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Dan has unique potential to bring a new layer to Street Fighter 5 despite the game now being nearly a half decade old

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • October 1, 2020 at 7:21 p.m. PDT • Comments: 25

The next character join Street Fighter 5 will be none other than Dan Hibiki, but unlike virtually everyone else on the game's roster, Dan is unique in that he is expected to be designed as an intentionally bad character (the joke you're considering about Alex, Ryu, and/or F.A.N.G is too obvious).

You might quickly conclude that such a character might lead to a relatively muted experience, and it very well might, but both history and some the words developers chose during Dan's recent showcase have us wondering if Mr. Hibiki might provide players some interesting new opportunities and reasons to play the game, even when it comes to the highly competitive realm of eSports.

During the presentation SF5 Director, Takayuki Nakayama, was sure to point out a significance in Dan's earliest appearances back during the Street Fighter Alpha days.

"At the same time we released [Dan] there was another character called "Akuma" who is known to be an incredibly powerful fighter," he noted. "If you're playing as Akuma and you lose to Dan, it was really funny to see people being like 'Oh my god, Dan beat Akuma! That's really embarrassing!'"

It's virtually impossible to divorce a player and their pride when they're in the midst of competition. The entire Mortal Kombat franchise doubled down on this very concept via the Fatality mechanic, which, along with its many post fight relatives that have emerged over the years, primarily exists to add insult to injury.

Dan's intentionally poor design naturally lends itself to this particular arena of the fighting game experience, but the landscape has changed a sizeable amount over the last two and a half decades. We're now in the era of eSports and that translates to a lot more eyes watching and voices rooting from the stands... imagine the kind of hype we might see if a player wound up becoming half way decent with a character everyone knew had a natural handicap built into their design.

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Dan was in 2008's Street Fighter 4, and though he was created with the same theme, he wasn't necessarily regarded as the game's worst fighter when everything was said and done. The Saikyo master was nowhere near the top of tier list mountain, but he had some interesting and reasonably effective strategies (mostly revolving around his Dankukyaku) that could get the job done.

I recall playing regularly at Wednesday Night Fights back during the middle and end of the SF4 era, and we had a Dan specialist who attended regularly. This player's name was Eric, and while he didn't ever take home a first place WNF finish, he did take down some high profile names from time to time.

There was usually a flocking to the stream station whenever Eric wound up with a broadcast match as everyone was interested to see if the Dan player could defeat the likes of a Snake Eyez, LU|Alex Valle, Keno, or Online Tony. Such names would usually come out on top, obviously, but sometimes the competition was close, and other times we actually saw a victory screen with Dan's goofy smile spread across it. The place would lose it when that happened.

One of the main reasons Dan had a fighting chance in SF4 was the way his Dankukyaku (Dan Kicks) would move him forward and leave him safe when they were blocked. This meant he could sort of circumvent the neutral game, and once he was in your face he could play something of a 50/50 guessing game with his invincible DP. Pair this with the fact that you could make uppercuts safe by cancelling them with two bars of meter and Dan could present some frustrating issues.

Characters who have these kinds of neutral circumventing abilities tend to have a leg up in Street Fighter 5, and another statement from Nakayama's presentation in which he spoke about Dan's appearance in Street Fighter 4 sheds a bit more light on what might expect this time around.

"His EX Dankukyaku was a really strong attack and his playstyle worked really well with the Focus Attack system," mentioned Nakayama. "He was middle in capabilities overall but he was an interesting character who could put up a decent fight. In Street Fighter 5 we retained the good points that made him entertaining while making taunts and other aspects of his design, that didn't have many uses, viable in fights."

We'll patiently wait until this all comes to fruition before we stake any hard claims, but there does seem to be a timeline in which Dan manifests as a mediocre but viable character in SF5. If that happens then the potential for eSports players to put on incredibly charismatic showcases with Dan will be set in place.

When Street Fighter 5 first came out, players were imitating Karin Kanzuki's post Critical Art laugh every time they saw it on stream. I greatly anticipated Justin Wong, who was using and winning with Karin a lot at the time, making top eight at EVO and hearing an entire crowd engage in a simultaneous rich girl laugh that would be thunderous and rock the Mandalay Bay Arena.

That didn't seem to really happen, however, as SF5 was plagued with problems and many players became too distracted with the game's issues to garner enough excitement to pull something like this off. Can you imagine, however, if a Dan player were to make top eight at a major event and pull off a taunt-ridden comeback combo to eliminate someone like BST|Daigo or Rohoto|Tokido? The chances certainly aren't high, but there's virtually no doubt that that would be an FGC moment.

Capcom is designing Dan to drip with hubristic personality as his attacks feature bonus animations wherein he teases his opposition and his combos sound like they'll have taunt cancels built directly into them. I point back to the times when NuckleDu made it a point to taunt opponents in the middle of matches and how much attention our community paid to that, and simultaneously see a lot of possibility here with Dan.

Who knows how things will actually pan out, but I think something along these lines is the best case scenario for a joke character like this, and I also think it's exactly what Capcom is aiming to achieve.

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