When Street Fighter IV first came out in arcades I noticed people peering over shoulders watching intently, but too timid to jump in the gauntlet. The thought of losing miserably in public can be intimidating and everyone who has touched a fighting game has experienced a crushing defeat.
So how can Street Fighter IV players step up their game aside from learning lessons from losses? Street Fighter champ and Capcom Community Manager Seth Killian discusses some strategies for rookie and hardened Street Fighter IV players us.
You’ve been playing Street Fighter games for a long time, but let’s focus on newcomers to the series first. Which character would you recommend a new challenger to start with?
Seth Killian, Senior Community Manager at Capcom: Pick whoever looks like the most fun to you and fits your style, but in terms of mechanics, I’d probably suggest Blanka or Chun-Li. The inputs on their “charge” specials are sometimes a little easier than a fireball motion for newcomers, and if those aren’t clicking right away, you can always mash out some fun lightning legs or Blanka’s electricity. Characters like El Fuerte definitely require more practice to play at full power.
What skills should beginners focus on learning?
Learn to block! This might not be as sexy as going straight for the flashy Ultra combos, but it will win you a lot more matches. Focus on blocking your opponents attacks and getting a feel for when they’ve left themselves open to a counter attack.
Also, special moves and supers look great, but a lot of Street Fighter revolves around having a good feel for the range and speed of the basic normal attacks. As Bruce Lee said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once. I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” You won’t have to practice those moves 10,000 times, but the man definitely knew what he was talking about.
Now for the next step. How can intermediate fighters improve their game?
What did you do to practice?
The best practice is to play as many different opponents as possible.
You can use SFIV’s great training mode to practice your basic combos and techniques, but the real test comes in how you face things you haven’t seen before. Playing a wide variety of opponents keeps your eyes open to new ideas you can learn to defend against, or incorporate into your own playstyle. Playing friends is great and a lot of fun, but play some strangers too—maybe check out a local tournament and test your mettle.
Focus attacks are new for Street Fighter IV. What are they? How can players use them effectively?
Focus Attacks are basically a special move that you execute by pressing middle punch and middle kick together. The attack becomes more powerful the longer you hold the buttons down, and they’re actually unblockable at full power. Although they’re really easy to perform, it’s an extremely flexible technique. You can use them as a stand-alone attack, or as a counter-attack in other situations.
As your skills improve, you’ll also be able to use them to cancel the recovery on your special moves, to create new combos and pressure strings. The only limit is
really your imagination, and I’m already surprised at some of the innovative ways we’ve seen players use them in the arcades.
I remember from one of your videos you mentioned characters have “armor breaking” moves. Could you explain how these moves work and how to use them?
“Armor break” moves are special moves that can instantly knock an opponent out of a Focus Attack (Focus Attacks can absorb a single hit under most circumstances). The “armor break” is really more a natural property of certain special moves than a move in itself. For instance, if Guile is about to hit you with a Focus Attack, and you throw a fireball at him with Ken, Guile’s Focus will absorb the fireball and still hit you. If you do a Hurricane Kick (just a regular old Hurricane Kick) instead of the fireball, however, the Hurricane will knock Guile out of the Focus Attack instantly because the Hurricane has the “Armor Break” property. This might sound complicated but you get the hang of it pretty quickly just playing the game as you would normally, and it’s not critical info until you’re playing at a very high level.
How do the new characters for the console version shape up? Which one do you feel is the strongest and weakest?
There are some real powerhouses among the new console characters. The final boss, Seth, has a truckload of dirty tricks, Gouken (Ryu and Ken’s master) is also very formidable, and I think Gen could be a wildcard.
As for the weakest, that would probably go to Capcom’s traditional punching-bag, Dan, although he’s a ton of fun to play.
What tricks should Dan players learn to get competitive?
Learn to be at peace with losing :-) Although he has some weaknesses, Dan actually has a great Hurricane Kick move, an effective Dragon Punch, and IMO one of the best Focus Attacks in the game. Use it as often as possible to set up his hilarious Ultra Combo.
How has Sakura changed from previous games? What are her new moves?
Sakura is probably most similar to her Street Fighter Alpha 3 incarnation. My best tip for her would be to try the EX version of her Sakura Otoshi, which will home in on an opponent from anywhere on the screen. Her EX Hurricane Kick is also great—if you can hit somebody with it, it will launch the opponent into the air where and you can tack on her Ultra combo with good timing.
What about fan favorite character Cammy? Does she have any additional tricks or modifications?
Cammy’s best new trick is definitely her aerial dive kick—it’s a really high-priority attack and keeps the pressure on an opponent. Her Spinning Backfist has also changed pretty dramatically. It can now cover almost the entire screen, does great damage, and dodges fireballs at the same time.
And Gen? He must have evolved a lot since he wasn’t in as many Street Fighter games as the other World Warriors.
Gen is really unique in SFIV, since he has distinct super and Ultra combos in both of his styles (Crane style and Mantis style). I think his best abilities are the great cross-up kicks from the air, and his off-the-wall dives. If you get hit with one of those dives, you’re left floating and completely vulnerable to whatever Gen might have up his sleeve—a regular attack, super, or even an Ultra combo. Switching between his two styles makes him one of the most technically challenging characters to play at a high level, but also one of the most fun.
Sagat sits on top of the Street Fighter IV rankings. What is your strategy when facing a Sagat player?
The best advice against Sagat is to be patient and look for your opening. Sagat can really punish mistakes, so don’t be afraid to block a few fireballs and choose your shots. If you try and attack too often, you’ll probably eat a Tiger Uppercut which he can combo into his Ultra.
The home version of Street Fighter IV, which will be the first version of Street Fighter IV for many World Warriors in North America, has a bunch of new characters. Did Capcom have to rebalance the game to fit them in?
The arcade game was designed with a plan for more characters on console from the start, but tweaks were made throughout the development to try and accommodate the changes. Overall, however, the game balance really has more to do with making each individual character “all they can be” than with worrying about an overall ranking chart.
Characters with a lot of interesting and unique options are fun to play even if they have challenges in certain fights—and those challenges are a big part of what gives Street Fighter such a strong personality. The aim was to create a game in which the stronger player wins, regardless of character choice, and so far the results have been fantastic. There are stronger and weaker characters, sure, but no one has severe mismatches, and despite Dhalsim’s apparently low ranking, a Dhalsim player just won the Japanese national SFIV tournament!
Images courtesy of Capcom.