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How to get better at Street Fighter Part 3: Why You Need To Use Training Mode

In this post I'm going to be covering a multitude of things, but most of them are going to pertain to how to use the training mode and other features that help players learn how to go about playing the game. If you've read previous installments in this series, everything I've covered so far will be useful for this post. If not, I suggest you at least skim over some of the previous posts to familiarize yourself with the terminology I'm going to be using and come back to this one after.

Almost every fighting game post-1998 has a training mode feature that was implemented, probably because of demand and developers figuring out that players could use it as a tool to help learn the game's various ins and outs, as well as figure out extremely specific things you may have come across in a match or have seen someone else do. In general, people tend to use this mode for only a couple things; combos, how to perform specials or supers, and maybe some system mechanic stuff like Focus Attacks and Just Defense.

(The following video is not Street Fighter related, but is awesome nonetheless)

And while training mode is great for those things, a lot of people stop there and don't get to figure out the really useful aspects of training mode. Even the most basic of training modes allow you to figure out things like the range of various normals, what hits high or low, what you can cancel and link from and into, and how to go about creating and performing set ups (my personal favorite).

Before we get started though, we have to figure out some basic functions of training mode to understand how to go about using it for any of those things.

Setting Up Training Mode

When you first start training mode, the game takes you right to the character select screen like it would if you were playing a match or arcade mode. The obvious reason is to select the character you're going to be learning or using, but what might not be obvious is why some games also let you select your opponent. Most people disregard this option and just pick whoever the cursor's placed on and go into training mode right away. In the beginning stages of learning the game, this is usually okay to overlook, but as you progress and become familiar with the game you'll eventually find yourself selecting specific opponents. There are a lot of reasons to do this:

- Your opponent has a small/large hit box (the part of the character you can hit). Some characters have specific combos that only work on them due to those hit boxes (Elena in 3rd Strike and Zangief in SF4 are some examples)

- You're trying to figure out how to overcome something your opponent has (reversals, footsies, specials, set ups)

- You're trying to figure out a set up that works on this specific opponent (Denjin Hadoken in 3rd Strike)

- You're trying to learn what a match against this opponent might look like (Say you've just unlocked Gill or Akuma)

- This character might have glitches or oddities about him/her you've discovered and are trying to recreate (DHC glitches, high jump cancels)

Give some thought into who you select as your opponent and go into training mode with an idea of what you're trying to accomplish. You don't always have to use training mode for a specific purpose, but it helps to know more or less what you're using it for aside from combos. The next step is figuring out how to configure training mode for its various uses.

Most training modes allow you to set things like the dummy action, meter levels, stun states, being able record your opponent and play it back, see the attack data (damage, number of hits in a combo, damage scaling, attack stun), set damage levels, and have button configs and character move lists. These things are all useful in their own ways. For example, setting meter to 1 bar allows you to see if a combo that uses meter allows you to build up enough to finish the combo off with a super. Having no meter allows you to see how much meter you build if you need to get super or want to see how much meter it gives your opponent. Setting the stun to instant allows you to practice stun combos or juggles from mid-screen or the corner. You can use the record and playback abilities to set up reversal scenarios or figure out how to overcome a zoning tactic your opponent is using. Turning the attack data on is great for seeing if extending that combo in SF4 is worth it or if you're better off saving your meter for later. Do you get more stun than damage if you extend it? Do you need more damage than the threat of stun? How about figuring out if something is a true block string or a good frame trap? Setting the dummy to block after the 1st hit or to block the first hit and then try to jab or reversal after is a good way of figuring that out.

Let's say you don't know the X-Ism Chun-Li vs. V-Ism Guile match up and don't know too many people who use X-Ism Chun-Li. It's hard to get experience against those seldom used characters, especially in a game where there are multiple versions of that character. Never played a Twelve in 3rd Strike before? Never fight them and don't know where to go about watching a good one on YouTube? Training modes often allows for players to set the dummy to a CPU and configure their difficulty. One thing I used to do in Alpha 3 was set the CPU to max difficulty in training mode and play various characters against my mains to see what I can do in that match up and what the other characters can do. It's not a perfect representation of that match up, but if gives you a foundation of familiarity to build on so you're not bum rushed by an unfamiliar opponent who exploits your lack of experience in the match up. You don't have to worry about losing because training mode isn't a match and you can figure out how to go about on offense and defense.

The other method of learning how to fight against a seldom used character is learning how to use that character yourself. If you know what he/she can or can't do, you'll be better prepared for fighting them and using that knowledge to exploit an opponent who only knows the match up, but not your character, as you may be able to catch them off guard with things they don't know.

Getting Into the Gooch of Training Mode and Frame Data

Once you're pretty familiar with how training mode works, there's a ton of things you can use it for. One of the best, if not the absolute very best, training modes ever created was put into Skullgirls, as it has a ton of options most other fighting games don't have. The most notable thing for me, is the inclusion of hit boxes and being able to set attacks as reversal.

Hit boxes and frame data are a huge part of every fighting game and destroy the notion of 'priority' that novices come up with through lack of understanding. I'll give a quick explanation in order to help anyone out who isn't quite understanding why some moves beat others or why they might not be able to throw or get thrown in certain instances.

When you perform an attack in a fighting game, every attack, no matter if they're normals, specials, supers, ultras, or focus attacks have 3 states.

The first is Start Up, where the move hasn't come out yet and is in its initial beginning phases. Most attacks are vulnerable in this state and can get stuffed by other attacks. Things like sweeps and Mexican uppercuts (crouching fierces) tend to have more start up than things like jabs or shorts. A fierce tatsumaki probably has more start up than a light tatsumaki, so specials also tend to follow this rule of light-to-fierce hierarchy.

The second state is Active, the part of the attack that can actually hit your opponent and connect. If your active hit box comes into contact with your opponent's hit box, they will get hit and the move will connect or they'll block it if they're blocking correctly. Once a hadoken is performed, it is an active hit box until it hits something (opponent or another projectile) or it leaves the screen. Most people can figure out that a shoryuken is active until its peak, and stops being active on its decent.

This part of the attack is the Recovery, where your attack has finished being active and you are once against vulnerable to getting attacked. Where normals like roundhouse and fierce usually have more start up than jabs or shorts, the same is usually true for recovery. Fierce tatsumaki is, in most instances, easier to punish on block than short tatsumaki due to its recovery. There are times when this isn't true though, as some tatsus do more stun or space your opponent to a neutral position depending on the circumstances in the match up, so that is something to take notice of.

As far as hit boxes go, you only really need to know 3 or 4.

Blue Hit boxes: The area where you can be attacked. During neutral states, you should see multiple blue boxes enveloping the entire character model and certain areas around the character model. If a red box comes into contact with your blue box, hit detection will trigger and hit or block will occur. During Sagat's Tiger Shot only his head, chest, arm, and back leg are hittable. This means his front leg from about the knee down is not hittable. The lack of a blue hit box here means any attacks in that area will whiff. Bison's Psycho Crusher, however, only has one tiny blue hit box in the middle of that huge red hit box.

Red Hit boxes: If this box comes into contact with a blue hit box, hit detection occurs and hit or block come into effect. Bison's entire body is a red hit box during his Psycho Crusher, and thus is a pretty great attack, as the only part he's hittable at during it is in the middle of his body. A tiger shot here would attack him, but seeing as how Sagat has done it so close to Bison, the resulting attacks might trade since Sagat won't recover in time to block.

Green Hit boxes: The only one you'll see in the image above is Sagat's, which is noticeably behind him. This area is generally only used to prevent characters from moving through each other. In certain games this box is always active so that you can't pass through each other on the ground or in the air. If two green hit boxes touch they will repel each other, pushing each other in a direction or to a standstill. In this image, Bison doesn't have a green hit box, which means he can pass through Sagat's green hit box.



No Blue Hit box and Detecting Throw Hit boxes: The absence of a blue hit box means this character is completely invulnerable. Like the area under Sagat's knee, if any red hit box were to come into contact with that area no hit detection would occur. Sagat wouldn't get punished, nor would he have to block if he was neutral. The absence of a hit box also happens during other special moves, specifically the start up frames of a shoryuken or super. Not all shoryukens and supers have no blue hit boxes, but certain ones that don't are completely invulnerable, making them great reversals or anti-airs. These instances are sometimes referred to as i-frames (invincible frames) or moves that are invincible. Ken's Shoryuken in CE literally has no blue hit box whatsoever, so he's completely safe during the entire animation (from start up to recovery). In ST, however, he has a blue hit box on his back and head, allowing for cross ups or certain projectiles to hit him if timed correctly. Also notice the difference in Blanka's jump in roundhouses between CE and ST. In CE, any anti-air would probably result in the opponent getting stuffed, as he has no hittable area on his legs, where in ST you can at least trade since he now has a blue hit box.

As far as throw hit boxes, these are a little difficult to detect, as they are only active when throws are active. Since most throws (command or otherwise) are 1~3 frames, that means they're active for only very short periods of time. A lot of games give throw hit boxes a red hit box, similar to attacking hit boxes. Some might do yellow or other colors to differentiate, but the important thing to note is that these hit boxes have to come into contact with blue or hittable boxes in order for hit detection to occur. Some have large ranges (ST Gief piledriver) while others have short ranges (SSF4 Makoto karakusa). Keep in mind that these boxes can grab ANY hittable/blue hit boxes if they come into contact with them, which is why you might see Gief grab Dhalsim's neutral st. HP from full screen during its start up or recovery phases.

Knowing these things goes a long ways in figuring out true block strings, frame traps, footsies, and developing a ground game in general. You don't have to know all the frame data, but it certainly helps and goes a long way towards knowing what's safe and what's not. If you can wrap your head around these things, you'll start to develop a game that's generally 'safer' and less prone to getting punished as much.

One Last Thing About Training Mode...

Training mode is great for upping your execution and knowledge, but it also helps in getting rid of those bad tendencies you know you've built along the way. Everyone has at least one or two things they do that they know they shouldn't. It's part of the learning process to recognize these things and actively try to stop doing them. Training mode can be a tool that helps you do this. Execution is absolutely key in Street Fighter, and fighting games in general.

The best method for improving my execution was taught to me by a friend who was pissed off he couldn't perform hadokens any time he wanted them. He told me he sat there in training mode one day and tried to do 100 hadokens in a row and didn't stop until he did it. Afterwards, he claims he's almost never missed another hadoken input again. Muscle memory carries you through most matches once you no longer have to actively worry about executing something and the only way to achieve this is through repetition and grinding.

If you can do something 100 times in a row, as extreme as that may sound, you can generally assure yourself that you'll be able to do it on command, every time. From BOTH sides of the screen. Great execution is simply a matter of repetition and timing. So stop mashing throw, stop mashing reversals, stop mashing jab, and put the time in to learn how to execute properly by using training mode. You've read through all this already, so you're at least serious enough to give it a try.

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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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