Street Fighter 6’s Modern Controls are a Wasted Opportunity
With a name like Modern Controls, you’d expect Street Fighter 6’s new, beginner control scheme to be a serious alternative to the tried and true six button system that every game has used until now. With the face buttons dedicated to three attack strengths, and the shoulder and trigger buttons reserved for universal mechanics and assist functions, it’s clear that it was designed with controllers in mind. Normals are paired down to three buttons, specials can be done with a simple combination of direction and button, and holding the assist function will activate other normals and let you mash to get pre-determined combos.
It’s a well thought out solution in theory — you trade precision and flexibility for a less technical, less execution reliant approach. After Capcom’s experiments with simpler characters in SFV I was genuinely excited to see how it’d fare. But when I got my hands on it I found the implementation it’s lacking.
It felt like Capcom was too afraid to alienate the existing fans. At a glance it might seem powerful, but Capcom has built so many disadvantages into it, as if to reassure players that have spent years perfecting their execution that they’ll never be able to be beat by someone who has never been able to perform a “proper” Hadouken.
Before I dive into that, let’s get the things I liked out there. The assist button sidesteps a lot of problems that other autocombo systems face. You can still mash a button to easily convert a hit into a combo — several types of combo even — -but requiring you to hold the trigger means you won’t accidentally start one if you’re too zealous. Capcom’s also clearly put thought into how the special moves are mapped. Charge moves get rid of the need to time the forward or up input, but still require you to hold a direction for a certain period before hitting the special button. Shoryuken motion moves are on forward — which is wildly unintuitive to me since most easy special games put anti-air on a down special — but it forces you to stop blocking to input it, the same way as if you did it with a motion.
In every other area, it’s a messy, almost conservative solution. The penalties for using the Modern control scheme are already numerous, losing at least half your normals and control over the strength of specials. On top of that, some moves are removed in Modern, relegated to being part of a combo (at least as of the Beta). Capcom have also said that Modern controls will be receiving a damage nerf, and have different frame data, to the point where some moves that normally link into combos won’t anymore.
I’m not entirely against adding conditions to assists like this. For example, in DBFZ doing a full auto combo won’t give you a sliding knockdown, meaning you can’t continue the combo after the first couple hits. When you reach the stage where you need to get more damage than the autocombo allows, you can add in a jump cancel to get that a sliding knockdown, giving you a stepping stone before practicing more optimal combos.
By nerfing an already limited moveset, and changing making the rules of how combos are formed so different, Modern control players might end up with different rules, rather than altered ones. Having to remember what normal each button does, plus another layer of normals that come out with the assist button doesn’t feel less complex or more parseable. And if they don’t even connect the same way they do with Classic controls, you might have some unlearrning to do if you decide to switch.
If Capcom wants to provide a viable alternative, this half step isn’t the way to do it. And nerfing it before the game even comes out isn’t going to convince anyone to take it seriously. More than anything, these half measures fundamentally misunderstand what makes fighting games hard. Game and situation knowledge are just as, or more important, to your chances of success.
As a ten year old, I beat people at the arcade in Marvel vs Capcom 2, entirely because I figured out how to do supers. Early Soul Calibur 6 rewarded you with a lot of success if you knew when to hit the Break Attack button. And let’s not forget Street Fighter 2, where throws were widely considered to be cheap in part because nobody knew how to deal with them.
Fighting games are deep, layered and complex. Simple control schemes can’t make a beginner capable of taking on an expert. But it can streamline the process so that first time players can start appreciating what makes a game interesting as fast as anyone else. Maybe Street Fighter 6’s Modern controls can still do that, but it’s a shame to see Capcom cutting into its chances before it gets the chance.