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Why is Ryu underperforming in Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition after receiving buffs?

Honest qualities aren't good enough in Street Fighter 5

Posted by Justin 'AdaptiveTrigger' Gordon • February 17, 2018 at 7:55 p.m. PST • Comments: 81

As we all know by now, Ryu in Street Fighter 5 received a number of fun and interesting buffs in the Arcade Edition update. His toolkit has seen improvements as a result of this.

Ryu's crouching medium kick has increased range, he's now allowed to pressure after a successful forward throw, and his V-Trigger 1 has seen a significant boost many different ways. He's even received another special move in the form of the Joudan Sokuto Geri (or the Donkey Kick).

All of this should equate to Ryu actually being a good character in Season 3, right? He was, after all, considered to be quite terrible in Season 2 and Season 2.5. This fighter hasn't really been relevant since his first iteration in Street Fighter 5.

Despite this, Ryu is often grouped into the bottom ten category of most tier lists. There are currently 29 combatants in the game with Blanka making 30 on February 20th.

Given, there's still time for something to be discovered about Ryu that magically boosts him ten or twenty slots in people's mind, but that's looking less and less likely as the meta continues to be rediscovered.

So what went wrong? Why is Ryu still underperforming this season? Let's take a closer look at his tools to try and figure this out.

Emphasis on close combat

To begin, let me quote what was stated for Ryu in the Season 2.5 patch notes. This was an overview of the goals for Ryu's design.

"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..."

There wasn't a statement like this for Ryu's Season 3 changes, but the changes appear to still reflect this goal. It's somewhat easier to get in thanks to the adjustment to his crouching medium kick and his new ability to V-Trigger cancel his EX Hadoken.

What does he need to be doing once he gets in? An online match I had against an M. Bison opened my eyes to a little to a problem that Ryu sort of has.

After the M. Bison would block my standing medium punch, he would interrupt my next attack with his standing light kick. While my medium punch did leave me at +1 frame advantage on block, his light kick came out in 3 frames.

In order to take advantage of my status of being +1 on block, I had to use my own 3 frame normal. While this does technically work if he presses his light, it's worth noting that if he doesn't do anything then I'll whiff as a result of being pushed too far back for the stand light punch to connect.

For the 4 frames that I have to walk backwards, that's not enough time to get outside of the range of M. Bison's 3 framer so that I may whiff punish. He's at -2 on block (if he doesn't cancel) at this point, but by then I'm basically too far away to continue pressure.

Any other option will either trade, outright lose, or just be extremely risky.

Now it's worth noting that Ryu and Akuma's light punch have exactly the same frame data. Same start up, active frames, recovery, block advantage, and hit advantage. The big difference is that Akuma actually fully extends his arm while Ryu hits at the elbow.

Jabs image #1 Jabs image #2
Click images for larger versions

This obviously isn't a deal-breaker by itself for Ryu. It's perfectly fine if a character has a shortcoming in certain areas compared to others. In a lot of ways, Akuma should have a number of tools that are simply better than Ryu's since the two have differences in their life total.

Still, Capcom has emphasized that they want Ryu to do a little more up close fighting. Despite this, he wasn't really given the tools to actually do this. Creating a play style by reducing other properties isn't working.

In that Bison situation, it's obvious that I shouldn't be starting with a stand medium punch for a block string. I need to use a stand light punch or crouch medium punch to put myself in a situation where I'm +2 instead.

Unfortunately, Ryu has no way to put himself at +3 on block (aside from meaty attacks or jump-ins). His upclose game and ability to "get in" on opponents are simply "OK." Not spectacular at all.

Meter dependence

Ryu has the problem where he has to spend meter in order to get things done in a lot of situations. His new move, the Joudan Sokuto Geri, is certainly further proof of this.

Only the EX version of the Donkey Kick actually has a wall bounce effect. The light, medium, and heavy versions are just simply "there."

This kick does more damage than a Hadoken and will knock the opponent away. It's also unsafe on block. In situations where the Tatsumaki and Shoryuken will hit, those are the better options.

If you're not using the EX Joudan Sokuto Geri, then you are using Ryu's other specials instead. With meter, it is a really impressive tool -- but only with meter.

What's the best way for Ryu to take control of the neutral? EX Hadoken.

How about scenarios where you're dealing with a lot of pressure? The EX Shoryuken is your best, though extremely risky, escape option. Dragon Punches were made considerably worse after Season 1, which admittedly is an interesting change to the Street Fighter formula.

The downside to this is that Ryu is less often able to use his Critical Art. He pretty much has to use his meter for EX specials for one reason or another.


Street Fighter 5 is all about continuing pressure after a successful skirmish. You ideally want to keep putting the opponent in favorable 50/50 scenarios.

Ryu's best way of doing this is via his Tatsumaki special. Unfortunately, it's slower compared to that of Ken's and Akuma's version of the attack and it is also incapable of hitting crouching opponents.

At the very least, there is a solution to the crouching problem. If Ryu hits the opponent with his crouching heavy punch, the opponent is forced to stand up. The downside is that you won't always be able to combo into this normal due to its problematic range.

The EX Hadoken is good for this purpose, but it has the meter problem. Shoryuken leaves the opponent too far away for Ryu to continue his offense afterwards.

Even once he is able to launch his attack, his crush counters are not particularly noteworthy. While standing heavy kick does give him a combo, the opponent is able to duck under it. Meanwhile, standing heavy punch gives very little reward for the effort.

Season 3 did improve Ryu's pressure somewhat thanks to the buffs to his forward throw. The opponent is left at a range where his crouching medium kick can reach while being at +6. This is a good start.

His whiff punish game is also not impressive to me. His ability to counterpoke just doesn't really cut it.

Upon hitting an opponent's limb with a normal, Ryu can then cancel into a special. The Hadoken just isn't rewarding enough with its 60 damage, the Shoryuken and the Donkey Kick don't have enough range (that lack of the step for the Donkey Kick kind of hurts its utility), while the Tatsumaki is too risky to hitconfirm with in case the opponent is crouching while it is too slow in other situations.


It is often said that if you want to zone in Street Fighter 5, you should just pick Guile. His Sonic Booms have a 10 frame start up, 28 frame recovery, +2 block advantage, and a +7 hit advantage.

Meanwhile, Ryu's EX Hadoken is actually worse aside from the fact that it has two hits and travels faster. This isn't to say that Ryu is terrible at zoning, but it's far from being good enough in its current state.

Ryu feels like he is designed around having a strong mid range game. Ironically, that's a missing component right now.

It is basically impossible to set up a situation where Ryu can safely zone in this game. There are too many ways around his fireballs.

What's funny is that Ryu actually has a trait that no other character in the game has. Ryu is the only fighter with a throw that leaves him at negative frames on hit. His back throw causes him to be at -2 compared to his opponent.

This is a trait you might expect from Dan Hibiki... not Ryu. It is fortunate that the opponent is thrown far enough away so that the situation just resets to neutral.

Still, this means that Ryu players do not have the ability to test the opponent's reactions to a fireball. Meanwhile, Rashid and Necalli's back throws leave them at so much advantage that they technically have throw loops.

At this point, Capcom has taken a good step with Ryu in terms of his Season 3 iteration. There's no doubt in my mind that he is improved compared to Season 2.5. In fact, his improvements have made me more aware of just how bad he previously was.

This is only a "step" in the right direction, however. Ryu is still lacking in a number of areas. While many of his tools are "good" or "OK," he's competing against a cast with a "great" and "excellent" kit.

Something just isn't meshing well with Ryu right now. Winning with him takes way too much work. He needs a slice of that "dishonesty pie" that other characters are enjoying.

Simply put, he's too honest for what wins Street Fighter 5 matches.

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