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.

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