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March 14, 2016

Street Fighter V: A Lickety-Split Character Guide

I hope you can appreciate the sheer audacity of someone who can lose to a basic throw applied ad nauseam has deciding that he’s got the credibility to put together a character guide.  My chutzpah strokes the heavens themselves.

So yeah, I’m by no means an authority on the subject of Street Fighter V, or fighting games in general.  But I’ve played (and lost in) just enough of them to have a grasp of certain concepts.  By extension, I’ve been able to glean a thing or two in my time with SFV.  And seeing as how I had more than enough content for a full post, I figured I should share.  You know, just in case anyone wanted to compare notes.

Okay?  Okay.  Then let’s do this lickety-split.  Here we gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!  (Off Dead Man’s Curve.)

A lot of people complained that Ryu was getting nerfed into oblivion in the betas, and that he wasn’t evolving while everyone else around him was (there sure are a lot of people out there that love his “donkey kick”).  But based on my experience, it seems like the tireless wanderer has more than enough juice in him.  He hits like a runaway truck with basic combos, let alone his lengthier ones; he’s still got the same three basic moves, but SFV demonstrates that those are the only three moves he needs

The assumption with the game (which to be fair is pretty true) is that there’s a de-emphasis on projectiles.  But Ryu proves that you can still succeed in spades with smart fireball usage, not random plasma-chucking.  They’re a tool to be used wisely and opportunely -- like, say, clipping someone just outside their attack range.  That’s doubly true once he pops his V-Trigger and can through souped-up fireballs.  I haven’t used him enough to know if he’s got some nasty Denjin setups, but my gut instinct tells me that he might have a trick or two.  If nothing else, his thunder balls can put you in a bad spot on your wakeup.

He’s a reliable character that can beat anyone, with or without his parry.  Speaking of?  It’s not a guaranteed screw-you to enemy attacks, but landing just one of them is a morale booster.  I’d LOVE to see some hype tournament footage with a parry sequence.  Daigo, it’s all you, baby.

Basically the closest thing I have to a main right now, and…I think this might be the character I was destined to play.  Don’t think too hard on what that says about me.

The dark days of crawling through the salt mines as T. Hawk have ended -- well, in a sense.  Birdie isn’t a pure grappler, since his command grab is actually slower than the others.  But even so, he has one of the most complete tool sets I’ve seen in a heavy character.  Admittedly, some of them have a YOLO aspect to them (his jumping grab, for one), but it feels like he can completely control the pace of a match.  His chain grabs let him fight at range, he’s got some very good normals -- crouching strong shuts down virtually ANY aerial approach -- and his V-Skill is so versatile it’s practically cheating.  Respect the banana.

Also, Birdie’s freakin’ strong.  His damage output is nuts for someone who can control space or close the gap so quickly (albeit unsafely).  Without his rolling cans or banana peels on the field, he’s not exactly one for big combos.  Then again, he doesn’t need them…although if you can get off a combo into his Critical Art, then your foe might end up kissing a good 60-70% of their life goodbye.

Part of me wonders if Capcom made him fat and ugly on purpose to ward people off…and prevent them from discovering the secret best character in the game.  (Okay, he’s not at the top of the tier lists, but still.)

First off, I’m convinced that Rashid’s got the best theme in the game, and it’s what made me gravitate towards him.  Second, he scared me off upon reveal because I thought he’d be a pure mobility fighter, and I can’t handle those.  But Rashid has more in common with Ryu than, say, El Fuerte.  He just has some unique twists.

Rashid can tack on the damage pretty fast, thanks to some surprisingly hard-hitting attacks (his Eagle Spike) and his potential pressure.  I don’t know the frame data intimately, but it feels like he can carry an unaware opponent into the corner for free with a well-placed Spinning Mixer.  In any case, the Turbulent Wind has some real shenanigans to his name; he’s got a run more suited for King of Fighters than SF, with a flip and dodge roll that allow for some sneaky moves.  Assuming you don’t just jump for the hell of it.  Jumping wildly is…ill-advised in the SF series.

Truth be told, I’m not used to having this much freedom and options when it comes to SF.  But damn, Rashid’s so fun that I have to add him to my rotation.  I want to learn how to do some nutty juggling stuff with him, even if mobility’s not my forte.  I’d even argue that high mobility isn’t 100% essential to every part of his game plan; he’s got some solid tools, and his tornado V-Trigger can be used offensively or defensively…or just as a way to be a coward and escape from corners.

He just might be my favorite of the newcomers so far.  But speaking of newcomers…

Strap in, because things are about to get hairy.  Eh?  Eh?  Anybody?

Given his sunny disposition, I think it’s safe to say that Necalli is an offensive juggernaut.  He does big damage, he can get in quickly (though not always safely), and he can put on the pressure with a slew of his moves.  He’s a scary foe to fight against, especially once he gets started.  In my time with him, I’ve found that some of his normals don’t exactly have the best range; he’s got a couple, but his range is deceptively short for a man that’s supposedly 6’3”.  Maybe he can’t have super-long range because otherwise he’d be able to pressure infinitely?  Or -- and hear me out on this -- maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, and I need to learn his buttons’ ranges.

That seems to be the case.  I’m under the impression that the key to successful Necalli play is to make your opponent afraid of you; make use of his frame traps and such, and then sneak in a command grab when they’re too afraid to attack.  If you can’t handle it, then chances are high that your foe will disrespect you.  Also, his V-Trigger -- turning into a “Super Saiyan” -- is supposed to make him a better character and/or extend his combos…but I haven’t practiced enough with him to work that into the rotation, so I usually use it to make my opponents take pause.  There’s nothing scarier than a shirtless man with six feet of hair sticking straight up.

I had an epiphany recently.  I like zoning characters, but for whatever reason I’d never managed to glom onto THE zoning character.  And now I understand why: to me, everything about Dhalsim is backwards.

That’s not to say he’s bad or anything, especially since a number of pros have sung praises about him.  But my feeble brain has trouble getting a handle on him.  Controlling space is tough enough, but switching between ranges by using normals that make you hold back instead of forward?  And that’s ignoring the fact that his Yoga Flame takes a half circle backward motion.  And even then, I feel like I’ve got no business touching Dhalsim if I don’t know how to do an instant air teleport.  But I want to anyway, because he’s so freakin’ cool.  Especially now that he’s got a beard.

He’s got at least five different anti-airs.  He can shift the flow of the match with one well-placed V-Trigger, whether he uses it offensively or defensively.  He’s just as good at controlling space as he always was, but now he’s got some new shenanigans.  There’s a big emphasis on attack and aggression in this game, and even if the new yogi has a stronger lean toward that, he can still manipulate a match from start to finish.  A Dhalsim that knows what he’s doing is a terror.

Officially, it’s F.A.N.G., but I’m not a fan of typing out acronyms with periods in them (looking at you, Agents of SHIELD).  Against my better judgment, I picked FANG for the very first time to try and break a losing streak against my brother and his relentless pressure.  To my surprise, not only did I break the streak, but I also built up a hefty streak of my own.

How good is FANG?  That’s hard to say, especially if we’re judging by raw damage output.  But he’s good enough -- good enough to utterly shut down foes that don’t know how to fight him (and even then…).  His poison projectiles can stop opponents cold, while also whittling away their health over time; they may be able to clear it if they land a hit on FANG -- or wait it out -- but that means they have to get in on a guy whose defenses make that a rough journey.  To be fair, I’d think that if you can get in on him, you can keep him from fighting at his fullest; on the other hand, he has some tools that let him escape pressure -- though they’re not always a guaranteed escape, but they’re more than good enough.

So in a nutshell?  FANG seems like a character designed to make everyone -- including family and friends -- hate you.

Not to go off on a tangent, but am I the only one who actually likes Gief’s Critical Art?  His Final/Ultimate Atomic Buster is fine, but even if he only does one suplex now, it’s one hell of a suplex.

Zangief was touted as a wall moving towards you prior to release, and I’ve got no problems believing that.  He lost his Banishing Flat (aka Green Hand), but he’s no less threatening for it.  Some of his new normals -- a grounded headbutt, a jumping knee, and more -- compensate for the fact that he’s focused on landing some risky grabs.  He’s got to work to get in, but once he does, he can harass foes even without resorting to a quick SPD.  Also, just seeing him walk towards you is menacing.

Also, his Iron Cyclone V-Trigger makes for a fearsome trump card.  If he sucks you in and lands all those hits, and then combos into an EX air SPD -- yeah, he’s got that now -- then the resultant damage is arguably as high as some characters’ Critical Arts.  And he can land it with just one misplaced fireball.  Muscle power, indeed.

Fighting against Laura served as a stark reminder that I’m terrible at blocking (or even perceiving) overheads.  I just thought I’d bring that up, because as a character who can combo into an overhead attack off of a number of moves, the elder Matsuda makes sure I have a bad time every time.  Also, said overhead apparently makes for an unexpected anti-air attack.  Riveting.

She’s not a pure grappler like Zangief or T. Hawk, but Laura’s command grabs are still a threat.  And she’s got tools that serve her purposes to a nightmarish degree; her V-Skill lets her dash forward or backward quickly (on top of that overhead kick of hers), so she can close the gap in an instant and catch unsuspecting foes in a crushing hold.  More pressingly, Laura’s electric projectile functions on the same principle as Rashid’s tornado: she can toss one out to lock foes down, and it gives her a few seconds to open her foes’ defenses in any number of ways.

A Laura that gains momentum is a Laura destined to win.  She’ll overwhelm you if she gets the chance, so don’t give her that chance -- which to be fair is easier to do than expected.  (Neutral jump if you can sniff out a grab in time.)  Still, playing as her puts that power in your hands -- and to be honest, I’m not opposed to it.

Well, I guess I’d better talk about the underutilized, unrepresented fourth-stringer of the cast.

Ken is one of several characters with some kind of rush-in/close the gap move, though he doesn’t have a command grab like Laura.  (If you can’t read it in time, then his normal grab out of his run might as well be one.)  As always, Ken has his fireball, dragon punch, and hurricane kick, the latter of which has seen some big tweaks…while the first of the three has apparently gotten much worse.  Ken can do some big damage like his pal Ryu, but that’s partly because he can string so many of his moves together.  He’s got all sorts of combo opportunities, and if you let a good player land a single attack, you’ll lose some major chunks of your life.

If you can react in time, you can stop Ken’s offense during his run.  By the same token, he can stop your offense with his sneaky tricks; he can go into a low kick, an overhead, his step kick, or go for a grab thanks to his run, which puts him in a good position to hassle you if you’re not careful.  You could say this about pretty much everyone, but letting him gain momentum is NOT a smart move.

If you’ve got a Crush Counter combo on hand, bait the crap out of his DP and punish at your leisure.  Don’t be afraid to tear up his flowchart and throw the pieces in his face.

R. Mika!!
Given the beatings I’ve taken from her so far, I’m gonna give you a Voltech Pro Tip on dealing with Mika: don’t EVER let her execute her drop kick, whether she hits with it or lands it.  Even if you do manage to block a fully-charged kick, she can do pretty much anything after it thanks to frame advantage/block stun.  (Invincible reversals and fast-enough normals might beat her out, if you’re quick enough; a Critical Art almost certainly will, at least in Birdie’s case.)  Failing that?  When she’s charging up her drop kick, stick out a normal, neutral jump, or toss a projectile ASAP to knock her out of the attack.    

You DON’T want to let Mika do anything.  She’s got deadly combos, but she’s got even nastier tricks -- setups with her command grabs that can (and likely will) leave you hurting, or worse yet, stuck in the corner.  I’m not too concerned about her V-Skill, even if it can boost her damage; she can still get thrown out of it easily, and it’s likely not the safest move to throw out on a whim.  But the real threat is her V-Trigger, which lets her call in a tag team partner to attack in one of three different ways, at a time of her choosing.  Which way, and at what time?  You won’t know until you’re getting your face pounded in and eating a combo the size of a Thanksgiving feast.

Admittedly, this is the character I’ve had the least experience going against, from the first beta down to release day (and I don’t intend on using him, what with Guile on the way).  But I have gotten in a couple of matches with him -- although I expected way more at this point.  Luck of the draw on my end?  Did he suddenly become unpopular?  Or was he ever popular to begin with?  #illuminati

In any case, it seems like he’s got a slew of good normals.  Really, Nash in general seems like a speedster; with his fast attacks and his teleporting shenanigans -- thankfully limited by his V-Gauge to prevent headaches and heartache -- players behind the proverbial wheel will use that mobility to frustrate foes.  Of course, he’s also pretty fast even without his V-abilities; a Nash that wants to dash in or out of range is probably going to do it. 

What’s safe and what’s unsafe with this guy?  Hard to say, and that won’t be immediately obvious unless you’re willing to make the game-losing move.  Well, except for his Moonsault; punishing the actual attack isn’t always a breeze (especially in an online environment), but you can knock him out of it by hitting him as he makes his aerial approach.

I’ll say this much, though: his Critical Art has got to be one of the most brutal moves in a video game.  If this was Mortal Kombat, there would be quite the mess to clean up.

The queen bee returns at long last, and she’s definitely making up for lost time.  While she can’t do whatever she wants for free (some of her follow-ups are EXTREMELY unsafe), a good Karin player only needs one or two moves to start an offensive onslaught.  Or, alternatively, she only needs to press a couple of buttons to completely thwart everything you do within a certain sphere of influence.  Seriously, there have been times where it felt like Karin’s got longer legs than Birdie -- who, need I remind you, stands at 7’1”.

Karin’s combos and mixups mean that she can tack on the damage at warp speed.  And even if she’s not landing hits, she can still pressure you fairly safely once you’re within her attack range -- meaning that if you try to do something as naïve as playing the game, you’re risking an extended combo that feeds directly into her Critical Art.  Reportedly, a lot of her attacks aren’t true block strings, so you could potentially blow through her offense with a disrespectful reversal.  Then again, are you brave enough to risk it?

Real talk: the last four characters on this list are basically my kryptonite.  Whether it’s SFIV or SFV, these characters consistently give me trouble -- so in a way, they’re my Four Kings.  And what better way to start than with one of the official Kings?

I’ve always thought that Vega was kind of absurd, in the sense that a narcissistic assassin should never deign to roll across the ground for one of his default attacks.  But damn, he puts it to good use -- and that’s not all he’s got.  As always, his claw-based attacks let him poke from a relatively safe distance away; once he takes it off, he switches to a style that lets him access more (and easier) combos.  Notably, he can switch between the two styles in an instant -- which is kind of a problem when he gains access to a command grab while you’re cowering behind your guard.

Also, his V-Trigger lets him toss a rose projectile at 1000 miles per hour to rush at distant foes.  And then he can get a free Critical Art off of it.  Moral of the story: don’t let your guard down, even if you’re on the other side of the screen.  I learned that the hard way.

The good thing about Cammy is that her Spiral Arrow -- or at least versions of it -- isn’t safe on block.  So she can’t use that to get in for free, unless she wants to eat a combo supreme.  The bad thing about Cammy is that, setting aside the fact that she’s still Cammy, it only takes a couple of seconds for you to go from “All right, I’ve got a good handle on this match” to “Wait, where did all my life go?”

The properties on several of her moves have changed, and she can use them to create situations where you have no idea which way to block.  Her Hooligan Combination has always gotten the best of me, but now she can effectively use it to cross you up -- if she wants to.  The same goes for her dive kick; just when you think you’ve got her pinned down, she’ll appear on the side you didn’t expect, and…well, you get to sit there and watch as the life melts away.

I’ve never played seriously as Chun-Li, but I’ve always thought she was one of the coolest World Warriors around.  That hasn’t changed with SFV, but I wish it didn’t have to come at the expense of getting kicked to death.

It always felt as if those who actually know how to use their characters and/or play the game well can make it seem as if they move three times faster than the average player.  Chun-Li takes that up a whole step further by virtue of her innate speed.  Ignoring the fact that her V-Skill is both a mobility tool and a launching attack, her normals flow into each other at a dizzying pace.  On top of that, she can go straight from her trademark Lightning Legs into more normals -- or, alternatively, combo into her Spinning Bird Kick.  She’s more than competent when she’s on the attack, but it’s her defense that might ensure my downfall time after time; with her mighty legs, she can stop any approach cold.

But it’s fine.  Chun’s so cool that I’ll lose against her any day of the week.  And I won’t even be salty about it…for long.

M. Bison!!
Confession time: every time I see that I’m about to face a Bison, I can’t help but internally go “Oh, shit.”  No matter the character, this is my absolute WORST matchup.  I mean, his Scissor Kicks are supposed to be less safe this time around, and he doesn’t have the walk speed of some other characters, but that usually doesn’t stop the Shadaloo boss from feeding me my own ass.  To wit: I fought a string of SFV Bisons in a single session, and I only beat one.

The most obvious “flaw” Bison has this time around is his awful walk speed, but it’s not like he’s starved for movement options.  His dash is basically a teleport, he’s still got his head stomp and Devil Reverse to frustrate from the air, and now he’s picked up a couple of new tricks -- like his Psycho Inferno, and by extension a nasty fireball.  He’s not only got the aggression factor, but also a couple of new moves that make his offense even scarier; I wanted to cry after I got hit by what I’ve dubbed his Psycho Bitch Slap, and watched as he moved directly into a brutal combo. 

Also, he’s one of the few characters (as far as I know) whose Crush Counter can put you in a crumple state so he can go full tilt.  Also, also: he’s one of only two characters who can activate his Critical Art from the air -- not that it’s essential, because it makes for a punishing anti-air.  Also, also, also: I hate all his big dumb kicks and I wish Bison would go die.

And that’ll just about do it for now.  Take this lickety-split rundown with a grain of salt, since I’m nowhere near godlike with the game.  But I hope I managed to offer something at least a little interesting for you.  Glom onto the character you love, train hard, and win some matches.  It’s what Diego Umejuarez would want.

God bless you, Diego. 

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