On what should I rely to time links in the Street Fighter 4 Series?
Street Fighter 4 Series has different kind of links, depending of the frames to perform the following action. The hardest ones being 1-frame links. There are different techniques to stretch this frame window (e.g. plinking, double tapping etc.) but still you need to know when to push the buttons.
A link depends on the recovery frames of the 1st move and the startup frames of the 2nd move. You have to execute the 2nd move when the 1st recovery frame starts.
But how do I know when a character (e.g. Ryu) stops performing a move and starts the recovery phase?
I know several approaches but somehow they are all not that reliable.
- Listening to the sound, and getting a feeling (not accurate)
- Looking at animations (does not work that good, because of different delays of TVs / monitors)
- Looking at recovery highlighting of opponent on his health bar
- Disregard any kind of timing approaches and keep trying until muscle memory remembers the timing
So my question is: Is there some kind of reliable trigger to know when to start linking or does it just boil down to experience and muscle memory?
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The best approach is a combination of all of the items in your list. Muscle memory is the most reliable trigger. This allows you to perform these links in different conditions, such as with network or TV lag. However, the sound and animation also contribute and aid your muscle memory. Many tournament players will play with headphones so that they get the maximum benefit from all factors.
When learning a new link, it takes some effort to learn the timing. There really is no trick, it just comes after trial and error. For example, take Ryu’s f.HP -> cr.HP. If you don’t see the cr.HP come out, you were too early–slow down. If the cr. HP comes out, but the training dummy blocks, you were too late–speed up. Once the timing is in your head, it comes down to repetition to build your muscle memory.
Plinking is very useful. You should get in the habit of plinking in bread and butter combos. You might want to turn your inputs on in training mode to verify that your plink inputs are correct. The inputs should appear similar to how they do in this tutorial video. If plinking is done properly, this should almost double your success rate for the 1-frame links.
Also, it can help to think “outside the combo”. Is your opponent mashing dragon punch when you go for a combo? Then it might not be in your best interest to go for the combo on autopilot–do one or two hits of the combo, but then block and bait out the uppercut.