Have traditional fighting games been rendered obsolete by Smash? How would you convince someone who thinks like that to try out, say, SF? Someone who thinks SF is the same thing every match.
Not a chance in hell. I’ve been meaning to make a post/video on the differences between Street Fighter and Smash Bros. The games emphasize totally different things. They have different forms of blocking, hitstun, combos, damage, moves, movement, knockdown, footsies, zoning.
In my opinion a lot of it stems from 1 really innocuous core change. In Smash Bros, you are allowed to grab someone during hitstun or blockstun. In Street Fighter, you are not. A basic issue that came up during the first version of Street Fighter 2, and Smash 64 was, if people are allowed to get advantage on block, then they can throw instantly, and that’s a guard breaker. So in SF2 World Warrior, you could jump in at someone, hit them with a roundhouse on their block, then just throw them. Easy unblockables. Similar stuff is possible in Smash 64, like shieldbreak combos, and unblockables off higher shield stun aerials.
So both series came up with different solutions to this issue. Street Fighter 2 made it so if you try to throw someone who is in blockstun or hitstun, the throw will not trigger at all and you’ll just get the normal on that button instead. Later versions of street fighter with throw whiff animations made it so the throws will whiff if attempted on a blocking opponent.
Smash Melee made it so every move in the game had a unique landing animation, and reduced the amount of shield stun, guaranteeing that no move in the entire game is allowed to get frame advantage on block, especially not +4 or more (the amount necessary to grab a roll, +6 to grab a spot dodge). There are a couple exceptions to this, like peach’s float cancel, but I guess the team can’t think of everything. Also unlike Street Fighter, grabs come out in 7 frames instead of 0 or 2-3. Since nobody can get frame advantage on block, even though people are allowed to be grabbed out of blockstun, it’s impossible to set up a situation where this is possible.
In my mind, this change defines everything, they’re both instrumental changes to the design space that shape how the entire rest of the game is allowed to work.
Because Street Fighter made it so you cannot grab someone in blockstun no matter how hard you try, this means that they’re allowed to have moves with arbitrarily high hitstun and blockstun. They can do whatever they want there and never worry about setting up unblockables. This allows Street Fighter to have the combo structure it does and blockstring pressure like it does, because the defender can rest easy knowing they can block everything and the attacker needs to relent his pressure in order to open the defender up to throws.
So what does this mean? It means in Street Fighter, you can hit the dude with a lot of moves and gain frame advantage on block, make them scared of attacking because if you both attack, then you will win. This means that combos can work the way they can in street fighter, as rapid sequences of ground links and cancels, because you don’t have to worry about that really good cancel or link sequence generating an unblockable.
As a matter of coincidence, the games also have different blocking systems, one is a button hold, one is a directional hold. The shield in smash bros takes time to drop, but you get a certain number of actions faster out of shield. The shield in smash also costs you to hold up, so you need to decide when to block at the right time. The block in street fighter can be held as long as you want, it costs nothing, and you can use whatever move you want to when blockstun ends. Because smash solved throws the way it did, it forces the opponent on the back foot, but usually not enough that they can always be straight up punished out of shield. Smash’s system makes it so opponents can’t straight up break your shield, but you also can’t guaranteed punish them unless they’re -7 or more on block and land in front of you. Many aerial attacks leave people like -3 or -4. Many jabs also fit in that range. So you need to guess what they’ll do and pick the right option out of shield. In Street Fighter you need to watch their moves and patterns for points where you think they’ll go negative, then use that as a staging point to punish them. Because they can do negative different amounts, different punishes will work based on the move they did. So someone going -2 or -4 probably isn’t punishable, but -7 is a sweep, or c.MK into special. Or you could blow your meter to hit someone for being -1 or -2 if you have a super that fast, like Ken’s or Q’s in 3s.
The other big thing is, in smash bros, there’s a lot more hitstun and moves are generally slower. it’s a faster game overall because there’s a lot of simultaneous inputs you need to perform, and the movement game is faster, but in smash combos are generally about landing the the right move and confirming into a combo on reaction off a single hit, where in street fighter, you need to already be doing the next step of the combo before you can visually confirm you even hit. Street Fighter’s cancel system means you frequently need to stick out a move, buffer in a cancel, and commit to either landing both moves, or getting them blocked and potentially punished. Because moves are faster in street fighter, you don’t have enough time to see your opponent coming at you, but you can see what you got hit with.
Next, street fighter has a more complex ground game, because it has more moves with more applications. Smash can’t implement any pressure string longer than 2 moves, so all pressure strings work like the fireball trap, reset the trap or close it.
In SF, you can move closer or further from your opponent without changing your facing direction. This is huge because it means you can use any move at any time, from a group of 12 different moves. In smash bros, you get bogged down with dash dancing. Dash dancing is nice, but it means people need to do way harder tech and commit much harder to slower ground moves, the majority of which are extremely unsafe, where in SF you have this freedom to walk back and forth and poke with a bunch of different moves that can hit higher or lower and set up frame traps or other situations. Also in SF, because you have that cancel system, you can throw out moves and buffer in a special, so that you have this extra layer to the moves you’re throwing out, because the best pokes typically won’t cancel, but slightly worse pokes can cancel, leading to bigger damage, corner carry, or other setups. You can even anticipate your opponent’s pokes and hit them with close range cancellable moves, which isn’t as feasible in smash, where whiff punishes are more about moving around the opponent’s move to grab them.
Street Fighter combos are based on consistency and commitment, smash combos are based on improvisation and mixups. Street Fighter has a ton of moves that can all set up for other moves at different specific junctions. Smash Bros has a smaller number of moves that you can move differently during or space differently to get different effects.
Plus, street fighter has like, actual zoning. It has anti-air. Smash is all about air to air, but street fighter and other traditional fighters let you actually play the ranged zoner that just keeps the opponent out. You don’t get weakened by the eventual need to kill with a smash attack or other strong hit, because damage is all you need. Instead it’s about throwing different speeds of fireball, another thing smash doesn’t have, to either poke at a range, or set up pressure, or trap people between slow and fast fireballs. No character in smash can play keepout nearly as consistently or to as deep a level as a fighting game character like ryu, guile, or in a game with more movement options, robo fortune or peacock.
And because street fighter has that directional blocking system, it has more real mixups on block, more ways to open an opponent up, where smash mixups on block are intensely more limited. If you get frame advantage on block in street fighter you could, hit them with another move so they get frametrapped, wait for blockstun to end and throw, use an overhead, jump, jump crossup, back away and end pressure. In smash you can set up frame traps by using a low frame disadvantage move followed by a fast startup move, but that’s extremely limited.
Here’s a good example of what type of crazy shit you can do in street fighter that doesn’t really work or exist in smash:
In this clip, Tokido, blue ryu, gets hit with a super and knocked down. He blocks a fireball, then punishes a jump-in tatsu’s landing with a standing MK, which is a poke, normally uncancelable. He burns his V-trigger meter to cancel this, which gives him enough time to do a combo’d standing HK, one of the few moves that reaches at that range, and also is +4 on hit. Since he’s now plus, he dashes in, knowing his opponent probably won’t act given he’s at disadvantage, then he dashes out, because his opponent is going to react to how he dashed in, then whiff punished his opponent’s reaction attack with a standing HP, canceled into super.
And here’s another cute example I saw today:
Poongko playing Cammy is in a neutral situaton with necalli, both are afraid to move in or commit. So Poongko takes the risk, dashes in, dashes out, then raw activates super. This is ballsy as fuck, because Gamerbee could have easily thrown out a button, just on intuition, or reacted a little faster, or sat still and not pressed anything at all, and Poongko would have blown his entire meter and been open to a huge punish. This naturally is not in smash bros, and doesn’t happen in your run of the mill match. There’s plenty of crazy situations like this throughout fighting games.
The short is, Smash Bros cannot capture everything street fighter has. It’s totally impossible for smash bros to do everything Street Fighter can. They have a bunch of fundamental differences that are irreconcilable. If you want to see the difference, then play.
I enjoy Smash Bros a lot, but street fighter keeps me coming back with the ability to pressure and mix up opponents, to commit super hard to combos, to manage meter over time, to play a more focused and poke-based ground game instead of a more purely movement based one, to have these really clear crisp mindgame interactions with a large number of options to keep it fuzzy overall. Smash bros can’t capture any of that, it’s too limited because of how it was built, and finds its depth in other ways. Smash cannot obsolete Street Fighter because they are too fundamentally different.