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Understanding How Street Fighter is Played


Before I begin, this blog is dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, which is today. Since then, it has spawned several updates (Champion Edition, Turbo Hyper Fighting, Super, Super Turbo, Hyper), sequels and prequels (Alpha series, SF3 series, SF4 series, and the upcoming SF5), crossovers (vs. Marvel, vs. SNK, vs. Tatsunoko, vs. Tekken), and many more. Happy 25th Anniversary to the fighting game that set a new standard in competitive gaming. 

Now, onto the blog!

As you guys already know, I play a lot of fighting games, mostly 3D and sometimes 2D. I mean, my blogs on Destructoid are chock-full of them. I mostly talk about the competitive aspects of fighting games because I want to give my knowledge to the casual/new players. But, I’ll explain more on the reasoning later on a different blog.

I’ll be honest with everyone else on here: I am not that good in 2D fighters, mostly when it came to Street Fighter. Back then, I had no idea on what cancels are, how to do combos, didn’t know jack about footies and meaty moves, etc. Hell, if you watched my first local tournament experience, you can tell how bad I played back when I was 17 years old and new to the competitive scene. I was the Ken player.

But, as I learned by watching how other players play the game and actually playing the game myself, I am starting to get a better understanding on how Street Fighter is played. There were quite a number of things that I learned when playing Street Fighter as a whole, and it made me reflect on what I’ve done in the past. Not to mention, I used these methods when I am playing 3D fighters like DOA, VF, Tekken, and SoulCalibur as a whole.

In order for me to get a better understanding at how Street Fighter is played, I had to remember a couple of things…

Be Patient

When I played Street Fighter (and every fighter in particular), I had this one mentality that always made me lose because of it. That mentality is when you try to attack your opponent head-on, without blocking. In other words, beat him before time runs out. When that happens, I don’t last more than 10-15 seconds in a match.

Playing patient is a must when you are playing any fighting game in particular. There’s nothing wrong with using footsies (aka pokes, spacing, whiff punishment, etc.). For those that don’t know what footsies is, it is basically the concept of playing a mid-range ground game outside of combo range. Don’t worry if other players are accusing you for turtling and being cheap. You have to think about what you are going to do before you are going to do it. Your goal is to control the flow of the match, capitalize on baiting your opponent’s mistake, and punish his unsafe moves. That leads into the second thing…

Frame Data

I’ve talked about frame data before in a previous blog. It took me until playing DOA5 to get a better understanding on how to read frame data. There are a couple of things that you have to understand about reading frame data, and that is…

  • Startup Frames - How many frames that must be passed before the attack becomes active. (For example: Laura’s cr.MP has a 5-frame startup. Chun-Li’s c.MP has a 10-frame startup. Which move will go out first? The answer is Laura’s cr.MP.)
  • Active Frames - They are based on how many frames are active during the attack.
  • Recovery Frames - How many frames must pass before the character returns to his idle animation after the attack.
  • Frame Advantage - Determines how much the attack is based on hit and block. You need to determine three things when it comes to frame advantage:
    • What move is safe on block
    • What move is semi-safe on block
    • What move is unsafe on block

Frame data will save your life. It will save you for saying “How did that hit me?”. When playing, always be mindful of what move you throw out because it will be a higher risk if you throw out an unsafe move. And if your opponent throws out an unsafe move, please punish it. This gif below explains it best.

Jump Less, Walk/Dash More

If you played Street Fighter (or any other 2D fighter such as the KOF series), you would know that jumping into your opponent was a way to get closer. It may sound convenient at first, but in reality it isn’t. Jumping to your opponent isn’t usually a good idea because you will get hit with an anti-air move, whether it is a normal, special, or in some cases: a super. It has happened to me on several occasions in the past.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying jumping is bad. I’m just saying that jumping towards your opponent excessively is just a one way ticket to get hit. The more you do that, the more you will eat a Shoryuken.

Walking and dashing are your safest bets while making an advance to your opponent. It pretty much goes back to the patient play that I was talking about earlier. So yea… STOP JUMPING.

Doing Combos

Combos in 2D fighters mostly relies on cancels, links, and chains. What’s the difference between the three, you ask? Well, links are done when the hit-stun is long enough from one move to another (which means you have to wait until the first move’s animation ends first). Chains are done when specific normal moves cancel into each other. Cancels are when you stop the animation of that one move to go into another. Here are some things that you need to know…

  • When doing links, you can’t be too fast or too slow with the buttons. Your timing on the button press must be on point or else it won’t register.
  • You must have a good muscle memory when doing combos. Go into training mode and practice one combo several times until you get it down packed. Don’t just practice the combo one time and say that you can do it in a match.

I’ll be honest with you guys: I suck at doing combos in Street Fighter when I first started out playing the game with a competitive mindset. I didn’t know how to cancel moves, and I didn’t understand how to do links. But I did get a clear understanding behind it. And last, but not least...

Focus More on Learning

It’s no secret: everyone wants to win at Street Fighter. But here’s where the problem lies: most players focus on only winning and less on learning. When they lose, they can get salty and say “fuck this game, I’m gonna play (insert fighter)”. I’ve seen cases of that happening, and I really find it sad to be honest. I don’t see much people thinking about the actual reason why they lost their match. Instead, they would say “I lost to a (insert character) player because of total bullshit!”

What bullshit are you talking about? You mean when you jumped into an anti-air attack, knowing that your opponent knew that you were going to do that? Or when his move beat out your move due to frame startup? Maybe it’s because you threw an unsafe move and he threw you. Right now, you are pretty much doing this on a forum...

When you lose, take it as a learning experience on why you lost that match. Figure out on what you did wrong and what could you have done next time so that you can make sure that it will never happen again. You can focus on winning, but also focus on learning at the same time. Have some balance.

Another thing that I want to bring up is how people get hyped for a character based on what they see on their gameplay trailer. But when the game comes out and they lose with that character, they will have a sudden change of heart. They would go from “Instant main 10/10” to “This character sucks!”. I’m not gonna lie, we have all done it before and it happens all the time. Hell, I did it too in the past.

When I played the Street Fighter V Beta, I ended up liking Laura and decided to pick her up because of how she reminded me a bit of Abel. I tried her out in training mode so that I can get an idea of how she played. Based on the replays that I uploaded, I ended up finding my main along with Chun-Li (who I've used in SF4 and SF3).

If you are that serious on maining that character, put some time and effort into him/her. Hit the lab if you want to learn more on him/her.


Now that I look back at how I played Street Fighter now compared to how I played back in 2009 when I started out in one local tournament, I treated it like a learning experience. While Dead or Alive and Virtua Fighter are my main games, it made me get a better understanding on how Street Fighter is played. I am ready for Street Fighter V and I am ready to build my knowledge when I play these matches.

Before I end this blog, I have a couple things to say. Final Round 19 is coming up in March, and three important things will be taking place over at Atlanta, Georgia: Capcom Pro Tour with Street Fighter V, Battle Royal 2016 with Dead or Alive 5 Last Round, and the first American playtest for Tekken 7: Fated Retribution.

Until then... Keep training, fighters!

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About Virtua Kazamaone of us since 12:55 PM on 07.05.2014

Twitch Affiliate, Let's Player, FGC player, and the host of Virtua Fighter Takeover. I play games: mostly fighters, platformers, beat em' ups, Japanese, Retro, and Modern.

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