Hit The Ground Running #3: The Next 8 Fighters

 An article series by Jay "Viscant" Snyder.  

This week we're going to look at the last 8 characters to be introduced to Street Fighter 5.  These characters were all first introduced into playable builds later on than the first set we looked at so there are naturally fewer changes to analyze.  Still all of them but FANG have been introduced and tinkered with a bit so there's a little bit of a trail to follow and something to learn.  In the cases of the characters with fewer changes I'll add in some general observations so they don't feel too left out.

Just like with the first 8 characters, I'm going into this assuming Capcom is smart.  Not all of the changes may work out in the end but I'm going to assume they're all well thought out and done for a reason.  Let's get started.


Vega

Vega's been a tricky character to balance due to the stance change mechanic.  Unlike with previous stance change characters like Gen, the goal for SF5 was to make Vega not just a different character with his claw on and claw off but also not dramatically better in one stance or the other.  At least for the earlier versions of the game this didn't work out quite as intended, with claw off being the preferred Vega stance.  Many Vega players weren't using the claw very much, and some like Graham Wolfe would just take the claw off at the start of the match and never use it at all.

So when you look at changes from the second public beta onwards, you start to notice that the changes seem to be better for the claw stance than for barehanded.  For example after the second public beta, his v-trigger was changed to also hit crouching characters.  While the change affects both stances, the claw on stance gets a bigger benefit.  Claw on Vega is better suited to fish with low strong and towards fierce into v-trigger.  If Vega's holding full v-trigger and full super meter with the claw on, he can take 50% off the opponent off almost any poke, jumpins, really anything, very similar to SF4 Gen.

The change to the short roll is another change that affects both stances but seems to be a little bit better for claw on than claw off.  After the second public beta, the short roll was changed from -4 on block to -6.  So for situations where Vega isn't quite sure whether the roll will combo cleanly or not, it's in his best interest to not even try it.  You could get away with some blocked rolls at -4 but -6 is pushing your luck.  Claw on has the better of this change since he can finish questionable strings either with standing strong or strong aurora spin edge (which doesn't combo but is very safe on block), while barehanded Vega is left in a shakier situation.

Another example of a change hurting barehanded Vega more is the change to the standing short.  Vega lost 1 frame of hit advantage on his standing short after the second public beta, with the move changing from +5 to +4.  But this change hurts the claw off form more.  He loses the ability to link standing short to low strong, losing 50-75 damage on a basic confirm.  This also affects his tick into command throw game by reducing the risk-reward on his best tick normal making a minor 1 frame nerf into something that can affect the entire gameplan.

The change to low fierce hurts the barehanded stance slightly more also. The hitbox on the normal was changed after the second public beta generally weakening Vega's anti-air game, making him have to choose between multiple options.  But with the claw on he has fierce aurora spin edge, a better jump back fierce, a better low fierce and the held v-skill with claw on can be somewhat effective for anti-air.

That's not to say that all is bad for the claw off stance as it's still arguably a little bit better than the claw on version. Claw off usually has access to more damaging combos.  Compare a basic hit confirm.  Off low forward, claw on can get low forward, low jab into EX wall dive against standing characters, or low forward, low jab into short roll against crouching characters.  But with claw off he can get low forward, target combo into EX wall dive against standing characters or low forward, low strong into forward roll against crouching characters.  In both cases the damage difference is noticeable.

On that note, you may notice that Vega's combos are almost always different against standing and crouching.  This is a deliberate design decision regarding the EX wall dive.  The angle he takes going forward to the wall is a steeper angle than SF4, making it almost always whiff against crouchers.  Capcom has stated that they wanted choosing between different combos at your disposal to be a bigger part of SF5 than SF4 and Vega's a good example of this.

But if wall dive is only a situational combo ender, what else is it for?  If you watched the Churning the Butter tournament after the Mad Catz V Cup, you would have seen Graham Wolfe using barehanded EX wall dive in neutral.  Also given that crush counter slide gives a hard knockdown, against characters without any legitimate wakeup options like Bison, he can use the wall dive as somewhat of a pressure tool, giving him a throw option and left-right mixup that he can combo out of while barehanded.  I'm not sure either of these uses will hold up long term; UltraDavid has already put out a video showing that using EX wall dive against Zangief in neutral is almost always going to lead to air EX SPD.  But the move seems clearly designed to have more uses outside of combos than SF4 so it's up to the player to see exactly what they can get away with.

More importantly it's also up to the player to explore both stances more fully.  Capcom briefly nerfed the stance change mechanic during the first Dhalsim build, making standing fierce into stance change double digit negative on block.  This only lasted in one build before they changed it back immediately.  The change back implies that both stances should be used fluidly together instead of relying on one or the other even if most players I've seen on streams so far are still just using their favorite.  These people are getting great results so far just using half the character, imagine how good he's going to be when people put it all together.


R.Mika

There's no real ambiguity when it comes to the Mika changes.  The character received a major overhaul after the second public beta and you can fit almost all the important changes in one sentence.  If she used it to get in, it got worse.  The major changes with this character all revolve around one specific range, the edge of her poke range and slightly extended.  

The most obvious change and the one that everyone first noticed was the change to her charged roundhouse kick, the dropkick.  In the second public beta Mika could link to standing strong and get various followups from there.  But from the third public beta onwards, the hit advantage was greatly reduced so the best she can get is the short-strong target combo into shooting peach.  This is more than a damage related nerf, it also weakens her tick throwing game.  It seemed a little unwarranted since this was a very comprehensive nerf for a move that most characters already had an answer to.  

Some of the other changes are even harder to understand.  The fierce version of the shooting peach had a specific range where it could be positive on block.  They changed that move so that no range exists (that we've found so far) where the move is positive on block and it's much easier to hit at a range where the move is extremely negative on block, as bad as -11.  This nerf felt like using a brick to swat a fly because the counter to the shooting peach was to just move out of that one specific range, forward, backwards, neutral jump, really anything but stand there.  Combined with the dropkick nerf, the message is clear.  Mika just isn't allowed to bypass the neutral from that extended range.  She has to earn her way in.

So it was even more disappointing to Mika players when the buttons that they use to earn their way in were weakened.  Her crouching forward had its hurtbox extended upwards.  This button was excellent in the second public beta, able to low profile shoto fireballs even in blockstrings.  The standing forward had its hitbox adjusted also, making it not quite as good as an entry poke.  Still the best she has at that range but not as good as when the character was first introduced.  

And in a nerf that's actually worse than most people realize, the target combo was changed from -2 on block to -5 on block, making it likely to be punished at virtually all ranges, even at the tip.  I noticed people getting away with this on streams but it's more due to match inexperience and unfamiliarity than anything else.  This change forces Mika to use more low short based confirms which serves to both lower her damage and lower tick effectiveness.  Capcom wants Mika players to embrace the struggle in neutral.

But in close, she managed to keep most of her tricks.  Her passion press, the irish whip, was nerfed in the third public beta to a point where the move didn't function midscreen.  The opponent would fall down before hitting the edge of the screen, not allowing a combo followup.  This change was removed in the final beta, making the passion press work much more like it did originally.  This serves to keep her damage high off a successfully connected standing strong at most all screen positions, a welcome change.  The one major followup of passion press that was permanently removed was the ability to cross under on a low fierce creating not just a strike-throw mixup but also a left-right mixup.

But left-right mixup isn't taken out completely.  She retains the ability to cross under the opponent in and around corners with the towards fierce into low strong setup.  It's not as ambiguous as the previous low fierce version but for a grappler any crossunder at all is a very valuable tool.  The towards fierce in general was buffed from the third public beta onwards as it's now +3 on block, a really big number for a grappler.  Given that it leads to her best possible reset opportunity, Capcom seems to be pushing this button on Mika players as a replacement for some of her previous options.

The main question with Mika is how she's going to handle the neutral with almost all of her important tools nerfed.  Capcom left her extremely strong in close and didn't touch any of her Nadeshiko based ticks or combos even when people cried out to have them nerfed.  If the player can get in repeatedly and get to close range, Mika seems to be one of the scariest characters in the game.  It's just a question of how that's going to work against top level footsies.


Rashid

I feel like Rashid is explicit proof that Capcom used the beta tests as an intelligence gathering exercise.  He's been one of the least played characters out of the 15 that have been playable so far and up until the final beta he'd received the fewest major changes.  Either Capcom felt that they completely nailed the character (unlikely) or they just didn't have enough information to work with.

For example from his introduction up to the third public beta the biggest thing he lost was the ability to do an EX divekick from a neutral jump and that's a universal nerf, affecting Cammy and Ken as well.  For character specific things, he lost crush counter fierce into roundhouse whirlwind and the second hit of towards strong didn't cancel into v-trigger anymore but other than that it was just minor frame related changes.  His changelist up until the final beta read like there just wasn't enough information available.  

He is one of the only characters to receive a somewhat major change between the third public beta and the final beta with a change to his whirlwind shots.  The most interesting thing about the character is that whenever he interacts with wind effects it changes his movement giving him access to angles that other characters don't have.  So in the third beta on hit he could do standing fierce into EX whirlwind shot, cancel to v-skill and then neutral jump.  The EX whirlwind shot would still be there and carry Rashid a short distance and his neutral jump forward would become a crossup.  The setup got even dirtier in situations somewhat near corners where fake crossups would come into play and he always had empty land into throw, empty land into low, etc.

For the final beta though, the wind effects seem to dissipate differently.  The frame data on all relevant moves involved in the mixup is identical from the third public beta, to PAX build, to the final beta as near as I can tell, but something changed regarding the duration of the projectile itself that made some of the wind riding setups either work differently or not work at all.

Going into the full release figuring out exactly what we can salvage from these setups is priority number one.  This one particular setup may have changed but it may still be possible to get others like it.  When I get my hands on the final version I'm going to look at as many combinations of whirlwind shots as I can think of, trying to find opportunities to ride the wind.

Looking at other Rashid tools, it seems like Capcom is anticipating that the character will have up close pressure that's hard to deal with.  We know that his towards roundhouse is a useful corpse hop.  And we know that his damage off a low short is ridiculously low; the low short, stand jab into fully mashed LP spinning mixer confirm won't even break 100.  Clearly his damage is limited due to fear of his mobility.  But can he get the same kind of wind riding mixups without burning v-trigger?

Going forward if this character is going to be a top character, he needs to have more consistent ways to make the opponent miss a block.  The way people are playing the character right now is simply not sustainable.  I feel like a lot of online players think that jab spinning mixer is positive on block and a pressure tool when it's actually -2 as long as there are no wind effects in play.  It's possible to get it to neutral on block with favorable wind but that's more trouble than it's worth.  Same with the towards strong, it's a staple in online Rashid pressure but it's also -2.  The airborne eagle spikes are almost always punishable, even if people aren't punishing them for now.  It would be great if all of his third beta wind riding setups were still in but if they're not, Rashid players need to make new ones.  Wind riding was the part of his game that had the most long term growth potential; if he doesn't have that in the final game, he's just not the same character we thought he was.


Karin

Speaking of online players getting away with murder, here's Karin!  I see Karin as two separate characters.  There's the shenanigans Karin and the footsies Karin.  I see a lot of complaining about the wrong one.  Footsies Karin is right up there with Chun-Li in the race for day 1 top tier.  But people online complained about shenanigans Karin in the betas.  

Most of what shenanigans Karin has is way worse than people think.  The short mujinkyaku (chicken kick) is actually -5 on block and given that occasionally the second hit will whiff against crouching opponents, in real play it's sometimes worse than that.  I've seen a lot of people claim that it's a mixup between the short version and the forward version that ends in an overhead but that's not true.  The exact same timing you would use to jab punish the short version will interrupt the forward version.  So there actually is no mixup and no safe pressure at all surrounding this move.  

It's the same with the ressenha (overhead strike) and two followups.  No version of this move is better than -4 on block (-6 for jab, -5 for strong, -4 for fierce) and the slide or grab followup doesn't come out fast enough to interrupt your punish as long as you're using the right normal.  So again, there's actually no mixup on this assuming you make the first block.  You don't need to make a read or evaluate your punish, the same one works for any version with any followup.  If you're using a shoto for uppercut punish or Chun-Li for jab punish, you don't even have to be on time.  The only truly safe special Karin has is the orochi (shoulder tackle), which is -2 on block.  Everything else can be and should be punished.

And footsies Karin is so good that basically none of this matters.  Her poking game with low forward, standing forward and standing roundhouse is so solid that she can get by without relying on any risky shenanigans and still have a solid gameplan. Capcom attempted to nerf her pokes a little bit in the final beta by adjusting the hurtboxes but the change doesn't seem dramatically noticeable.  In the second and third public betas, her hurtboxes would actually move away during the retraction of the normal making whiff punishing her standing forward and standing roundhouse a chore.  It's now slightly easier to whiff punish her but still very difficult because she pokes from ranges that most characters don't have.

As for major nerfs, she lost the ability to chain from her low short, but low short became cancellable in return.  This is a pretty significant nerf to her in close throw game.  She can still convert jabs into just frame tenko but if she's going to make an attempt to go low up close, she has to cancel to the short chicken kick on faith which is unsafe as talked about above.  

The biggest nerf she took in the beta process came after the second public beta where she lost the ability to cross under on EX orochi.  Previously she could standing strong into command dash and create an ambiguous left-right mixup that was almost impossible to react to.  The message is clear that footsies Karin and shenanigans Karin are to be kept separate.

So this make me look for opportunities to get any other kind of left-right mixup off of solid play.  The most obvious is standing fierce as anti-air into command dash and manually walk under, a more classical kind of cross under mixup.  The problem is that standing fierce is not really great anti-air in this game; she has to mix in jumping options, low fierce and EX ressenha.  But in situations that she can get away with it, it's a great tool to have.

Similarly she can create basic left-right based okizeme off of the tenko into mujinkyaku bread and butter juggle.  The tenko and just frame tenko launch at different heights and you can input the mujinkyaku at different times creating many different looks against all wakeup options.  In the second public beta she had a legitimate 4f safe jump against quick getup with this kind of setup.  Height related changes on just frame tenko eliminated the original safe jump setup but with so many different timings and so many characters with no true reversal, I find it hard to believe that a credible safe jump and/or a solid crossup situation aren't in there somewhere.  It's just up to the scientists to put in the work in the final version.  She already has the fundamentals to be a top character, if you can add safe pressure and/or safe left-right mixups, she's going to stay a top character.


Laura

Laura seems to be the recipient of what a lot of characters left behind in the balance process.  Like when Mika and Karin lost their ambiguous cross-under setups, I just assumed that entire style of mixup was officially discouraged by the game.  If we wanted cross-under left-right mixups they had to look differently.  But Laura has that.  Or when Ken and Birdie lost counterhit overhead into a full combo, I assumed that kind of mixup was out of the game and that Capcom didn't want normal overheads to be combo starters under any circumstance.  But now Laura has that also when they buffed her v-skill overhead in the final beta to be a crush counter.

The price for these goodies comes in the footsie game.  No character is more dependent on counter hits or hard reads than Laura and if anything they actually made it worse in the final beta by changing her sweep from -8 on block to -12.  It's an understandable change; a character with such a dangerous mixup game should be penalized when she goes fishing for a crush counter sweep and strikes out.

But beyond that it highlights how difficult it is for Laura to get started and to close from footsie range to mixup range.  When the character was introduced and the v-skill mechanic was explained, people assumed she would play a little bit like Abel, canceling normals into v-skill and getting in like Abel did with step kick in SF4.  The difference is that Abel is neutral after step kick and his tornado throws could beat strikes or other throws depending on which version he used.  As of the third public beta, on blocked normal to v-skill dash, Laura can't be any better than -2.  Standing strong to v-skill dash is -2.  Crouching fierce is -2.  Crouching strong is -3.  Crouching forward is -6.  For reference a blocked jab bolt charge is -2 also.   These numbers didn't seem to change in the final beta and likely won't in the final version. -2 seems to be the magic number for Laura; if you're going to take a YOLO approach to getting in, you'll be safe but at a disadvantage.  People were getting away with using this technique to get in during the final beta last weekend but it's going to have a short shelf life, the opponents will catch on eventually.

Also she has a difficult time confirming into damage off normals.  Her only low starting combo without a counter hit is low forward into jab bolt charge or low forward into critical art.  She has a 2 light confirm into jab bolt charge but other than that all her actual visual hit confirms require towards a fierce or a counter hit starter.  Standing strong doesn't link to crouching strong without a counter hit.  In a way this makes Laura feel a little incomplete.  Her combos don't look like other SF5 combos.  

If the character is going to be viable, she's going to have to make up for all these negatives with the reset situation.  Her EX thunderclap into normal into v-skill dash is probably the single best mixup in the game discovered so far.  A true 5 way mixup, with left high, left low, right high, right low and command throw all being represented off the same setup.  It's a setup so good that it's worth tweaking her counter hit confirms into the EX thunderclap even if other combos would do more damage.

She also got a somewhat significant buff in the final beta with her normal throw range being extended.  Her tick into normal throw game was overlooked since most people testing her out were concentrating more on tick into command throw but she has the normals to make walk based mixups work.  Her standing short is +3 on block, her standing strong is +3 on block and since standing strong is a good button to fish for counter hits with, anything that makes that normal scarier is a good thing.  Plus she gets better okizeme off a normal throw than most characters, still in range to go for a credible high/low/command throw mixup regardless of wakeup option.

In the end it seems like it's all going to come down to footsies.  She has so many great tools in close but how can she get started?  Current players are depending a lot on crush counter roundhouse and whiff punishing pokes with crouching forward into jab bolt charge to get in.  And those are good options but given their lack of range it's led to a somewhat shallow footsie game when she's outside of her preferred range.  That's going to be the difference between Laura as a gimmick and Laura as a frightening character.


Zangief

Zangief hasn't been in the game long enough to have very many changes.  The one he did get is gigantic and we'll get to that.  But to get a head start on SF5 Zangief it helps to understand Zangief's traditional role in new games.  It's become a Street Fighter trope that grapplers are always strong early on, relative to their eventual strength, but as far as Capcom games go, really that's just Zangief.  T.Hawk traditionally starts out weak and improves over time.  It took us 15+ years to learn to play him in ST.  Birdie is historically bad in the beginning of games (and intermediate stage, middle stage, endgame, etc.  SF5 Birdie is already the best Birdie ever by default).  There was never an Alex or Hugo early game boom period in the SF3 games they appeared in.  Zangief is different for 3 reasons.

Players are more likely to play Zangief correctly fresh out of the box than any other SF character.  The gameplan is not complicated.  Get in.  Drop them on their head.  That's it.  The line I usually use regarding Zangief in interviews is that he specializes in easy answers to otherwise complicated questions.  Screw your frame trap that you spent 3 weeks on, I'll piledrive that.  Eventually people will figure out the nuances of the game and play better footsies in time but Zangief players generally have the idea right fresh out of the gate.  Even if the character has combos (and often he really doesn't; for 7+ years we've been exposed to hit confirming SF4 Zangief when that's not how Zangief traditionally plays) going for a heavy piledriver or siberian suplex is never a bad decision.

Zangief is traditionally easier execution wise at the beginning of a new game than any other character.  This is a side effect of not having a lot of combos and important grappler mechanics cross over game to game.  Just personally, I've been doing the same 720 setups since Alpha 2.  Buffering the motion into a whiff, how to tick effectively, this stuff is always the same game to game.  The button you use to hide your motion changes, the tick button changes, the actual skill behind it stays the same.  Once a Zangief player learns the edge of his piledriver range and learns the frames on the buttons and any particular range extending tricks, they've mostly got that part of the grappling part of the game down for good.

But most importantly, playing against Zangief is different and engages different skills than playing against the rest of the cast.  Things that are safe against other characters are not safe against Zangief.  Either his piledriver is faster than other punish options or has longer range forcing you to change patterns that work well against the rest of the cast.  Historically Zangief is effective against air characters and divekick characters due to lariat, fast piledriver setup and a tall and wide hitbox.  And if you're going to be good against something in a Capcom game, being strong against divekicks is way up there on the list.  

To be even more specific, the early game period is basically defined by people not having full matchup knowledge and full mastery over their character.  When you can count on your opponents usually being bad against your character and your style, that's a big help in early tournaments.

So how does this translate over to SF5?  Given the short amount of time he's been available is it going to be business as usual with Zangief dominating early on?  Probably not.

For starters, Zangief is easier to play against in SF5 than he's been in earlier Street Fighter games and a lot of that has to do with the piledriver.  SF5 piledrivers are 5 frame startup with none of them having strike invincibility and only EX SPD being throw invulnerable.  Lariat is not all purpose anti-air either, Zangief has to choose between lariat, low fierce, jump straight up jab, jump up air piledriver and standing jab to cobble together anti-air, similar to how the rest of the cast handles the air game.  Also for basically the first time in main SF titles, Zangief can be pressured by standard blockstrings and frame traps since he can't SPD through.  Avoiding that part of the game is why I usually play this character in the first place!  If anything, given lariat's limitations, Zangief is more vulnerable to counter hit traps and pressure than many other characters.  This is huge.  

Also there's going to be a new learning curve execution wise with Zangief.  He isn't a combo character by any stretch of the imagination but comboing into 720 is a new mechanic for the Street Fighter series.  Long time grappler players have learned to short short 720 as a tick for 20 years but doing it as a combo could take time to learn.  Also getting minimum height air SPDs is a new skill to learn; most Zangief players have been trained to specifically avoid jumping on the 360 motion.  I've seen enough v-trigger into whiffed ground SPD on streams to see that I'm not alone in screwing up the timing on this one at first.

And here's the big change in the beta process.  SF5 Zangief was originally designed with a go to hit confirm combo but currently doesn't have one.  During the first location tests showing him off, he was able to combo into EX SPD similar to how he's been able to combo into 720, off low strong, off short short, etc.  But this was taken away from him by the time of the third public beta.  His only non counter-hit, non-v-trigger hit confirms at this point are short lariat, headbutt into standing short into lariat, or jab short lariat.  Not only that, since crouching characters have different sizes, comboing into lariat is going to take some adjusting to.  It's not like Zangief historically NEEDS a confirm combo, he's gotten by fine without one in past games.  But it's a significant nerf since the character was originally designed with a hit confirm combo in mind and now doesn't have a reliable one from ranges outside point blank.

I'm not saying Zangief is going to be bad.  Given how he played in the final beta, I thought he was pretty solid overall and his armored fierce is going to completely dominate some matchups early on.  Basically nobody has figured out how to maximize his v-skill yet so he has growth potential there.  But expecting this Zangief to play like previous versions and dominate early on is probably not going to happen.  The character still maintains a grappler identity but he's more standard to play against and the learning curve will likely be more standard with him as well.  Everyone agrees that this isn't Street Fighter 4 Zangief but even beyond that, this isn't like any Zangief we've ever seen.


Dhalsim

Dhalsim's undergone a huge shift in player perception since he was first playable at the Canada Cup build.  Long time Dhalsim players HATED him at first and now seem to be more positive.  And really as near as I can tell nothing significant has changed since he was introduced.  There are a few changes to note, the crouching strong wasn't cancellable in a couple of the early builds but seems to be cancellable again in the final beta.  And v-trigger was significantly nerfed going from a 10 second duration to a 6 second duration.  People reported that his limbs “seemed” faster in the final beta but there's no actual frame data evidence to support that, at least none that I've seen.  So if anything the character is technically worse than he was in the Canada Cup build.

It's easy to understand why long time Dhalsim players weren't sold on him right away; the character is very different from classic Dhalsim.  He has to spend meter to get a straight fireball.  His limbs seem to linger on whiff, making whiff punishing limbs something relatively simple to do.  The big one though is that there seem to be “dead zones” where Dhalsim players are used to controlling a certain part of the screen with a button except that button does something else in SF5.  Most common dead zones I've heard are the area previously occupied by low jab and previously occupied by standing roundhouse.  Dhalsim ranged low jab traditionally is a fast, low committal poke in about the half screen range and standing roundhouse is a combination range finder and distance anti-air.  He doesn't have grounded buttons that serve those purposes anymore.

In return, Dhalsim has tools that this character archetype doesn't normally have.  This time around he has an actual jab jab hit confirm, with jab jab into EX yoga flame something rare for this character archetype.  He has yoga gale which finishes combos as an EX and gives him some interesting set play options.  Filipino Champ discovered that this move can be as much as +13 when used meaty setting up basically anything you want.  +13 isn't exactly a traditional Dhalsim number.  

And beyond the yoga gale setup, Dhalsim seems to have some actual fully developed okizeme.  He's a terror to back roll away from with the back teleport setting up both crossups and fake crossups with almost no visual clue to go off of.  His fireballs have enough delay on them that the classic fireball into low air teleport mixup after his bread and butter combo ending in yoga flame or off a throw can be ambiguous as well.  I'll be curious to see if Dhalsim's okizeme stays the same in the final version not just because Dhalsim doesn't usually have this kind of game but because most other SF5 characters don't have this kind of game either.  

Going into final version I'm still really not sure what kind of character Dhalsim is going to be.  So far his setplay looks better than his zoning based neutral and I'm curious to see if that's just the kind of character he is.  Can he erase the dead zones in his poking and zoning game with v-skill normals like v-skill strong and v-skill roundhouse?  And if not, is his rushdown game with drills and teleport mixups good enough to make up for it?  I don't know and I don't think anyone else does either.  Dhalsim seems to have the most question marks going into the final version; even the best long time Dhalsim players feel they have a lot more to learn with him.


F.A.N.G.

There's not much to say about FANG since he hasn't been made available in any public tests.  There are only a few videos to look at so far.  Here are probably the three most useful that have turned up.  The longest and best one is Combo Fiend vs. Mike Ross and I'm not sure how much we can learn from this since FANG is supposedly a defensive zoner and Combo Fiend hasn't held down back for more than 3 seconds since 1997.


There isn't a lot of information on the character but let's go over what we know for sure.  We know he's a charge character and we know that his projectile move is a down charge.  That's pretty unique.  From the videos we've seen, his combos don't seem to do a lot of damage without using critical art.  It's rare that he goes over 300 even after spending two EX meters.  They do always seem to leave the opponent poisoned so the absolute damage potential is higher than just raw numbers would suggest.

We know that his v-skill puts opponents into the poison state and builds up his v-trigger meter even if they're already poisoned when they interact with the ball.  How valuable is v-trigger in general though?  We know that his v-trigger poisons the opponent for just being near him, but if you look at most of the available footage the opponent seems to always be poisoned anyways.  The real benefit of v-trigger seems to be combo extension.  Maybe v-reversals are a better use of his meter?

On that note, I don't think we've seen his v-reversal in action very much at all.  I'm curious to see how v-reversal acts in combination with the poison mechanic.  While poison may be new to the Street Fighter series, it's been used in plenty of fighting games before and the concept of poisoning the opponent and countering away to safety when they finally get in strikes me as something to watch out for, something that could potentially be a strong strategy.

In the same vein, how will poison affect how people play against FANG?  The goal of the mechanic is to make people take extra risks and impale themselves on his defenses.  How close does FANG have to be in life to make the opponent play crazy?  Because we know obviously if FANG's down 80% to 10% and he lands his v-skill, the opponent isn't going to go crazy and try to get in, they don't need to.  But if it's 50% to 40% will they lose their composure and alter their playstyle?  How will poison affect dedicated zoners?  If you poison Dhalsim and represent that you're just going to hold down back, how does that change his gameplan?  Does poison do enough damage to make him abandon his zoning or is it just not consequential in common match situations?



We'll all find out more about FANG and everyone else in the cast on Tuesday when the game comes out!  Next Wednesday we're going to talk about setting goals for a new game and what mechanics to explore first now that we'll finally have our hands on the final version after all the months of waiting and speculating.  See you then!


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3 comments

  • Thanks for the analysis, Viscant! Do you suppose you could make a bit more detailed write up on F.A.N.G a week or two down the line when he’s been explored more and match footage/FD etc becomes available?

    • Matt
  • Great analysis and rundown of what happened. It’s kind of inspiring, as in, why did I never think to consider stuff like this? It’s especially interesting because they changed beta to beta by very specific amounts, and the fact that design seems a lot more deliberate in SF5, like certain blockstrings just either will or wont work, and they made it clear to see that.

    However, I don’t think Capcom has earned my “capcom is smart therefore the nerfs are intentional” benefit of the doubt yet, especially going off of their track record in previous games. Is SF5 a fresh start since they have a more refined understanding of things now? Who knows. All I know is that Capcom (and I guess NRS too) is quick to nerf anything that even just a singular player can do well with, hence the green hand nerfs once Snake Eyez demonstrated how good that was (even though there’s only like 3 SF4 Giefs worth mentioning nowadays), Vega nerfs that came suspiciously right after Zeus won a major, She Hulk nerfs when Combofiend was really the only one using her fully, and so forth. I do think the Adon nerf from post-Super to his quick rise was warranted, because it was moreso normalized him with the rest of the cast instead of leaving Adon as the exception.

    But, they still overlooked stuff too. I really don’t think they thought Elena out (from hurtbox errors to balance oversights, like why tie a life-building ability to a comeback mechanic?), Hugo had bugs with his dizzy animation, and so on. Evil Ryu started to flesh out near the end of AE and became better in ultra; it just seemed like they were trying with some characters and not with others. And this was near the end of SF4 and they were presumably thinking about balance in SF5. Whether this was a case of rushing to get USF4 done, or thinking “fuck it, we’ll actually try for 5”, or whatever, Capcom hasn’t earned my benefit of the doubt yet, especially after the micro patches shortly after USF4 came out.

    Time will tell as always.

    • Vay Jiscant
  • Great stuff, Viscant. Thank you for finishing off this series for all 16 launch characters.

    As you have said, it is rather unprecedented to be able to not just witness but also be a part of the development changes during a fighting games beta.

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this as a process. Do you think it was good or bad for the game? Good or bad for the community? Would you like to see more games do this in the future, or was it just an interesting experiment?

    • Sarainy