I don’t like SFV but I’m still playing it

(I’m writing a series of journal entries to track my progress prepping for Evo this year. Check out the previous entry here.)

Went to the Monday weekly again in Campbell! Again, a lovely experience. This time about 18 people showed up; I ended up going 2–2, placing 7th overall. That’s one more win than last time! Progress.

I’ve had a hard time keeping my motivation going with SFV — the reason I’m doing this Road to Evo thing is basically to force myself to keep playing and see if I can get something rewarding out of the experience even though the game itself isn’t quite what I want it to be.

People ask me all the time why I don’t like SFV. The short answer is, basically, “I don’t like fighting games built around frame traps and knockdown mixups.” To be sure, frame traps and knockdown mixups are present in every Street Fighter, but they weren’t really emphasized so heavily until Street Fighter 4, which I also didn’t like for the same reason.

“But frame traps and knockdown mixups are your reward for winning in neutral!” people say to me, but I like neutral. Neutral is The Fun Part for me; my reward should be that I get to keep playing it! Except that’s not a winning strategy in SFV, because you simply can’t control space and outplay people in neutral consistently enough to make neutral-only a viable strategy. Zoning as a strategy is nonexistent; footsies are a joke; it’s just guess-fishing for a hit that converts into a knockdown, then do your Knockdown Bullshit and hope they guess wrong so you can keep doing it.

Generally speaking, these issues come from a few core design decisions:

  • Very small attack range differences between characters mean ideal engagement zones usually overlap
  • Wide availability of safe, on-reaction anti-projectile options leading to weak fireballs overall
  • Defined attack priority (in case of trade. H > M > L) and Crush Counter reduce complexity of normal move interactions in footsies
  • Invincible options on wakeup are all meter-dependent (no parry or invincible DP)
  • Lack of resourceless global defensive systems (parry, JD, roll, pushblock) mean frame advantage is the main thing that matters
  • Input lag + stubby normals = dashing/jumping are far more potent than I prefer

This is why I can’t let go of CvS2 — knockdown mixups and frame traps simply aren’t as important. If I block something, my opponent’s advantage is cashed out more in guard meter damage than it is in mixup opportunities. The focus becomes winning in footsies, and using those wins to expose opportunities for downloading and adaptation. I can take plenty of games in CvS2 without even having good enough execution to reliably combo into super if my neutral game is on point. Wish I could play like that in SFV.

But I can’t. So instead I’ll be juggling around a combination of Guile, Cammy, Laura, Ryu, and maybe some other possible substitutions along the way, and I’ll see if that can work for me until Evo. At least all the characters are easy enough to play that switching around doesn’t come at a huge cost. I guess that’s something.

There was one thing that made this weekly worth it, though — I brought along one of my coworkers, who has been putting a lot of work into SFV over the last year, and he had a great time and felt more motivated to grind out more practice sets. So perhaps I can’t love the game the way I wish I could, but if I can help someone else find what I found, that’ll be enough for now.

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❤ CvS2 best game ❤

— patrick miller

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