While the exact details have yet to be released, Ultra Street Fighter 4‘s delayed wakeup mechanic, revealed in an interview with Famitsu, stands to change the game entirely. Generally speaking, I’m concerned that the pacing of the game will slow down. I do agree that the game has become a series of fast-paced knockdowns followed by setups. Safe jumps, ambiguous crossups, you name it: getting knocked down right now in SF4 sucks and it’s very difficult to avoid being knocked down. We have to keep in mind, though, that the game released in its original form over four years ago. The game’s pacing—and everyone’s reliance on knockdown setups—is the way that it is because of over four years of discovery, adaptation to the engine and familiarity with the systems already in place. Combine the ability to delay wakeup with the addition of red focus (which initially excited me), and Ultra stands to turn into an even more defensive game than AE with everyone scared to approach after a knockdown for fear of eating a full red focus combo or a delayed dragon punch into Ultra.
The removal of a predictable outcome from hard knockdowns is a cause for concern as it gives the defender an advantage over the attacker, which should never be the case if the attacker has gone so far as to score a hard knockdown. The defender now has a very basic mindgame to employ against his assailant–will I delay my wakeup or not? I fear a world where this rudimentary mindgame may be enough to prevent players from attacking downed opponents entirely, especially in high-level play, in favor of sticking to the neutral game.
As an Ibuki player, I live for hard knockdowns. Nearly every setup used by Ibuki revolves around neck breaker, MK tsumuji, raida (in the corner), sweep or throw. We’ve got lots of options. But if, suddenly, hard knockdowns are made to be such that they no longer produce an expected outcome, our offense becomes much harder to maintain. As a momentum character, Ibuki begins to really take control of the match once she lands the first hard knockdown. This momentum will soon be removed. This will naturally affect the entire cast, but I fear vortex characters will feel the effects of this system change more than anyone else (looking at you, too, Akuma).
After much deliberation, I’ve also come to the conclusion that the removal of the hard knockdown status on all of Ibuki’s neck breaker variants (save the EX version) now seems pointless. A vortex character can’t rightly vortex their opponent if the opponent doesn’t get up after an expected period of time. With delayed wakeup in mind, this nerf seems unnecessary.
Taking a closer look at her overall changes, very little good is on the horizon for little ol’ Ibuki:
Ibuki Official Changes (From SRK):
Guard bug where El Fuerte’s 6+MK would cross over fixed
A bug fix, nothing more.
Hammer Kick (6+MK) hitbox expanded downward; changed from +3 to +2 on block
The change to this move’s vertical hitbox is weird. My only guess for the thought behind the change is to prevent the move from sometimes hopping over downed characters with incredibly small hurt boxes, but these instances were not common to begin with. The frame data change is mostly negligible, though it does make getting that first jab out after a blocked overhead just a little riskier.
Target Combo 4 (LP → MP → HP near opponent) 2nd hit hitbox expanded downward
This is a welcome change, but more details are needed to see if this is actually going to work the way that it works in my head. As it stands, TC4 whiffs on several members of the cast when they’re crouching. I expect this change to make the move no longer whiff in these situations, which will help make Ibuki more consistent in all matchups. Overall, this feels more like a bug fix than anything else.
L Kunai throw angle now slightly weaker
Every patch messes with the angle of this projectile. As with many of the previously-listed changes, more information is needed to truly determine whether or not this can be considered a nerf or a buff. My initial fear is that this angular change will be yet another strike against her already-suffering vortex game in the Ultra update; if the angle changes sharply enough, ambiguous kunai tosses will no longer exist.
L, M and H Tsujigoe recovery reduced by 6F
Ah, Tsujigoe. Have you ever even seen this move? Chances are, if you’re not an Ibuki player, you haven’t. I have a hard time believing that this change will matter at all, as I seriously doubt that a mere six frame recovery buff on this awkward command jump will give it any purpose other than what it already has: making your opponent think you just broke the game by adding another move to it.
L, M and H Neck Breaker now cause soft knockdown instead of hard knockdown
With delayed wakeup in place, this nerf seems unnecessary. Wake up timings won’t be predictable as-is and this change merely adds insult to injury.
All versions of Tsumuji hitbox slightly expanded downward
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. All that I can think is that there are some times when, if I’m incredibly far away (approaching tip-range), the last hit of a tsumuji will whiff. I suppose this may fix that issue, but, again, I’ll need to see this change in action to be sure of it’s impact.
M Tsumuji recovery increased by 1F
This makes the move -1 on block and +13 on hit. I don’t see the point in this change, as it doesn’t alter what can or can’t punish the move.
EX Kazegiri invincibility time increased from 6F to 7F
Early on, when the most basic mock-up changelogs were released for this update, they promised “improved defensive options” for Ibuki. I’m all for more invulnerability frames on her dragon punch, and feel that she desperately needs a full-invuln option for wakeup at the cost of meter. As it stands, she doesn’t have any way to force people to respect her on wakeup. This will stop meaty attacks, but it already does that. One frame in either direction won’t really change much of anything.
Obviously, none of these changes are final. Location testing has only recently started and will continue to take place for quite some time before the game reaches a final state. I am optimistic that they’ll revert Ibuki’s neck breaker to its AE form as the removal of it’s hard knockdown, as I’ve stated a couple of times already, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense with the addition of the delayed wakeup option. That in mind, I fear that the vortex as a whole is on its way out regardless of any character-specific tweaks. With the new systems in place, the game looks to be heading toward a very heavy favoring of characters with good footsies options, an area where Ibuki is seriously lacking.
I don’t currently plan to drop her as it’s way too early to tell how all of this will play out. But I do intend to spend some time with a few other characters while I wait for Ultra to release, just in case. Currently on my mind are Chun-Li, a character that I mained before moving on to Ibuki and still play regularly, though to a much lesser degree of mastery; Rose, a character that I’ve always loved but never bothered to learn much beyond how to combo into her super; Evil Ryu, because Sako inspired me to main Ibuki and he also plays Evil Ryu (plus, Oinfrar3DO recently posted an excellent article about how to approach him); or Blanka because trolling is fun sometimes.