably overcome, which limit my ability to enjoy fighting games. Modern Controls drastically improve my ability to focus on the strategy of a fighting game match rather than getting frustrated by my inability to remember a combo string, and get my hands to replicate it in the heat of the moment.
I love fighting games, but they don’t always love me. Street Fighter 6 feels like a fighting game that wants disabled gamers like me to be able to have a good time while playing, and I wish more fighting games would follow its lead.
And, if you’re upset that I’m beating you in ranked matches using Modern control mode, either get better at Classic controls, or join me here in Modern if you think that modern control mode is such an advantage. Come beat me using modern I guess.