How strong of a character is Sagat in Street Fighter 5? Here are our initial impressions for The King

Another viable zoner or just a not-as-good Guile?

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • August 10, 2018 at 8 p.m. PDT | Comments: 56

The King is finally here in Street Fighter 5 and, first thing's first, I don't think he's a flop.

I wrote previously that most Season 3 characters have thus far been somewhat of a failure to inspire more play and it seems that both G and Sagat have heavily balanced that scale.

Somewhat similar to Akuma, Sagat has traditionally been one of Street Fighter's consistently strong characters.

More recently — in the latter portion of Street Fighter 4 — he wasn't amongst the absolute best but the character did receive a soft ban in Japanese tournaments for being too good in Street Fighter 2, was incredible in Vanilla SF4 and who could forget his fearsome fierce punches in Capcom vs. SNK 2?

I say all that to establish that there is something of an expectation for the master of Muay Thai to be a decently strong character in Street Fighter 5. On that front I predict that he's not bad, but he's not free wins for anyone who picks him up either.

We've had the character for a work week and so any and all assessments should be taken with a big grain of salt. Like with any other character we'll be delving in and finding new stuff for Sagat for quite some time. Please take into account that these are early impressions.

One thing is clear from the get-go: Sagat is a zoner first and foremost. His stellar Tiger Shots and very strong Tiger Uppercut appear to be his biggest assets, and it feels as though the most comfortable of rounds for SF5 Sagat players would include only fireballs and uppercuts.

The King has never been all that fast on his feet, and this may be the slowest version of him yet. Players will be relying on kara-specials to sneak in bursts of movement while they zone, but will have a hell of a time trying to retreat at all.

I'm starting to see the character as something of an immovable wall that will almost always be planted or edging forward for what seems to be an okay frame trap game. Though his normals are relatively slow, he can churn out some decent damage especially when he's got a stored Angry Scar, V-Trigger or Critical Art.

Zoners can't be average in Street Fighter 5 and hope to thrive. Menat and Guile are both in the game's top five, but only because they have some pretty ridiculous tools with which to keep opponents away as well as stellar offensive options.

My fear for the one-eyed boss is that his zoning strengths may not quite hit the mark for such a play style in the highly offensive/rushdown realm of Street Fighter 5. In some respects he feels like he could end up being a slightly weaker version of Guile that has almost as good a fireball game and a noticeably worse rushdown.

The properties on his moves are very good but characters that get up in his face are going to be an issue. Sagat is not without defensive options even when knocked down as his Tiger Uppercuts have various invincibility properties to counter throws, normals and projectiles.

That said, wake up uppercuts are still a huge gamble in SF5 since you're risking giving your opponent a ton of life and meter if you're wrong. We excitedly look to see what top players like RB|Bonchan uncover and bring to the tournament scene. Already we've seen some interesting play thanks to The BEAST:

The King is also fairly technical as players will need to be incredibly aware of spacing at virtually all times in a match. This is because of his aforementioned reliance on kara-specials as well as the fact that his Tiger Knees are punishable, but can be spaced in such a way that make them advantageous even on block.

I also fear that characters with strong projectile counters will be a huge problem for Sagat. Combatants like G, M. Bison, Nash and Menat who have fireball absorbs and/or reflects will obviously immediately dampen the Muay Thai fighter's go-to zoning game.

Players will not be completely without tools here as Sagat's multi-hitting EX projectiles will still work, but even then Sagat's lack of mobility means he won't often be able to capitalize or go in after a successful EX fireball knockdown. He'll ultimately have to play such characters up close, and that may not work out so well for him.

Given how much he relies on the basics of fireballs and uppercuts, I feel like Sagat would need a little more damage out of both of these techniques in order to crack the tier list's top five. With the way things stand now I think he'll be fighting for top 10 at best and likely land in the top 15.

One of the absolute biggest perks of this version of the character is that he captures some of the magic that was the basics of fireball/uppercut of Street Fighter 2... which is no small part of the initial foundation of fighting games in general.

The satisfaction of landing a Tiger Uppercut, especially with the Angry Scar buff, is absolutely top tier.

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