Welcome, everyone! This has been by far the most difficult piece of the puzzle in my brand new journey to becoming a Street Fighter player. This will affect almost everyone who picks up this game, whether you’re coming from a Marvel background like myself, 3d fighters, anime fighters, smash, or even prior SF titles. No matter what you may have heard, SFV is not a simple title, nor is it easy to excel at. While at first try the simplified execution, smaller cast, and return to traditional SF fundamentals do a great job of easing a player into the experience, one quickly finds that the complexity in SFV runs deep.
As a Marvel player, I’m used to fighting for the one-and-done. If you take a hit in UMVC3, it will almost certainly lead to a dead character, awarding the opponent with huge momentum on the incoming setup. At this point, you might have already lost the game. I play tight and careful with all my buttons, I keep a constant eye on all points of the screen, and try to take in as much information in front of me as I can all at once. I don’t want to get hit more than anything, because if I get hit, I might lose.
Playing Ken in SFV has been a drastic change in pace for me. With mechanics like advancing guard (being able to press two buttons on block to shove your opponent away) frame data was not a huge concern in Marvel 3. In V, frame data is everything. Canceling normals into specials is burned into my muscle memory, but in V, it’s a crippling habit. Canceling Ken’s cr.mp into fireball in the corner might seem like a safe way to fish for damage, but it is also turning a positive frame situation (cr.mp is +2 on block) into a highly negative one (hadouken is -8). I can feel my inexperience with frame data costing me up close, as my brain struggles and hesitates to decide which button best gives me pressure, giving my opponent crucial split seconds to escape or counter. On the reverse, my unfamiliarity with my opponent’s attacks leaves them unabated in their advance. I spend so much time second guessing myself that before I’ve even started to download my opponent or the match up, I’m still fighting with my own uncertainty. It costs me punishes, anti airs, optimal damage in my combos, whiffed meaties, almost too many things to name. This has become my most nagging flaw, and my square one for improvement.
For anyone who might be sharing this frustration, I’ll pass on some advice I received. If you’re struggling to transition from another game, or if this is your first fighting game in general, reduce your learning to the base. The philosophy of Street Fighter is not terribly complex, although it is difficult to master. The game is about frames, habits, and hedging your bets. In many ways, it is a game of reduction. Patience and thoughtfulness are rewarded heavily in SF. Contrary to the one-and-done style of Marvel 3, SF matches are home to a series of clashes. Each clash presents data about the opponent and their habits. Each clash can represent a swing in the match, a turn of momentum. At times, I feel nervous that my momentum may be lost without a push for offense or pressing buttons, as I might get if I sat still for too long in UMVC3. I rush ahead and panic, leaving myself open to reads and punishes. That is where I am trying to transform. From the bottom, I have to create a Street Fighter mindset. I have to reduce and make my button presses count. I have to find my patience, and my composure, so that when a situation goes sour I don’t feel like the game is lost.
EG Momochi has been my player to watch so far. If you’re an aspiring Ken main, I recommend doing the same. Start here and try to watch how Momochi uses his buttons to help create patterns in his opponent and train them. Watch and see how he isn’t wasteful in neutral. In reduction, he finds time to react. I’ll leave the video below. Good luck!