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Super Street Fighter IV Guide: Fighting Game Notation - A Fighter's Handbook
Many fighting games have established their niche already and developed into hardcore metagames that few appreciate. For those that do, most realize that little amount of fighters have attained such mainstream success comparable to the Street Fighter series. Be it for fun or for cash, being able understand the game and its technical components will thoroughly increase your enjoyment of it. This series of guides hopes to explain the many different concepts and theory behind fighting games, as there is no general rule to apply when developing your own unique playstyle. We will cover each character for in-depth hints and strategies for playing them, but first its important to grasp the fundamental terminology in order to understand many of the things we will be covering.
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Buttons and Notation
While you may not be striving for top-tier gamer status, anyone looking into the competitive scene can benefit from learni ng the terms and notation the majority of the community will use. There are two main styles of notation that are used: traditional Capcom game notation and the more streamlined numpad notation developed for other games through foreign usage. For consistency purposes, this series will be using standard Capcom notation but we will cover both. Its best to familiarize yourself with the different notations in order to be able to learn and pick up any fighting game. If you are already familiarized with fighting game notation, you may skip this portion of the guide.
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Capcom Movement Notation
Above are two pictures describing standard Capcom notation. Click them to enlarge. For movement, the standard chart considers the player is on the left side of the screen facing right. If the player is on the right side facing left, simply flip the chart horizontally. As for the button chart, that is the standard layout you will see on arcade sticks. The top row going from light-heavy punch, and the bottom going from light-heavy kick. Besides the different states and attacks, many command moves require a motion to complete in order to activate them. Below is a list of common abbreviations. A "+" symbol indicates to press the buttons simultaneously, while a comma indicates to input them in sequential order.
QCF - Quarter circle forward (D, DF, F)
QCB - Quarter circle back (D, DB, B)
HCF - Half circle forward (B, DB, D, DF, F)
HCB - Half circle back (F, DF, D, DB, B)
DP - Dragon punch motion (F, D, DF)
RDP - Reverse dragon punch motion (B, D, DB)
360 - Full circle motion (Example beginning from forward: F, D, B, U, F)
720 - Double full circle motion (Example beginning from forward: F, D, B, U, F, D, B, U, F)
PP or 2P - Press two punches simultaneously (Example: LP + MP)
PPP or 3P - Press all three punches simultaneously (LP + MP + HP)
KK or 2K - Press two kicks simultaneously (Example: MK + HK)
KKK or 3K - Press all three kicks simultaneously (LK + MK + HK)
Charge - Hold specified input for specific amount of time, usually close to one second. Sometimes this may be specified with square brackets. (Example of Sonic Boom: [B], F+MP)
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While we will not be using numpad notation in this guide, it's fairly useful to know being largely universal throughout every fighting game. The basic idea derives from the keyboard numpad. Directions are specified with a number. If you are confused, simply look at your keyboards numpad. The number 6 would be forward, with 2 being down or crouch. 236 would be your standard QCF motion, while 623 being your standard DP motion. For ease of reference, another chart can be seen below. Note that sometimes when used for non-traditional Capcom games you will find the punch and kick layout replaced with a simple alphabetical sequence, usually starting with the letter A being the weakest attack.
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Common Symbols and Pre-fixes
When describing combos, there are a number of prefixes and symbols to be aware of. Here I will describe them along with some common cases.
s - standing (s.LP = standing LP)
c - crouching (c.LK = crouching LK)
j - jumping (j.HK = jumping HK)
sj - superjumping (sj.LK = superjumping LK)
xx - cancel placed between two actions (c.MK xx QCF+P = cancel c.MK into QCF+P)
-> - chain placed between two actions (s.LP -> s.MP = chain s.LP into s.MP)
/\ - jumping from ground to air actions (c.HP /\ j.LP = jump-cancel c.HP into j.LP)
\/ - landing from air to ground actions (j.HP \/ s.LP = follow j.HP with s.LP)
Some of you may be wondering what the difference between a cancel and a chain is. This will be covered in the next section on fighting game terminology.
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Bare Basics and Terminology
Now that we have covered basic notation, there are a few more things you're going to want to know in order to discuss the more technical aspects of the game. First we will discuss the different move types beginning with normals.
Normals: Normals are your standard punches and kicks that don't require special motion inputs. These moves can link into each other with specific timing, the exception being Ibuki's target combos which can be gatling'd without any specific timing at all. They will usually link into each other from light to heavy. For example LP -> MP. Standing light punches and kicks can also be linked into each other and even into crouching normals, but repeatedly spamming them will usually push you and your opponent too far away from each other to continue indefinitely. In addition to normals, some moves may be referenced as command normals. Usually these are specific overheads like Ryu's F+MP.
Overheads and Lows: This is also a great time to discuss the high/low mechanics in Street Fighter. An overhead is an attack that must be blocked standing, while a low must be blocked crouching. Moves that can be blocked either way are called mids. You can not airblock in Super Street Fighter IV, but we will cover different uses for jumping later.
Command moves: Sometimes called special moves, these are attacks that require special inputs such as QCF or QCB before inputting the attack. Most normals can cancel into command moves. Unlike links and chains, cancels can usually be buffered and therefore does not take precise timing. In addition, pressing two punch buttons or two kick buttons will initiate an EX command move. An EX command move requires 1 blue bar of meter, but is usually a significantly stronger or more useful version of the command.
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Bare Basics and Terminology (Continued)
Supers and Ultras: Supers and ultras not only require specific motions before inputting the attack, but they require specific amounts of super or ultra meter. These meters are at the bottom of the screen. The blue meter split into 4 bars is your super meter, while the red circular meter represents your ultra meter. The blue super meter increases simply by executing different attacks, and the red meter is usually increased by taking or absorbing attacks. Command moves and normals can usually cancel into supers and ultras.
Focus Attacks: Focus attacks are unique to the Street Fighter IV series. A focus attack is a chargeable attack activated by pressing MP+MK. Holding the two buttons down will charge the attack. While charging, you can absorb a single attack without flinching or taking damage. Some exceptions to this are armor breaking attacks or ultras. Multiple hits will knock you out of the charge and essentially deal more damage then if you had been hit without charging. At the cost of 2 super bars, you can cancel any grounded normal or command move into focus attack. Focus attack may also cancel into a backdash or forward dash, creating the technique Focus Attack Dash Canceling(FADC) which will be an important element in constructing and performing combos.
Grabs: Grabs can be performed by pressing LP+LK. Grabs may not be blocked, but can be teched by inputting LP+LK during a certain window of time at the start of the grab. This is also true if you are grabbed while crouching, which is a great option select for escaping tick throws as we will cover later.
Hitstun: Periods of stun due to being attacked by your opponent.
Blockstun: Stun where you may do nothing but block and switch from standing or crouching due to blocking your opponent's attacks.
Frame Advantage: Term used to describe advantage from active hitbox frames due to blockstun or knockdown. This is a period of time where you may be able to input something, but doing something besides blocking will usually get you hurt.
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Bare Basics and Terminology (Continued II)
Invulnerability: Frames where you are invulnerable to attacks. These are usually found at the start-up of reversal attacks. Examples being Ryu or Ken's dragon punches.
Super Armor: Super armor is different from invulnerability as you still are able to eat the damage and slight stun from the attacks, but your character will continue the attack and shrug off non armor-breaking moves.
Dizzy: Dizzy is a state portrayed as birds, stars or skulls swirling above your characters head. When this happens you are unable to do anything until the state ends or your opponent attacks you. To put your opponent in dizzy you must fill their stun gauge. This varies from character to character and the gauge is not displayed in normal play. However, you can check how much stun your attacks and combos do in training mode. The stun gauge will refill while your opponent is not receiving damage or blocking an attack, making dizzying your opponent a result of a relentless or well-executed offense.
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Applying Your Knowledge
Now that we've finally covered the basics and notation, we can start discussing how this comes together in competitive play. More importantly we will discuss how to abuse and take advantage of all these rules to work to our advantage. All of this and more will be elaborated upon in detail during future articles as I give you key concepts on working footsies and blockstrings into your game, as well explore different strategies and situations to be aware of. The knowledge written here is a reference and foundation for the concepts to be described later, so be sure you understand it well.
Along with explaining fundamental strategies, be sure to check out the upcoming character guides for information on how to truly bring out the best in your character. Utilizing your character's strengths and knowing their flaws and matchups is a key part to learning fighting games.
Even if you're just looking to show off to your friends, or simply want to hold your own at arcades, the information being described here will prove useful for any gamer who simply wants to maximize enjoyment of the game. See you in the next article for more Super Street Fighter IV tips and strategies to becoming a better player.