Mastering Street Fighter V
Find Your Fighter
Picking your character is one of the most important decisions you'll make in any fighting game. While you should feel free to experiment with Street Fighter V's incredibly varied roster, the franchise's most iconic fighter is still the best one to learn your fundamentals with.
"Everybody should learn the game through Ryu, because the franchise was built around him," said Gutierrez. "If you're not proficient with Ryu, then you don't know Street Fighter."
Ryu is an excellent starting point because his three core special moves — the fireball, the dragon uppercut and the hurricane kick — are easy to pull off and haven't changed all that much since the Street Fighter II days. He has a strong suite of attacks for both long-range and up-close combat, and despite being easy to pick up, these attacks can do devastating damage in the right hands.
Once you've mastered your fundamentals, your choice of character all depends on how you like to play. Characters such as Rashid, Ken and Nash offer relentless offense, while Dhalsim and Birdie can be dangerous from a distance.
If you need help deciding, Capcom's official Character Introduction videos do a nice job highlighting each fighter's key strengths.
Learn the V-System
Street Fighter V's overall game play will feel familiar to fighting-game fans, but you'll need to get a hold on the game's various new "V" mechanics in order to have any real success.
Each character has a unique V-Skill trait, which you can perform at any point in a match just by pressing the medium-punch and medium-kick buttons at the same time. These skills vary wildly per character; Ryu's V-Skill allows him to parry incoming attacks (a la Street Fighter III), while Rashid's allows him to hop over or roll under the opponent.
Successfully performing these skills fills up your V-Gauge, which gives you access to V-Reversals and V-Triggers. V-Reversals, performed by pressing forward and all three punch buttons while blocking, allow you to get out of an opponent's attack at the cost of some of your V-Gauge. V-Triggers, on the other hand, require you to spend all of your gauge, as they give you the tools to completely turn the tide of a given match when used correctly.
Tapping the heavy-punch and heavy-kick buttons together will activate your character's unique V-Trigger. Some V-Triggers, such as Ken's "Heat Rush," will make your fighter more powerful for a short duration. Others, such as Zangief's "Cyclone Lariat," consist of a single devastating move that can do big damage when combined with other attacks. V-Triggers can be quite powerful, but you'll have to experiment to figure out how to get the most out of them.
Learn to Love Training Mode
While there's plenty of offline fun to be had in Street Fighter V's story and survival modes, your time is best spent in training mode. Aside from providing a space to freely beat up on a dummy opponent and discover new combos, training mode also lets you replicate and prepare for a variety of situations you might run into midmatch.
Training mode is also where you'll form an intimate connection with your character. Before you even attempt to do the flashy stuff, you'll need to get comfortable with all of your fighter's basic punches and kicks in order to determine how those attacks would be useful in battle.
"Special moves are important, but you'll win more games if you have a greater understanding of how far your character's attacks reach and how fast they come out," said Peter "Combofiend" Rosas, Street Fighter V's associate producer and a well-known tournament vet. "Using the proper attack at the proper range is what Street Fighter is all about."
This is why it's hugely beneficial to dedicate yourself to one or two characters at first. If you do, performing the right moves at the right time will eventually become instinctual. If you try and play the whole cast, you might find yourself forgetting how to throw a fireball.
Do Your Homework
I can't stress this enough: Researching strategies and watching other people play is just as integral to mastering Street Fighter as is playing the game itself. You should get familiar with Shoryuken and EventHubs, two websites filled with wikis, videos and message boards that let you trade tactics with fellow players. If you're looking for newbie-friendly tutorials, Ari Weintraub's "Floechart" video series and Jay Snyder's "Hit the Ground Running" articles are some good starting points.
Once you have a solid grasp on the game, watching top players on YouTube and Twitch is an invaluable way to see how your favorite characters are played at the highest levels. You can also utilize the Capcom Fighters Network, an in-game feature that lets you watch match replays from players dominating the leaderboards. Don't just look for flashy combos; pay close attention to what moves players use for both offense and defense.
Another valuable resource is Gutierrez' "Simplifying Street Fighter: A New Player's Guide to Preparing for Street Fighter 5," an e-book that breaks down everything from finding the right hardware to developing muscle memory, all in an incredibly clear and easy-to-digest way.
"If there was something like this when I was getting started, I would have read the [heck] out of it," said Gutierrez, who also offers personalized one-on-one training on his website. "This book isn't about [winning tournaments]. This is a framework to learn the game, because, in my opinion, Street Fighter V has a really steep learning curve."
Be Patient and Enjoy the Ride!
If you haven't figured it out by now, getting good at Street Fighter requires some serious dedication. But if you're willing to be patient, plenty of fun times await you.
Play like heck. Invite friends over and talk smack. Play online, where you'll be exposed to a variety of characters and play styles from all around the world. Hop on message boards and invite others to critique replays of your matches. Go to your local tournaments and ask for advice from the guy or gal who just destroyed you.
"You will definitely encounter losses in the beginning. We all have!" said Rosas. "But if you keep learning from each loss and continually rise up from those defeats, you will be kicking butt before you know it."
Gutierrez shares that sentiment with Rosas, his friend and former collaborator, stressing that mastering a fighting game is one of the most uniquely gratifying experiences you can have in gaming.
"This is the type of thing you really can't get from a single-player game," said Gutierrez. "Who cares about beating up on an AI opponent? What's cool is outsmarting a real human and being able to hit a move when it really counted.
"If you can make it past that hump," he added, "what's on the other side is really rewarding."
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.