explaining the mechanics that Sway the outcome of every bout
if you’ve ever wondered why some people passionately prefer Street Fighter
Alpha 3 to its predecessor, or why players of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike didn’t necessarily get on well with Street Fighter IV to start with, it’s usually because of the fighting mechanics. As a basic example, consider throw attacks. Introduced in Street Fighter II, they allowed a player to inflict a damaging attack on blocking player – thus reducing the viability of defending your way to a time out victory. But from Street Fighter III onwards it’s possible to ‘tech’ throws, reducing damage or even cancelling the throw entirely with an appropriately timed input – thus limiting the usefulness of such moves.
By tweaking the abilities and options available to players in this way, Capcom can dramatically change the way games feel. “It changes a lot just because it makes the meta different,” explains Justin Wong, a professional fighting game player. “If there was parry, you have to think twice in using long-range normals, if there is focus attack you have to think about how to break the opponent’s focus attack since it can absorb one hit. Each different game mechanic changes the meta and also changes the tier list as well.”
Of course, Street Fighter II’S defining mechanic famously originated as an unintended side effect of another system. The ability to cancel the animation of a normal attack into a special move, creating a combo, was accidentally added when the developers were making special moves easier to pull off but was considered interesting enough to include in the final game. Landing combos has become key to maximising your offensive opportunities over the years, and those simple origins are far behind us. “Street Fighter’s combo system evolved a lot,” says Justin. “Back in the day there was no combo count but now there is, so people can see what is a combo and what is not a combo. It also changed a lot with juggles, using the game mechanics to extend combos to make them longer.”
Street Fighter Alpha introduced a mixture of mechanics that enhanced both offensive and defensive options. The one that symbolises this balance most effectively is the air guard – although it’s an extra blocking option, it’s one that makes aggressive moves like jumping towards the opponent much safer. Likewise, the Alpha Counter allowed players to turn defence into attack, burning one segment of your super meter to hit an opponent in response to a blocked attack. Escape rolls also ensured that your opponent couldn’t always predict where you’d be standing when you got up from being knocked down. Street Fighter Alpha 2 added the devastating Custom Combo, a DIY super move that could inflict huge damage, and Street Fighter Alpha 3 allowed you to use Guard Crush to punish players that blocked too much.
Street Fighter III: The New Generation added a variety of new movement options that significantly increased the scope for aggressive play. For the first time, a double tap of the joystick forwards or backwards allowed the player to dash in the appropriate direction, closing distance quickly. By flicking the stick downwards prior to jumping, you can perform a super jump, covering additional distance. Hitting
down when knocked down would also cause a quick stand, throwing off your opponent’s attack timing and allowing you to get straight back into the fray. And then there’s the parry – a curiously aggressive defensive move. By pushing the stick towards the opponent in time with their strike, you can nullify damage and recover before them to launch your own attack. 2nd Impact introduced EX moves, powerful variants of certain regular special moves that cost super meter to use.
If all that aggression rubbed you up the wrong way, the Street Fighter IV series was probably more to your taste. The Focus Attack was a powerful new ability that allowed players to absorb an attack and deliver a devastating strike in response – one which would induce the new ‘crumple’ state, in which the enemy is falling but still vulnerable to attack. The Ultra Combo was also introduced – a secondary super gauge which charged only upon receiving damage, allowing for some extraordinary comebacks. The pendulum has swung back, with Street Fighter V adding V Triggers and V Skills, character-specific abilities that skew towards aggressive play, as well as Crush Counters that allow players to carry on combos after countering a weaker attack with a strong attack. However, defensive characters aren’t as disadvantaged in competition as players initially believed, and that’s the beauty of Street Fighter’s mechanical depth – it can take years to fully work out what’s going on and how best to work within a given game’s rules.
» [Arcade] Parrying became a defining trait of the Street Fighter III series of games.
» [Arcade] Sagat punishes Ken for a mistimed aerial attack with a devastating uppercut.
» [Arcade] Use a mix of high, mid and low attacks to keep your opponent guessing.