Fighting games live or die on their online communities. Of course, basic functions like rollback netcode and cross-play are essential to a healthy fighting game, but Street Fighter 6 goes further by creating an online hub that celebrates the series and gives players somewhere to hang out between matches. Call it a metaverse if you must, but in reality, the Battle Hub is one-third of the Street Fighter 6 package and will likely be home to the communities and tournaments that ensure people will play the game for years to come.
It was also the focus of the Closed Beta for Street Fighter 6 this past weekend, which gave me a second chance to go hands-on with the game after falling in love with it at Summer Game Fest Play Days. The core 1-v-1 fights are still a joy to play and the beta’s new characters — Juri, Kimberly, Guile, and Ken — all come with the exciting combos and flashy animations. But really, I came away impressed with the groundwork Capcom is laying for Battle Hub and its implications for World Tour mode.
The Battle Hub is one of three options players can choose right from the main menu of Street Fighter 6, and when selected, it tasks players with creating a character avatar that will represent them. I didn’t spend too much time with these options, but they seemed quite in-depth for those who enjoy a detailed character creator. After creating a blue-haired and face-tattooed fighter, I was thrust into the Battle Hub’s futuristic arcade.
Multiplayer hubs as a replacement for simple menus aren’t a new concept for fighting games (Bandai Namco games like Dragon Ball FighterZ have done this for a while). Still, for Capcom’s first attempt at one, the Battle Hub is full of personality and things to do. Its stark blue colors, a plethora of screens, and many gameplay cabinets make it feel like the high-tech arcade Capcom wants it to be.
As soon as I entered, I could walk around, emote, and perform classic Street Fighter moves the Hadoken with button presses. I was also near two kiosks. At one, I could register and view tournaments and Street Fighter 6 events, although none were available for me during this Closed Beta. The other one was the Hub Goods Shop, where I could buy clothes and other gear to customize my character further with the currency I accrued while playing.
The other kiosks on the main level weren’t available in this Closed Beta outside a screen that showed which player in our server was performing the best. I then headed toward the arcade cabinets, most of which form a circle around the center of the Battle Hub. One person has to sit on each side to initiate a Street Fighter 6 match. While it’s a bit annoying to sit and wait for someone to play with you, I could always find an opponent if I looked around at every cabinet. Hopefully, the final game will have an option to get into fights slightly faster for those who want to simply jump into it.
I could also walk up to any player and message them or view their profile and performance in previous matches, so it does seem like it will be easy to find a community in Street Fighter 6. In the center was an open area where players could group up and emote with each other, but I was more intrigued by the special arcade cabinets off to the side that let me try Extreme Battle, a Street Fighter 6 side mode that introduces gimmicks to fights. During the beta, the set Extreme Battle was a race during a match to see who could perform four specific actions first, like throwing or parrying the opponent three times.
Then there’s Game Center, a place where Capcom says players can “play a regularly rotating lineup of games.” I played Super Street Fighter II Turbo here, and I could wholly emulate the entire game and face off with other players online within Street Fighter 6. It’s great to see Capcom incorporating their work on remastered collections here, and the Game Center can even feature non-fighting games like Final Fight here too. These should provide a quick break and a nice change of pace for those who are tired of doing a lot of the same type of match in the Battle Hub. And we haven’t even gone upstairs yet.
After spending lots of time on the first floor, I finally ventured to see what was on the second floor. First, I found a photo spot with a lot of pretty 3D 8-bit art based on Street Fighter and Mega Man characters. This seemed like a cute way to get players to promote the mode, and a player can even start to DJ music at a nearby spot to get players to gather. While this is mostly a novelty, I’m curious to see how this space could evolve throughout Street Fighter 6’s live service lifespan.
With all of these extra bells and whistles, the Battle Hub goes beyond just being a flashy menu for Street Fighter 6. That said, Players can pause the game in the Battle Hub to view other players, clubs, and replays from their server, change their server, redeem rewards, read news and tips, and more. All-in-all, the Battle Hub is a thorough online space that not only impressed me in this beta but intrigued me with how its systems can be present in other modes like World Tour. For starters, I assume players will be able to use this same avatar in that adventure and unlock some cosmetics that they can show off in the Battle Hub.
I mentioned that players could perform classic Street Fighter moves in the Battle Hub, and while they are little more than glorified emotes, I suspect they will function similarly in the open-ended World Tour mode. I don’t know how using these in real-time combat will pan out, but they seem to behave like special abilities or spells in an action-RPG, as I had to hold a trigger and then choose the move I wanted to do with a face button.
3D movement in the Battle Hub also feels good, so I hope that also translates to World Tour. Still, even if a player never decides to partake in that single-player adventure, the Battle Hub looks like it has a lot to keep players busy. From its welcoming aesthetics to its areas for standard matches to its games-within-the-game, I know I’ll want to spend a lot of time in the Battle Hub when Street Fighter 6 drops. And unless World Tour or some other part of the game drops the ball unexpectedly, Street Fighter 6 is already shaping up to be one of the best games of 2023.
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