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Ultra Street Fighter IV/Universal Abilities
First, the basics: hold Back to block high, mid, and Jumping Attacks, as well as Overheads. Hold Defensive Crouch to Block mid and low attacks (Sweeps).
Once you Block an attack, you are rendered "stuck" in Block Stun. If another attack connects on your character before you end your Block Stun, you will again be put into Block Stun and forced to Block again. In fact, since you are stuck in Block Stun during an attack, you can let go of the controller altogether and still block the next attack if you have not recovered from the first Block Stun. So for example, if Honda performs his Hundred Hand Slap, once you Block the first hit of the Hand Slap, you can let go of the controller because you will automatically block every other attack from that move.
This is what is known as a Block String: a sequence of attacks that, once you Block the first hit, you are trapped in Block Stun for the entirety of the sequence. It's basically a "combo" against someone who is Blocking.
However, if you are Blocking in the wrong height (in terms of high/low attacks), even during a Block String, you will still be hit. So, let's say the enemy does a Jumping Hard Kick and you high Block it. If the enemy does a Crouching Hard Kick while you are still in your Block Stun and you don't low Block it, just because you are in Block Stun doesn't mean you will automatically Crouch to Block the Crouch Hard Kick. You still have to adjust high or low for Blocking, even during Block Stun.
Ultra Street Fighter IV continues the recent trend of Capcom Fighting Games that uses Proximity Blocking. Your character will only go into Block if the enemy is attacking you and the attack is near you. In other words, if your character is a screen away from the opponent, and your opponent throws out a bunch of Crouching Light Kicks, your character will not go into Block stance. The attack has to be near you in order for it to cause you to Block.
Block Stun Vs. Hit Stun
Whenever you land an attack on the opponent, the opponent gets "stuck" in a state. When you hit them, they go into an animation of reeling from getting hit. When they block your attack, they get stuck in a blocking pose for a fixed amount of time.
These are what are referred to as Hit Stun and Block Stun. Hit Stun is the concept that, when hit, you are stuck in the reel animation for a while. Any hits that connect during your Hit Stun are considered a hit that combos on you. And Block Stun is the concept that, when you block an attack, you are stuck in the block pose for a while. Any attack that connects on you during Block Stun is considered a true Block String. These are very important concepts to know about, and they will be talked about a lot throughout this guide.
Also, one very important thing to note about Ultra Street Fighter IV is that Block Stun is noticeably shorter than Hit Stun, which is unlike any other Capcom Fighter to date. So certain sequences that combo on hit will not actually be a true Block String. A perfect example of this is C. Viper's Crouching Medium Kick canceled into a Medium Punch Thunder Knuckle. Even though those two moves will combo on hit, if you Block the Crouching Medium Kick, you can actually squeeze out an Uppercut or Super or Ultra between the Crouching Medium Kick and the Thunder Knuckle.
This is a very important concept in the world of Street Fighter IV and it cannot be emphasized enough. A ton of moves go from being safe on hit to unsafe on Block, and learning which moves are unsafe on Block is so key to playing this game at a higher level. So definitely do your homework and figure out which moves become punishable on Block even though they are safe if they hit you.
These are your basic attacks. These are the attacks you get when hitting any of the six attack button. These will be the fundamental building blocks of all of your offense and defense in Street Fighter, so get to know your moves very intimately. This sounds simple, but it must be realized that there are a lot of Normal Moves in the game, and sometimes you actually lose sight of that.
There are five main states of Normal Moves, which is one of the reasons why it's sometimes easy to forget that you have so many Normals. The five states are Standing (hitting an attack button while your character is standing at a distance from your opponent), Close-up (hitting an attack button while your character is standing very close to the opponent), Crouching (hitting an attack button while you are also holding any of the Down positions on the joystick), Angled Jumping (pressing an attack button during a Forward or Back Flip), and Straight-up Jumping (pressing an attack button during a Straight Up Jump). This gives you a total of 30 different basic Normal Attacks.
On top of that, many characters have Unique Attacks, which are Normal Moves that can only be accessed by holding the joystick in a certain direction. For example, Ryu has a move that can only be accessed by holding Toward on the joystick and hitting Hard Punch: the Solar Plexus Strike where he slides forward with a double hitting gut punch. Chun Li has a move that can only be accessed while holding Offensive Crouch and hitting Hard Kick: the Kakukyakuraku where she flips over the opponent and kicks them from behind. Zangief has a move that can only be accessed during an Angled Jump by hitting Down on the joystick and pressing Hard Punch: the Flying Body Attack where he tries to land on you with his chest.
Almost every character has a Unique Attack, so make sure you know what they are for your favorite character. Unique Attacks usually have unusual properties associated with them (e.g. they are Overheads), so it's a good idea to get to know them well.
No Chip, No Meter
It should be noted that Normal Attacks do not cause any Chip Damage (damage taken while Blocking). Also, Normal Attacks do not build any meter just for performing them, unlike some past Street Fighter games.
The Four Classes of Normal Moves
Normal Moves are not only the basis of your attack because they are simple to perform and cost nothing to use, but also because Normal Moves come in four types, the first two of which are key to mastering your character: Special Cancelable Normal Moves, Super / EX Focus Only Cancelable Normal Moves, Whiff Cancelable Moves, and Non-Cancelable Normal Moves.
The first class of Normal Moves, the Special Cancelable ones, are the most important. These are Normal Moves that, when they connect on the opponent whether hitting or being blocked, can have the rest of their animation be immediately canceled into a Special Move. This can be useful for combos, attack sequences, escape options, and all sorts of other creative things. These moves can also be canceled into Super Combos and Focus Attacks. Good examples of these Normal Moves are Ryu's Crouching Medium Kick and Guile's Close Standing Hard Punch.
The second class of Normal Moves are ones that can only be canceled by a Super Combo or an EX Focus Attack. These Normals cannot be canceled into a normal Special Move, such as a Hadoken. While most of these moves (as well as the moves in the previous category) can be cancelled by both a Super Combo and an EX Focus Attack, there are a few exceptions; one example is Fei Long's Towards Hard Kick. This move can be cancelled into a Super Combo but not an EX Focus Attack. Examples of moves that can be cancelled into both, however, include Fei Long's Crouching Medium Punch and Adon's Crouching Hard Punch.
The third class of Normal Moves are very rare but have one special trait: they can only be canceled before the move makes contact with the enemy! In other words, these moves can be canceled into Special Moves or Super Combos or EX Focus Attacks during their startups. Examples of this type of Normal Move are Honda's Shikofumi (Offensive Crouch + Hard Kick) and Guy's Neck Breaker (Towards + Medium Punch). Interestingly, most moves that have this property are Unique Attacks. There are some exceptions, such as C.Viper's Far Hard Punch, but for the most part this trait belongs to mostly Unique Attacks.
And finally, there are the Non-Cancelable Normal Moves. They are exactly what it sounds like: Normal Moves that cannot be canceled into anything ever. Examples of these are Ken's Crouching Hard Kick and Dudley's Standing Hard Punch.
It is worth noting that Normal Moves that have multiple hits can contain more than one of these properties. For example, Chun Li's Crouching Hard Punch is a two-hit attack where she hits you with one hand and then the other. Only the first attack is Special Move Cancelable. The second hit cannot be canceled into anything at all. So keep that in mind.
Every character in Ultra Street Fighter IV have what are called Special Moves. A Special Move is an attack that requires a specific joystick motion or a combination of buttons to perform. Examples of Special Moves are Ryu's Hadoken (which requires a Down, Offensive Crouch, Towards joystick motion before pressing Punch), Zangief's Double Lariat (which requires you to hit three Punch buttons simultaneously), Blanka's Electric Thunder (which requires you to tap Punch as fast as possible), and El Fuerte's Quesadilla Bomb (which requires you to hold any Kick button for a period of time before letting go of the Kick button).
There main thing that makes Special Moves significant besides the more complex motions are the fact that they do damage even if the attack is Blocked. This is known as "Chip Damage" or "Block Damage". Chip Damage is usually 25% of the actual damage; some special moves can deal more than or less than 25% either for balancing purposes, some rounding mishaps, or mere oversights. Regardless, you can actually be knocked out from Chip Damage. So even if you Block the Special Move, if you do not have enough life left, you will lose.
Chip Damage is also affected by the Damage Reduction talked about in the Life Meter section. So at 50% of life, Chip Damage is only 95% of the original value. At 30% life, damage is reduced to 90% and at 15% life, damage is reduced to 75%.
The Two Special Move Classes
There are only two classes of Special Moves: Super / EX Focus Only Cancelable Special Moves and Non-Cancelable Special Moves. Just like with Normal Moves, some Specials, after they connect on the opponent, can be canceled into a Super Combo or an EX Focus Attack. Non-Cancelable Special Moves don't really need an explanation. They are Special Moves that cannot be canceled into anything.
There are actually a certain set of Special Moves that actually can be canceled into a Super or EX Focus Attack regardless if these moves hit the opponent or not. All basic Projectiles (Hadokens, Sonic Booms, Soul Sparks, etc.) fall into this category. There's just a specific window in which the moves can be canceled. Ryu, for example, can throw a Fireball and cancel it immediately into a Super if he has the proper amount of Super Meter at any point in time. There are no requirements for this to be possible.
Outside of Projectiles, there are only two moves that come to mind that can be canceled on whiff: Dudley's Ducking and Dudley's Thunderbolt. Both of these moves can be canceled into a Super Combo or EX Focus Attack during a certain window in the moves.
EX Special Moves
Along with Special Moves, every character in Ultra Street Fighter IV also has EX Special Moves. Generally, these are enhanced versions of existing Special Moves performed by doing the Special Move code but finishing it with two buttons instead of one.
For example, to do a Hadoken, Ryu presses Down, Offensive Crouch, Towards on the controller and hits one Punch button. But to perform an EX Hadoken, you would press Down, Offensive Crouch, Towards on the controller and hit any two Punch buttons at the same time. The EX Hadoken is faster, hits twice, and knocks down on hit compared to the regular Hadoken.
The cost of performing an EX Special Move is 1 Block of your Super Meter. There is one exception to this rule, however: Seth's EX Tanden Engine. Apparently, Capcom thought the move too powerful to cost only one Block of Super Meter.
Outside of costing a Block of Super Meter, EX Special Moves retain all properties of regular Special Moves. EX Special Moves also come in two forms. And although it's impossible to cancel an EX Special Move into a Super in normal gameplay (that would require more Super Meter than you are allowed), it technically is allowed (you can see this for yourself in Training Mode by setting the Super Meter to infinite).
One prticular EX Special Move, it should be noted, it activated in a unique fashion, and that is T.Hawk's EX Condor Dive. Because the regular Condo Dive is three Punches to activate, the EX Condor Dive can be used by pressing the three Kick buttons simultaneously. It can also be done after an EX Tomahawk Buster, using the original command.
Some Special Moves do not have EX versions of them, such as Zangief's Double Lariat and Dhalsim's Yoga Teleport.
Super Combos are high damage and powerful moves that can only be performed once you have a full 4 blocks of Super Meter. Just like Special Moves, these require joystick motions to perform though the motions needed are generally far more complex than that of a Special Move. And just like Special Moves, they will do Chip Damage if you block them.
The main benefit of Super Combos over Ultra Combos is their comboability. Ultra Combos can only be linked into, whether on the ground or through a juggle. Super Combos, however, can be buffered into from Normal Attacks or canceled into from Special Moves, making them much easier to connect than Ultra Combos. They do less damage overall when compared to Ultra Combos, but that does not lessen their potential for being used in huge damage combos.
Probably the most stand out new feature of the Street Fighter IV series is the Ultra Combo. Ultra Combos are similar to Super Combos in that they require similar motions to active, but they also always require a simultaneous press of three Punches or three Kicks to activate. They also do Chip Damage as well. They are generally more powerful than Super Combos at their highest damage and are a lot more flashy than Super Combos. In most cases, Ultra Combos, when they connect, are very cinematic: they go into canned animations with dramatic camera angles and fancy-looking attacks.
And that's actually one of the biggest differences between Super Combos and Ultra Combos: a large number of Ultra Combos have to connect a specific "trigger" hit to actually connect fully. If these trigger hits are blocked or if they whiff, then the Ultra actually goes into a secondary, alternate behavior. Examples of this are Dudley's Corkscrew Cross, where if the first hit connects, he'll go into a long, drawn-out animation punching the opponent into the wall. If it whiffs, it will just perform the Corkscrew Blow from Third Strike. Cammy's Gyro Drive Smasher and Fei Long's Rekkashingeki both have trigger hits that, if they do not connect, the Ultra Combos just go into a behavior nearly identical to their Super Combos. If they connect, they then go into the cinematic combo.
Select Your Ultra
Every character has two Ultra Combos to choose from at the start of a match. The Ultra Combos usually serve different purposes to cover different holes in their games and to help against specific match ups. For example, T. Hawk has a standard grab Ultra in his Ultra Combo I, but he has an anti-air Ultra Combo to catch people trying to Jump away from grabs in Ultra Combo II. For Rufus, Ultra Combo I is great for Combos against characters he can rush down, but Ultra Combo II is better against projectiles like Hadokens for characters that can keep him out with those projectiles.
New to Ultra Street Fighter IV is the option to choose both of your character's Ultra Combos via the Ultra Combo Double. The idea is simple; you have access to both of your character's Ultra Combos at the same time. This opens up many more options for the majority of the cast (especially the grapplers, who could now have both a deadly ground throw AND an anti-air throw). To compensate for the extra Ultra Combo, they will both deal less damage (60% or 75% damage, depending on the character). It is also noteworthy that they both share the same Revenge Meter, so once one Ultra Combo is used, the Revenge Meter will have to be filled up again regardless. So make sure you use the right Ultra Combo in the right situation!
The Ultra Meter
The most distinctive thing about Ultra Combos is their requirement for use: unlike EX Moves and Super Combos, Ultra Combos do not need any Super Meter. They have their own Ultra Meter that actually builds up when you take damage! Because of this, it is 100% guaranteed that you have an Ultra Combo at some point in the round before you actually are defeated. Also, you do not keep Ultra Meter between rounds if you do not perform your Ultra Combo. And, as mentioned before, Ultra Combos generally do a large amount of damage, especially if your Ultra Meter is full.
These three factors are what make Ultra Combos the ultimate comeback tool. There's no reason to "save" Ultra Meter for the next round and you will always get one before you die. And they do a ton of damage so they are there specifically to provide players a means to generate a comeback.
It is worth noting that Ultra Combos also come with the distinction of not being able to be canceled into from anything else. You can never cancel a Normal Move nor a Special Move nor an EX Special Move into an Ultra Combo. Even the Whiff Cancelable Normal Moves cannot be canceled into Ultra Combos.
There are, however, three characters that can cancel their Ultra Combo from other moves. Dan can cancel his Legendary Taunt into his Ultra Combo 1 or 2 at any time before the end of the taunt; Dee Jay can cancel his Super into his Ultra Combo 1 (and only Ultra Combo 1) before the final hit of the Super is initiated; and finally, Oni can cancel his Zanku Hadosho (air dash) into the air version of his Ultra Combo 1 on a successful hit. These cancels are very situational, but are also very deadly when properly used.
Here to Stay
Love them or hate them, Ultra Combos are one of the main features in Ultra Street Fighter IV. So you better get used to them.
Every character has the ability to go from a "non-hittable" state instantly into a Special Move, EX Special Move, or Super Combo with nothing happening in between. Whenever you successfully perform a Reversal, the message "Reversal" will actually appear on the screen under your character's Name.
Reversals are most useful in conjunction will moves that are invincible on start up. The reason is that you will skip any frames that you can be hit so your invincible move will defeat any other move that does not have more invincibility frames than yours. Most "Dragon Punch" or "Uppercut" type moves such as Ryu or Ken's Shoryuken and Cammy's Cannon Spike, many EX Special Moves such as Rose's EX Soul Spiral and Sakura's EX Shouoken, and most Super Combos such as Guile's Double Flash and Seth's Tandem Storm are good for Reversals.
There are four situations that a player is able to perform a Reversal attack:
- Going straight from getting up off the floor (during which you are invincible) into a Special Move.
- Going straight from Block Stun into a Special Move.
- Going straight from Hit Stun into a Special Move.
- If you are hit out of the air by a non-Knockdown move, you can go straight from your landing animation into a Special Move.
Unlike in previous Street Fighter games, performing Reversals has been considerably simplified in Ultra Street Fighter IV. Most previous games have had 1 or 2-frame windows to perform a Reversal, but in the Street Fighter IV series the Reversal window has been increased to 5 frames. This has made Reversals remarkably easier to perform than in previous games.
A common term that is used in conjunction with Reversals is the "Meaty Attack". A Meaty Attack is an attack that is timed so that the enemy will get up into it on the very first frame after being knocked down. In other words, if the enemy tries to perform a move when they get up against your Meaty Attack and he/she mistimes it so that they do not perform a Reversal, they will get hit the instant they get up. An example of a Meaty attack would be Bison's Crouching Hard Kick. If you knock the enemy over, and then do Bison's long-lasting slide attack and time it so that the enemy gets up into it, that is considered a Meaty Attack. However, keep in mind that a Reversal that has invincibility will ALWAYS beat a Meaty Attack.
Throughout this Guide, Reversals may also be called "Wake-ups." Wake-ups are Reversals, but they are pretty much ONLY referring to Reversals that are performed when getting up off of the ground. So if something like, "Ryu can perform a Wake-Up Shoryuken...", is stated, it's referring to Ryu performing a Reversal Shoryuken when getting up off of the ground.
Besides Ultra Combos, Focus Attacks are the biggest new feature of the Street Fighter IV series. Focus Attacks are an interesting system, as they act almost as a "multi-tool" in the Street Fighter world. They can be used for defensive purposes, absorbing hits like a Parry. They can be used as an offensive aid, allowing you to maintain pressure during attack sequences. And they be used to extend combos, canceling Special Moves to allow for extra hits and damage.
Focus Attacks are performed the exact same way for every character: press Medium Punch and Medium Kick at the same time. Pressing the buttons down starts the character performing a "Focus." This is the Focus Phase. You can continue to hold the two buttons down for the character to remain in the Focus Phase for a period of time. As soon as the two buttons are released, the character will perform an attack, which is a fixed attack for every character. This is the Attack Phase.
The Focus Phase
While holding the two buttons down, your character will remain in the Focus Phase for a limited amount of time. During the Focus Phase, there are two distinctive traits.
Building Up a Focus Attack
The first trait is that your character will "build up" strength and, after a short period of time, flash white once and then, after another small period of time, flash white once more and immediately go into the Attack Phase automatically. The flashes indicate the "level" you have built your Focus up to. The entire time you start the Focus and before the first flash, you are considered at Level 1 Focus. Between the first and second flashes, you are in Level 2 Focus. Once the second flash occurs, you are considered at Level 3 Focus and will automatically unleash your attack. These levels result in you performing that level of a Focus Attack if you let go of the buttons.
The time it takes to reach a Level 2 and Level 3 Focus Attack is not exactly the same for every character -- some characters increase in levels quicker than others -- but, in general, the times aren't that far off. There are no characters that take an extraordinarily long time to charge to a Level 2, for example. Nor is there a character that gets to Level 2 almost instantly.
Focusing an Attack
The second trait is that, throughout the entire Focus Phase, your character is capable of absorbing one hit from your opponent. This is referred to as "Focusing" an attack. This attack can be any single hit, such as Guile's Standing Hard Punch, Chun Li's Jumping Hard Kick, Rufus's Falcon Kick (dive kick from the air), Ryu's Hadoken, Balrog's Dash Straight, Cammy's Cannon Spike, or a Level 1 Focus Attack.
As soon as you Focus an attack, the damage the move would normally do is also absorbed... to an extent. Instead of taking the damage straight up, you end up taking that amount of damage in "White Damage" (see White Damage section in Game Systems). So technically, you can gain that life back if you are not struck again any time soon.
However, one hit is all you can Focus. If you continue to hold your Focus and the opponent manages to hit you with two hits total, the second hit will make you leave your Focus and go into Hit Stun like any normal move hitting you. And it doesn't matter what strength the moves are: it's any two hits. This could be a Jump Attack followed by a Shoryuken, two Standing Light Punches, or a two-hit Move like Ryu's Solar Plexus Strike. You'll still absorb the first hit, but as soon as the second hit connects, the Focus is done.
It's also worth noting that all Armor Breakers will defeat Focus Attacks instantly on their first hit (see Armor Breakers section in Universal Abilities). Also, Throws will work on anyone while they are Focusing.
Dash Canceling the Focus
At any point during the Focus Phase, as long as you are still holding the two Medium Attack buttons down, you can actually cancel the Focus with either a Forward Dash or a Back Dash. Otherwise, the only way you can exit the Focus Phase is to go into the Attack Phase.
It should also be noted that the Dashes "correct" themselves. If, during the Focus Phase, the enemy manages to get to the other side of you, Forward Dash will still be tapping twice towards the opponent even though you are facing backwards and Back Dash will be tapping twice in the direction you are facing.
Another peculiar quality about the Focus Phase is that, even though you are not attacking, the game treats you as if you were. In other words, as long as you remain in the Focus Phase, the opponent, if close enough, is forced into Block Animation and they cannot walk backwards. It's worth noting that the field of influence of the Focus Phase is pretty large, so you can be almost a half a screen's distance away and still be close enough to be forced into a Block Animation.
The Attack Phase
Each character has only one Focus Attack and, between the characters, these attacks vary in range and speed and some have extra abilities. Guy, for example, has a very far ranged Focus Attack. Balrog's Focus Attack is very short ranged. C. Viper's Focus Attack is particularly slow while Fei Long's Focus Attack is really fast. And Juri's Focus Attack has the ability to jump over moves that hit too low.
If you leave the Focus Phase by letting go of the two Medium Attack buttons and go into the Attack Phase, you lose the ability to absorb a hit during the animation of the Focus Attack. So if the opponent just happens to attack and you let go of the Focus before your opponent's move hits you, your Focus Attack will lose out if it catches you during your attack animation.
The Levels of the Focus Attack
As mentioned in the Focus Phase section, you have three different levels of Focus Attacks depending on how long you charged your Focus for. However, all three levels of Focus Attack share one common trait: the Attack can be canceled into a Forward Dash or a Back Dash when the Attack connects against the opponent. This can be used to continue pressure on block or continue a combo on hit with a Forward Dash or to run away after the move connects with a Back Dash.
Level 1 Focus Attacks are pretty much just like a Normal Move. When they hit an opponent, the opponent goes into Hit Stun for a short period of time. The Block Stun caused by a Level 1 Focus Attack isn't very long, so if you make your opponent Block a Level 1 Focus and you cancel into a Forward Dash, most characters are at a Frame Disadvantage (See Frame Advantage section in Advanced Techniques and Concepts) after their Dash has completed.
Level 2 Focus Attacks do more damage to the opponent when they hit and cause the victim to go into Crumple Stun (see Crumple Stun section in Game Systems). So if you cancel the Level 2 Focus into a Forward Dash, you get a free ground combo of choice. On Block, Level 2 Focus Attacks also cause more Block Stun than a Level 1 Focus. So if the opponent blocks it and you cancel into a Forward Dash, most characters have a very small Frame Advantage at the end of their Dash.
A Level 3 Focus Attack also causes Crumple Stun, but, most significantly, they become unblockable and are also considered Armor Breakers! Also, the initial impact freeze from a Level 3 Focus Attack is longer than that of a Level 2. That means the opponent starts their crumpling animation slightly later and, thus, you have more time to hit the opponent before they are considered airborne during their crumple (again, see Crumple Stun section in Game Systems). For example, on a Level 3 Focus Attack Crumple Stun, C. Viper can cancel the Focus Attack with a Forward Dash and combo into an immediate EX Thunder Knuckle and have the opponent get hit while grounded. However, on a Level 2 Focus Attack Crumple Stun, the Forward Dash into EX Thunder Knuckle is too slow so that the Thunder Knuckle connects on the opponent when they are considered airborne so it ends up popping them into the air.
And finally, one extra benefit of a Level 3 Focus Attack is that the ability to absorb a hit during the Focus Phase is transferred to the attack if you had not absorbed a hit during the Focus Phase. If that's the case, if the opponent attacks you with a non-Armor Breaking single hit move during your Level 3 Focus Attack, you'll absorb it and nail the opponent. However, if you had absorbed a hit during the Focus Phase, your Level 3 Focus Attack can lose out to a single hit just like a Level 1 and Level 2 Focus Attack.
However, due to the unblockable and armored nature of the Level 3 Focus Attack, unlike Level 1 and Level 2 Focus Attacks, Level 3 Focus Attacks cannot hit characters out of their pre-jump frames to allow for easier escape by jumping. However, if the Focus Attack hits high enough, like Hugo's Focus Attack, it can just as easily catch you out of the air and give the opponent a free juggle. Additionally, Level 3 Focus is blockable if it connects on an opponent that is already in blockstun, such as after Ultra 1 from Decapre or Dhalsim.
Focus Attacks actually behave differently when striking the opponent out of the air. Level 1 Focus Attacks are a standard Knockdown attack that pop the opponent up a bit and then they drop to the ground near you. Level 2 Focus Attacks put the opponent into a Free Juggle State (see Free Juggle State section in Juggle Mechanics) but do not knock the opponent up as high as a Level 1 Focus Attack. Level 3 Focus Attacks also put the opponent into a Free Juggle State and knock them into the air for much longer that even a Level 1 Focus Attack, but they cause the opponent to go into a spiraling Air Reel animation and are launched clear across the screen.
Counter Hit Focus Attacks
Focus Attacks are also modified when they land as a Counter Hit (see Counter Hit section in Game Systems). When a Level 1 Focus hits the opponent as a Counter Hit, the effects are the same as when you land a regular Level 2 Focus Attack: the opponent goes into Crumple Stun. Level 2 Focus Attacks on Counter Hit behave the same as normal Level 3 Focus Attacks. Level 3 Focus Attacks, however, behave exactly the same on regular hit or Counter Hit. You only get the extra damage benefit.
On Counter Hit, the only difference Level 1 Focus Attacks have when they hit the opponent out of the air is that the opponent actually freezes in place from the impact longer, which means you have a bigger window to Juggle the opponent if cancel the Focus Attack into a Dash. Level 2 Focus Attacks, like the Level 1 Focus Attacks, cause the opponent to freeze longer in the air from the impact. However, they now go into the spiraling Air Reel animation although they still maintain the same trajectory and are not launched across the screen. Level 3 Focus Attacks that connect on an airborne opponent on Counter Hit behave exactly the same as on a regular hit, even down to the impact freeze.
EX Focus Attacks
EX Focus Attacks are the result of canceling a move, be it a Normal Move or a Special Move, into a Focus Attack. Canceling into an EX Focus Attack is the only way you can ever perform one. There's no way to perform a standalone EX Focus Attack. And for all intents and purposes, EX Focus Attacks behave exactly the same as a regular Focus Attack... with two differences.
First off, they cost 2 blocks of your Super Meter to perform. If you do not have enough Super Meter, you cannot cancel any move into an EX Focus Attack.
Secondly, EX Focus Attacks completely lose the ability to absorb an attack for White Damage. The first hit you sustain, no matter what it is, will take you right out of the Focus.
But other than those two differences, EX Focus Attacks behave exactly the same as a regular Focus Attack in every other department.
Red Focus Attacks
One of the new gameplay elements of Ultra Street Fighter IV is the introduction of the Red Focus, an new "enhanced" version of the standard Focus Attack. To perform a Red Focus, you must press one additional button alongside the standard Focus Attack command: Light Punch. So pressing Light Punch, Medium Punch, and Hard Punch at the same time will activate the Red Focus. However, know that doing so will actually spend 2 bars of your Super Meter, so you cannot do this for free and you cannot do it unless you have built up at least 2 bars. So at such an expensive cost for randomly doing this move, what makes the Red Focus so special, you ask?
Well, before we get into that, it should be mentioned that Red Focus Attacks are exactly the same as a regular Focus Attack outside of two main differences outside of the Super Meter cost. Other than those, they have the same frame data, they both build up to three possible levels, they can be Dash canceled during charge up and after the attack connects, etc. etc.
However, the one thing I didn't mention above was the Armor factor. While regular Focus Attacks can absorb one hit, the main feature of the Red Focus is that they actually gain infinite Armor. In other words, they can absorb as many attacks you throw at it until it attacks. That means you can actually use a Red Focus to absorb Ryu's entire Metsu Hadoken, an entire volley of Honda's Hundred Hand Slap, and even a combo like Bison's Low Medium Kick into Scissor Kicks.
It was mentioned that the Ultra Meter represents 90% of your Life Meter. So if you have 1000 health, it takes 900 damage to fill it to 100%. Of course, you can absorb attacks with a Focus, and the amount of Ultra Meter gained is exactly the same as if you just took the hit.
However, with Red Focus, you actually gain double the amount of Ultra Meter you normally would. So for example, if a move does 100 damage, you'll actually gain 200 Ultra Meter! And if you absorb the entirety of a fully charged Ryu Metsu Hadoken, which does 369 damage, you'll gain 738 points of your Ultra Meter! For a character like Akuma, that would be almost a full Ultra!
However, even though you gain twice as much Ultra Meter, you still gain White Life at the normal speed. However, every hit adds to the White Meter you end up with, so if you absorb an entire combo and later get hit, you'll lose all of that White Life, which can be massively painful.
One thing that should be noted: once you let go of the buttons for charging the Red Focus, the attack itself, at levels 1 and 2, instantly lose Armor. So if you are absorbing Honda's Hand Slasp, for example, and let go in the middle without getting to Level 3, you'll immediately get hit and lose the entirety of your White Life. However, full Level 3 Focus Attacks retain infinite Armor, so if you can charge it all the way up, it'll just keep absorbing until it finally hits.
Red Focus is still susceptible to all Armor Breakers. It doesn't behave any differently than regular Focus Attacks in that regard. This means that even a single-hit Reversal special will break Red Focus, so don't try to use it to beat an opponent's wakeup option.
EX Red Focus Attacks
Just like with Focus Attacks and Red Focus Attacks, EX Red Focus Attacks have 95% of the same behavior as a regular EX Focus Attack. Just like EX Focus Attacks, EX Red Focus Attacks are only performed when they cancel a Normal or a Special Move. It has no armor whatsoever, for example. The main difference is that, instead of costing 2 bars to perform, it costs 3, one more than the regular Red Focus. So for being more expensive to perform, what's the benefit?
The main benefit is that they cause Crumple Stun even at Level 1. So what EX Red Focus becomes is a really expensive, but potent, combo tool. It's actually now very important to know what moves your character has that combo into a Red Focus. For example, Bison's Close Hard Punch can combo into an EX Red Focus Attack, so even without being charged for a Special Move, Bison can now walk up, do Close Hard Punch into EX Red Focus, and then combo into either Ultra. Zangief can do EX Banishing Flat into EX Red Focus, for all 4 bars, and combo into an Ultra 1. It can really make a huge difference and drastically affect the game plan of your character!
Of course keep in mind that EX Red Focus has the same Damage Scaling property that all of the Focus Attacks have: they count as "two moves" for Damage Scaling. See the Focus Attack and Ultra Damage Scaling section for more details on what that means.
For your convenience, below is a chart listing the entire cast's moves that can combo into an EX Red Focus Attack. Study up on the list and see if you can figure out good places to start using this new-found power!
Level 1 EX Red Focus Combo Lead-Ins
Armor Breakers serve one main purpose: to override the Focus Phase's ability to absorb a hit. When a Focus Attack loses out to an Armor Breaker, you'll hear a very distinct "glass shattering" sound effect and see some shattered glass-like effects coming from the hit spark.
Natural Armor Breakers
There are two types of Armor Breakers. The first type are just one or more Special Moves for your character that have been assigned the Armor Breaking property. There is no system to this: it's just whatever move the developers thought were suited to be an Armor Breaker. Example of these are Honda's Sumo Headbutt, Balrog's Dash Low Smash, Dhalsim's Yoga Flame, and Dee Jay's Machine Gun Upper.
Some Special Moves that hit multiple times may have the Armor Breaker property only applied to one of the multiple hits. The main example of this is with Fei Long's Rekkukyaku: only the first hit of the move Armor Breaks. All other hits can be Focused.
Some Super Combos and Ultra Combos also have Armor Breaking properties. Abel's Heartless, Gouken's Forbidden Shoryuken, Rose's Soul Satellite, and Adon's Jaguar Revolver are all Armor Breakers, for example.
And as mentioned earlier, all Level 3 Focus Attacks are also considered Armor Breakers.
Reversal Armor Breakers
The second type of Armor Breakers are Reversal Armor Breakers. Anytime a Special Move, Super Combo, or Ultra Combo is performed as a Reversal, it automatically gains the Armor Breaking property. So even though a move such as Ryu's Shoryuken does not Armor Break naturally, if he performs one on wake-up as a Reversal and you happen to be performing a Focus at the time, you will lose out on the first hit with the same glass-shattering sounds and visuals that accompany a normal Armor Breaker.
It should be noted that when performed as a Reversal, every hit of the move becomes Armor Breaking. So in the example listed above for Fei Long's Rekkukyaku, where only the first hit is naturally an Armor Breaker, if you perform the move as a Reversal, all three hits will Armor Break.
Other Armored Moves
Focus Attacks are not the only moves that are considered "Armored" in the game. There are several moves that gain Armor that can absorb hits. These moves will all lose to Armor Breakers as well. Examples of these moves are Gouken's Kongoshin, Juri's Kasatushi, El Fuerte's EX Habanero Dash, Balrog's EX Dash Straight, Dudley's Cross Counter (though there is oddly no glass-shattering effect on this move), and Abel's Breathless.
There are also two Counter Ultras in the game: Cammy's CQC (Cammy Quick Combination) and Fei Long's Gekirinken. These Ultras will lose out to all moves that are naturally Armor Breakers, but interestingly enough, they will successfully beat all Reversal Armor Breakers. So only the first type of Armor Breakers will defeat these two Ultras, though no glass-shattering effects will be seen or heard.
As with every Street Fighter game since the beginning, Throws are an integral part of the game. Throws are the main way to defeat opponents who are Blocking as Throws are unaffected by Blocking. The only downside of a Throw is that you have to get in close to your opponent to Throw them. So typically, the times you most get to Throw your opponent is when you have them scared of your attacks and they grow overly defensive.
To perform a Throw, just hit the two Light Attack buttons (Light Punch and Light Kick) at the same time. Your character will reach out and try to Throw the opponent. It won't matter if they are Blocking or not, Throws will connect on the opponent if they are within range. However, as mentioned, all Throws have generally very short range, so if the opponent isn't close enough, you'll execute a Throw Whiff animation which leaves you in delay for a short period of time.
Forward Vs. Back Throw
Every character has two Throws: a Forward Throw and a Back Throw. Both Throws are always unique Throw animations and will always put your opponent on the side you are holding the joystick. A Forward Throw will always keep the opponent in front of you and a Back Throw will toss the opponent behind you, making you turn around after the Throw completes. If you leave the joystick at Neutral or hold Towards on the joystick, you will perform a Forward Throw when you hit the two Light Attack buttons. If you hold Back on the joystick when you hit the buttons, you will perform a Back Throw.
No other direction on the joystick can be held to perform a Throw. For example, if you are holding and of the three Down position on the joystick and hit Light Punch and Light Kick at the same time, a Throw will not come out and a Normal Attack will occur instead.
There are several states where the characters cannot be thrown:
- They cannot be thrown out of Hit Stun or Block Stun. For example, if you perform a Jumping Hard Kick on the opponent and land and immediately try to Throw, your Throw will whiff because you tried to grab them during their Block Stun.
- Characters can never be Thrown while they are knocked down and lying on the ground.
- Characters cannot be ground thrown if they in the air, whether they are Jumping or performing a move that is considered airborne, such as Juri's Close Hard Punch, Rufus's Vulture Kick, and Ryu's Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. However, they can still be air thrown.
- Certain moves are immune to throws, typically on their startup frames. For example, Abel's regular Tornado Throw cannot be thrown unless it whiffs.
- Characters cannot be thrown for 2 frames when they are eligible to perform a Reversal. This means meaty throws will whiff, and certain tick grabs will whiff even though you are in range and the opponent has already left blockstun. It also means you will never be able to throw reversal moves that start up in 2 frames or less (Zangief Spinning Pile Driver).
Throw Frame Data
Throws are NOT instant in Ultra Street Fighter IV. All normal Throws from the ground have a 2 frame startup window and connect on the third frame and fourth frame. That means even if you Throw one frame too early and the opponent is still in Block Stun or Hit Stun on the first Active Frame of the Throw, if the opponent ends their Stun on the second Active Frame of the Throw, it will connect.
If the opponent is not in range or not Throwable on either of the two active frames, however, you'll go into the Throw Whiff animation that lasts for 20 frames. And although that time is relatively short (1/3 of a second), alert opponents can easily use that delay to their advantage and punish you during the Whiff animation.
It's really important to remember that Throws have start up time. Just those two frames of startup mean they cannot be used on Wake-up, for example to beat out Meaty Attacks. You will always get hit during your startup frames if the Meaty Attack was timed properly. And if an opponent tries to hit you with a move and you start the Throw before the move connects on you, you can still be hit on the first or second frame of your Throw attempt if their move connects in time.
It should also be noted that Gouken is an exception to the startup frame count. His Back Throw actually has 4 startup frames, so it connects on the 5th and 6th frames. Capcom was apparently worried that Back Throw into Ultra would be too powerful, so they increased the startup time for the Back Throw, making it easier to react to it.
It is worth noting that this information pertains to normal Throws only. Many characters have Command Throws that fall into the Special Move category. These have their own startup times and ranges and abilities that are unique to those moves. Experiment with your character's Command Throws to figure out their properties.
Some characters have Air Throws they can perform while Jumping that can catch opponents that are also in the air. You perform them by Jumping and, during the Jump, pressing both Light Attack buttons at the same time, just like with ground Throws. However, it does not matter what direction on the controller you are holding when you press the buttons for the Throw, as all directions will result in an Air Throw attempt. Air Throws also have whiff animations if the opponent is not within range or cannot be Air Thrown.
Most characters do not have Air Throws -- only a select few do. And those that have Air Throws generally only have one Air Throw with the Exception of Guile. He's the only character that makes a difference on the direction you are holding the joystick. Any of the three Back directions on the joystick makes him perform the Flying Buster Drop and the other 6 joystick positions make him perform the Flying Mare.
Again, depending on the Air Throw's range, they can grab pretty much anything that is airborne. Guile, who has a particularly large range on his Air Throw, has been seen Air Throwing Blanka out of his Rolling Attack, Akuma out of his Tatsumaki Zankukyaku, and even Viper out of her Viper Elbow. And unlike ground Throws, which hit on the 3rd frame, each Air Throw has its own startup frame count.
There are also some Special Move Air Throws are well, such as Guy's Kaiten Izuna Otoshi and Cammy's Crossed Scissors Throw from her Hooligan Combinations. They require a different motion to perform, but other than that, the same rules apply.
Tech Hits / Counter Throws
Tech Hits, also known as Counter Throws, can actually be utilized to nullify your opponent's Throw attempt if you react to their Throw attempts quickly enough. If an opponent tries to Throw you and you enter the Throw code during a certain time period, you will end up "Teching" their Throw and the two characters will slide apart from each other with a circular light effect flashing between them. Neither character will take any damage, and both characters will recover from the Tech animation at the same time.
You can actually hold any direction on the joystick to Tech a Throw, once your character begins to get thrown. After a throw connects, the thrown animation plays for 7 frames and then will check the previous 12 frames for your Tech input. As long as you were in a Tech-able state when you were thrown (as described below), and you input light punch and light kick during the correct window, you will tech the throw. Most throws have the same window during which they can be teched.
Also, if you are Thrown out of the startup frames of your Throw, you will automatically Tech the Throw. So let's say you and your opponent try to throw each other at the exact same time. If he hits the buttons one frame before you do, his Throw will activate against one of your startup frames. So even though you didn't input the button presses for the Throw Tech during the next 7 frames, you will end up Teching the Throw anyhow. This means for most throws, you have 7 frames to Tech after you are thrown, but you have an extra 3 frames when you try to stand and Tech.
When You Can Counter Throw
One very important thing to note about Teching Throws is that you cannot Tech a Throw in any situation. You can only Tech Throws if you are in a Neutral State (either standing or crouching), in jump landing recovery, or in the startup frames of your throw.
Here is a list of situations where you can be Thrown, but you cannot perform a Tech Hit:
- During the Startup, Active, or Recovery frames of any Move, be it a Normal Move, a Special Move, a Super Combo, or an Ultra Combo.
- During a Forward Dash.
- During the grounded delay portion of a Back Dash.
- While Dizzy.
- During the delay of a Throw Whiff.
Also, you cannot Tech any Air Throws, even if your character has an Air Throw too. And you cannot Tech any Command Throws, such as Zangief's Spinning Pile Driver, Honda's Oicho Throw, Abel's Tornado Throw, Fei Long's Tenshin, El Fuerte's Propeller Tortilla, T. Hawk's Double Typhoon, and Hakan's Oil Coaster.
Exceptions to the Normal Throw Tech Window
Certain characters have exceptions to Throw Tech window, making it easier or harder to tech their Throws. The tech throw buffer is 12 frames long, but this window is shifted slightly for the characters noted below:
EASIER to Tech
- Chun-Li's Forward/Neutral Throw (+1)
- M. Bison's Forward/Neutral Throw (+1)
- M. Bison's Back Throw (+1)
- Rose's Forward/Neutral Throw (+1)
- Gouken's Back Throw (+10)
HARDER to Tech
- Sagat's Forward/Neutral Throw (-1)
- T. Hawk's Forward/Neutral Throw (-3)
So for example, you can actually tech both of M. Bison's throws 1 frame later than most characters, giving you 8 frames to tech after you are thrown. For Gouken, you can actually tech his throw 17 frames after you are thrown, but since the tech window is only 12 frames long, you can actually tech too early and get thrown anyway.
Quick Stand, also known as "Quick Rise," is a way to prevent your character from being on the ground at all after being struck by a Knockdown. Anytime you get hit by a Soft Knockdown, you can cause your character to immediately start getting up off the floor one of two ways: by hitting any two attack buttons right before or right as you hit the floor, or tap Down on the joystick right before or right as you hit the floor. For charge characters like Guile and Dee Jay, it is usually better to use the two-button technique, as this allows you to maintain a down charge while Quick Standing.
You actually have a very small window to perform the Quick Stand, but only by a few frames. This means you can actually alter the timing during which you perform a Quick Stand by a couple of frames, though it probably won't make too much of a difference. Also, if you hit the buttons even slightly after you've hit the ground, you can no longer perform the Quick Stand. So it's very easy to mistime a late Quick Stand.
No Quick Rising
There are classes of moves, known as Hard Knockdowns, that prevent any possible Quick Stands. The moves that you cannot perform a Quick Stand are:
- Sweeps - Crouching HK for everyone except Dudley and Gen (Crane)
- Also includes Crouch MK for Dee Jay, Dudley, and Guy; Slide command normals that knock down (Blanka, Elena)
- Throws and Command Throws
- Super and Ultra Combos
- Special Moves that contain a "Hard Knockdown" property
- This property is on a case-by-case basis; sometimes Hard Knockdowns can also be given only on Counterhit, or only on Air or Ground hits
Examples of the last option are moves such as Sakura's Sakura Otoshi (3rd hit), El Fuerte's Tostada Press (on grounded opponents), M. Bison's EX Head Press, and Ibuki's Neckbreaker. It is worth noting that, although it's hard to tell, you can actually perform a Quick Stand on a Crumple Stun (see Crumple Stun section in Game Systems).
To Quick Rise or Not to Quick Rise
Some may wonder why you wouldn't do a Quick Stand if you have the option: isn't it always worse to stay laying on the ground for a period of time after being knocked down? The answer really is that many characters actually bank on your performing Quick Stands to take advantage of mix-ups that are perfectly timed against them. For example, Cammy can perform Hooligan Combinations into a Fatal Leg Twister on people who Quick Stand on certain Knock Downs. If you choose to remain on the ground, you can prevent yourself from getting caught by these situations and throw off the Cammy players timing a bit.
Another new feature to Ultra Street Fighter IV is the Delayed Wake-Up. In the instances where you are unable to perform a Quick Rise, you can instead choose to increase the amount of time before your character gets off the floor by 11 frames. This is done in the exact same way that you would use a Quick-Rise: either tap two attack buttons once you're down, or tap Down on the joystick once you're down.
This can be especially useful if your opponent is attempting a Knockdown setup that is very hard to block. For example, if Ibuki hits you with a move that has a "No Quick Stand" property), then she can jump over you and throw a very hard-to-block Kunai if it is timed correctly. By using a Delayed Wake-Up in this instance, the added time can make the Kunai miss your character completely, leaving you in a much better position.
Watching for "TECHNCAL"
If you perform a Delayed Wake-Up, the word "TECHNICAL" will appear on your side of the message board (your message board also tells you if you've performed a multi-hitting combo or finished your opponent with a Super or Ultra Combo). This will telegraph to both you and your opponent that you are performing a Delayed Wake-Up, and if your opponent is watching for this, they can alter their timing to make up for the increased time that Delayed Wake-Up provides. Because of this, it is a good idea to alternate between using Delayed Wake-Up and not using it to throw your opponent off as much as you can.
One of the most important aspects of Ultra Street Fighter IV is the Taunt, otherwise known as the "Personal Action." Well, okay, maybe they aren't important at all, but Taunts are still in the game and Taunts are still cool. They really are there solely for the purpose of being a Taunt: to show disrespect to your opponent or to signify that something weird really happened.
To perform a Taunt, just hit Hard Punch and Hard Kick at the same time. Interestingly, you cannot perform a Taunt unless the joystick is at Neutral. If you are holding any direction on the joystick, the Taunt will not come out. And keep in mind, when selecting the Taunt for your character, you can choose to not have a Taunt, so hitting this button combination does nothing at all.
Once you start the Taunt, however, your character will go into their Taunt animation, some of which are extremely elaborate. However, unlike in past games, you can actually cancel your Taunt before letting it complete, although every Taunt has a specific amount of time that it has to play out before you can cancel it. Each Taunt has their own window during which you are stuck in the Taunt, even between the different Taunts of the same character.
You're Boring the Crap Outta Me!
Some Taunts have some weird properties to them. For example, Fei Long has a Taunt which actually has him lie down on the floor. And this actually alters his Hit Boxes! He can actually lie down right under some Projectiles this way. It's not a particularly recommended way to get around Projectiles, but it is funny that they took these sorts of things into account.
Keep in mind, however, that during any taunt (including taunts that involve your character jumping), you are considered grounded for the entire duration. So no matter how high you are in the air or how low to the ground you are during a taunt, you can still be fully comboed or even grabbed out of your taunt.
Want Me to Go Easy On You?
Taunts fall into their own category of moves; they do not count as a Normal Move or a Special Move. So you cannot cancel any Normals into a Taunt any Taunting does not give you nor your opponent any Super Meter. They really are just Taunts.
Fighting You Is Such a Waste of Time
There are some special Taunts in the game. Dudley has the Victory Rose where he throws a Rose at the opponent that you perform by holding Down and pressing Hard Punch and Hard Kick. Performing the same code with Cody makes him do the Fake Bad Stone where he pretends to Throw a rock. This move counts as a Special Move, however, and you can actually cancel Normals into it. And finally, there's Dan, who has two extra taunts; a Crouching Taunt and a Jumping Taunt. They can both hit the opponent with a decent amount of Super Meter gain (!) but no damage is actually dealt to the opponent. He even has his own unique Taunt Super Combo: the Legendary Taunt. Unlike regular Taunts, all of these special Taunts cannot be canceled at all during their animations. Dan's Super Taunt is the only exception; as stated in the Ultra Combo section, it can be cancelled at any time before the jump into either of his Ultra Combos.