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My Disappointment with the Street Fighter IV series and more.

I don't use my blog often, as evidenced by the lack of posts or content on it, but that's simply because the front page is so goddamned terrible with ads and badly designed layouts that I try to avoid anything outside of the forums like minorities paying taxes. The following is a brief rundown on my comparison of Street Fighter III and IV, and why I prefer one over the other (try to figure out which one!).


Having spent a considerable time playing SFIV before ever attempting to really play SFIII competitively, I can tell the mindset of players simply based on their preference between the two. It's similar to 'downloading' someone's play style or being able to judge a personality based on a certain criteria. Also, learning the history of the FGC and how cutthroat high level play is in fighting games gives a unique insight into why people prefer a game like SFIV over SFIII. Put on your reading bifocals and ready your panties for wadding, this is going to be a long post with a lot of long-winded, run-on sentences.

First, let's take a look at each series to get a feel for what type of game each one was trying to be. If you can understand what the developers were attempting to make, you might understand why you may or may not like the respective games.

Street Fighter III debuted almost 17 years ago, in the midst of what some consider the golden age of fighting games. Around this time you had the Street Fighter Alpha/Zero, Street Fighter Vs., King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat, and Darkstalkers/Vamprire Savior series'. That's a lot of fighting games with a lot of different mechanics and varying casts each with a plethora of normals, specials, supers, combos, and match up knowledge and that's without even mentioning any 3D fighters. It's easy to understand how SFIII could be overlooked when the game only featured 2 of the original SFII cast, and had a bunch of new characters in a game that featured new mechanics. The art style, music, story, cast and mechanics were very different than previous iterations. The concept of the game was to create an entirely new Street Fighter, with a focus on depth of gameplay and making as technical a fighter as possible in order to stand out in a sea of other fighters.

In contrast, Street Fighter IV comes out almost a decade after the previous entry in the series, with the genre mostly dead or on life support, as most titles released for the genre had moved on to the 3D realm, leaving 2D fighting a thing of the past. It has no real competition and comes out after most have already written the series off as dead or too old and outdated. The game's producer, Yoshinori Ono, did several interviews about Street Fighter IV leading up to and after it's release. Of note and particularly relevant to this post is this excerpt from an interview I read awhile back and found here (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2009/feb/12/gameculture-xbox) which explains the concept behind IV and its contrast to Street Fighter III:

"I think that the Street Fighter series is comprised of games geared toward certain classes or levels of players. Each title or offshoot in the series has been very much aimed at, and tuned for, players of a given ability level. The most notable example of this would be the venerable SFIII series.

Because III was released after both II and Alpha, the market was populated with a very talented set of players who had honed their skills on those titles that had come before. As a result, III was very much aimed toward the proclivities of these hardcore players. It is a game with tremendous depth, most of which can only truly be tapped by very skilled players.

This time around, we've made a very conscious and very deliberate effort to adopt the same rules, the same sort of "feel" on display in II and update it to become a new fighting "tool" for the modern age. That was this project's driving concept from the start. That's why I'm thrilled that you even asked this question. It shows that our efforts have paid off and that you recognise the connection we're attempting to establish.

If we take a moment to consider fighting games as "tools" rather than games, we can say that the SFII series was the sort of fighting tool that was enjoyed by a simply staggering number of players. None of us of a certain age need to consult the manual to know how to play. The "rulebook" is simply embedded into our brains at this point. The inherent familiarity of this system is terribly important. The same goes for sports or any other kind of game. The shorter the barrier of entry, the easier it is for a player to grasp the rules, the more likely you are to draw a large number of people in. This is especially important for games with a one on one aspect. Both players should have a basic familiarity with how to play the game if we really want a fair fight.
This philosophy is what drove and what is driving all aspects of the development of IV, from the character lineup, to the general rules and basic gameplay elements, to the game balance itself."

So while SFIII was specifically designed to cater to skilled players who could enjoy a fighter with a wealth of depth, SFIV was designed for a much wider audience to enjoy and learn by lowering the bar of skill required to be competitive. Because let's face it, not too many players are sticking around if they can't win after a few matches. The casual fan just wants to pop in the game, win a few, lose a few, and call it a day. Mashable inputs, comeback mechanics, easy combos, easy reversals to escape pressure, and character familiarity lower the entry point for 'competitive play' and allow novices to enjoy the product while hopefully learning a few mechanics and techniques along the way. Such was the quest I embarked on when I first started playing IV online. It wasn't until I ran across players who knew what they were doing that I learned everything I thought I knew about Street Fighter was terribly wrong and misguided.

I was the online scrub, mashing and jumping in with a recklessness I can now enjoy laughing at, having once been there myself. However, unlike a great majority of players, I wasn't satisfied with just beating my friends and a few online randoms. I wanted to beat everyone. And I meant everyone. The guys I knew, the guys online, the guys at the arcade, and even the ones on YouTube. So I spent countless hours playing matches and watching videos, asking questions and seeking stronger and more skilled opponents. After learning the mechanics and basics, I became addicted. What was once a personal quest was now an unhealthy obsession with higher levels of play against more skilled opponents. I read up on frame data, hit boxes, tier lists, match up specifics, player tendencies, character specialists, execution techniques, articles written by FGC veterans and all sorts of archaic knowledge in the hopes that doing so would make me a better player.

And it has. I started winning local tournaments and beating everyone around me. I outgrew the competition and sought out opponents online, eventually winning most of the time against a good 85% of my opponents. My Super IV player data reads that over 6000 online matches, I've won 78% of them. That's a huge improvement from a guy who mashed out everything and couldn't block cross ups.

Yet, the 15% of opponents I couldn't beat bothered me. Why couldn't I beat them? What did they have or what did they know that I didn't? Was it arcade sticks? Was it secret techniques that players were reluctant to share or archaic knowledge you couldn't find unless you knew what to look for? I was convinced it had to do with set ups and okizeme, the weakest parts of my game. So I looked for how to improve those things and that is where I started to not only fall out of love with Street Fighter IV, but actually come to dislike and even hate certain parts of the game.

The techniques and set ups I was learning about couldn't be applied against anyone in this game because the game's mechanics weren't designed for them to be successful. Higher level play doesn't work against lower level opponents. To make matters worse, I came to discover option selects and just how much they took away from the thinking aspect of the game. One of my favorite things I learned was mix ups. There's nothing like getting in your opponent's head and making all the right reads and decisions, forcing your opponent to change his play style or frustrate them into accepting defeat or quitting outright. Nothing says 'I give up, you're better than me' quite like rage quitting. However, mix ups only work on people who are disciplined in not letting inputs fly and know the repercussions of getting punished for bad decisions like whiffed/blocked shoryukens/ultras. That, unfortunately, does not describe SFIV's community. Not through any true fault of their own, but because the game rewards these types of things. I've had so many close games lost at the end simply because in the middle of a block string or mix up an ultra or shoryuken catches me and decides the game.

After almost 3 years, I decided enough was enough and I needed to play a fighter where these things were not the norm. Where these types of things were not only rare, but instead punished the player for attempting these things. Where mix ups were rewarded and the flow of matches was much smoother and faster paced. Where I had a variety of characters that didn't all play like clones of each other with slight variances. Where skill was rewarded and the better you were the deeper the game. Where I didn't have to worry about getting scrubbed out by mashers.

And then 3SOE happened.

Not only does the game have all of the aforementioned, but it has a rich backlog of information and matches I could quickly learn from. And players with years of experience able to answer my questions mid-match, showing me the answers in game if I asked.

The FGC is a rough community. There's plenty of assholes who are looking to get their kicks by being dicks about winning while offering nothing towards the learning experience. SFIV is plagued with them online. Thus the independent research and application of what I've learned and watched and re-watched. The one thing I can say about the community on a whole though is if you are really trying to learn the game and ask the right questions, there are people who will answer them. There are people who try to advance the scene's overall skill level by trying to educate as many players as possible. They understand that the stronger the novices are the stronger the higher level competitors will be. It's a win-win for everybody, but not in a game that rewards bad play and has auto-pilot decision making that deters or weakens a player's ability to perform in pressure situations or make good reads.

So, in a very long winded way, what I'm saying is SFIII is in no way comparable to SFIV. SFIII is not only chess, it's 3D chess in a labyrinth filled with death traps. Each decision could be fatal. Every read could cost you the match. It's high stakes Street Fighter for players who like technical, analytical Street Fighter.

SFIV is the game equivalent of rolling the dice, with the house always coming away the winner and the loser only becoming more desperate to win. Only they can't, because you can't outthink the game, you can only hope it's shitty rules and many loopholes somehow tricks the game into letting you win. So you try any tactic, no matter how they're viewed, just to come away with a sense of accomplishment.

...but no matter if you win or lose, you haven't gained any experience or understanding. You can only get so good at the game before succumbing to its crippling ruleset and being forced to play the way it wants you to play. You have to use safe jump set ups. You have to drop block strings. You have to use frame traps. You have to use option selects. You have to play defensively with a majority of the cast. You have to depend on just one or two tactics to win. Zone or vortex. And now that USF4 has weakened vortexes considerably, what's left? More characters that will fall prey to the bad mechanics and badly programmed hit boxes? Isn't it sad that the only way the game can keep interest is by adding more characters? The game IV was based on, II, still holds a ton of interest, having weekly tournaments for the last two decades at arcades in Japan like Gamespot Versus or Nakano Royal and it hasn't had an update since HDR.

The IV series has already lost so much interest in the last 3 years that people want other fighters to take its spot as the main event at Evo, where Street Fighter has always been the main event. Does anyone really believe that IV will have the longevity of II, Alpha, or 3S? Especially in this fickle gamer scene, where the majority of gamers travel from triple-A title to triple-A title with little to any thought or concern that the new game they're playing is exactly like the last game they played.

Only, in the case of SFIV, the games actually get worse and the issues the first game had never got resolved. Each iteration got worse the more characters they added. In Super, TKCS Cammy and an entirely new roster of weaker characters swung the balance of the game wildly in favor of a half-dozen or so characters. AE changed that by making everyone worse while adding a character that the developer purposely made overpowered in Yun, making the game a 1-character competitive scene. AE v2012 addressed the issues with the top tier by making previous iterations of the top tier stronger while nerfing Yun and making OS's the effective go-to mechanic for high level play. The ridiculous amount of work it takes to make the game fun now is what makes the game not fun now, and I'm grateful for 3rd Strike, a game with its own issues, but nowhere near the constant bullshittery offered up on a dishearteningly consistent basis in IV.
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About KD Alphaone of us since 7:17 PM on 11.21.2006

Been a member of Dtoid since June 2006, but I don't really like the front page since it's become a jumbled mess of overwhelming content I could care less about. I'm mostly active on the forums these days. I'm here for video games, not social commentary. If you really want to get to know me, head over to Super Street Fighter IV or Gears of War 3 threads.

Favorite games: FFVIII, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Super Street Fighter IV, Tetris Attack, Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger, Star Fox 64, Tekken 3, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Breath of Fire IV, Dragon Quest VIII, NBA 2K12, Gears of War 3, Geometry Wars 2, Vagrant Story, Lumines Live.

Fighters all day, errday.
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