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“We wanted to spread the love of fighting games” - a candid chat with Street Fighter 6 devs on crossover characters, balance, and M. Bison vs Vega

We chat to Shuhei Matsumoto and Takayuki Nakayama about the arrival of M. Bison, Terry Bogard, Mai Shiranui, and Elena in Street Fighter 6, Season 2.

Street Fighter 6 director Takayuki Nakayama and producer Shuhei Matsumoto, with SF6 Bison between them
Image credit: VG247/Capcom

Year 2 of Street Fighter 6 will soon be getting underway in earnest, with the competitive pro tour getting back on the road and four new characters set to join the roster over the next twelve months. But this time, something truly different is happening: guest characters.

Crossover shenanigans are nothing new for fighting games, but Street Fighter has always resisted inviting characters from outside its universe to its core numbered entries. With the announcement of Terry Bogard and Mai Shiranui, both of Fatal Fury and King of Fighters, that’s all changed. It makes for an exciting twist in the tail at the end of a successful and exciting first year for SF6 - and a sea change for the franchise.

We caught up with Street Fighter 6 director Takayuki Nakayama and producer Shuhei Matsumoto, taking time to talk about the guest characters, the return of M. Bison, the success of the SF6’s bold new modern control scheme, and more besides. Here’s our full chat:

VG247: I want to start with the obvious question, which is... Why now, for guest characters? Obviously Street Fighter has resisted while a lot of other fighting games have been doing it for a long time. So why is now the right time?

Takayuki Nakayama: It wasn't really a matter of like, you know, now is like the right time to do it... but the overarching reason for why we decided to include guest characters in Street Fighter 6 was because we wanted to kind of reinvigorate and just spread the love of fighting games and try to make the the community as large as possible. And we really felt that this is one of the ways to do so.

Shuhei Matsumoto: Why now is just, because, well, we can. Right now is the time to kind of get people interested in not just Street Fighter, but also just fighting games in general.

Shuhei Matsumoto headshot
Shuehei Matsumoto has worked on Street fighter for a long time. | Image credit: Capcom

VG247: Of the challenges, I think... I'm a big fighting game nerd, right. And this is true of any game, but I think there's a larger affinity for the full array of Street Fighter characters than most other games. Every character is somebody's favorite; someone out there is pulling for T. Hawk, or Ingrid, or whoever. There's an argument to be made that by having guest characters, and with four characters a year, you sort of take away from the cadence of how quickly you can brick old cast members back. So - was that a concern for you in terms of balancing satisfying existing fans with the characters they love from the past, and bringing in guests to attract fans from other franchises?

Takayuki Nakayama: So, first of all, I do recognize that when we include guest characters, it means that there's less of a chance for other classic Street Fighter characters to come about. But there is a selection process that we're cognizant of, and it's not like we're just including characters that we personally like... it has to make sense holistically. Even with guests, there is always a reason why we choose each character that we end up deciding on.

Terry in SF6 reveal trailer
Terry-fying. | Image credit: Capcom

VG247: Do you feel like you've opened up the biggest can of worms ever? When this was announced, I saw a lot of excitement for Terry and Mai, but I also immediately saw other fighting game characters trending in relation - Sub-Zero, for instance - as people speculated and talked about who else they'd like to cross over. This'll follow you forever now, right?

Takayuki Nakayama: I don't see it as a negative! In fact, like you just mentioned... What about Sub-Zero? Well, there may well be Street Fighter 6 players who aren't as familiar with the Mortal Kombat IP. So if the goal is to get more people interested in fighting games in general, and a crossover like that gets people talking about which characters should cross over...

I mean, obviously I can't make any promises. But the fact that we're having this conversation just means that more and more people are getting interested. There is a chance for the fighting game community to reach a whole new audience - so we see it as a positive thing, and we encourage that kind of discussion and comments.

VG247: All of the characters also join World Tour, which is a glorious fan service vehicle. One of the best things about the DLC characters so far has been seeing other characters in smaller roles there, like FANG in AKI's story, and stuff like that. So -- will that be the case with the guests? Might we get some other Fatal Fury or King of Fighters cameos?

Takayuki Nakayama: Unfortunately we can't really dive into the specifics of what you can expect in terms of the World Tour aspects of the guest characters. Especially because right now, we're obviously focused on M. Bison. But we hope that you're very interested and excited to look forward to it.

Takayuki Nakayama headshot
Takayuki Nakayama explains why Capcom deigned to bring back Bison. | Image credit: Capcom

VG247: You put out some great stats for the game's anniversary. I noticed that it's about a quarter of people playing modern, right? How do you feel about the reception to the modern control scheme, a year later? Was that 25% across all modes? I'd expect that modern would be used more in World Tour and less online, I guess? And in line with that - how do you feel about how balancing modern has been going, especially in the most recent patch where you made some modern-specific changes?

Shuhei Matsumoto: In terms of the infographic data that we released for the one year anniversary - as you mentioned it showed like 25% modern controls usage across all global players. We didn't release things like the region-specific data, but if you look at that, you can definitely see specific regions leaning more towards modern players. There's just a difference that has emerged between different areas of the world.

And this is something, y'know, it'll all continue to be utilized. We're seeing it more and more - we're seeing Modern players actually competing in tournaments. We're hoping and expecting there to become more modern players down the line.

In terms of balance and continuing to update - in the Akuma patch, we made some modifications for modern controls specifically like for the assist combos - and our goal is to continue to balance and cater to modern players, ultimately making it more accessible, usable, and fun to play with.

M. Bison as he appears in Street Fighter 6.
Somehow, Bison returned. | Image credit: Capcom

VG247: So you're here to talk about Bison, most of all. So let's talk about him. In a story sense, let's just say a lot changed for him by the end of Street Fighter 5. So... how do you thread the needle in terms of making his SF6 version fit with his status in the SF universe, but also maintaining everything that people find iconic and love about him as a character?

Takayuki Nakayama: In terms of the gameplay, we wanted to be cognizant about fans of Bison from the past series, and make sure that those people didn't feel disappointed with him as a character. We had to retain all the things that made him fun to play with, and cool. But also, because SF6 has a brand new system, we have to design so that any character contextually makes sense and is fun to play utilizing the drive system.

In terms of the story... Players who have enjoyed Street Fighter 5's general story - the story of Bison in SF6 is definitely connected to the events of what happened to him there. You'll get to learn more about when you play his arcade mode and actually meet him in the World Tour. Beyond all that, we also just wanted to make him look great and exciting for those people coming in where this might be their very first Street Fighter. These are all things that we have to consider when we're designing and adding a character.

VG247: Speaking of not being confusing to new players... and I've had this conversation with a few developers working on older Japanese games, like Sonic Team, because they've had the same problem with Eggman and Robotnik and all that... do you not just get tempted to say, screw it, and unify the names? To pick Vega or Bison and just say that's it worldwide from now on?

Takayuki Nakayama: So actually, I did personally want to unify the names, so that it's the same across all regions. We were going in that direction when designing and creating this character, too. But after thinking it through over and over again... we just came to the conclusion that Japanese players are going to want to call him Vega, and American players are going to want to call him M. Bison.

VG247: And some people will just keep saying Dictator!

Shuhei Matsumoto: Right. And it's a little difficult. So we just kind of... gave up. [laughs]

It's a little difficult.

Mai as she appears in Street Fighter 6
It's gonna be Mai. | Image credit: Capcom

VG247: How are you feeling about the Pro Tour, the competitive state of the game? Are you happy with where it's landed? I'm talking broad here - in terms of the competitive meta, in terms of the audience, in terms of the events... How do you feel? And how are you going to drive that going forward?

Shuhei Matsumoto: In terms of whether we feel satisfied or not, like the current balancing -- this is something that we put a lot of effort into making sure that it is compelling and there's fair play between all characters. Obviously, there's some things that we'll keep on improving. But I do feel like we're doing our best, and I'd say that the game is in a healthy state from a competitive perspective.

When I see people win with certain characters, I feel kind of reassured - like, okay, good - this character looks good, is playing well, and is balanced. We want people to feel empowered when they win. So we look at that, and then we look at things holistically to ensure that there's good character representation within the competitive scene, and we're happy with how it's going.

M. Bison, Terry Bogard, Mai Shiranui, and Elena will arrive in Street Fighter 6, Season 2. You can download and play M. Bison starting today!

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