The atmosphere at Red Bull Kumite 2023 was electrifying. Taking place in Pretoria, South Africa, the Street Fighter 6 tournament – one of the first for Capcom’s five-star fighting game – pit 16 of the best fighting game players against one another in a high-stakes, single-elimination tournament. No losers’ bracket; just a go-big-or-go-home tournament with no shortage of memorable moments.
If you’re into Street Fighter 6, or some of the best fighting games in general, you’ll likely have heard of at least some of Red Bull Kumite 2023’s competing players. Pros like William Peter 'Leffen' Hjelte, Benjamin ‘Problem X’ Simon, Lin 'Oil King' Li-wei, and Nathan 'Mister Crimson' Massol took part, as well as Hajime 'Tokido' Taniguchi, one of the most prolific Street Fighter players of all time.
And here’s where things got really interesting at Red Bull Kumite. Jabhi ‘JabhiM’ Mabuza, the home turf representative, was matched up against Tokido in the first round; a real David vs. Goliath scenario if ever there was one. Early on in the match, it looked like easy pickings for Tokido who skilfully claimed the first set with Ken as his choice of fighter.
However, with a home crowd advantage, JabhiM’s Chun-Li was able to push through for the win, claiming five sets over Tokido’s three. And best of all? He did it with a DualSense Wireless Controller, proving to aspiring professional players the world over that you don’t need fancy hardware to play at the top level in Street Fighter 6.
The initial round of Red Bull Kumite 2023 matches were already loaded with surprises. Problem X and Adel ‘Big Bird’ Anouche both showed that, with Lily and Marisa respectively, characters considered lower down in tier lists can still be fiercely competitive. Nearly every match was a nailbiter, really selling the tournament’s no-holds-barred attitude and breathtaking cage match-style arena setup.
Yet it was the final match in the first round, Tokido versus JabhiM, that stole the entire show. Most players present were using leverless Hit Box-style controllers – which Capcom will be mostly banning at its various CPT events – or some of the best fight sticks like the Qanba Obsidian. And here was JabhiM, effortlessly making the DualSense appear to be the quintessential fighting game controller.
I spoke to JabhiM after his match with Tokido, asking him if he had any controller or stick recommendations for beginners. He expressed a philosophy that matches his choice of gamepad.
“Whatever they are comfortable with,” he said, “I wouldn’t say to somebody, you have to get a Hit Box, and then after it’s not working for them. Try out what you feel you would do better with.”
The sentiment was shared by Benjamin Simon (aka Problem X), winner of Red Bull Kumite Las Vegas in 2021, as well as 2018’s EVO champion. “I’d say start with whatever is affordable,” he said, “which is usually a pad. And for this game I think pad’s okay! In other Street Fighters, there were other advantages to using either/or. But I think in this game, anything you use is viable.”
So if you’re getting into fighting games for the first time with Street Fighter 6, take it from the pros: your choice of input device matters less in Capcom’s latest installment. Though, is that entirely surprising?
Capcom has put the work in to ensure Street Fighter 6 is accessible to all players, no matter their budget or chosen hardware. Modern controls provide a streamlined way of performing more complex inputs. You lose some of your character’s normals and your overall damage output is lower to compensate for the easier inputs, but it’s an overall excellent control scheme for new players just settling in, especially those sticking to playing on a pad.
Capcom has also shifted much focus to the new Drive Gauge system in Street Fighter 6. JabhiM explains: “The Drive Gauge is such an interesting mechanic that it actually determines the flow of the game. When someone has less Drive Gauge, and the other person has more, you can’t really tell what the person with more is gonna do, because he’s at an advantage. It’s all about decision-making. That’s what’s making Street Fighter 6 so interesting.”
No matter which controller you’re using, then, the Drive Gauge acts as something of an equalizer. If you’re getting to grips with inputs, combos, spacing and the like, careful usage of the Drive Gauge and its various mechanics can swiftly turn the tide of a match in your favor. As JabhiM hints, careful decision-making is just as vital as precise execution.
JabhiM also cites Drive Impact – a universal attack that leaves opponents wide open if it hits as a counter – as his favorite of the new mechanics. “It’s so satisfying landing that and your opponent’s not looking for it,” he explains. “Against Tokido, I threw it out quite a lot. I was saying to him, if you’re not gonna show me that you can react to this, it’s gonna come out all the time!”
Street Fighter 6 is a game that rewards players who balance smart play with risk-taking. If you’re able to check your opponent with careful Drive Gauge management, it matters little which input device you’re using to do that. JabhiM stepped into that cage with a DualSense and still beat one of the game’s most notable players. That alone is amazing news for Street Fighter beginners on the journey to improvement.
You can get ahead in Street Fighter 6 by considering one of the best Xbox Series X controllers or one of the best PC controllers, too. The title will play excellently with one of the best gaming monitors as well.
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Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.