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SSF4 Arcade Edition Tips for Beginners (Part 1)
Here Comes a New Challenger!
I first got into Street Fighter around the age of 9 when I got the SNES as a birthday present. At that time it was the game I used to play with a few of my friends and looking back on it now it was essentially a button mashfest. We knew some basic moves but at 9 years old we just enjoyed playing it and myself and my friends were all equally good at mashing buttons so won about 50% of the time!
Fast forward to 2009 and Street Fighter 4 was released. This was a big thing. It was a massive graphical overhaul, had a great sense of style and for the first time you could play online against players throughout the world. I played against the computer a few times and thought I’d give online a go to showcase my skills. After all, if I can beat the computer at a decent difficulty how hard can real people be? I. Got. Destroyed. It showed me how misguided I was in my own ability but more importantly it showed how there was knowledge out there that I just didn’t know about which would greatly help my own game. The long journey started, I learnt a hell of a lot and at my highest level I managed to get to ranked 7th online in Europe. This guide is therefore to help people who (like me in 2009) may not be aware of the many subtleties of the game which I am sure will help with your own development. Some of the basic strategies can also be applied to other fighting games also. For the sake of this guide I’ll be using Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition as the main reference point. It’s the most up-to-date version currently available. I’m also assuming you have played a little before so I won’t go into details on what buttons do what...really tips, tricks and insight I have picked up.
Choosing your Character
Picking your character and who you want to specialise using is a tough choice. Do you just pick one character and use them completely so you know them inside out or do you pick 2 or 3 that you’ll use? My advice would be to pick one character and stick with them. The reason for this is that focussing more on one character allows you to understand them in a fuller way and as each character plays differently it stops you having to learn 2 or 3 sets of moves and the character intricacies that come with this. Better to be great with one character than so-so with 3. As you get more accustomed to fighting you may want to pick a character than you know is generally stronger than your opponents to counter them. I.e. if you know someone always picks Sakura then picking a bad matchup character like Sagat or Ibuki would be a good option.
When picking your character try them all out first. Find the character that suits your playing style as some are more suited to certain strategies than others – some are best played aggressively (rushdown characters like Sakura or Abel), others specialise in zoning (Dhalsim, Akuma) and others you can play more defensively (Guile, Blanka). You play to your characters strengths - you can try to make Dhalsim a rushdown character but his abilities are simply much stronger and suited to attacking from far away. Zangief for example is a grappler and needs to be up close to do real damage, but when he is close that life bar can disappear faster than you would imagine. He is risky to play because he is at a disadvantage to a lot of characters with projectile abilities BUT has some great moves to stop people when they are close, including very damaging throws or the spinning lariat. These moves have a higher priority which means if you are using a move at close range against the lariat 9 times out of 10 at the start of the moves frames the lariat will win. For this reason keeping Zangief far away is crucial.
You may think that each character has the same life bar and the same chance of winning. In essence this is true to a point BUT there are 2 things to consider. 1. All characters have the same physical length of life bar but they degrade at different rates – Their stamina is different. In essence Sakura’s life bar would go down quicker than Zangief’s because Zangief has higher stamina. It’s something the game does a bad job of telling you and had to find this out – not all characters are created equal. Different characters are also made dizzy in different lengths of time. Generally the higher their stamina the longer it will take to stun them. Full stamina and stun ratings can be found here for reference - http://www.eventhubs.com/guides/2008/oct/05/stamina-stun-dash-and-jump-rankings-street-fighter-4/. Event hubs is a great resource to help you understand more about the game and is a great starting point for fledgling fighters.
2. There are analytical lists called Tier lists which categorise the ‘best’ character in the game. This is measured on movesets, stamina, walk speed, throw range, stun rating and based on data from thousands of arcade battles. The list is more of a guide than a definitive ‘My character will win every time’ but is useful for beginners to give them some insight on which character they may have more difficulty with than others. Again, here is a useful link to the list. http://www.eventhubs.com/guides/2008/oct/17/street-fighter-4-tiers-character-rankings/
The other thing to consider is if you want a character that performs special moves with simple inputs immediately (Ryu, Dhalsim) or a charge character meaning you have to hold the directional button longer for a few seconds before it can be performed. Guile, Balrog and Blanka are examples of charge characters.
Focus, Focus, Focus
When I started I didn’t use Focus attacks much as you don’t ‘need’ them as such to be able to play the game but are worth learning the best times to use them and can make certain matchups more bearable.
I find focussing especially useful against projectile characters who are trying to keep you away. You can absorb any 1 hit projectile move ie normal Hadouken, normal Fireball, normal Sonic Boom. This allows you to dash forward and build up ground against a character who is trying to keep you away. The other bonus to focussing projectiles is that it builds your revenge meter for ‘free’ as long as you time the focus right and don’t get hit while you life refills itself. It can be risky but it’s a solid way to show your opponent you know what you’re doing and they will often rethink their strategy. You can also focus certain moves that absorb a hit. Blocking Guiles low double kick and focusing the 2nd hit is an example.
Focussing when a character is down as a trap is another useful tip. This is called baiting a move. Show them that you are planning to focus attack and then back dash at the last minute. Used occasionally this works well against characters with an armour breaking move such as Ryu or Ken’s Dragon Punch and they’ll be open to receive some punishing (an armour breaking move is a move that breaks through the armour you receive when focussing. Blanka’s horizontal ball is armour breaking for instance).
I’ve realised how much there is to write about this now and may follow up with another update. If there are any suggestions from anyone as to an element they need help with, a problem they have then feel free to drop me a question or comment and I’ll try and help if I can. Hopefully you now know a few tricks and tips you didn’t before you read this article.