Street Fighter 4 (and to a lesser extent Melty Blood), is the first fighting game I’ve tried to approach seriously and not be really bad at. I feel like I’ve made a good deal of progress over time, tightened up my execution, and developed some basic skills; namely I’ve gotten pretty strong at basic zoning and spacing, and have gotten good at punishing bad pokes.
The problem I’m having is capitalizing on any advantage I get. My neutral game is, at least moderately decent. I’ll land a solid punish with a sweep, get the hard knockdown and then sorta cower off and let it resume neutral game, cause it feels more consistent and reliable and wins me more matches than trying to put on pressure or do a meaty, and screwing it up and getting punished. Obviously the problem is, that’s not going to help me get better.
My pressure is so astonishingly terrible that even against opponents without like an invincible wake-up, even characters with bad or no wakeup options, I still tend to get punished like crazy and lose matches extremely fast as soon as I try something other than a neutral game. It’s far more reliable against medium-skilled opponents for me to just land 6-8 knockdowns and go neutral every time than actually try to maintain pressure (and a better opponent than that will just thrash me no matter what I do). Which means I have to work 4x-6x harder than my opponent for the same win, and that’s stupid when they can capitalize on their accomplishments mid match and I can’t. Which I think is part of the problem, the disparity between my two skillsets has gotten such a wide gap, which only gets wider as my pressure skills atrophy from lack of use.
My “best” character is Balrog, not because I can do anything good with him, but that because cLP -> sLP -> cHK -> sHK -> sHP (with a cHP thrown in for anti-air), is a very good spread of move ranges that let me be cheesy with zoning and ignore that I should actually be capable of following up with something. For opponents I can’t do that too because they are too good at zoning me out (IE anything with a strong fireball game)(Yes I know Balrog is one of the best anti-fireball characters in the game, I’m just that bad), I’ll play Ryu instead, who I’m told I am much more technically skilled with, but I simply lose more matches with him, I’ll get scared, and go back to relying on my safe predictable consistent Balrog strategy that’s crippling my ability to get better. (I also play Zangief occasionally which is irrelevant because churning butter is not playing a character; it’s advanced mashing.)
The problem is it’s more than just trouble with maintaining pressure after a knockdown. It’s my entire ability to combo which is out of whack. I will go into training mode, and practice a (admittedly incredibly simple and beginnerish) combo over and over until I can do it 10, 20, 50 times in a row without dropping the combo (Which is good, as my execution has been significantly improving over time). Then I’ll go into a match, get punished hard a few times for using it poorly, and before I know it I fall back on the safe zoning strategies, because for whatever reason I’m struggling to figure out how to convert that to a live game. I know what to do in a neutral game, and am extremely confident there, and don’t know where to go from there and keep falling back into my safe zone, zoning; never capitalizing, never comboing, always going back to neutral, and that’s why I am not getting better.
How do I break this goddamn mental block? Just putting more hours into training doesn’t seem like the solution as my execution is always improving but not my ability to actually use it. But fighting stronger opponents doesn’t necessarily seem like a solution either, as they just punish my poor pressure and lack of combos even harder, further discouraging their use. Do I just pick a character who is extremely atrocious at zoning and force myself to play them over and over with no variance until I start using other tools? Or what?
(EDIT: My apologies if I started to sound frustrated near the end there.)