NB: Some series brought some systems which were adopted by others and became a staple feature, these would be highlighted in bold and they would not be listed again under the subsequent series.
Street Fighter: Special moves
Though it wasn’t Street Fighter that started the use of special inputs for moves (Pit Fighter, Karate Champ and a couple of others did), they did however started the use of charge moves (holding back for 2secs and then forward + …). While they may not be a big deal now, they were back then. Moves were so difficult to execute and so random that when they came out, they did massive damage. One shoryuken drains almost half bar damage and a well timed hurricane kick can end the game from full health. Funny how these moves are the basis for the subsequent moves that followed in later versions. To see what the the game looked like, click here.
Street Fighter 2 series: Super moves
Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo brought us the super bars – a little bar at the bottom of the screen for each character which fill up as special moves are done. When full, your character can perform a super move - a hyper, tonned up, multiple hitting version of one of their moves – in most cases likely their signature moves. This super move gimmick was so infectious that almost all fighting games that were released subsequently had their own versions of super moves. Check out the review here
Fun fact – It took Tekken almost 22 years before they finally implemented it in form of rage art – Way to go, Namco.
Street Fighter Alpha series: Air block, Guard damage, Alpha Counters, Super bar partitioning, -ISM modes
The third installment of this series is considered by some to be the pinnacle of SF. The series featured the partitioning of the super bar into three, which grants you the ability to perform one, two or three super moves depending on the strength of the super performed i.e you can perform three level 1 supers OR two supers (a level 2 and level 1) or just one level 3 super move. The levels of the moves also determines their damage output and invincibility. The alpha series also brought the air block where you could block attacks while air-borne. There was also the alpha-counter, a move that helps you break offense. Alpha 3 came with two extra mechanics: the guard damage and ISM modes. The guard damage bar was a little bar under the health bar. Continuous blocking depletes this bar and when empty, your character is unable to block the next attack or combos while the bar refills. Also, continuous depletion of this bar reduces the length of the bar until it is so small that as little as blocking two attacks breaks your guard. This was done, IMO, to discourage too much reliance on blocking. The ISMs were variations of character mechanics (A-ism, V-ism and X-ism). Depending on the mode you picked, your character played differently.
A-ism (Z-ism in Japan) grants your character all the alpha properties as mentioned above; X-ism is the super street fighter 2 turbo mode which comes with just one super bar, no guard damage and no air blocks; V-ism grants you the ability to string various normals and special moves into a single combo.
The third iteration in the series, Street Fighter Alpha 3, was what first brought legendary player Daigo Umehara into international limelight with his victory over Alex Valle who was the American champion at the time.
To watch their match click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldibxXTpA9A
Street Fighter EX series: Super canceling, Excel, Guard breaks, Meteor Supers
This series was Capcom’s attempt at a 3D Street Fighter or rather, a 3D looking Street Fighter. There were no gimmicks here so to speak. It was straight up battle like the Street Fighter 2 series. However it brought us the ability to cancel special moves into super moves and also super moves into another super move. Also there was a guard break function which allowed you to briefly stun an opponent with a single blow, leaving him open to attack. The later installments in the series, Street Fighter EX2 and Street Fighter EX3 had the Excel mechanic, a V-ism esque combo system that allow you to string various normals and specials into a single combo; and the meteor supers (also called level 3 supers) which were executed only at maximum super bars.
Street Fighter 3 series: High jump, short jump, EX moves, Stun gauge, Parry
Arguably the most hardcore of all the series, the third installment of the series is regarded as arguably the most fluid looking 2D fighter of its time. It brought with it the high jump (down by pressing down on the D-pad just before jumping), the short jump, and a stun gauge just below the health meter. Taking continuous damage fills up the stun gauge and when full, the opponent becomes stunned. The series also introduced EX moves, a powered up, more invincible version of the regular special moves which cost you a bar to perform. Also there was also the ability to cancel special moves into super moves. The most important mechanic of all, however, was the PARRY. This was a mechanic which if successfully performed, allowed players to neutralize an attack without taking any damage at all, (not even chip damage) and then counter immediately with their own attack before the opponent recovers. Due to the input of this mechanic (it is done by pressing forward on the D-pad just as an opponent’s attack is about to connect), it was a high risk-high reward function. This is because due to the motion of the parry being the opposite of the “block” motion, if you missed the timing, it means you just willingly walked headlong into an incoming attack. Because of this, most average players just preferred to play safe and just block and take chip damage instead of risking the parry and taking full damage in the event of failure. On the other hand, pros preferred to parry and deal maximum punishment afterwards. Perfect usage of this function has led to a lot of ‘OMG’ comebacks. An example is the legendary EVO moment #37 featuring Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnEWSO6NrQo
Street Fighter 4: Focus Attack, Armored moves, Ultras
The fifth in the canon Street Fighter series. This series brought us the Focus attack, an attack which could be used to absorb one hit of damage – taking grey or recoverable damage instead of real damage – or to cancel out of otherwise uncancellable moves at the expense of your super gauge. The red focus attack would later be introduced in Ultra Street Fighter 4, which allowed the absorption of multiple hits (as long as there was recoverable health). Street Fighter 4 also brought us the armored moves, moves that could absorb damage which dishing out one in return.
The last of the ‘goodies’ that this series brought was the Ultras. This came in form of a three-quarter circled gauge beside the super gauge. Taking real or grey damage filled up this gauge and once it gets to 50%,you can perform an ultra move – a very damaging super move which more often than not turns the tide of battle from 'almost lost' to a win. The ultra moves could be likened to meteor-supers in the EX2 and EX3 series except that in this case, they have a dedicated gauge instead of the regular super gauge. Here is what the game plays like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAMhsuBtvOY
Street Fighter 5 : V-system (V-skill, V-Trigger, V-reversal), Crush Counter
The latest installment in the Street Fighter franchise brings us the V-system. This system grants each character the ability to perform a unique skill called the V-skill. These skills have different effects which range from causing little damage (Necalli’s ground pound) to interfering with opponent’s attacks (Birdie’s can) to increasing the damage output of specific moves (Mika’s mic performance) to neutralizing attacks (Ryu’s parry) amongst others. A successfully performed V-skill builds up a meter (V-gauge) found just above your super gauge. This can also be built by taking damage. When full, the V-gauge can be activated into the V-Trigger. This grants the character unique ability ranging from increased damage/speed to ability to call in an assist, to ability to string multiple moves to enhanced moves amongst others. The V-gauge can also be used to perform a counter or escape when under heavy pressure, a skill known as V-reversal. The second mechanic brought by this series is the Crush Counter. This can be likened to a hyper counter which is performed only with your fierce punch or fierce kick. A successful crush counter leaves opponents defenceless for one full second. In battle, that is more than enough to turn the tide around. An exhibition of all the V-triggers can be seen here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBTvYRclqtE
So, which of these mechanics do you favour? Leave a comment below.