Systematic Street Fighters and Skilltesters

If you’ve been playing as much Street Fighter IV as I have (or any online at all), you should probably appreciate this. I claim no credit for it myself and have no idea who made it, but I thought the … Continued

Playing as Ken takes a subtle mastry of the art of fighting.

Playing as Ken takes a subtle mastery of the art of fighting, but very little skill at Street Fighter.

If you’ve been playing as much Street Fighter IV as I have (or any online at all), you should probably appreciate this. I claim no credit for it myself and have no idea who made it, but I thought the readership might like it. It’s a big, complex image, so I’ll have to commit a faux pas and thumbnail it.

And because this wouldn’t be fun without a little bit of extra overthinking, I’m going to talk a bit about what this means after the jump —

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s one piece of genuine overthinking — in fighting game design, special moves are often traps for the players who try to use them. They’re called “skill-testers,” meaning they’re put in the game with the intention that the player will overestimate their efficacy.

Really good, but not as good as it looks.

Really good, but not as good as it looks.

Usually, knowing the fireball and the crazy fire uppercut is all well and good, but if that’s all you use, it is pretty easy for people who know the boring other moves to beat you. Choosing the less flashy but more effective move for the correct circumstance is a learning process – and a measure of increased skill in the game. It keeps the gaming experience oriented toward discovery longer if there are incentives to change the way you play as you get better.

Now, in Street Fighter IV, the special moves are not so much traps as overreliance on them is a trap – you get a little bit better by knowing how to do the special moves, so there’s an incentive to use them to beat up on rookies. You get a lot better when you learn how to use a character’s full moveset – but most players never get to that point, and the online play for Street Fighter IV is full of people who just spam fireballs and jumping dragon punches like they’re going out of style (which, of course, they are not. They are still awesome).

Super Smash Brothers is a much better example of a fighting game franchise that has special moves designed as skill-testers. A really solid share of characters’ B moves are pretty close to useless, but very flashy and attractive to newer players. All of us who’ve played have probably experienced being hit by Pikachu’s thundershock over and over again – and if we’ve played for a while, we know that it is a very vulnerable strategy.

So, when you go out there in the world, I can offer you one piece of advice – the situations where it’s really a good idea to Falcon Punch are few and far between. Be careful when you whip that thing out, sonny.

Falcon PUNCH!!!

Falcon PUNCH!!!

6 Comments on “Systematic Street Fighters and Skilltesters”

  1. stokes OTI Staff #

    But in all seriousness: Pete, is the chart accurate in its implied claim that the Shoryouken is never, ever a good idea?


  2. fenzel #


    I think it’s accurate in that a mainstream Ken player has no plan for winning the match and tends to just repeat the same thing over and over again.

    Maybe there should be another branch on there for when Ken actually wins the match, but making that sacrifice in accuracy for the sake of humor is probably worth it.


  3. Gab #

    Hm, this makes me think a lot about Yoshimitsu from the _Tekken_ series. He has those moves that pump up his lifebar, but they make him extremely vulnerable. And the ones where he stabs himself are a great concept, but even the split-second of estimating if there is little enough power left in your opponent to do it successfully (as a round-ending strike) takes about as much time as you’d need to do it, and by then they’re already getting you in the back somehow.

    How long would you say it takes a person to step out of the n00b/spamming category and into the realm of the more nuanced and experienced (game)fighter? And is it spamming if you do know a bunch of other moves but resort to the same thing over and over because you’re in a pinch?


  4. Nick #

    I have to admit, in the days of Tekken 2 I always used to pick Eddie and always did that one move where he stands on his hands and spins around so he kicks whoever comes near him in the face.
    Much like that thing when you’re a kid and you punch the air (eat the air) and go towards someone else (a pie) and claim it’s their fault if they get hit (eaten) for being in the way. (Sometimes I struggle to differentiate between my actual life and cartoons)
    Back on topic – this strategy meant that I ALWAYS won against anyone I played, to the point where people would refuse to play against me unless I picked a different player. But I play that game now, against some more “serious gamers” and I get absolutely hammered. Because they’ve all played against people who do the same thing and they’re used to dealing with it and kicking my ass.
    What I think I’m trying to say here is that each special move has its strengths and its weaknesses, and to be an experienced and succesful player you have to learn both the special moves and the ways to avoid them and it probably takes a lot of fighting the spammers to progress to this level.

    Which I guess is sort of a mediocre metaphor for life: To really become good at something you will always have to go through that first rough patch where you lose to irritatingly inadequate people. Or something…

    Unfortunately I was always just one of those annoyingly inadequate people and I no longer play Tekken. Which is sad.


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