I am suffering from a Character Crisis. For the last few years I have only played one fighting game. But with the release of Street Fighter 6 could I be missing out on my soul character? I want to give every character a chance at becoming my main.
This week I learned how to play as Chun-Li, one of Street Fighters most iconic faces, and someone who I’ve wanted to learn how to play as for almost a decade.
You can either watch the video or continue reading the article down below!
Preconceptions on Chun-Li
Chun-Li is up there with series juggernauts Ken and Ryu as being the face of Street Fighter. Chun-Li first appeared in Street Fighter II and was the first playable female fighter in the franchise’s history. With the explosion of popularity that Street Fighter II enjoyed Chun-Li quickly became a mascot for the game. She began her story as a police officer seeking to avenge the death of her father at the hands of M. Bison. After the events of Street Fighter II she alternated between teaching students martial arts or coming out of retirement to lay down the law.
Chun-Li as a character is someone who has almost always enjoyed being considered high tier or better. In Street Fighter 3rd Strike she is even considered to be the best character in the game and her super is responsible for the iconic Evo Moment 37. In Street Fighter 6 initial impressions of Chun-Li by the pros have her placed in A tier ranked just outside of the top 5 in the game. Her long pokes and generally good buttons allow her to be adapted to any style of play and do well at a top level. Street Fighter 6 also gifted her with a new stance, Serenity Stream, expanding her moveset even further.
However, with the inclusion of this new stance Chun-Li has been deemed as one of the more difficult characters in the game to learn. Even the game doesn’t recommend newbies start out with her. With that being said, I didn’t let that stop me from putting her on my poll to choose my next main. And even though my community may have chosen the most difficult option little did they know I was already playing as Chun-Li and was hoping they’d vote for her.
My introduction to traditional fighting games started with none other than a Street Fighter II Arcade Cabinet. At the time I was literally living in the middle of nowhere and had nothing to do. But I was lucky and there was a Street Fighter cabinet at the local laundromat, and even though by the time I discovered it Street Fighter II was way past it’s prime, I quickly learned why that game was so beloved. Chun-Li became my main before I even knew what that term meant and while I only got to play it for a month my love of fighting games has persisted ever since. So when I heard that Street Fighter 6 was coming out I knew that it was time for me to return to the streets. And who better to learn the game with than my first main Chun-Li.
Chun-Li Training Mode
Since this is my first Street Fighter game I need to cover the basics. If you want to skip to the guide on Chun-Li or straight to the tournament report time stamps will be in the description.
General Game Knowledge
Street Fighter is a traditional 2D fighter and follows different rules than what you may expect in something like Smash Bros. Instead of a single button and a directional input determining what move comes out, Street Fighter features 6 buttons for attacking. 3 buttons for punches and 3 buttons for kicks ranging from light, medium, to heavy. On top of this Street Fighter also features special moves which are accessed by performing inputs that are unique to each character. A classic example of this is Ryu’s Shoryuken which is performed with a quarter-circle input while timed with a punch. Light, Medium, and Heavy punch all have slight variations that are important to learn. If you find these inputs difficult to execute you can instead opt for Modern controls which offer one button specials and supers but nerfs the amount of damage you’ll be dishing out.
Blocking, one of the most fundamental aspects of any fighting game is achieved by holding backwards. Unlike Smash which has it bound to a specific button the act of blocking in Street Fighter (and many other traditional fighting games) means that you are unable to move forward. Approaching is a commitment and means you must drop your guard if you want to advance. Choose your moments to approach and capitalize on your opponents mistakes by attacking them when they move forward. This aspect of Street Fighter is known as footsies and is fundamental to understanding the push and pull of the genre.
Street Fighter 6 introduces a new mechanic in the series called Drive Gauge. These 6 bars underneath your health are your Drive Gauge and understanding them is essential to pushing your character to the limits. There are several different ways to use the Drive Gauge. By performing a special input with two buttons instead of one you’ll get an overdrive version of the move. These moves are usually faster, safer, or can combo easier but use up some of your meter as a result. If you run out of meter you enter Burnout State which makes the game much, much harder. If you’d like to learn more about these systems and how they all work together I’ll include some links in the description for anyone who might be interested in taking the plunge into Street Fighter 6.
Learning How to Play Chun-Li
Chun-Li is not an easy character to start with if you are brand new to traditional fighting games. She has two unique mechanics to her that on their own would be enough to dissuade new players from trying her out. But I’m a man of the people and I wasn’t going to let that stop me from playing a character I liked.
The first and most important mechanic to understand with Chun-Li is charge inputs. In order to execute a move with a charge input you first have to hold in a specific direction for a certain amount of frames before you gain access to the move. Charge inputs are the core mechanic behind Chun-Li’s fireballs which are essential tools to any character who has them. Charge inputs can be tricky to learn as you have to learn how long you need to hold back before flicking the stick forward and timing it with a button press. Mistime your charge input and you’ll just be fighting ghosts from across the screen.
The other mechanic to learn for Chun-Li is Serenity Stream, an alternate stance that gives Chun-Li access to even more moves than other characters. By performing a Quarter-Circle Back Punch you can enter this stance. While this isn’t a difficult technique to learn on it’s own, when added in combination with the rest of Chun-Li’s kit this move adds even more complexity to the character.
While learning how to perform all the moves in your characters kit is a major part of learning a new character, what’s more important is how to fight as the character. Chun-Li has several advantages over the rest of the cast that make her a strong choice for a main. She has some of the longest range pokes in the game with Crouching Medium Kick and Standing Heavy Punch. Her fireball game combined with the fastest anti-air move in Tensho Kicks gives her excellent command of the neutral. Keep your opponents at legs length and punish them anytime they step a little too close. Let’s see if I’m able to put this into practice when I enter my first Street Fighter tournament.
Chun-Li Tournament Report
Picking up Chun-Li was of course a little challenging. I wasn’t just learning how to play as a new character I was also learning how to play Street Fighter. While I do have some experience in traditional fighters thanks to playing a little bit of Guilty Gear with my friends learning Street Fighter was still an uphill battle. I tried to do some ranked matches and even though I have a lot of fighting game experience I lost every single one of my placement matches. One thing I especially struggled with was learning how to cancel my moves into special inputs. In Street Fighter some moves can be canceled which lets you end the move’s animation immediately and go into a special. I could not get the timing down for this, and it didn’t help that I was trying to do this with Classic controls.
I switched to Modern controls even though I thought that Modern Chun-Li was worse than Classic Chun-Li at the time. (Turns out Modern Chun-Li is actually really good but I didn’t know that). Making this switch meant I had to perform less inputs to put out a special move which gave me a better sense of the timing I needed. After playing on Modern for a bit I was able to switch back to Classic controls and finally land my combos. I even got my first perfect during this time which felt amazing! But before I knew it, it was time to enter the tournament and despite having only played Street Fighter for a little more than 10 hours I was ready to see how well I would do.
Round 1 Winners – N0cturne
My first opponent was a Zangeif player, a character who even though I should do well against I still struggled fighting since I didn’t have the best grasp of the controls. My gameplan was simple. Don’t let him in. Zangief is a grappler and deals massive damage every time he lands a grab but if I never give him the chance I should do fine. I stick to my gameplan for the first round and use my fireballs to keep him far away. Because of this I push myself to the corner which means I could get Drive Impacted and take massive damage. I react and Drive Impact after to win the trade and round. I get excited after that first round though and end up cornering myself from being too aggressive. He ends up taking the first game and before I know it he only needs one more round to win the set. I manage to throw out a super in response to a Drive Impact and take the round instead. With my winners life on the line I play the best footsies I can trying to avoid N0cturne. However, in the end he catches me mashing with a level 3 super dealing massive damage to me and taking the set.
Round 2 Losers – Ahnix
For my next opponent I got to play every fighting game players least favorite matchup. The mirror. When you play the mirror it’s not just the tournament that’s on the line, it’s also your pride. This set was also played on stream, putting even more pressure on us to prove who the better Chun-Li was. One of the commentators knew about my Character Crisis series and had this to say. “Every two weeks he switches characters based on a poll and he’s not a Street Fighter player so he’s a ballsy individual is what I will give to him.” We played very patiently in our first round so much so that I didn’t actually notice it was going to time. In Smash we get a 7 minute timer so when my opponent stole the lead with 8 seconds on the clock I wasn’t ready to get the comeback.
Losing round doesn’t mean the game is over though. I win round 2 and carry that momentum into the next round and have a huge lead in the final round. With one lighting kicks I’m able to take the first game! Game 2 Ahnix takes the first round but I fire back with a huge combo that carries him to the corner. “He’s not even modern controls let’s go Tuesday!” Ahnix takes the third round and we are onto set point.
“I am very impressed by what I am seeing right now from the Smasher, let’s go TuesdayTastic!” I do my best but eventually Ahnix manages to take the final game over me winning the set.
I had no idea what to expect at my first Street Fighter tournament. I have been entering tournaments for a very long time but only for Super Smash Bros. Entering a tournament for a game that I was brand new too was intimidating. But even though I only had a couple of hours invested into Street Fighter going to my local tournament was absolutely the right decision. I may have only gone 0-2 but the results don’t paint the full picture. I managed to take a round off each opponent I fought and even a game against someone who probably had put a lot more time into Street Fighter than me. I learned a lot and was able to get to meet people in the scene and make new friends with people who have a shared interest in fighting games.
Going to this tournament gave me the opportunity to recognize some flaws in my gameplay. Special moves are almost always not safe on block but I was mashing them out every time I could simply because I wanted to cancel my other moves. I need to be more aware of when my opponent blocks my moves and hold off on canceling too much. Another thing I could work on is implementing more drive rush, since that is an option that I wasn’t using that would elevate my gameplay to the next level.
But as much fun as Chun-Li was there are still tons of other Street Fighter characters that I want to learn how to play. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you on Tuesday!