"No matter what, no matter how, I'll make it through somehow . . ."
"Ragequitting," "flowchart Kens," "BP whores," and "1-frame links" are just a few of the common terms tossed around at Shoryuken.com and are usually associated with lots of disgust and ridicule. Despite Street Fighter IV's relatively fresh console existence, players have become divided by the spirit of fun and competition taking place online. Unless you're planning on exclusively playing offline or using the home version as a tool to hone your skills for the arcade, these points aren't the only valid points that you need to be aware of, but adopting some best practices to prevent you from snapping your disc in half.
Personally, I am having the time of my life. A few (okay, several) hours literally every night are spent going against gamers of all skill levels in Player or Ranked matches. My journey to become a formidable player has definitely had its share of challenges which, for those of you who are newcomers, should consider some quality time training in Arcade Mode. It's the perfect place to liberally get a feel for the game without having your ego shattered by a more experienced player capable of executing tactics that induce massive damage.
On the default difficulty, you should be able to breeze through the cast, leading you to the new boss of this chapter: Seth. His entire fighting style is based off moves from other characters (much like Dural and Weapon Master). This probably won't sit well with the casual audience who will undoubtedly be struggling just to master quarter-circle motions or pull off a Focus Attack at the right moment. Like it or not, the character was designed to challenge your reflexes as well as your patience so it would be best you develop a solid technique to counter his defenses.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time in the Arcade Mode, at least until you obtain all the unlockable characters you desire, including Gen, Fei Long, Rose, Gouken, Akuma, Dan, Seth, Sakura, and TNL fan-favorite Cammy. Depending on your skill level, this task could be completed within an hour or longer. Personally, I am neither for nor against spending time unlocking characters, but I'd rather see that time used more constructively for improving my techniques via the Training or Challenge Modes, the latter of which will take an extensive amount of dedication to beat to completion.
The Challenge Mode is divided into three subsets of challenges: Time Attack, Survival and Trial. I am not afraid to admit that when it comes to Street Fighter and achievements, I feel obligated to obtain everything under the sun. The first two sets can be easily completed if you choose to settle for a certain Russian brawler and spam lariat moves all day. I had to go through these in sporadic intervals because quite frankly, these challenges get tiresome real fast.
Trial Mode, however, is hands-down one of the most rewarding and significant to your personal development in understanding the game's more advanced techniques - such as focus cancels, dash canceling, ex cancels and linking. Now the links in this game, if you haven't already figured it out, may not consistently work, (or work at all) with pure button mashing. The trick comes from understanding frame data (which I know may be losing a few of you right now, but trust me, you need to understand this).
Every attack moves at a certain speed. It's important to understand the recovery time in which these moves are completed in order to properly execute the next move in succession. The timing is a bit more critical compared to say the uber-elite links featured in Hyper Fighting and ST, raising the question: are these really necessary in battle? No. If anything, knowing how to simply perform bread and butter combos like Chun's jump-in FP, FP, standing MK, Kikoken xx Super would be more effective and likely to come out than trying to master one of her Hard Challenges. Sirlin recently commented that this mechanic was needlessly complex, and to some extent, I have to agree. However, when I think of the casual audience who get off by wanting to dial-a-combo by excessively mashing from jab to fierce into super, I totally applaud the reality that these techniques don't come easy.
It's painful to see the drastic differences between the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live communities. Unless a large majority are busy with Resident Evil 5 or they're offline practicing combos, it would appear the interest level is dropping rapidly. Thankfully all of my fellow TNL and SRK competitors own 360s so I have no shortage of talent to go against. I am also fairly handicapped on the PS3 edition since all console-based peripherals appear to be non-existent in every GameStop within a thirty-mile radius. Who knew Street Fighter IV would end up becoming the next big phenomenon? Yeah, I am being serious.
Currently, colleges, gaming leagues and select corporate entities are all starting to get involved in developing gaming events based around this new release. If you were to take a look at the player base, you'll find most of these players are not playing Street Fighter for the very first time, some are actually longtime fans who used to play on their SNES or Genesis. Reintroducing the classic cast was a great move because so many of us can relate to them; they're familiar. Of course, there's a whole topic we can tackle about the Third Strike cast whose supporters believe they were given the short end of the stick since Alpha characters are present in IV. The only thing I have to say about that right now is: there are always possibilities. Since there are rumors about Dee Jay and/or T. Hawk making a return based on community input, perhaps the SF III crew should organize a petition to fight for their favorite fighters. Heck, even I'd be excited to play with Ibuki, Elena, or Dudley in this edition.
Like Nick, I also share the frustration of SF IV's ever-disappointing lobby format. At the present time, you're limited to one-on-one sessions. Wham! Bam! K.O., damn . . . can I get a rematch? Well, no, you can't. Not unless you hunt down the opponent, which feels like it takes forever sometimes. Whoo-hoo! You've found a challenger! No, wait . . . unable to play. Search, rinse, repeat. Whether you opt for taking on casual or ranked matches, the entire process is an epic fail. There is a simpler, less aggravating solution though: spend time in the Arcade Mode and enable your Fight Request to accept challengers. Although this doesn't always work either, because there are occasions when you'll meet players who seem more entertained by booting you over than fighting. The reasons behind this can stem from your choice of icon, title, or network connection, but rarely is it the latter - there are a lot of wussies out there.
But nothing will cause more rage than the excessive rank boosting and deliberate disconnects taking place online. Unlike most leaderboard systems, your statistical records are recorded on your console instead of the server, where they belong. If you can see where I am going with this, it actually allows anyone to disconnect his Internet connection or exit to the dashboard to preserve his Battle Points from getting diminished. Rarely will your opponent accept this as a natural disconnect and you're bound to end up getting negged or hate mail for your bold cop-out.
Although I don't expect everyone to have the same degree of passion or desire to actively play Street Fighter IV, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. It's succeeded in creating a whole new generation of fans who genuinely want to get better and become an active part of the ever-growing SF community. That's great news for all of us, especially if we want to see the trend of more fighters come down the pipeline. It also represents a clear sign to Capcom that our love for the 2D genre has never has never been stronger. Keep 'em coming and don't break our spirits.