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Street Fighter 6: Who I'm playing, and why
The journey begins in earnest; if you know fighting games (or don't), here's more context to the challenge I'm setting up with, and who's along for the ride.
When I finished my last post, which detailed my delving into Street Fighter 6, I was left with an intimidating thought — what now? It’s very easy to be excited about the planning and possibilities of a project, but it’s a whole other beast to put it into motion.
I’ve started actively playing and practicing, but I felt a good next step is to explain the hows, mostly for people who may not be familiar with the game.
The Street Fighter franchise is likely the most popular title in the fighting game genre. Part of the reason I’ve chosen it is that it’s likely to be populated with people to play against, and there’s enough resources around to learn.
I previously played Street Fighter IV at an extremely casual level in 2009 (getting too frustrated to play online) and then picked up Street Fighter V years later, having learned a bit more about the appeal of fighting games, and how to properly learn, lose, and have fun.
With that out of the way, here’s what I’m doing with 6.
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Who I’m playing as, and why
Typically, fighting game players will choose a sole character (or team, in games that support them) to “main”; they’ll learn these characters above others, and put the effort into internalizing knowledge that helps them win. This decision may be made on aesthetics alone (“I think this character looks cool”) or the desire to play a certain role (“I want to get up close.” “I want to grapple/confuse/zone out my opponent.”)
In my previous attempts to play Street Fighter, I chose an archetype called a Shotokan (or “Shotos”1). They have a solid toolset of moves, and the controller motions needed to perform them aren’t too demanding; they have a reputation for being a good way to learn the fundamentals of fighting games. Shotokans include Ryu, the consistent main character of Street Fighter, and his arch-nemesis Akuma.
Both Ryu and Akuma have the ability to throw a fireball, perform a spinning helicopter kick, and a rising uppercut. However, to have the characters not be totally identical, they each have small variations to make them unique. Akuma’s attacks to do more damage, but he has less health to compensate. One of Ryu’s attacks may knock an enemy down, where someone else’s might hit an opponent multiple times instead.
These small differences matter in the sense of determining which character helps you express yourself, or plays the way you want to play.
I’ve decided to play Ken in Street Fighter 6. Here’s the quick-and-dirty about why I made this choice:
Ken is a character that emphasizes aggressiveness and being able to close the distance between him and his opponent quickly. I struggle with this in general with video games — I’m usually a very passive/defensive person, and I’d like to improve this.
Ken has good special moves. He has a fireball to control space, a jumping uppercut that is great against opponents that try to jump in on him, and a command that makes him run, rather than walk or jump, at his opponent.
In trying out basic combos, I feel confident enough that I can perform them adequately and under pressure. Being able to make the basic movements and attacks into muscle memory means less brainpower needs to be devoted at the time at which they’re available to perform.
Ken’s attacks sometimes light his limbs on fire, and I think, aesthetically, that’s cool.
Two other characters in Street Fighter 6 have moves similar to Ken, but have a few differences:
The aforementioned Ryu controls more defensive space, and can be more reactive and less flashy than Ken.
Street Fighter 6’s poster boy, Luke, covers more of a medium ground than Ken (who wants to be up close). His combinations are arguably easier to perform, but I found that Ken’s had more branching paths that allowed for improvisation, freedom, and fun.
I played Ryu during Street Fighter V, and eventually felt that after learning some fundamentals through him, that I wanted something a bit spicier. I could, if I wanted to, basically play a fundamentally-sound Ryu game and still achieve my goals. However, Ken seems just as strong as Ryu, has many of the same tools, and allows for more creativity.
In the metagame2 of Street Fighter 6, Ken is considered a top tier character compared to the rest of the cast. Luke is as well, and the Luke-or-Ken decision was my first major one after buying the game and committing myself to playing it.
In general, though, the strength of a character on a tier list doesn’t really matter until you reach the higher skill levels; a tier list can also be representative of “how hard a character has to work in order to win”, and some people like that idea.
My journey here is more about balancing a few different factors:
I want to win, but I don’t want to have to struggle uphill from the start because of my character’s difficulty of execution, or bad match-ups.
I want to win, but not be bored while winning.
I want to be able to have a dearth of resources available to me in order to learn from.
I want something that feels comfortable to play from a gameplan and execution standpoint, instead of forcing myself to play a strong character that doesn’t interest me, in order to win.
I don’t think that any of these points seem unreasonable. Until these desires change, I think I’m happy with my choice.
I’ll be writing more about Ken, my goals for learning him, and what I want to achieve in a typical match at a later date. For the most part, though, I want to make sure I can challenge my own comforts while playing, and set myself up for success.
Until then, stick around!
“As a result, characters in other fighting games that have move-sets similar to Ryu (i.e. characters that more or less have an anti-air uppercut, a projectile, and an advancing kick move) are referred by fans to as "shotos", and usually take on the role of the main character.” https://antifandom.com/streetfighter/wiki/Shotokan
A metagame is “The Game Within a Game” or “The Game Outside The Game”; basically the discussion of game elements within a community, and their collective beliefs, decisions or opinions about them.