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September 26, 2014 / Jett

Return of the Raging Demon

Years ago, I publicly dumped Akuma. Despite having invested hundreds of hours into the character, I felt like our relationship had run its course. I hit a ceiling with that character that was lower than where I wanted to go, so I thought it would be best to move on. As I’ve said multiple times on this blog in the following years, dropping Akuma for Rose was the best thing I ever did in a fighting game. Since dropping Akuma, I’ve leveled up to the point where my Rose is currently ranked 3rd in the world on PSN, which is a milestone that I wouldn’t have foreseen in my wildest dreams.

Was the dramatic turnaround all due to the character change? Part of it certainly is. However, having gone back to watch some old video and having played with Akuma recently, it’s becoming more apparent that much of my success now comes from personal growth.

Very early on in Street Fighter IV‘s life, I struggled horribly. I was just getting back into fighting games after a 14-year absence, and in hindsight, I was never good at them to begin with. Online warriors would take turns stomping me out for free wins. At a certain point, I found some success with Akuma and stuck with him. With that said, I didn’t put in the work to improving with the character or at the game, so my skills plateaued at that rudimentary level.

http___makeagif.com__media_9-06-2014_JmU86_One of the most obvious holes in my game at the time was my inability to execute combos. The GIF above is a great example of that. I simply mashed out light attacks to get Guy out of the way, but that doesn’t hurt all that much. Around this time, I started watching online tournaments and seeing that there was much bigger combos that could have been done in that situation, but I didn’t understand why I was unable to do the same.

http___makeagif.com__media_9-06-2014_hoybUXYears later, I would pick up Cammy as a back-up, which proved to be extremely beneficial in my understanding of how combos work in Street Fighter IV. It was through her that I learned the concepts of linking and plinking, which are essential to grasp if you want to execute more complex combo sequences. Gaining the ability to really hurt my opponent went a long way towards winning because you need less openings to take someone out. When my Cammy was at her prime, I only needed to open up my opponent 4-5 times in a round to finish them off, as her large combos really packed a punch. The faster you can finish off your opponent, the less time they have to do the same to you.

http___makeagif.com__media_9-06-2014_PItUTEBy learning that concept through her, I’ve since been able to apply that knowledge to every other character I play. Most recently, I tried Akuma again and was able to pull off the above combo without even really thinking about it. This is a dramatic improvement over how I used to play and one I probably wouldn’t have made if I had stubbornly stuck to my guns.

Another concept that I didn’t understand very well was the art of punishing my opponent’s mistakes. For instance, check out the GIF below.

http___makeagif.com__media_9-06-2014_tkUMm0Sagat whiffs a Tiger Uppercut, which is a huge opening for a combo. Instead, I simply dash into him and get hit. Shortly after, he whiffs on a high Tiger Shot. To my credit, I did punish it with a sweep. However, I probably could have landed a much bigger combo off of that opportunity and instead only got in a single hit.

Mistakes come in many forms, from attacks that are unsafe on block, risky jumps or in the above example, whiffed moves. Learning how to punish mistakes is something that takes time and a lot of practice, as you won’t know what works until you try. Through my years of playing with Rose, I’ve studied all of her match-ups and have a mental database of how to appropriately respond to these scenarios.

http___makeagif.com__media_9-06-2014_5ABwdeAbove is a very specific example of a punish that I learned through practice. Oftentimes, when an opponent jumps at me, I can slide under their jump, which usually clears me from their attack. Since they land behind me, I know that I can hit them as soon as they land and there’s nothing they can do about it. In the above example, I punish Guy’s jump-in with a full combo, which is more much damage than most people would expect to eat in that particular situation.

I could go on and on about the differences in my game then versus now, but I’ll touch on one other thing. For the duration of my Akuma career, I relied heavily on Raging Demon shenanigans. I would either have a few parlour tricks to increase my chances of landing it, or simply mash it out and hope for the best. Most of the time, the results would look like this.

http___makeagif.com__media_9-06-2014_b0dPDWSince then, I’ve acknowledged a few problems that come out of this Hail Mary approach. For one, it’s a terribly inefficient use of meter. I gambled everything I had on a maneuver with a very low chance of success. Over time, I’ve learned how to better use my meter for more guaranteed damage while being able to create opportunities that have a much higher success rate.

http___makeagif.com__media_9-06-2014_7q9zmBThis aspect has become crucial to my approach with Rolento. With only one EX bar, Rolento can combo off of his EX Patriot Circle into his Ultra 1. In the example above, I use two EX meters and my Ultra to get guaranteed damage. Rolento snobs will note that I could have also landed the Ultra off of just the EX overhead, but I didn’t in this particular example. The important thing to note is that I’m far less prone to throwing my meter away on moves that have a low chance of working out in my favour because I’m saving it fore surefire openings.

Having noodled with Akuma recently, it’s clear to me that he alone wasn’t at fault for my lack of success at the time. In reality, much of my failures sat squarely on my shoulders. I simply did not have the smarts or the skills to make the most out of him. Does that mean I made the wrong decision in hindsight? I don’t think so. Had I not taken the time to learn the game from different character perspectives, I wouldn’t have developed my knowledge and skill-set to the point where it’s at now. I’m not looking to get serious with him any time soon, but after dragging his name through the dirt over these last few years, I hope he can accept my apology and that we can still be friends.

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