Sunday, 25 December 2011

What makes a good Ryu?

Most characters in the game by their very nature have an implied mandate as to how they 'should' be played; Guile is focused on defense, Sagat is a zoner and the twins excel at solid, sustained rush-down. Ryu however, does not come with any such disclaimer. He can turtle just as well as Guile, or zone in a similar fashion to Sagat. His rushdown may not equal that of the twins, but in the hands of a master he can come very close. Having played against a plethora of styles and templates throughout the past three iterations of the game, the writer is of the firm belief that the best players are able to use him aggressivelyThis is of course the greatest challenge of all since Ryu does not possess any reliable 'get-in-quick' moves to fluster the opponent at will. This is a fundamental shortcoming of the character that opponents are all too well aware of. Almost every other character in the game has one or more such moves to position themselves (often safely) within footsie range of their opponent to begin exerting aggression. Bison, for example, has his Bicycle Kick, Sagat  has his Tiger Knee, Ken has a Step Kick and Fei Long has his Rekka punches. These types of moves allow the player the bridge the gap between themselves and their opponents almost instantly and begin applying pressure. Ryu has no such equivalent. As such, even accomplished Ryu players can find themselves having to adopt a purely reactive posture against some of the more offensive members of the cast. That is to say, the Ryu player is forced to wait for their opponent to commit an unforced error before being able to begin Ryu's offense game. New and inexperienced players can often find themselves uncomfortable with this reality. Indeed, it often serves as a catalyst for new(er) players to drop Ryu early in their careers.

Finding the Formula

This article will not attempt to articulate the finer points of Ryu's offensive game. It is up to each individual player to understand how best to apply the tools they are given. There are however, a set of core attributes that the writer believes are common among accomplished Ryu players. They are as follows:

Solid anti-air capabilities

Ryu's ability to control the vertical space directly above him is 50% of his game. Your opponent should not be able to jump at you, period. This principal holds especially true in the Ryu mirror. Against opponents that are able to change their jump trajectory mid-air, substitute Ryu's Dragon Punch for cr.HP. Good Ryu players DP every jump-in, every time. The secret to ensuring consistency lies in learning the DP shortcut; it is as follows (when facing right): down-back, down-forward, down-back, down-forward + MP. The entire move is executed from the crouching position. This has the additional advantage of lowering Ryu's hitbox and thereby giving the player more frames in which to execute. Players who experience difficulty in being able to DP consistently can use Ryu's standing roundhouse (st.HK) as an initial substitute to become familiar with the timing.

EDIT: Thankfully, Ryu's dragon punch has received a significant buff in v2012. Players should remain using the DP shortcut listed above; Ryu's fierce DP however is now only single-hit, with damage totalling 160 during the first and second active frames only.

Consistent blocking skills

As mentioned earlier in this article, Ryu players will often have to endure a torrent of abuse from more able-bodied members of the cast while waiting for an opening to strike. As Ryu is not C. Viper, solid blocking skills are essential. Knowing when and how to block is a grossly underrated skill in the game. When in doubt, just block. The worst that can happen is you will get thrown; a small penalty compared to eating a lengthy combo.

Additional note: At higher levels of play, blocking correctly sometimes includes not pressing any buttons. Fishing for counter-hits during a block string is a huge part of high-level play. Of course, the decision whether to block whilst OS-teching (at the risk of a counter-hit setup), or to simply block with no button presses is up to the player. The very best players apply OS-tech sparingly. For those unfamiliar with the concept of OS-teching, a complete explanation can be found here, courtesy of VesperArcade.

A solid ground-game

Ryu's single most useful and intimidating tactic on the ground is his bread n' butter > hadouken. New Ryu players must develop the ability (and the confidence) to walk up > against their opponent at will. The purpose of this is two-fold; first, it applies pressure on the ground and pushes your opponent back, secondly, it shows your opponent that you're not scared and are willing to take control of the match. Used in tandem with solid-anti air, one can effectively 'bulldoze' the opponent by walking forward and applying > hadouken consistently and applying a DP when the opponent finally jumps. Be aware that better players will begin to look for the hadouken after the and will often try to focus through it (or even ultra), so either apply the hadouken sparingly or be ready to cancel into a tatsu/DP if required.

Successful Ryu players know the range. That is, once their opponent crosses that invisible line, it becomes almost second-nature to immediately apply > fireball. This tactic works exceptionally well as a 'keep-away' tool, and will keep most members of the cast at bay while also goading them into jumping. This is Ryu's most effective defensive tool and is almost universally feared by most players. Better players will look for it, so as mentioned above be prepared to substitute the hadouken for an armor-breaker if the opponent begins to get excited with focus-attacks or otherwise.

Ryu's is a counter-hit machine. It has a large hitbox, is chainable and leaves you with decent frame-advantage on hit (especially on counter-hit). For more advanced players looking to create a counter-hit setup, this will be your primary tool. It is also useful as a counter against many characters' specials, and will stuff the following moves clean: Bison's bicycle kick, E.Honda's headbutt and Blanka's roll. These are just a few examples as there are many, many more.

An understanding of zoning

Ryu's zoning abilities represent the other half of his game. Effective zoning goes hand-in-hand with a solid anti-air game (see point 1). That being said, it is also perhaps the most difficult aspect of his game to master. The purpose of fireballs, first and foremost, is to make the opponent jump. Damage is secondary. However, one should take care not to throw a fireball while the opponent can jump at you. Rather, the purpose is to train your opponent to think you are going to throw, and apply anti-air when they attempt to jump it. Zoning boils down to a relatively simple 50/50 mind game (wait or throw?); the challenge lies in applying it consistently to many different types of opponents. More experienced players will not be as easily intimidated and will have all manner of counters ready (particularly non-shotos). Players should also note that there exists a number of characters in the game that are largely immune to Ryu's zoning game. These include C. Viper, Ibuki and Fei Long. Hence, these matches tend to be at least 4-6 in the opponent's favour. EDIT: This is likely to change in v2012, given Ryu's substantial buffs to his zoning game. Be aware of when to zone, and when you are being zoned. Be aware of characters that can be zoned more easily than others (E.Honda, Zangief, T.Hawk, other shotos).


  1. Great post.

    Just one thing: I disagree about the choice of H.Dp as an effective tool of anti-airing. The invincibility of mp is much superior than hp. HP is preferred when doing combos such as hp+h.dp or jab x3+h.dp.

  2. Hi Ruthless - thanks for stopping by!

    Yes, you are correct, MP DP is still the preferred anti-air option in 2012. The HP DP is invincible during frames 1-4, while the MP DP is invincible during frames 1-5. I have amended the relevant passage. Thanks for pointing out the error :)

    See you online!

  3. HP can be great as it does ton of damage, but your timing for Anti is strict.
    Where as MP u can pretty much have a brain freeze before you do it. But then again online is.... nuff said.