How do I read frame datas?

I’m in a bit of a confusion as to how I’m meant to understand this. All this talk of technicality like links, combos, frame data etc. are starting to intimidate me :\ start off looking here to cover the basic terminology

So… this is what I got from reading… SSFIV runs at 60 FPS each move a character makes it takes a set amount of frames out of the 60 FPS? What I don’t get though is all the cancel stuff…

They don’t take out things, just last that long. For example, say it takes a card four seconds to speed up from zero to 100 or something. Just a measurement of how long things last. The frame is a natural unit of time measurement for SF4 so it gets used.

Each move is generally divided into three portions: The vulnerable part where it is initiated, the part where it has a hitbox and can actually hurt the opponent, and another vulnerable part where the character returns to a neutral stance. There are called startup, active frames and recovery, respectively. Ryu’s crouching medium kick, for example, takes five frames to get to the part where it starts hurting the opponent (The hitbox is on screen for five frames), and then takes 14 frames to recover back to a standard crouch or crouch block.

Canceling a move means interrupting it mid-execution so you don’t have to suffer the recovery frames of the move. For example, Ryu’s crouching medium kick can be canceled into a fireball. This means that instead of the portions going:
kick startup, kick active, kick recovery, fireball startup, fireball recovery (total: about 69 frames or a little over a second)
You can do:
kick startup, kick active, cancel into fireball startup, fireball recovery. This cuts the total execution time from 69 to somewhere around 55 frames which is significantly faster with a much shorter vulnerable period between the kick and the fireball. It is much safer this way.

Note that when reading SF4 frame data, the first active frame is included in the startup. So when a move has 3f startup with two active frames (eg. a jab), it means the hitbox appears on the third frame, stays on the fourth frame, and disappears on the fifth.

You can also easily tell whether you can link a move from another after a hit that way (ignoring spacing requirements): if a move has has +N frame advantage, you need a move with N frames of startup for a 1f link if the move hits on the first active frame. If you can make moves hit on later active frames, you get more frame advantage. Makoto is good at this.

Cancels can be input during active frames/hitstop (the few frames that the game is “frozen” when a hit occurs, to give a feeling of impact) of a cancelable move. If you can cancel into a move with less recovery/more frame advantage on block, you can make unsafe moves safe.

Viper gets a lot of mileage from this. Canceling most of her normals into a thunder knuckle feint gives her ridiculous frame advantage on block and hit (somewhere around +5 on block to +12 on hit). Without cancels most of her normals are rather unsafe.

Ok so with his crouching medium kick, once it is initiated–> hitbox but instead of going to recovery, I could “cancel” and start to execute the motions for a fireball? So it should go like: Cr.MK = startup ---->active ----> cancel------>fireball startup ---------------> fireball recovery?

And seeing as you suggested this, does that mean that when Ryu execute’s the fireball, it’s got a faster recovery time than the Cr. MK?

The cancel takes no time, you do, and while it’s executing do the fireball. It results in: kick start–>kick active --> fireball start (launch at end) ->fireball recovery. And no, the fireball doesn’t have a faster recovery. Ryu’s fireball starts in 13 frames, recovers in 32, while his recovers in 14.

So when the Kick is active, I do the motion for fireball to “cancel”?

And press the button. Yeah. Do it in training mode, the speed difference when you get it right is pretty obvious.

Yeah I see what you mean. Would I be able to subtitute the fireball with Dragon Punch?

Yup. xx tatsu is important for Ryu’s general gameplan (pushes the opponent into the corner), and xx srk is good for punishing people who attempt to punish your xx hado or xx tatsu. My memory is a bit fuzzy but see Laugh’s games at Dreamhack and Daigo’s at CEO, I don’t remember which one but you should see xx srk put to good use.

It’s also worth noting that many character’s ex fireballs execute faster than their normal ones. Ryu is one such case, and xx ex hado is a really good close-up pressure: It deals three hits in quick succession, knockdowns, and usually leaves the opponent little to no room to punish if the connects whether hit or block (they’ll be stuck in blockstun, then ex hado hits, more blockstun…)

I’m still waiting for my copy on the PS3 to get here so I can’t try other combos. The PC version of AE won’t detect my Hori FIghting Stick 3.