This is not a guide for beginners. By now, we'll assume that you can perform all commands from your character's move set easily, and are familiar with the range and speed of your moves.
This guide will delve deep into the Street Fighter IV system and uncover a variety of tricks and tactics used by the experts.
[The full guide, which includes beginner tips, and even more advanced tactics for the most elite players, comes as a meaty SFIV Guidebook with the latest issue of PSM3 magazine, on sale now.]
If your timing is good enough, you can perform many moves as 'Reversal Attacks'. Typically used in combination with special moves, such as Dragon Punches, this is the art of going immediately from the last frame of hit stun/block stun/rising animation etc into a Special, Super or Ultra.This is a vital part of Street Fighter, as reversal moves are often the only way to escape from certain traps and situations.
An example is escaping a tap throw attempt (explained a little later) by an opponent. Let's say your opponent knocks you down and as you're getting up they perform Ken's crouching MK (also known as a 'meaty' move). Here you are forced to block the move as you get up. The only other option is a reversal attempt.
If you perform a Dragon Punch as your character is getting up (the animation where they're picking themselves up from the floor), you will see a message saying 'Reversal' printed to screen. During a Reversal your character is invincible for a couple of frames, meaning that instead of being hit by your opponent's move, you will hit them clean instead. If this worked correctly, you will snuff Ken's crouching Medium Kick, but if you mistimed your attempt, Ken's kick will clobber you.
Cross-ups are a sneaky tactic that often confuse novice players. Usually when an opponent attacks with a move, you only have to focus on blocking them high or low. However, cross-ups add a third variable into the mix - which side to actually block from.
Ken's jumping MK and Ryu's jumping HK are classic examples of cross-up moves in Street Fighter IV. If you time these correctly, you can get them to hit the back of your opponent as you jump in. The upshot to this is that the opponent must block in the opposite direction by holding 6 rather than 4.
To make this even trickier, you can create 'Ambiguous' cross-up situations. This is where you attack an opponent in such a way that it's hard to tell which side they'll strike from. Again with Ken's jumping MK, it's possible, based on the distance you jump-in from, to subtly alter which side the opponent must attempt to block.
By mixing up cross-up attempts, you can confuse an opponent and engineer combo opportunities easily.
Many characters possess cross-ups, including Ryu, Ken, Blanka, Sakura, Abel and Rose, and many more. If your character has a cross-up, it's a wise idea to include it in your offensive game.
Sometimes known as an 'early' move, meaty moves can be used to force an opponent to block, allowing you to dictate the pace of a match.
A meaty move is a move that starts hitting an opponent as they are getting up from a knockdown, but stays active for long enough so they have to remain blocking the move for a split second, even when fully out of the getting up animation. A good example is to knock your opponent down with Ryu and to then use a meaty crouching MK. Start the move a little before the opponent is getting up to execute the move.