The long awaited Street Fighter: Duel has finally arrived in the west. After debuting in China way back in 2020, iOS and Android gamers in the rest of the world grew impatient. It wasn’t until recent months – and the hype train for Street Fighter 6 gathering pace – that Street Fighter: Duel dropped back onto the radar. Coincidence or clever play by Capcom keeping the mobile game back to build anticipation for the upcoming big boy? Maybe we’ll never know, but at least we do know this Street Fighter: Duel review demonstrated that it wasn’t worth the wait..
Street Fighter: Duel never really explains precisely where it sits within the timeline. Bison’s Shadaloo has sent out an army of robotic clones and those good guys are here to save the day. Bison then challenges the fighters, and sets a trap specifically for Ryu. Now it’s up to Ken to save him, along the way recruiting other fighters to form a team.
Essentially, this means that the events happen sometime after Street Fighter II but before Street Fighter 5. Fans with in-depth knowledge of Street Fighter’s convoluted timeline (who also probably won’t be reading this Street Fighter: Duel review) may be able to pinpoint a more specific time. But for those of us who enjoy the games and merely dabble with the extended franchise, that’s as close as we’re going to get. Things are confused somewhat by the cast of characters. And the fact that those from Street Fighter II reflect their earliest of appearances in all the keyart for the game. But these are relatively minor considerations. Capcom are clearly aware of this given the final line-up of characters set to be included day one of Street Fighter 6 launch.
The gameplay sets itself aside from all of this, however. It’s a completely different experience to anything the franchise has offered previously. It is a mobile game, and as such a traditional one-on-one beat-‘em-up wouldn’t fair too well. Gamers who remember the early days of smartphones (or even prior to this) will no doubt have experienced far too many terrible adaptations of the genre. As such they will welcome the fact that Street Fighter: Duel is trying something original. Not too original, mind.
The game plays rather similarly to The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Online. The player selects a team of up to three combatants (with additional options in reserve) and engages in auto battles with opposing teams. There’s the option for manual input, but merely for special moves (or combos thereof) once the respective meter is filled. Street Fighter: Duel is not a test of your precision and reflexes like the main bloodline titles. Instead, it’s a strange management sim of sorts.
As you progress you’ll earn currency which can then be spent on a wide variety of things. Levelling up your characters, buying new moves, additional characters and so on. This is the bulk of the experience. Each fight rewards you with more currency, gems, missions, and other rewards. These rewards then get invested into new characters, items and cosmetics, thus opening up new missions. It’s an endless cycle of flashing exclamation marks and micro doses of dopamine. Ideal for that commute, you may think. But there’s actually something quite sinister about it all. And, frankly, boring.
If you’re not the type to buy into the microtransactions you’ll feel overwhelmed by the amount of pressure the game applies for you to do so. A barrage of incentives occurs each and every time you login. That, and to share your progress on social media. You can’t help feel that the entire design intent of Street Fighter: Duel wasn’t so much to reward fans, but to nickel-and-dime their very love of the franchise Capcom so clearly don’t hold in high-esteem. At least, on mobile devices.
Ultimately, Street Fighter: Duel feels like a lukewarm cash grab. While the aesthetics and soundtrack are excellent, there’s nothing else of value within the game. It’s a tedious series of getting rewards for doing very little, and being pushed for purchases when that initial daily tally runs dry. Fans of the franchise will get a kick out of how great it all looks, sure. But it’s unlikely anyone will return after the first few days of aggressive salesmanship.