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SF2 Chain Cancel Minutiae
Rapid fire weak attacks are the only chain-cancelable moves present in the SF2 series. While it would seem clear-cut on the surface, in reality there are a surprising number of ramifications to consider.
Most characters have at least one light attack which can be canceled into itself, regardless of whether it whiffs or connects. On one end of the spectrum, all six of Cammy's ground jabs and shorts qualify as rapid fire weak attacks, whereas E.Honda and Blanka have access to none.
Furthermore, rapid fire weak attacks can be canceled into any other weak attack mapped to the same button. For example, Chun Li's standing jabs are her only rapid fire weak attacks, so she can cancel them into c.LP but not into any of her LK attacks.
Generally, rapid fire weak attacks become chain-cancelable immediately following their first active frame. If the attack connects, followup chain cancel button inputs are ignored until after hit impact freeze. Many recent games have reversed this policy, or otherwise adopted more lenient timing.
Throughout the SF2 series, whenever a standing light attack is chained into another standing light attack, the successor loses any special move cancelability it may normally possess. The same stipulation applies to chained crouching light attacks. However, alternating between standing and crouching attacks avoids this restriction. That is, for every game except World Warrior, which assigns inexplicably arbitrary cancellation rules to each character on a seemingly individual basis.
Another way to bypass the chain combo lockout is through a technique called renda-kara-canceling. After chaining together two or more standing light attacks, it's still possible to perform a crouching light attack then immediately kara-cancel into a special move before the crouching attack fully animates. Executed with enough precision, most special moves will connect before the opponent recovers from hit stun inflicted by the final standing attack. Of course, the same principle works for multiple crouching light attacks, with a kara-canceled standing attack substituted at the end.
For whatever reason, the SF2 game engine makes it possible to cancel rapid fire weak attacks into jumps. If the joystick is held in one of the upward positions while attempting any legitimate chain, the character will jump instead. This applies to both standing and crouching rapid fire weak attacks, whether they whiff or connect.
Since all light attacks cause the same amount of hit stun and since all rapid fire weak attacks become cancelable immediately after impact freeze, their substantially diversified recovery periods don't factor into their jump-cancel frame advantage potential. Ground-based jump startup and air attack startup are the only distinctions between characters in this scenario. Against taller opponents, it turns out that every character with a rapid fire weak attack can combo into jump attacks.
It's common knowledge that WW, CE, and HF all ran on the classic CPS1 arcade hardware before the upgraded CPS2 hardware was unveiled for SSF2 and ST. All three of the CPS1 SF2 games have a glitch which enables rapid fire weak kicks to be chained into any of the three punch buttons.
The trick is to perform any rapid fire s.LK and then press D+LK+LP, D+LK+MP, or D+LK+HP to cancel into those respective crouching punch attacks. Conversely, rapid fire c.LK attacks can be canceled into standing punches by pressing LK+LP, LK+MP, or LK+HP.
Due to the mandatory swaps between standing and crouching moves, CPS1 chained punches always retain their inherent special move cancelability. As with regular chains, rapid fire shorts are eligible for CPS1 chain-canceling even when they whiff entirely.
There are numerous known ways of arranging scenarios in which one character momentarily faces away from the other, creating opportunities to perform a backwards oriented move. When this occurs with any rapid fire weak attack, nearly all of the above flowcharts and regulations fly out the window.
If the backwards facing rapid fire weak attack connects, then performing a basic chain cancel will automatically correct the character's orientation. What makes such reoriented attacks special is that they always retain their innate cancelability attributes, even without having to switch between standing and crouching moves. Moreover, starting any CPS1 chain with a backwards facing rapid fire weak kick eliminates the need to alternate between standing and crouching moves.
If the backwards facing rapid fire weak attack whiffs, it can still be chain-canceled during its active frames, with surprising results. The initial attack is reoriented before the followup begins to animate, causing both moves to connect in quick succession. Thus it's actually possible to kara-cancel the second move before it even appears, giving off the false impression that the first move was somehow canceled directly into a special move.
However, this phenomenon is more than a useless illusion. Everyone knows that Guile's c.LK can not be canceled into special moves. Of course it can easily be renda-kara-canceled into Flash Kick as a combo, but unfortunately Guile's Sonic Boom happens to be one frame too slow for the same method to work mid-combo. Since the backwards facing trick makes it possible to renda-kara-cancel without waiting for the followup light attack to appear, it cuts down the optimal transition time by one frame. For all practical purposes, it mimics the exact resultant timing of a natural normal to special cancel.
As a relatively new technique, there are still quite a few details to sort out. Particularly in WW, some of these tricks often tend to aggravate several of the game's more famous kara-canceling glitches.