For Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition owners on PS3 or Xbox 360, this is the week that they've been waiting for since last year's Evo weekend. Ultra Street Fighter 4 has arrived, bringing with it an array of balance changes for each and every one of the game's playable fighters. The game is about to change and that's going to make a lot of existing players either happy with their current choices or make them consider making some new selections.
ShackFighter is a Chatty group of some of the biggest fighting game fans across all of Shacknews. These folks frequently take to the Steam group's chat room for a number of fighting game tournaments, like Evo, So Cal Regionals, and East Coast Throwdown. They're also some avid fighting game players, who have anxiously awaited Ultra Street Fighter 4's arrival. Today, they weigh in on what the game's balance changes mean for their favorite characters.
It's only appropriate to lead off with one of the ShackFighter crew's most omnipresent members. bcyde is the heart of the group and his regular fighter is one of the hearts of the Street Fighter series: Guile.
bcyde has had the opportunity to mess with some PC hacks that demonstrate some of Guile's changes. The greater hit stun on crouching jab is one in particular that has him intrigued, since Guile's Flash Kick now becomes a more reliable combo finisher. That's especially the case when compounded by the greater invincibility that Flash Kick receives.
While bcyde likes some of the other additions to Guile's game, like the better hit box on crouching medium kick and the increased air throw range, he does observe that some of the supposed buffs have hit some kinks.
"Downward hit box on his upside kick for frame trap pressure," he points out. "This sounds good, but in the latest build at UFGT X on stream, I see this still whiffing on crouching Rolento, so not sure who else this affects."
It isn't all roses for Guile, since bcyde is somewhat annoyed by the drop in 50 vitality, since he feels that this was never an issue for the character in the past. He also doesn't like the increased counterhit window on Sonic Boom, since it's one of Guile's main tools.
bcyde adds that Guile's biggest buffs won't come directly to the character. "As a Guile player I think the biggest buffs he'll be getting are actually the system changes in delayed wakeup and removing unblockables," he explains.
Makoto is a plucky fighter, utilizing her quickness and fierce throws to keep herself in the fight. USF4's changes to her mainly involve improving her striking range and it easier to stun opponents. In particular, Makoto's crouching hard kick now has double the stun power, making other fighters think twice before reaching for command grabs. In exchange, her light and medium Tsurugi specials have had their stun reduced.
But perhaps Makoto's biggest change is going to the boost to her EX Fukiage move, which now allows her to hit standing opponents. This creates new combo possibilities, which is welcome addition for Makoto players aznjim and Mantle.
aznjim has observed that Makoto will continue to be a strong character, but has undergone some major changes. "She's still going to be good but her play style is changing the most from AE to USF4," he said. "EX Fukiage hits grounded opponents now and leads to more airborne reset opportunities. Her raw damage and stun was decreased a bit but she gained much more reset/mixup potential."
Mantle also loves the buff that Makoto's Fukiage move received, noting that the ability to hit standing opponents is going to be a huge addition.
Rose has received some significant additions to her game. USF4 adds to the damage output to some of her light and medium attacks, as well as her Soul Spiral special, which can be used in juggle attacks. No one was more excited about this news than massives, a Chatty lurker that frequents the ShackFighter chats often.
"I've mained Rose since Super Street Fighter 4," massives says. "She deals most of her damage in small chunks with pokes and 3-5 hit combos, so the damage buffs on her combo normals and Soul Spiral will help with her low damage output. Stun boost on EX Soul Spiral is huge for her pressure game when she’s getting in, but her archetype won’t change much as a zone/poke character. Overall, I think Rose is going to end up super strong in this version even with her glaring weaknesses."
Those weaknesses, according to massives, are a terrible wakeup reaction and escape defense. It's easy to knock Rose down and once she's down, it takes some time for her to get back up and fighting again. A second weakness is a bit more wry, with massives noting that Rose is often "boring as hell to watch."
Viper has consistently been among the top tier of Street Fighter 4 characters across all iterations and she's getting some fairly notable buffs for USF4. The increased range on her crouching MK improves her footsies game significantly, allowing her to play 'keep away' with her opponents. She's also about to get more dangerous, now that her Focus Attack is about see a faster startup speed, albeit at the expense of its range.
Mantle is one of ShackFighter's main Viper users and he's overjoyed by the prospect of torturing his opponents with an even quicker combatant.
"Super excited for the changes to Viper," Mantle said, particularly pointing out the improvements to Viper's Emergency Combination Super attack and the aforemtioned extension of her crouching MK. While Viper saw her Heavy Thunder Knuckle attack receive a bit of a nerf, Mantle adds, "I don't think Heavy Thunder Knuckle into FADC at -5 frames will hurt that much, since it was already extremely risky."
The mighty T. Hawk has received some cool additions to his arsenal. Mainly, he's a lot less vulnerable, with certain moves like his crouching medium kick now cancelable.
smackpiece is Chatty's resident T. Hawk player and he cites the character as proof that Capcom is aiming to level the Street Fighter playing field and make every character fun to play.
"While [T. Hawk] wasn't terrible in AE2012, he did have some trouble maintaining pressure on his opponent, especially after being patient and working really hard to get in close," smackpiece adds. "Now with faster walk speed, cancelable crouching forward, and reduced startup/recovery frames on LK Condor Spire, T. Hawk can now get in, pressure, and play the grapple mix-up game like a big boy. They also addressed the fan outcry to change the input method for Condor Spire and his Ultra 2. I'd kiss Combofiend on his beautiful damn lips if I could."
There's been somewhat of a consensus among Chatty posters that USF4 will favor grappling characters and now smackpiece can add his own T. Hawk to that list.
The demon Oni is among the most frightening characters in the Street Fighter 4 series. Despite seeing a reduction in his vitality, the changes he's received indicates that he'll only get better in USF4. For example, his Focus Attack's range has been increased and his crouching HK start-up time has been reduced.
This is all good news for eeeealmo, who has previously competed with Akuma's darker half during last year's Evo tournament.
"He has essentially only been buffed, with most of his moves (specials and normals) either being safer, or faster," eeeealmo explains. "His only nerf was to light slash, which now has reduced damage and stun, which I don't think this is too big of a deal. I'll fully admit that I play rather recklessly, so his moves being safer across the board should help me quite a bit."
However, Oni is also one of the shoto fighters that will see his Focus Attack Dash Cancel to Dragon Punch lose 5 frames. eeeealmo is mildly concerned about this, noting, "I think his meter can be better used elsewhere. I'm afraid that having the ability to do so will now result in using the meter to make an uppercut safe, as opposed to trying to make the right read (or getting lucky). I'll likely refrain from using this for now."
Chatty's aznjim uses Ken as his main go-to character and he was beyond thrilled to see some of the changes USF4 will bring to the shoto master.
"Main changes for Ken is the quicker crouching medium kick and faster walk speed," aznjim explains. "This will help out his footsies games a lot and you can whiff crouching-MK and throw out Dragon Punch (DP) on reaction if you see a jump now. The changes to the EX-Air-Tatsu kinda hurts but it's fair, since no else has the Tatsu-copter escape anymore."
Indeed, the lack of a Tatsu escape can be seen across the board with many of the game's characters. Characters like Guy have seen their hurricane kick distances reduced, meaning it's become slightly more difficult to escape corners.
"Ken is definitely better in USF4 and has a combo into sweep now for oki setups," aznjim continues. "Fireball does more damage but that's a total 'whatever' and doesn't change any strategy. Generally, Ken got a lot of good buffs without giving up anything other than the general system change of Focus Attack Dash Cancel (FADC) to DP being -5 frames now. That hurts him a lot! However, the one thing I'm not sure about and probably gives him a good edge is that his fierce DP is still 2 hits and you can FADC that. It's fairly easy to confirm and you can back dash out on block."
Arguably, the character to receive the most significant buffs is Evil Ryu. That doesn't just stem from his vitality increase from 900 to 950, either. The ShackFighter crew has raised an eyebrow to some of Evil Ryu's changes, observing that they'll likely make him one of the strongest fighters in the entire game. Posters like DianeOfTheMoon and Mantle even note that the character didn't seem like he needed any buffs.
But riedlos won't argue any of the changes, since Evil Ryu is his main character, noting that he's played the fallen Ryu since he first debuted in SSF4:AE.
"Overall I think he's improved," riedlos says. "Some of his attack windows have become wider due to frame rate increases. The only way he has become worse is the Shoryuken FADC nerf, but that was done to most of the cast, not just the shotos."
riedlos isn't shy about explaining each of the buffs that Evil Ryu received, adding to the sentiment that the sinister warrior is now a greater force to be reckoned with.
"The crouching HK start-up buff puts his sweep almost equal to Akuma's (Akuma gets 6 startup frames and 3 active frames vs E.Ryu's now-6 startup frames and 2 active frames). If this means that he will be able to sweep all the same cast out of the LK Tatsu that Akuma can, instead of just 'some' of that cast, I will be happier."
riedlos adds that the Heavy Axe Kick start-up up will make it easier to complete the Shoryuken FADC/Heavy Axe combo finisher. Though the combo was usable with the Medium special attack, there's plenty to be happy about with the Heavy now being an option.
Evil Ryu's changes aren't perfect, but buffs like crouching MK stun on guard are small enough to help overlook some kinks. As riedlos points out, an EX Tatsu change would have been vastly preferable to the additional vitality.
Those are some of ShackFighter's main characters, but that's only scratching the surface. To see the full list of characters and their changes, visit Ultra Street Fighter 4's final character change list. Ultra Street Fighter 4 is now available as a digital upgrade to Super Street Fighter 4 or Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The PC version (as well as retail discs) will be available in August. For more on the ShackFighter crew, visit their Steam Groups page.