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SF4 Attack Movement Classifications

November 26th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Street Fighter IV series combo system is highly movement-oriented. Most characters have rigid juggle flowcharts, which means it usually doesn’t take long to find all their best juggle combos. That doesn’t leave much room for improvement in the air, so we have to focus on the ground for further optimization.

The key to constructing advanced SF4 and SSF4 ground combos is understanding how each attack affects the distance between your character and the opponent. Generally speaking, all attacks are supposed to push the opponent away to prevent combos from becoming infinites. Your task is to find ways to minimize or negate that countermeasure.

The first thing you should look for are attacks that move your character forward automatically. For example, Cody’s F+MP glides ahead during startup and produces frame advantage, essentially eliminating its own pushback. If you can find a way to combo back into any such forward-moving attack, you’ll probably end up with a loop, as SF4 Akuma’s far s.HK proved.

Another method of creating forward movement is to simply walk forward between attacks. For instance, Ken’s s.LP provides +7 frame advantage and connects on the 4th frame, which gives him 3 frames to walk forward between each jab.

Of course, every character can also combo into EX Focus Attack or Focus Attack dash cancel to cover a ton of ground at the cost of two meter bars. Basically SF4’s FADC system allows you to glue together any three meterless ground combos of your choosing.* Thus the emphasis shifts toward optimizing each of those individual pieces.

Now we get into the sophisticated stuff. Pretty much every character in the game has certain attacks that move them forward temporarily. Once the attack is completed, they’ll step back and forfeit the gain. However if you cancel the attack into anything, they’ll hold their new position. For example Ryu’s close s.MK is normally stationary, but canceling it into a fireball generates noticeable forward movement – despite Ryu’s immobile Hadoken animation. Other examples include Blanka’s far s.LP, Abel’s c.HK, Chun Li’s c.HP, and half of Gen’s normals.

Likewise, kara-canceling a forward-leaning normal move into a special or super move provides a quick movement boost. Although kara-cancel opportunities don’t come up too often during ground combos, they’re still good to know just in case.

The next step is to take a closer look at how pushback works. In the SF4 series, pushback has two components. Everone knows that when an attack connects, it pushes the opponent backward a certain distance at a certain speed. Some attacks, such as Cammy’s close s.HK and Dudley’s s.MK, cause very little pushback on impact. These always come in handy.

The second component of pushback occurs prior to the attack connecting. Pressing a button expands the attacker’s hitbox to a predetermined size. If the opponent is standing at point blank range, that expansion pushes them backward before the strike even makes contact. Take a look at Rufus’ c.HP or Honda’s close s.MK for a pair of extreme examples.

Even though nearly all light attacks cause the same amount of impact pushback, there’s usually a huge difference between their actual results. Try this: Pick Guile against Ryu, walk into the corner, and try out all four of Guile’s light attacks from point blank range.

If you compare where Guile ends up, you’ll notice that c.LP pushes Guile back the shortest distance, then c.LK, then close s.LP, and finally close s.LK creates the widest gap by far. In fact, c.LP -> c.LP causes less total pushback than a single close s.LK does. Believe it or not, even c.LP -> close s.LK causes less pushback than close s.LK does alone.

Now walk all the way into the corner again and hit Ryu with Guile’s s.LP to create a fixed gap. Wait for Ryu to fully recover, then hit him with Guile’s c.LP and note where Guile ends up. Repeat the test with Guile’s close s.LK instead of c.LP and check the distance again. Yup, it’s the exact same. This proves that c.LP and close s.LK cause identical impact pushback.

In other words, you can use Guile’s close s.LK without the extra pushback penalty as long as you’re already outside its pre-impact bubble. And obviously it pays to know that Guile’s c.LP is his best close-range light attack combo starter. Four down, fourteen normal moves to go.

Lastly, it’s important to take the opponent’s reeling hitboxes into account when optimizing ground combos. For example, SF4 series crossups are surprisingly detrimental, because they cause opponents to lean backward, which expands their hitbox in that direction and prevents you from getting in close. It turns out that frontal jump-ins are much better across the board.

Of course it’s pretty much impossible to predict what’s going to happen with these bizarre warping hitboxes in real time, so this step basically boils down to trial and error. Good luck!

* EX Focus Attack costs and combo meter scaling are obviously critical for preventing abuse. Looking at Abel’s infinite combo and El Fuerte’s RSF loop, it’s not too surprising that the two characters who can cancel into vast forward movement for free ended up with basic loops.

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  1. November 27th, 2010 at 00:00 | #1

    I had this written up already so may as well post it. No reason to leave it laying around, right? Maybe it’ll get everyone’s minds off the recent drama.

  2. November 27th, 2010 at 05:14 | #2

    Really liked that, what other moves are there that move you forward when canceled that you know of? I can only think of Sakura’s cl.mk and a couple of Makoto’s.

  3. Doopliss
    November 27th, 2010 at 11:43 | #3


    Seth’s c.MK does as well, but only in SSFIV. Btw Maj, shouldn’t you mention someting about leaning into moves to cause mid-combo meatys?

  4. November 27th, 2010 at 12:52 | #4

    jamheald: Usually whatever people use for kara-throws will provide movement for normal cancels as well, but of course most of those moves are far attacks which tend to be uncancelable. Anyway, other examples are Vega’s c.MK, Sagat’s c.MK, Bison’s close s.MP / close s.MK, Rose’s close s.HP, Cammy’s c.MK / far s.MP, and Gen’s Hyakurenko (at least in SF4, not sure about SSF4). And Shoto c.MK in SF3, which is probably where all this began.

    Doopliss: That’s what the last (non-italic) paragraph was about. There’s really not much more to say besides listing examples, because there’s no direct method to finding that stuff. I mean it’s basically just trial and error. Plus that’s more of a hitbox contortion issue than positional movement.

  5. Kikuichimonji
    November 27th, 2010 at 14:00 | #5

    Wait, so chained normals do different pushback than linked normals? I tested this before and I thought they turned out exactly the same way. I only tested Seth’s jabs/cr.lk though.

  6. November 27th, 2010 at 14:18 | #6

    If you’re asking about Guile’s c.LP -> close s.LK causing less pushback than close s.LK alone, then … well, it’s complicated.

    Pushback happens gradually, not instantly. If you hit the opponent with another attack while pushback from a previous attack is resolving, the new attack’s pushback simply replaces the old one. They don’t add up. The remainder of the old attack’s pushback gets discarded.

    So in the oldschool SF2 series, perfect timing on light attack chains was important because if you delay it by a frame, that’s an extra frame of old pushback before the next attack takes over. SF2 Ryu can combo like five c.LK’s if you chain them precisely enough, but if you do it really slow then only three of them will reach.

    However i don’t think that’s the issue here because SF4 series light attacks seem to chain a lot slower in general. This phenomenon still applies to SF4, but in more limited fashion. (For example, Gen’s Hyakurenko causes a ton of pushback per hit, but they connect so quickly after one another that only a tiny bit of each pushback takes effect – until Gen pushes himself out of range and you see the full pushback of the last hit.)

    In Guile’s case, i think his c.LP causes the opponent’s hitbox to twist away, which lessens the pre-impact pushback of his close s.LK because it’s essentially pushing away against a thinner boundary.

    Any kind of hit stun causes weird hitbox distortion in SF4, and it’s all character-specific, so you kind of have to test it on a case-by-case basis. You can’t just make predictions based on what you know about how these attacks behave against neutral opponents.

  7. November 28th, 2010 at 05:09 | #7

    a canceled c.mp definitely moves Seth forward a lot in vanilla just may not move as much

    it should be noted that in the corner you get pushed back rather then your opponent and projectiles won’t cause push back.
    Theoretically all non projectile ground combos possible in the corner should be possible outside the corner but for some reason this doesn’t seem to be the case

  8. November 28th, 2010 at 05:09 | #8

    I meant c.mk

  9. November 28th, 2010 at 07:10 | #9

    Yeah the corner is weird in the SF4 series. That discrepancy doesn’t occur in SF2/SFA/SF3/CvS, but i have noticed it happening in the Marvel games.

    I’m not sure if it the corner reduces pushback for all moves or just specific types. It’s only a slight difference but it can add up to an extra hit over the course of a full combo.

  10. Doopliss
    November 28th, 2010 at 07:30 | #10

    I guess you’re right, but it’s quite ridiculous in Super.

  11. polarity
    November 28th, 2010 at 11:44 | #11

    Great article as always Maj.

    “Now we get into the sophisticated stuff. Pretty much every character in the game has certain attacks that move them forward temporarily. Once the attack is completed, they’ll step back and forfeit the gain. However if you cancel the attack into anything, they’ll hold their new position.”

    Is this feature exclusive to the SF4 series? It seems to imply that during these “move forward temporarily” moves, the character’s “push box” moves with the character’s model (which would make sense as hitboxes in SF4 seem to be bound to the model’s skeleton). In other games, though, there are examples of moves where the character’s sprite appears to move forward, but their push box stays in the same place (e.g. ST Vega cr.Fierce).

  12. November 28th, 2010 at 13:34 | #12

    Not quite all, for instance anything cancelled into a run will have less knock back in the corner (right?) like rsf.

  13. November 28th, 2010 at 17:15 | #13

    no running doesn’t reduce knockback in the corner, can you get more rsf loops in the corner then midscreen? I don’t think you can

  14. November 28th, 2010 at 17:22 | #14

    also fadcing off a non projectile move doesn’t get you any closer in the corner then mid screen
    but jumping will negate pushback, so a combo that ends with an instant overhead may work better in the corner

  15. November 28th, 2010 at 18:56 | #15

    polarity: It’s pretty common in SF3, but not so much in other series. It’s pretty easy to test too. You just corner the opponent, hit them with a couple of fierces to establish fixed position, then whiff a special move. Remember where you end up. Repeat the spacing setup, then make the opponent parry a normal move and cancel it into the same special move. Compare where you ended up to the previous result. The parry negates all pushback from the normal move, leaving you with only the forward movement of the special move plus the forward movement produced by canceling the normal move. Try Shoto c.MK if you need a positive test case.

    error1: What makes you think that jumping negates pushback?

  16. November 28th, 2010 at 23:02 | #16

    just when the opponent is in the corner, It’s easy to test but not very useful, I’m not sure super jumps have fast enough start up but any move that puts you in the air should work

  17. ilitirit
    November 29th, 2010 at 02:41 | #17

    This doesn’t necessarily have to do with movement pushback, but many characters push you back quite far as they’re rising from a knock down. This sometimes makes it harder to combo off short range meaties.

  18. November 29th, 2010 at 11:33 | #18

    error1: What game did you test that in? Because it’s not true in SF2, SF4, Marvel, or CvS. It might be true in SFA, but that’s difficult to test.

    ilitirit: Yeah, a lot of characters kick their legs out during their wakeup animations and for some reason SF4 extends their pushboxes when they do that. It’s kinda dumb.

  19. Rufus
    November 29th, 2010 at 12:22 | #19

    I get the impression that corner pushback is different in SF2. At least in HDR, it seems like Dictators’ crouching short -> standing short will only work on Ken if Ken is in the corner. (There’s also pushback/forward magic with the different SPDs, but that’s not really comboing.)

    Another example of easy forward travel leading to a loop is Fei Long’s chicken wing infinite.

  20. November 29th, 2010 at 13:37 | #20

    Whoa, you’re right, it looks like ST Bison’s c.LK, s.LK link only works if you get close s.LK, since it’s 2 frames faster than far s.LK on startup. And i can only get close s.LK to come out in the corner.

    I verified this oddity by having Ryu’s c.LK hit Bison in the corner, then taking a screenshot with both of them crouching. Then i did the same thing midscreen and overlayed the two images in photoshop, and they were one pixel farther apart midscreen.

    I ran the same test with two non-comboed Ryu c.LK’s and the difference between corner and midscreen results was again one pixel.

    Then i tried having Bison hit Ryu with one s.LK and then having Ryu hit Bison with one c.LK, and the difference between corner and midscreen results was one pixel again. In fact, i measured it after just having cornered Bison’s s.LK hitting Ryu, and that one pixel difference was still there.

    Lastly, i just had them crouch at point blank range and there was no difference between corner and midscreen.

    So, i don’t know, i guess if both characters are all the way in the corner, pushback is reduced by one pixel. Though i’m sure we’ll find more details if someone tests this for longer than 15 minutes.

  21. ShenWoo
    November 29th, 2010 at 14:03 | #21

    nice read btw spelled trial wrong at the end.

  22. November 29th, 2010 at 16:58 | #22

    Fixed it, thanks.

  23. November 29th, 2010 at 17:38 | #23

    Maj :
    error1: What game did you test that in? Because it’s not true in SF2, SF4, Marvel, or CvS. It might be true in SFA, but that’s difficult to test.

    I know jumping doesn’t stop push back in the corner in marvel, because jump attacks on a grounded opponent in the corner cause you to be pushed back unlike other street fighter games.
    Alpha should be easy because rose’s soul illusions cause you to be pushed back unlike with a projectile. It seems like I tested it with chun in sf4 but I don’t remember what move, I’ll check it out. Idk about cvs or sf2

  24. November 29th, 2010 at 19:21 | #24

    tested sf4 it’s pretty obvious El Fuerte’s Guacamole Leg Throw cancels the pushback from a close hp. It may just be a move propriety because lp snake strike seems to cause pushback like a grounded move. Meaty db. hp with dhalsim seems like the best way to check but I’m not sure if you can jump fast enough for it to work.
    anyway in alpha doing a lp with soul illusion activated it’s obvious you don’t move as far if you hold up

  25. November 29th, 2010 at 21:10 | #25

    SF2: Ryu close s.LK -> vertical jump = You can see Ryu moving backward after he leaves the ground. It’s even more apparent if you jump straight up after landing a deep j.HP against a crouching opponent.

    SFA: Jumping immediately after Chun Li’s blocked LK Lightning Legs clearly negates the remaining pushback. Same deal in SFA2 and SFA3.

    3S: Chun Li close s.HK -> vertical superjump seems to negate pushback. She lands way closer than if you simply allow the s.HK to recover. Same deal with Ibuki close s.HK and Oro close s.MP (both blocked to prevent knockdown).

    SF4: Viper c.HP -> vertical superjump = You can see her moving backward in the air. It’s subtle, but definitely happening after she leaves the ground.

    CvS2: Chun Li close s.HK -> vertical superjump = You can clearly see her moving backward in the air.

    XSF: Ryu s.HP -> manual superjump = You can clearly see him moving backward in the air.

    Also i don’t understand what you mean by “jump attacks on a grounded opponent in the corner cause you to be pushed back unlike other street fighter games.

    Try a vertical jump attack against a cornered opponent in any Street Fighter game. You always get pushed back – even in SFA2 and 3S.

    If you think the vertical jump is messing with the results, compare where Dhalsim lands if you jump forward from full screen away compared to where he lands when you connect j.MP from full screen away. There’s clearly pushback. (Or if Dhalsim isn’t in the game, simply jump forward twice from full screen away with any character.)

    Being airborne isn’t what negates pushback in SFA and SF3. The act of jumping is what resets leftover pushback in those games.

    Only the SFA series seems to be a little weird with this stuff. Apparently if your jump attack hits them high enough, the pushback never takes place. You can actually connect a vertical jump attack in SFA with zero pushback if you hit them really high. You get full pushback if you hit them deep. Or you can get anywhere inbetween by hitting them kinda high, as you drop. It’s easy to test with Shoto vertical j.HK against a tall character like Birdie.

    Also CvS1 had some pretty messed up pushbox rules relating to airborne moves. For instance you literally could not push someone by dashing into them. So it’s probably better to ignore that ghetto game.

  26. November 30th, 2010 at 02:45 | #26

    I guess I just play too much street fighter alpha,
    What I meant is you don’t get pushed back in the air, but I guess that’s just true in the alpha games

    Still not convinced about sf4, so many moves appear to be air born but are not, but super jump looks convincing, it could be that because she is moving back during her grounded startup she maintains her momentum, it’s may just be a move propriety, it wouldn’t make any sense for a knockdown move or throw to deal with knockback so it may negate it like Guacamole Leg Throw

    still interesting information I always assumed sfa didn’t change that much from sf2

  27. November 30th, 2010 at 23:14 | #27

    El Fuerte is all sorts of wobbly though. If you hold Down during any attack to crouch immediately after recovery, he’ll end up in a different spot (further back) than if you let him recover in neutral and then crouch.

    Also canceling his close s.HP moves him forward for sure. Try with c.MP or c.MK? Those attacks appear to remain in place.

  28. ano
    December 1st, 2010 at 22:16 | #28

    do you have any explanation for this? it isn’t a kara, it seems like gief’s center point moves forward a large amount on the first frame of his walk or something

  29. December 2nd, 2010 at 00:58 | #29

    If i had to guess, i’d say it has something to do with Sakura leaning forward as she bobbles from side to side.

    That D, DF, F, UF, U, UB, B+LP motion definitely helps too. Youtube cuts out a lot of frames so you don’t get an accurate sense of how long Gief actually walks there, but you can hold Forward for like 10 frames and still get the SPD command. That’s no joke.

  30. Smileymike101
    December 13th, 2010 at 13:47 | #30

    When i read the character leaning section, i couldn’t help but thinnk how effed in the ass dudley is in this game by the opponents’ reeling animation.On t.hawk st.mp~st.mp for some ridiculously retarded reason wiffs, and LOTs of combos involving his st.mp even on standing opponents.
    Also, another stupid stuff.CH duck straight i like +4, right?Well, you’d say that great, but you are WRONG, as the opponent reels SOOOOO much, they almost hit the floor with their back, and no 4 frame or faster nomal will hit them, even from point blank.Even st.HK wiffs.I think that against certain characters it hits, but it’s retarded none the less.

  31. Smileymike101
    December 13th, 2010 at 14:01 | #31

    Also, there are some links against some characters with dudley that do not work in the corner ,but work mid screen.Dammit, i forgot the exact example, but i think it’s st.mk !cr.mp on blanka or something.I really forgot the caracter, but i am sure f.mk ~ cr.mp doesnt work agaisnt somebody in the corner but works midscreen.I tell you, if they really actually fixed the hitboxes in arcade edition, Dudley’ll get way better.
    On Boxer,meaty cr.lk ~ cr.lp ~ st.hk will make the st.hk hit 2nd frame meaty, essentially making it a one framer, cr.jab (from clsoest possible) cr.mp or cr.jab ~ cr.lk will sometimes miss, and all kinds of stupid shit.
    I am not even mentioning how ridiculously character specific are his juggles.I think he is the most character specific character in the game.I unistalled the game from my harddrive, so when i fight, i see what character they chose, and start thinking:”Ok, so the chose X.Against X , f.mk ~ st.mp ~ st.hk xx whatever punisher works/doesn’t work, i can/cannot get doudle sweep after ex mgb, i can/cannot get dp after ex mgb midd screen, i should/shouldn’t try duck straight after ex mgb (on bison, for example, is a one framer)and all kinds of stuff.”If it’s Adon, i don’t even bother trying to juggle him with anything.Nothing works agaisnt him.Seriously, go to training and try Dudley juggles against Adon.

  32. ano
    December 13th, 2010 at 14:35 | #32

    No, he’s not actually walking forward for 10 frames, nor is it sakura specific. The guy that posted that vid is a local player, and he has shown me it working on every character. He does not know how or why it works, just that it does. The amount of time it takes visually if I had to eyeball it is less than or about equal to ken’s f.mk kara throw.

    It is really strong in matches because he can whiff a far standing strong and then throw without visibly walking forward, which zangief cannot do without this technique.

  33. onreload
    December 13th, 2010 at 15:44 | #33

    Which way did he do the first jab SPD? and it doesn’t HAVE to be 10 frames, but even a few would bring her into range – maj was just pointing out the maximum input leniency, something SFIV has a huge amount of. I do way more accidental 360s in that game than any other. So it’s very possible he walks forward for, let’s say, 3 or 4 frames? And maybe the first input is done as d, db, b, ub, u, uf, (f), which would move him back a bit (though he seems to be in the same spot, it’s hard to tell on such small increments)

    You’re always gonna have character-specific juggles and links, dude. Some of them are more game-breaking than others, and yeah it’s harder to remember when you have 35 characters…but check out some Dudley stuff from 3s, the advanced juggles only work on a handful of people. Maybe just stick to simpler combos? You shouldn’t need crazy 1-framers to win a match.

  34. Smileymike101
    December 13th, 2010 at 23:09 | #34

    The problem is, some of his juggles DO turn into 1 frame links against certain characters, and i must know exactly what characters, so i can avoid those way to hard juggles.
    The thing that i was pointing out is that Ryu doesn’t give a shit who he’s facing combo wise.
    F.hp ~ whatever works on everyone,cr.jab ~ sweep, the same, all his bnb and juggles(although limited juggles) work on everyone no problem,while half of Dudley’s juggles don’t work, say, on Adon,which is very odd.
    I ,by no means, feel capable enough to land 1framers, and i didn’t say i try to land any.The char specific punisher i listed, f.mk ~ st.mp ~st.hk, is made of a 2 framer and a 3 framer, and is actually pretty easy.I just don’t want them to turn into one framers, or even be impossible against certain opponents.

  35. December 16th, 2010 at 01:13 | #35

    ano: If Zangief’s freaky first step is special, then he ought to move forward noticeably faster by tapping F quickly compared to holding F. You can test that via Time Attack Level 11 in SF4’s Challenge Mode – since dashing is disabled. I tried mashing F as fast as i could (without tool-assistance) and Gief barely even moves. He clearly advances way slower than simply walking forward.

    Smileymike101: Maybe those “malfunctions” aren’t accidental? Just because they gave some attack +4 on counterhit doesn’t necessarily mean they want you using it as a reliable combo setup. And just because something has juggle potential and works against a few characters doesn’t mean it’s meant to be a guaranteed practical combo.

  1. December 29th, 2010 at 13:23 | #1
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