Enthusiasm vs Experience
If you’ve been playing Super Street Fighter IV since spring or summer, you’ve probably run into a few oldschool players with rock-solid fundamentals, who seem to adapt very quickly. These guys are seriously tough to beat, and it may seem like an uphill battle which only gets steeper the longer you play against them.
There’s a number of obvious reasons behind their immediate and continued success. They’ve gone up against just about every play style in existence. They’ve learned to use more characters than you’ve fought against. They’ve entered more tournaments than you’ve seen. Suffice it to say, experience is a major advantage.
However, if you’re a relative newcomer to the fighting game tournament scene, you shouldn’t worry about that gap too much. That’ll be there no matter what competitive arena you walk into. The people who have been around for a long time will always have the benefit of experience, but your motivation and your enthusiasm for the game can trump that.
When you hear old-timers talk about SF4, oftentimes they can seem grumpy – like they don’t enjoy it as much as their favorite game which nobody plays anymore. But that’s natural, right?
Everyone has the game that made them fall in love with fighting games, and that’s the one they played to death. Three or four releases later, they’ll certainly have experience, but they won’t have that same desire to explore every little detail. They won’t commit the slightest surprises to memory or cherish tiny innovations they see in combo videos.
Let’s say you play Dhalsim and you can beat all your friends soundly. Well, you probably won’t be as successful if you run into someone who was around for Alpha 3. As it happens, Dhalsim was ridiculously strong in SFA3, so everyone had to learn how to deal with him.
That means your veteran opponent won’t be fazed by 80% of the stuff your friends are scared of. SFA3 graduates simply know how to play against Dhalsim on a fundamental level. They understand where Dhalsim’s strengths and weaknesses lie, and more importantly they know how to take Dhalsim players out of their comfort zone.
However, most of these guys don’t see SSF4 for what it really is, because they aren’t motivated enough to learn all the nuances. The truth is they’re still playing against A3 Dhalsim in their minds, because it’s usually enough to secure the win.
Your job is to steer away from their familiar territory and beat them with stuff they haven’t seen before. In other words, you have to make the match look dramatically different from an Alpha 3 match. How can you do that if you don’t know anything about A3 Dhalsim? For that matter, how do you even know that their anti-Dhalsim experience comes from SFA3 and not SF2WW?
You can’t and you don’t. The answer is to learn SSF4 inside-out and keep trying stuff – the newer, the better. And keep track of what works against your opponent to expand on those ideas later. Anything that confuses your opponent and makes them question their knowledge of the game will ultimately work in your favor.
The most important advantage you have is the ability to remain unpredictable. Always remember that the best Street Fighter players are experts at gradually reducing their opponents’ options until they essentially beat themselves. To avoid that fate, you must constantly look for ways to keep your gameplan dynamic and multifaceted, no matter how much pressure you’re under. It’s easier to achieve that creativity when you love the game more than your opponent does.
(On the other hand, don’t be afraid to face these guys “fair and square” either. Roll up your sleeves and play footsies with them straight up. With the right mindset, you can learn a lot very quickly even if you lose. Just don’t get frustrated and never lose your enthusiasm.)