Street Fighter Footsies Handbook, Supplement A
Make no mistake about it, mid-range projectiles are absolutely a major facet of footsies. In fact, their uses are so diverse and their impact so significant that it’s impossible to cover everything in one article. I’ll attempt to provide a conceptual introduction instead.
Tactically speaking, a fireball is a relatively slow poke with good range. Ideally you want to rely on attacks with roughly 4-5 frames of startup, which recover quickly. By contrast, projectile specials typically have over 10 frames of startup followed by lengthy recovery periods.
To compensate, projectiles possess one exceptional property: their active hit box is invincible.
With physical attacks, effective range and vulnerable range are approximately equal. Even if you have a full-screen normal move like Dhalsim’s s.HP, whiffing it in front of Dan still gives him an opportunity to retaliate. Furthermore, Dan’s invincible Koryuken will counter Dhalsim’s s.HP from any spot inside its range. These basic principles form the foundation of footsies.
The rules of engagement change when dealing with fireballs. Counteracting the opponent’s attack is no longer enough to hurt them because projectiles are independent entities. Thus, your table of counters shifts dramatically.
Most importantly, you lose the option to retaliate after standing back, because projectiles will continue advancing until they make contact, at which point you’ll be pushed out of range. In fact, the longer a projectile travels before connecting, the more frame advantage it creates for its owner.
Projectiles can be utilized as pokes just as easily as normals can. Fireballs can apply pressure, beat out mistimed normal attacks, repel aggressive opponents, and punish mistakes. There’s no unwritten law restricting pokes to normal moves. Some fireballs even knock down, which makes them viable as midscreen counterpokes. Even if they carry frame disadvantage when blocked, most opponents are rendered incapable of retaliation after getting pushed so far backward.
Two direct universal methods of dealing with projectiles are jumping over them and stuffing them during startup. Jumping is always risky, but the reward is high provided you land a damaging combo. Using a quick poke to prevent the fireball from coming out involves less committment. However, it does require you to stay within close promixity, which is a challenge against fireball characters. It’s always wise to build meter as you work to close the gap, because even the threat of a super move can be enough to discourage opponents from throwing fireballs – tipping the matchup advantage in your favor.
The entire strategic landscape of Street Fighter changes dramatically once you begin thinking of projectiles as components of footsies. Fireballs are what transform Shotos from mediocre poking characters into mid-range powerhouses. The difference between a beginner and an expert player is immediately apparent from how well they apply fireballs in footsies.