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Insider’s guide to Street Fighter V: Pro tips for climbing the leaderboards

Gfinity Elite Series Australia

The first Street Fighter game was released way back in 1987, and with over 30 years of special moves, strategies and combos, approaching the game now can be fairly daunting. 

Things only get worse once you get into the menus and look at the button list, and going online is a death wish. So what do you do, give up? Resign yourself to button-mashing and kicking people in the leg hoping they’ll crumble?

Heck no. Street Fighter is only getting more popular and now’s the time to conquer your fear and master Chun-Li’s 219 hit combo.

Okay, maybe not that much improvement.

Either way, not only will getting better make you the king among your mates, you might even be able to get a piece of the A$3 million in prize money paid out to professional Street Fighter V players since 2016.

So here are some tips on how to improve in Street Fighter V – and have some fun along the way.

1. Try out every character first

Two fighters street fighter

Finding your favourite character is your first step to achieving glory. (Image: Capcom)

There are 34 different characters in Street Fighter V, all with different levels of power, health, mobility, technique and range. You don’t have to play for hours to know whether you like a character or not; usually, one or two games are enough to recognise when someone isn’t for you.

There are four different character archetypes with their own strengths and weaknesses:

  • Offensive – rushing opponents
  • Defensive – stay at long-range and keep enemies at a distance
  • Balances – well-rounded characters able to adapt to the situation
  • Grapplers – deal huge damage at close range

Trying out each character has two major benefits. Firstly, it allows you to figure out what play style suits you. Are you a brutal brawler like Abigail? A mobile ninja like Zeku? Or do prefer Necalli’s animalistic style? Playing each will let you find out. The other benefit of doing this is that by using each character, you get a fundamental knowledge and respect for each characters specific set of skills, special moves and play styles.

2. Take your time to learn the basics

Two female fighter SFV

Learning the fundamentals is a key step to Street Fighter greatness. (Image: Capcom)

Believe it or not, Capcom actually simplified Street Fighter V in comparison to previous, more complicated versions. They wanted the game to be more approachable to new players, rather than alienating them. With that in mind, there are several ways to learn the basics in the game itself, namely the tutorial, training and challenge modes. These modes are specifically designed to help increase your skill level.

Once you’ve found at least one or two characters that you like, head into these modes to practice the fundamentals. Doing this will let you get a feel for all the important stuff that will help you win games, from how quickly you need to press buttons for your combinations to work, to how far Ryu’s punches reach. This mightn’t sound like the most exciting thing to do, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly it improves your ability.

For example, head into training mode and practice your moves on the training dummy. Don’t worry about it not fighting back, just concentrate on building your muscle memory. Eventually, Akuma’s Raging Demon, M. Bison’s Psycho Crusher and Dhalsim’s Yoa Fire will become second nature. Seeing that Street Fighter is all about controlling the screen, work on attacking until your opponent is driven into a corner, then jump over them and drive them back to the other corner.

3. Find your favourite moves

Ken vs Ryu

Conquering a special move will give you a crutch to lean on. (Image: Capcom)

Everyone has a go-to. Michael Jordan had his fadeaway jump shot, Ronaldinho had his Elastico and DJ Khaled has his “Another One!”. You need to find your own signature move. Finding your preferred characters and learning the basics will allow you to do this. Street Fighter V works on a 2D plane, meaning that controlling space is important. You have both horizontal and vertical space to worry about – ideally, you’ll want a few normal and special moves that will allow you to control the fight.

For example, Ryu is a popular all-round fighter. He’s got several normal kicks and punches (moves that only require one button) that allow him to fight well while standing up, but he can also use his crouching Hard Punch – or Shoryuken – to launch an uppercut. This extends his vertical range. As well as these moves, his classic Shinku Hadoken shoots a fireball and puts some space between you and your enemy.

While it will take some time to learn how to put all these moves together into one coherent combination of attacks, learning one or two of each type of attack will make sure that you’re confident no matter what your opponent throws at you.

4. Strikes, blocks and throws, oh my!

Ken kicking Ryu

A well-timed block can be just as powerful as a brutal kick. (Image: Capcom)

The Street Fighter community often uses scissors, paper, rock as a simple analogy to explain the basics of the game. You would be a lunatic if you only ever used rock in a game of scissors, paper, rock – right? In Street Fighter V, blocks beat strikes, strikes beat throws, and throws beat blocks. Therefore, it’s foolish to only ever use strikes.

Once you’ve taken the time to learn your moves, the next step is learning when to use them. The aim here is to keep your opponent guessing and exploit their play style. If you notice they spend lots of time blocking, then you best rush in and throw them until they are forced to switch up their strategy. On the other end of the scale, if someone keeps striking, you could block until you see an opening, then punish them with a throw.

The general aim here is to have well-balanced control of all areas of attack and defence, and not use one specific type as a crutch. Having said that, if you find yourself quickly able to master striking, then use that to your advantage – just be prepared for the inevitable counter.

5. Your meters matter

HUD during ryu fight

Learning the intricacies of your HUD can be the difference between winning and losing. (Image: Capcom)

The first thing you’ll notice when you jump into a game is that the screen is full of bright, flashing bars. It might sound silly, but recognising what these bars mean in the heat of battle can be the difference between a last-second win or an agonising defeat.

  • Health Bar: No guessing what this one is. If that green column runs out, you’re done.
  • Stun Meter: This is the tiny white bar running under your health. This bar fills up as you hit successive attacks on your opponent. When it’s full, your enemy will be temporarily stunned and unable to move – so keeping an eye on it is crucial.
  • Variable Meter: The red bar running along the bottom of your screen is the Variable Meter. Each character has their own V-trigger – a power-up that lasts around 30 seconds, as well as a defensive V-Reversal, V-Skill and a quick attack. Fill this meter by taking damage (which I do, constantly).
  • EX Meter: Also at the bottom of your screen, this blue meter fills up for pretty much anything you do in a fight. Once you hit several milestones on the meter, you can use them to supercharge a special attack or choose to save it up and use the entire bar on a Critical Art attack. If you connect, it has a sick animation and does a disgusting amount of damage.

6. Take your skills online

Abigail army gear

This is an actual image of how angry I get while playing online. (Image: Capcom)

The ancient Spartans sent their young boys out into the woods to prove their skill. If they could look after themselves, hunt, eat, survive and return in one piece, they would become a man. The less horrible version of this in Street Fighter V is playing online multiplayer. After a while, you need to leave the moderate safety of training, challenge and single-player modes and prove yourself against the online community.

This is where you put all your practice to the test. Spoiler: your first few games are going to test your patience. You’re going to get frustrated as things that worked for you against AI fails against unpredictable human counterparts. Then there’s lag and trash-talking and annoying strategies to deal with too.

But nothing matches the thrill of being a real-life opponent. It’s the ultimate test, and you’ll find yourself quickly learning your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as learning strategies, combinations and ways to win that you never previously encountered. This is when the Padawan becomes the Jedi Master.

Bonus tip: Watch pro gamers play

If you want to be a great writer, you read James Joyce and Leo Tolstoy. If you want to be a great public speaker, you watch Barack Obama and Winston Churchill. Likewise, if you want to be a great Street Fighter V player, you watch professional players like Tokido, Infiltration and Fujimara.

Another great way to learn is by watching the brutal brawls, unique play styles and epilepsy-evoking action of tournaments from around the world.

Season 2 of the Gfinity Elite Series Australia is on now and features some of the best Street Fighter V players in the world. It’s a great place to start, and runs from the start of November to December 17.

About the author

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Contact me at jackndelaney@gmail.com.

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