I owe Luke an apology.
After a preview of Street Fighter 6 during last year’s Hot Geoff Summer (aka Summer Game Fest), I concluded that “I don’t like this dude’s face” and “Luke seems like the sort of guy who would corner you at a party to talk about blockchain.” He was my least favorite character of the bunch.
Having spent a lot more time with SF6 ahead of its June 2 release date, please be assured that Luke is far too dumb to aggressively chat you up about cryptocurrencies. I mean that as a compliment.
Luke is fine. Perfectly nice, even. He acts as your coach throughout SF6’s RPG-inspired mode, World Tour. He’s got Golden Retriever energy, is super excited about “training,” and has forearms the size of country hams. Under his cheerful tutelage, you’ll learn the basics of fighting while visiting a series of masters scattered across the world to learn their fighting techniques. Once you visit each one, you’ll be able to challenge opponents using their unique moves.
But first, you’ll have to create a protagonist. (You’re also able to do this in the SF6 demo that’s currently available on consoles.) You’re able to choose from some pre-set avatars, though the excruciatingly detailed level of customization on offer is a whole lot of fun to mess with. Really, who doesn’t enjoy a generous neck-width slider?
My creation could be best described as “extremely oily, brick-shithouse grandmother.” (Luke charitably called her “photogenic,” but I suspect he says this to everyone.)
The best part of World Tour is, well, the street fighting. Picking a fight with literally anyone is fair play, because apparently this is just the way of life in Metro City. As you approach someone, their name and level will appear over their head. This instantly made me think of the viral 2019 mobile game Mafia City, which gave the world those “Level 1 crook vs Level 35 boss” memes. This too, I mean as a compliment.
You’ll need to wipe the floor with a few Level 1 Garys and Level 2 Eleanors before taking on meatier prey, like the Level 7 Mime and the weird dude under the stairs who really likes punching barrels. Random encounters are mercifully few, but it’s tough to go anywhere in Metro City without spying a face you’d like to rearrange. There’s an undeniable charm to seeing a petite woman in a business suit whip a glass bottle at your head, or watching a tubby fellow suddenly bust out a reverse somersault with the agility of a panther. Strutting around as a greasy granny looking for dweebs to pick on is pure escapist silliness.
I am relieved to tell you that Street Fighter 6 does not attempt to bring anything remotely thought-provoking to World Tour’s storytelling. You’re training to be the very best, everyone really likes to fight, and it doesn’t get much deeper than that. You’ll use the simplified modern controls for the first stretch, but you can switch to a classic input scheme in Chapter 2 if you’re looking for a heftier challenge. It’s an appealing way to ease into Street Fighter 6 if you’re more of a novice with fighting games — or just want to give your aching thumbs a break.
World Tour is a bit like playing a Dunkey video, where every NPC has a weird PS3 face and a single personality trait, like “enjoys meat” or “big headphones.” Characters and environments in World Tour lack the impeccable attention to detail and stylistic flourishes of Street Fighter 6’s core modes, and lip-flap animations consistently bear little resemblance to the dialogue being spoken. It’s pretty goofy! But that’s a big part of the charm.
You’ll gain levels and increase your stats with every few fights, and you can equip clothing and accessories for a more stylish appearance, as well as boosted stats. A simple skill tree allows you to increase your attack, defense, and stamina — I suspect as you move through the story, more branches will be added. It’s enough to add a gratifying sense of progression without feeling too dry or daunting.
The premise of World Tour invites comparisons to the Yakuza / Like a Dragon series, and for the first hour or so, the similarity isn’t entirely flattering, mostly because the environments and optional activities are quite limited. In the first three chapters, I was confined to the Metro City central square and a small section of Chinatown, where you help Chun-Li and her followers clear out a gang of scoundrels. The Chinatown section introduces a mechanic that allows you to use special attacks to demolish obstacles and access hidden areas, so I’m hoping some of the later areas also offer a bit more to do.
My new bestie Luke probably won’t be coming for Kazuma Kiryu’s crown anytime soon, but Street Fighter 6’s World Tour is shaping up to be a refreshing, tongue-in-cheek riff on a classic formula.
Street Fighter 6 comes to PlayStation, Xbox, and PC on June 2.