5 Tips for Getting Started with Street Fighter V
Like most fighting games, you get out of Street Fighter V what you put into it. You can get a group of people together just to punch, kick, and throw fireballs at each other until your thumbs bleed and still have a great time, But a lot of the most rewarding moments in fighting games come from learning all the intricacies the game allows.
It might be intimidating to watch high-level play, since it can make you feel like you’ll never have fun with a game unless you’re that good. But even if you’re just starting out, you can play, learn, and improve as long as you’re willing to take a few (dozen) losses along the way.
If you’re looking to start on the journey of a thousand Hadoukens, here are five things you should do to that’ll give you an edge over all the launch-day Ken players you’ll probably end up seeing.
Don’t worry too much about your controller
If you’ve watched any footage of people playing fighting games, you’ve probably seen them playing on an arcade stick -- the bulky, flat panels with buttons and a joystick sticking out of them. Most tournament-level players use them because fighting games have roots in arcades, where this kind of layout was common. Others like them because they like the way they feel, or because it seems “appropriate” to play fighting games with them.
If you’d like to start playing fighting games, don’t feel like you have to splurge on one of these. Several top-level players play on controllers, including Bryant “SMUG” Higgens, and EVO winner Oliver “Luffy” Hay (who won with a PS1 controller, no less!). So if you’re comfortable playing on a controller and can do most of the fireball and uppercut motions on it, don’t feel like you have to buy an arcade stick just to compete.
Learn one simple combo
Combos allow you to maximize the amount of damage you deal off of a single hit. In close matches, knowing how to do the most damage off a stray jumping attack can mean the difference between winning and losing. If you’re just starting out, you might think your best bet for easy victories is to learn all of a character's most damaging combos and go to town on your opponents. But if you haven’t actually played against people, you won’t know how to set those combos up, and you won’t know which combo works best in what situation.
This is why it’s best to ingrain just one single, easy combo into your muscle memory, learn how to use it, and then learn more intricate combos. Street Fighter V makes combos easier than ever to land, so it shouldn’t take too long to learn a short three-to-four hit combo in Training Mode. Once you have that, don’t worry about “maximizing” your damage. Focus first on landing that one combo in the heat of battle. Kayin Nasaki, designer of I Wanna Be the Guy, has a great write-up on why doing this will make you a much better player out of the gate.
Don’t make winning your goal at first
Adding to that last tip about learning one combo: you shouldn’t head into the online fray hoping you’ll win every time. You probably won’t, and if you go in with the intent to win, you’ll end up frustrated by what seems like a lack of progress.
The way to make the most out of your early matches in any fighting game is to eliminate winning as a goal. Radiant Entertainment community manager Patrick Miller eloquently breaks down why you shouldn't make winning your only goal when playing a fighting game. Instead, focus on one secondary goal every match (like landing that three-hit combo you just learned). Instead of going for a win, try to land it every chance you get, even if it means losing. If you can land that one combo say, five times in a single match, you can walk away from a loss knowing you accomplished something and feeling better about yourself.
Watch your replays and learn from them
This might sound like homework, but if you ever leave a match thinking “how am I supposed to stop that!?” You absolutely need to do this. Many of the most frustrating moves and combos in Street Fighter V can be blocked or evaded as long as you know what they do and why they’re effective.
If you find yourself frustrated by a particular move, go watch a replay of the last match you lost to it (most fighting games nowadays record every match you play online). Watch for when and where your opponent pulled that move on you, and how you reacted to it. If it’s a combo, figure out which moves make up that combo.
Then, go into training mode. Choose your character as player 1, and your opponent’s character as player 2. Many modern fighting games also let your record combos for the dummy to play back, so. So record the combo or move that you’re trying to counter, then play it back and test you what actions you can perform to escape or counter it. Usually, you can block most moves and hit an opponent with your own move, or jump out of the way. Once you’ve seen any move or combo in action enough times, chances are you’ll be able to find a way to make it less aggravating to fight against.
Learn from other people
One of the hardest things to learn about any fighting game is what the game plan for your character of choice should be. Should you try to smother your opponent with a flurry of aggressive attacks, or sit back and let them come to you? If you’re not sure, try watching high-level players use your character.
You don’t even have to go to Youtube for this: Street Fighter V has a global leaderboard you can filter by character. So find that leaderboard, search for your character, and watch the last match of the highest-ranked player you can find. Chances are you’ll learn something crucial about how to play the character just by watching someone who knows what they’re doing.
Also, you should definitely read this guide on developing skills you can use in any fighting game. There’s nothing wrong with learning from others, and the things you learn from them will probably snag you a win or two.
Learning how to play a fighting game will probably be rough at first. But eventually, you’ll find yourself beating opponents you never thought you could just a week ago, or landing a tricky combo in an online match. And if there’s anything fighting games have taught us, it’s that few experiences are as rewarding as watching yourself improve.