What We Learned About Street Fighter 6 at the Evo 2023 Finals

What We Learned About Street Fighter 6 at the Evo 2023 Finals

SF6 has been out for a little more than two months and there’s still so much to discover.

To many players, Evo is the pinnacle of fighting game tournaments. Add to that all the hype behind Street Fighter 6 and you have the most exciting tournament in Evo. 

Two months of preparation have led to three days of some of the best SF6 we’ve seen so far. The game is still growing but there’s been quite a few big takeaways from Evo this year.

The top tiers are still malleable
She’s a top-tier terror but was nowhere to be found in the finals (Photo credit: Capcom)

Coming into Evo weekend, everyone already knew who the top-tier characters were in Street Fighter 6. They were well-defined since the first couple of weeks after the game’s release and many were dreading a top six filled with mirror matches of the same five characters. 

Fortunately, we didn’t get that. In fact, there were a few “expected” top-tier characters who didn’t even make it to Arena Finals on Sunday. Of the top six, the biggest surprise was Tatsuya Haitani’s Chun-Li (especially considering his choice of playing using Modern controls). Kakeru returns with his fearsome JP from Red Bull Kumite and Saul Leonardo “MenaRD” Mena II continues to find great success with Blanka.

It just goes to show that while the top tiers can dominate, they are by no means static. There’s still potential to be discovered within the SF6 roster. Who knows what the field will look like with a few more months of practice? 

The balance of using the drive system

The Drive system has added a whole new layer of strategy to the Street Fighter formula. Discussions on how to properly use your Drive meter, the correct time to parry, and when to risk going into Burnout have been ongoing since release. The SF6 finals showed us what mastery of this system looks like and it’s quite impressive.

One thing that was clear was that pros rarely used Drive Impacts, a powerful advancing attack that can lead to deadly combos. Many thought this move would be rampant in all levels of play but the move does have clear weaknesses. A Drive Impact used successfully or successfully countered, can completely swing the momentum of a match. High-level players would definitely have trained to watch out for such an impactful move and will only take the chance if they’re certain it will succeed. 

Another surprising observation was that pros are very liberal with their use of the Drive Meter, the resource to which your strongest moves are tied. Draining your Drive Meter puts you in Burnout, a state that puts you at a massive disadvantage, so one would think that there would be more caution in how this resource is used. The pros think otherwise as they would spend resources often, putting themselves in an advantageous position as quickly as possible.

It’s risky for sure and has cost more than one player a match. However, it’s this balance of risk versus reward that has made watching high-level SF6 incredibly tense and exciting. Every player weighs the risks differently, and those who don’t lose their balance are the ones who come out victorious.

The modern man
(Photo credit: Liquipedia)

We mentioned before that Haitani chose to play Chun-li using Modern controls, a decision that’s shocking for some and may be a tad scandalous. To elaborate, Modern Controls is a new control scheme designed to help newcomers enjoy SF6. Instead of using the Classic control scheme of six buttons, Modern uses four buttons for attacks with a few extra tied to the Drive moves and auto-combos.

There’s a big stigma in the SF6 community for Modern players. They’re viewed as fakes who aren’t playing the game properly, even so far as being called cheaters. It only seems to be Japan that’s embraced the new control scheme with a few Japanese pro players openly joining the Modern movement.

To be clear, Haitani is neither a fake nor a cheater. He has over a decade of high-level Street Fighter experience and is considered one of the five Japanese gods of fighting games. If he chooses to play using Modern controls, then it’s because he believes that it’s the most optimal way for him to play and win. It’ll be interesting to see if other pro players will follow suit.

Banner image from Evo on Instagram.

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