Why Ryu was not competitively viable in Season 2 of Street Fighter 5

Hopefully Ryu has a brighter future in Season 3

Posted by Justin 'AdaptiveTrigger' Gordon • November 10, 2017 at 8:02 p.m. PST

If you've been paying attention to the monthly stats, then you'd know that Ryu is currently the most popular character in Street Fighter 5. As an outsider, you might think that Ryu was a top tier as these type of fighters are typically played a lot.

Unfortunately for dedicated Ryu mains, this is simply not the case. Season 2 has been pretty rough for Ryu. It can be argued that Ryu went from being one of the best fighters in Season 1 to one of the worst in Season 2.

The nerfs were, evidently, quite harsh. On paper they didn't seem like too big of a deal, but they ended up being terrible for Ryu's gameplan in actual practice.

Players often say that the top tiers of Season 2 are of a higher "power level" than than those of Season 1. Despite this, Ryu was made weaker for the sake of balance.

Saying what Ryu "needs" to be good again in Season 3 is very difficult. While we are able to speculate that moves with crush counter properties could be receiving additional recovery frames on whiff thanks to Zeku's release, we really have no idea what could be changing.

Instead, let's take a look at why Ryu as a character wasn't really up to par in Season 2.

Universal changes to reversals

So I'll admit that I have grown to appreciate the fact that there aren't meterless one frame invincible reversal type moves in the game anymore. The problem is that this makes certain forms of pressure go completely unchecked.

Let's take Akuma's Sekiseiken command normal for example (forward plus heavy punch). If this move is blocked, then Akuma is +1 in terms of frame advantage.

I know that Akuma's 3 frame stand jab is coming next. The problem is that there is absolutely no way to check this move without using meter as there are (rightly so) no 2 frame moves in the game.

Many of the top tiers of Season 2 just have this: guaranteed pressure. Street Fighter 5's meta essentially went from playing the neutral to creating these guaranteed pressure situations.

Once again, just to reiterate, I think it's perfectly fine that meterless reversals are no longer invincible immediately. Where is Ryu's guaranteed pressure to make up for this loss though?

Ryu's defensive strengths were reduced. This was a universal change for those that have really good defensive traits.

In return he got... uh... well, nothing. It's easy to see how this could really hurt Ryu's gameplan.

This essentially leads into the next problem for Ryu.

Creating a playstyle by reducing rather than improving

There's a quote from Capcom about the direction that they wanted to take Ryu. I've always found this to be puzzling...

This was stated during the changes that were implemented in the middle of Season 2 (we often recognize this as Season 2.5):

"The concept behind Ryu's initial Season 2 adjustments were that we wanted to encourage players to engage in closer combat by giving Ryu stronger in close tools, while in return, his midrange was weakened a little. Although his tools in close were strengthened, due to the shrinkage of a few hitboxes and increased attack startup, he now had a bit more trouble than anticipated fighting from the midrange. This, in turn, made it harder to get in close, making it more difficult for Ryu players to experience his Season 2 adjustments."

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what among his close tools were strengthened. If anything, they were weakened like his mid-range tools.

Take his Axe Kick for example (back plus heavy kick). It went from being neutral on block (0 frames for both fighters) to being -2 on block.

Ryu's upclose pressure just simply stops here. Even though it's special cancellable, Ryu's fireball (his only safe special) is still negative on block unless resources are used.

This is completely contradictory to the theme of Season 2. Essentially, Ryu was forced to utilize a gameplay style not because of improvements to certain areas, but because his pros were reduced.

The concept of this is also applied to Ryu's forward throw. The distance was increased as well as the recovery.

When you throw the opponent, everything is essentially reset to neutral. The opponent has no reason to be afraid of Ryu's forward throw. This was in favor of removing the throw loop guessing game that Ryu had access to.

Meanwhile, a character like Akuma can forward throw, dash in, and then you're forced to guess if he'll go for another forward throw or a crush counter that is advantageous on block -- the pressure continues.

Another sign that Ryu's upclose game was weakened, not strengthened.

Crush counter fishing is the neutral

A number of characters have become... infamous in Season 2. It is often said that these characters are known for fishing for crush counters.

Urien's standing heavy punch is a good example of this. While this move does have some noticeable startup, it is otherwise just a high reward move to throw in the neutral.

In a lot of ways, this is becoming the neutral. A number of the top tiers do this.

Unfortunately, Ryu does not do this well. His crush counters have very different risk-vs-reward scenarios.

His standing heavy kick is a high hitting move. Opponents can duck under it. This feels like it's meant more as an anti air based on the angle it hits at.

As for his heavy punch, it lacks range. More than that, it doesn't grant much reward if the Ryu player is successful in scoring a crush counter.

Simply put, if the "crush counter fishing" part of the neutral was universally nerfed, Ryu is likely to benefit from it. As it is right now, his crush counters just aren't a huge part of his gameplan.

Overall, Ryu suffers a number of problems in Season 2. When the notes first came out, I didn't get the impression that Ryu would be too badly hurt.

Unfortunately, not only was Ryu being nerfed in numerous ways, other characters were becoming stronger than the top tiers of Season 1. The tiers were shifted in a way that did not benefit Ryu at all.

While the notes seem to indicate that he's stronger up close, what this really translated to was his weakened mid-range tools. In fact, he's actually a little weaker up close.

The nerfs to Ryu's forward throw pretty much removes his potential to deal damage. If the opponent isn't afraid of Ryu's throws, frame traps are not nearly as threatening.

Still, Ryu has a lot of fans. He remains the most popular character in the game according to online stats.

As I've said previously, it's very difficult to say exactly what Ryu needs in Season 3. Being that he is an "all-rounder" type of fighter, his strengths and weaknesses are dependent on the rest of the cast's - even more so than other archetypes.

Ryu could receive not a single buff in Season 3 and end up being top tier if every other fighter is nerfed. In Season 2, his unique traits just aren't emphasized very well.

While his defensive qualities were weakened, others received improvements to their offense. This means he is forced into playing a role of offense without the necessary tools to do so.

Load comments (72)