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Street Fighter 5 guide: Dealing damage and combos

Target combos, cancel combos, link combos and situations

We saved combos for the very end of our Street Fighter 5 guide because games often teach players combos and nothing else (among my friends we call this BlazBlue Disease). Without the fundamentals that allow you to actually hit your opponent in the first place, you're a knife that doesn't know how to cut.

As you start to figure out your character, you're going to realize that sweeps and simple combos like low kick into special moves aren't exactly getting huge damage. Openings are precious few, and you need to maximize them to get the edge. Soon you're going to have to figure out the complexities of the combo system. Luckily, Street Fighter 5 is not terribly complex in this regard. The trial mode is a good start, showing what moves do what, but most of the stuff in there shouldn't be your ideal combo.

Target combos

A target combo in Street Fighter 5

This is the easiest combo: a preset sequence of attacks that form an unbroken chain. For example, Ken’s medium kick cancels into his hard kick. Some characters don't have these at all (Rashid) while other characters have an array of them, like Ken. Sometimes you can cancel these into a special move (just like you would with a normal attack) to finish the chain combo, and sometimes you can’t. It's just a tap-tap sequence, and there's nothing much to practice here. Just find out what your character's are in the command list, and play around with them to see what they're good for.

Cancel combos

We've already talked about special move cancels, but generally your combo will end in one of these. Here we're using Nash's medium kick sonic scythe, a simple combo ender that puts the opponent on the floor right in front of you. You can use the hard kick or EX version of this move for more damage, but as they blow the opponent far away, the slow-walking Nash will have to struggle to get back in again. Think not just of damage, but of what you want to do when the combo is over.

Often, it'll also be possible for a special move to be cancelled with a critical art. In this case, we have time during sonic scythe to cancel into the critical art by inputting that motion during the hit.

Link combos

There are a lot of moves that leave wide openings when they hit. Sometimes these openings are wide enough for another attack, which we then cancel with a special move finish. This is what we call a link combo: the two normal moves are connected, but not by a cancel.

Street Fighter 4 featured obnoxiously frame-precise timing, often down to a 60th of a second. It was so strict that to even get started with a character, you had to spend hundreds of hours training exactly when to press that damn button. Most serious players had to exploit a glitch (the plink) to make it work, and even then players would inevitably miss their links even at the highest levels of play.

Thankfully, the technical reasons behind this have been fixed, and it's now pretty easy for anybody to practice and consistently nail links.

Here's a basic Ryu link combo. After you confirm that your standing medium punch has hit, there's just enough time for a low hard punch to connect, at which point you cancel the hard punch with a hurricane kick. This is one of the more timing-specific links, but like all of the link combos in Street Fighter 5, with practice it shouldn't be too difficult to do this 100 percent of the time.

Here's a slightly tougher link combo, about as difficult as Street Fighter 5 ever asks for. After you confirm back + hard kick, there's time for a standing light kick, which must be immediately cancelled with a hard punch shoryuken.

Most link combos basically follow these two variations, though there are more advanced combos involving counter hits. Stuff like that is for another time in your training.

There is no best combo

It would be great, and life would be easy if you could just jump in willy-nilly like this and start a combo. Unless you jumped over a fireball or your opponent is actually stunned, the combos that hit don't often start from jump-ins. Likewise, it's going to be pretty tough to trick your opponent into giving you that point-blank crush counter hit you need for your character's biggest combo.

Big and flashy combos are important to know, but small, practical combos are the most important to know. Combos start from ordinary hits like these: a couple of medium punches up close, a few jabs, the poke you know is going to hit. Rather than going for the biggest theoretically possible damage every time, work on maximizing the damage of the moves that you hit with often.

It's situational

What combo you use will have a lot to do with the situation you're facing in the moment. When I get the offensive upper hand with Karin, I'm trying to put my opponent in the corner, where I can restrict their movement and do even more damage than usual. Here's a Karin combo designed to do a lot of stun damage and put the opponent in the corner.

Here's a (super-risky, stylin' on 'em) combo designed to switch places with her opponent, getting her out of the corner and shoving the opponent over there. It's not really good for much else.

Karin can do a lot of her best work in the corner: not only can she do very high damage/stun combos for very little meter cost, opponent have nowhere to go without making a risky move like a shoryuken.

A lot of characters have combos that sacrifice damage to finish in an advantaged situation. After deliberately not finishing Karin's Ressenha, we are in a great position to either throw or start another combo (if they've seen us doing this and suspect a throw). Tricks like these are good to throw into your combo game every so often, if your character can do them.

Finally, if you have a chance to use a critical art for an instant KO, just do it. The round is more valuable than your critical meter. It is imperative that you know these situations for your character, as they so often decide victory in this game.

  1. Intro
  2. What am I trying to do in this game?
  3. Controls
  4. Basic movement
  5. Basic attacks
  6. The poke game
  7. Knockdowns
  8. Special moves
  9. Control and execution
  10. Combos
  11. Counter and crush counter
  12. Critical meter and critical arts
  13. V-System
  14. Stun gauge
  15. Dealing damage and combos
  16. Character select
  17. Advanced techniques
  18. Good buttons
  19. What’s different in Street Fighter 5 Season 2?
  20. This is just the beginning