- Street Fighter 6 is the newest entry in Capcom’s long-running fighting game franchise.
- The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the critically acclaimed sequel to 2017s beloved, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
- Despite Tears of the Kingdom being the most universally acclaimed game of this year, Street Fighter 6 remains my game of the year.
2023 so far has been a royally good year for video games. While 2022 was admittedly great with superb titles such as Sifu, Signalis, Elden Ring, and God of War Ragnarök to name a few, 2023 has been a relentless barrage of genre-defining, cream-of-the-crop quality titles nearly constantly.
This is the year of superlatives. Halfway through the year, we have gotten one of the greatest open-world games ever made, one of the best third-person shooters ever made, and quite possibly the best rhythm action game ever made and we’re only a few weeks away from what might be one of the most influential RPGs ever conceived.
However, there’s one title in the aforementioned list that stands out above all. A game so good that folks who went into the game expecting to not even enjoy it came out thinking “Hey, that was incredible actually??” Of course, I’m talking about none other than The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
Nintendo sparked a flame of innovation with Breath of the Wild, in 2017 a game that felt like a direct response to the rapid stagnation in the open-world genre at the time. It was a game that disincentivized the checklist, waypoint-driven open-world design that had come to be associated with the genre. Instead, the game placed more emphasis on player-driven discovery and exploration.
Every facet of the game was driven by curiosity and experimentation, and the reason the game was as good as it was, was because of how it actively rewarded that curiosity and experimentation. The game almost played like an immersive sim ala Deus Ex or System Shock, throwing a problem in front of the player and letting them work out a solution by themselves with the provided sandbox of tools they had.
A Perfect Sequel
With Tears of the Kingdom, Nintendo ironed out the many little problems the game had. The scope of the world has been significantly expanded and the environments have been made a lot denser with a lot of new things to find and discover. The sandbox has been elevated to an unprecedented scope with an entirely new swathe of abilities that reward creativity more than they ever did in the last game.
Nintendo even addressed one of the biggest complaints against Breath of the Wild with the addition of more personally curated, linear Zelda-style dungeons of yore. All-in-all, Tears of the Kingdom is a near-perfect sequel to one of the most influential games of all time, one that takes everything about the last one and just makes it plain better. It is no surprise that the game is heralded with the praise that it is.
It is also no surprise that it’s going to be an uphill better for any game this year to take the mantle for Game of the Year. A large majority of players have already locked in Zelda for the spot of the coveted Game of The Year. So anyways, we finally got Street Fighter 6 earlier this month, and it’s one of the best games I have ever played.
Back during my adolescent and early teenage years, I used to live and breathe fighting games. Mortal Kombat Deception, Mortal Kombat 9, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Tekken 3, and most importantly, Street Fighter 4 and its subsequent editions. I wasn’t particularly good at fighting games, but I loved the genre, especially when playing against my brother or my friends from school.
Of all of these, however, Street Fighter was the one I had most hours in. Between Alpha 3, SF4, SSF4, and Street Fighter Third Strike.
But it was at some point between the release of Street Fighter X Tekken and Ultra Street Fighter 4 my interest in the genre fizzled out. By the time Street Fighter 5 was released, with its non-existent story mode, terrible single-player offerings, and atrocious netcode, my interest in fighting games was all but gone.
Years later, after much convincing from an online friend of mine, I decided to give Third Strike a try through Fightcade. I picked Ken as he was the only character who I remembered playing that wasn’t Ryu, few hours later, my friend is exhausted. He’s obviously the better player between us, but a lot of my muscle memory from the years I played Alpha 3 and SFIV carried over.
So, while my friend is out there exhausted, I’m eagerly clamoring for more. That night I immediately text most of my friends on how to set up Fightcade and play Third Strike. I then promptly spent the night with my then-girlfriend (now ex) playing Third Strike for hours.
This was sort of a turning point for me when it came to fighting games, a spark you could say. I felt like I was immediately shot back to my adolescent years playing Street Fighter all over again. I sought out some modern fighting games such as Tekken 7, Guilty Gear STRIVE, and even Street Fighter 5, yet none of them gave me the thrill I got from Third Strike and SF4.
This was until back in late last May, I hopped into the Street Fighter 6 beta with a bunch of friends on call. What proceeded was some of the most fun I’ve had in years. Feeling my muscle memory as Ken was back in full swing, me and my friends spent almost 20 hours solely burning through that beta. I already knew the game was going to be great, but the beta solidified it for me.
Fast forward to now, barely two weeks after the game’s launch, I have nearly 100 hours in Street Fighter 6. I find myself experimenting with characters I never thought I would like. Instead of Ken, I’ve been playing as the graceful grappler Manon, swiftly weaving through attacks and rushing in for a devastating command grab.
The game’s fantastic net code means even someone like me living in the middle of nowhere with a weak Wi-Fi connection could immediately start having fun doing online matches with strangers and friends alike. I’ve even made a few friends solely through fighting a few casual matches with strangers.
Why Street Fighter 6 Is An Emotional Experience
The point being, Street Fighter 6 brought me back to a certain time of my life. When I was a dumb kid with too much time on his hands, playing fighting games with my brother, when it felt like there was nothing to worry about. For a moment, Street Fighter 6 gives me that same kind of joy, where I can forget about my troubles for a second and relax.
Most people don’t have that kind of relationship with a fighting game, but for the better part of a decade, the only thing that I associated with fighting games were those memories. In that sense, Street Fighter 6 puts me in a comfort zone, somewhere I can go back and relax, and relive the good ol’ days.
As more and more responsibilities pile up, and I near a turning point in my life, the sand in the hourglass only fills more and more, so something like Street Fighter 6 which — for a moment — turns the sands of the hourglass into cold ice, is priceless. A time machine to when things used to be less complicated, maybe not better, but certainly less complex, and isn’t that what truly matters?
Gaming is an art form, and as humans, we all resonate with art differently based on our personal experiences. For many, fighting games are simpler. Mechanically complex? Sure. Emotionally? Debatable. Yet it’s a fact that the works we respect the most are the ones that resonate with us at a personal level, and Street Fighter 6 does just that, and that’s all that matters.
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