There has been a ton of speculation (as well as a healthy dose of trepidation) about how grappler style characters will perform in Street Fighter 6. The archetype has always had a relatively hard time playing nicely with everyone else on a given roster because of the somewhat polarizing nature that comes with having command grabs as the tool a character is based around.
What Capcom has shown us thus far has the community wildly excited for Street Fighter 6 as well as cautiously optimistic about its balance, but now that we’ve seen more of what newcomer Manon can do with her unprecedented approach to command grabs, we have to wonder if she’ll become a matter of fact top tier or not.
Though it’s still early (the game doesn’t even drop until June 2) we’ve got a decent amount of footage as played by developers, and thus it includes certain telling interactions that give more seasoned Street Fighter fans an idea of what to expect when it comes to the nuances of gameplay.
Our fears of vortex-based grappling have somewhat subsided as we’ve noticed that most all command grabs don’t seem to allow for much follow up pressure. This means that the more traditional approach to grappler characters (spend life in attempts to get in close, gain a massive advantage where you never let your opponents out of repeated okizeme pressure once you do) likely won’t be a thing.
That’s true of Manon as we’ve seen her in action against both Cammy and Marisa, but as that footage relieved us of our initial fears, it simultaneously sprouted a new one. Manon has a unique ability to level up the power of her command grabs by landing them, and it seems as though this buff system deals directly with the amount of damage each successful grab does.
Level up systems like this one have been in Street Fighter for a long while now, but they’ve virtually always been confined to individual rounds… Manon’s does not. Where this kind of approach has always been more similar to Jamie’s drinks, Manon’s level ups remain throughout an entire match, meaning she’s inevitably going to be a stronger character in later rounds.
Manon begins at level one and increases the damage on her command grabs up to a level 5 where they erase huge chunks of health at a time.
Said command grabs can be initiated not only from up close snares, but also from certain sequences that begin with strikes. One of her go to anti-air attacks puts her opponents into a juggle state from which she can even snag them out of the air with, you guessed it, a CG.
This isn’t automatically broken or overpowered in and of itself, but as we consider what this will likely look like in practice, we start to get a bit of that feeling of trepidation back.
There’s a reason why level up characters tend to operate the way they traditionally have (and again, fellow SF6 roster member Jamie still abides by these round-specific rules) as you’re naturally going to make a character who starts at a noticeable disadvantage with the potential of becoming much more powerful than their opposition if they can successfully jump through additional hoops.
Reaching max levels is not a given, and to balance out the fact that these characters start from behind developers often make maxing out a little on the overpowered side. We imagine that most Manon matches that go to round three will see her start said round at level 5, and this kind of power being so central to the character’s design feels potentially a little too concentrated.
Again, it’s always been difficult to balance characters around the single dimension of command grabs, and though Manon’s case is somewhat different from those of the past, the same basic issue seems to be on the table here.
If these moves become too powerful, she’ll be overpowered, and if Capcom nerfs them too much, she’ll be quickly under powered. It’s possible that developers hit this mark just right, and we’ll wait and see before passing full judgement, but this is sticking out very much right now as a potential problem.
Check out this video on the matter by MC Mura and then let us know your thoughts on it all in the comments after.