My most played game this year, Street Fighter IV, has been out on consoles for some months already and with Evo right around the corner next month, I will give my own version of how to become a little more serious player than someone playing it for kicks and giggles. So here's some general protips of how to be more competitive especially against the top players.
- Execute Execute Execute!!!! - When it comes down to games like this, it is all about execution first and without that, you'll go nowhere. Make sure to practice up combos and strategies as the more you do them, you'll likely perform them consistently. Even the simplest of combos and moves require practice which could take hours, days, or weeks to perform on a consistent basis. Some good execution warmup combos are Ryu and Sagat's Shoryuken and Tiger Uppercut, Focus Dash Cancel to Ultra combos as well as Balrog's Buffalo Headbutt to Ultra. I still have a hard time nailing these consistently especially Balrog's bread and butter combo with the charging and such, but these exercises provide good execution practice. Basically, execution is arguably the most important thing to learn in this game and more important than winning.
- Patience matters - The best players are usually the ones with the most patience utilizing the full game clock rather than trying to beat them up quickly. Take your time and once you have the opportunity to capitalize on an opponent's mistake, take full advantage of it punishing with a high percentage combo, or an ultra if the situation comes. Don't force yourself to the open if you're trailing in the match by health, your time will eventually come and if you have to turtle to wait for your opponent to mess up, do it.
- Spacing & Zoning are key - Distance between you and your opponent are pretty key in certain match situations. Sometimes, being the perfect distance away like sweeping distance for charge characters will keep them guessing for possible footsies and poking opportunities. Characters with projectiles like Ryu and Sagat can deal great zoning with fireballs drawing people to jump in and get punished for it. It might be a cheap strategy for some folks who don't know what to do of characters fireballing all day long, but it is a strategy that works especially at the right distance and proven successful for some top players in this game.
- Meter management - Having the right amount of meter also plays a big role in matches that players would reconsider their plan of attack when someone has three or four EX bars ready. There are characters out there that totally rely on meter specifically to perform tougher combos like Rufus's EX Messiah Kick, Chun-Li, and others. Players with no meter feel limited with what to do before building it back up again, so that's a good opportunity to strike. Certain characters can build meter on safe like Bison's Devil Reverse and others with projectiles across the screen at a safe distance. Usually wasting all meter on a super is not a good idea if you have your revenge meter built up, but some characters don't rely on EX moves as their super works well with their game like Zangief and Dhalsim. Revenge meter also plays a role especially when the match wines down because someone can make a comeback with a maximum damage ultra. Managing meter can separate the best and the worst as wasting it can lead to mistakes.
- Expect anything - In Street Fighter IV, anything can happen and nothing is ever formulaic when playing matches. Be prepared to expect the best or worst out of everybody. Don't get caught up in random Ultras especially on wakeup because some players would get desperate to use their Ultra praying that it hits for a victory. Also, be prepared to expect reckless play especially online against flowchart Kens and also my latest frustrating character to fight against, Cammy. Cammy in particular can be annoying to face as her Cannon Spike has too much priority at times. Usually its best is wait for her to whiff out Spiral Arrows and Cannon Spikes to then capitalize on their mistake. Then again, sometimes if reckless play is actually working like in this clip below, then hey it works if your opponent can't punish.
- Learn the character matchups - Street Fighter IV is all about matchups and who has the advantage over the other. Learning your character's advantages and weaknesses against certain characters can lead to victory especially counterpicking who your opponent picked. Most matchups are usually lopsided like Bison over Zangief, Sagat over Honda, and so on, but definitely still winnable for the character on the losing end of the matchup. Even if you picked the wrong character that doesn't favor your end, don't give up and maybe you can still pull off a win if your opponent can't take advantage of it.
- Don't try to be someone else, establish your own playstyle - Usually watching match videos on YouTube or watching people at the arcades, it can be easy to replicate their playstyle to your own, but sometimes that's not the best idea. You can't be exactly the same as someone like Justin Wong or Gootecks, so it is better to establish your own identity in the Street Fighter scene with your playstyle that fits you. Don't try to be someone else, but it would likely get you nowhere. It is still okay to get help from the best, but playing the exact style as them is probably not going to happen. Try to be your own player even though you can still get advice from the elite players.
- Most importantly, play to win... no need to be flashy and show off smack talking to your opponent - At the end of the day, you play to win and you will do whatever it takes to take victory from your opponent. There is no need to be flashy performing crazy combos even though it can provide some entertainment to the crowds, but just getting the job done is good enough. Whether you play a style of rushdown, old school Super Turbo style, or turtling, the win and loss is what counts at the end and even though winning is a sweet feeling, losing is something you will expect lots and if you're willing to learn what you did wrong making the right adjustments, you'll become a better player. Don't expect yourself to win every match you compete in as being perfectionist especially in this game, will never happen. I think Street Fighter legend Alex Valle said this the best from his Twitter in which you have one round to win the whole match and figure out your opponent. After that, it comes down to whether or not you made the right adjustments to do better. Also, you don't need to be a show off trash talking at your opponent especially if you have a big ego. If you can't back up your smack talk, then why talk trash at all to your opponent. Honor and respect the game by shaking your opponent's hand after victory or defeat. You don't need to be a thug to win, but if you can back up your smack talk and win, then go ahead and do it.
Well, I hope this hopes this helps some people out there that want to take their Street Fighter IV game to the next level than just another casual player. SF4 is still a great game and currently the hot thing going for competitive gaming these days, but these are general protips to consider when playing. Of course, if you want more in-depth strategy like character specifics, using the focus attack wisely, and frame data of all the moves, check out Shoryuken.com and Gootecks's website gootecks.com for his podcast among other stuff.
Anyway STREET FIGHTER FO!!!