As I have no decent recording equipment (and I don’t want to torture you with shaky cam vids) I’m going to write this textually. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now and I’ve collected quite a few notes on characters and in general. This is mainly for myself as an overview of his great tools and assets but hey, why not share it with the community that has helped me since I was a scrub in '09.
To begin let’s start with analyzing this character as what he is and what he is good at. In the current metagame Tokido’s tricks don’t seem to get him to any top3’s lately. Not discrediting the guy because he helped making the character to what he is today. I’ve watched closely as Infiltration and Eita took over the frame and tried asking myself what makes them such amazing players. I’ve had the honor playing Infiltration myself at Dreamhack just a few weeks ago. The main thing I’ve noticed in his playstyle is his ability to shut down your options, leaving nothing but one option which ofcourse he is ready to punish. This in combination with the fundamentals of 2d games and especially street fighter in general inspired me to come up with a new gameplan, mixing the old and the new. I’m going abit off topic here so here’s what I think are the most effective tools to play Akuma.
Zoning and Spacing
He is a shoto character. ‘Well MBR, please enlighten me more’. As obvious as it seems it is often lost in translation as most players play him like a totally different character. Playing him as a basic shoto has alot of advantages to playing him instead of trying to play him as a pure footsie or rushdown character. The biggest advantage is safety, nothing is more safe (in theory) as chucking fireballs at a range where opponents can’t react to it other than flat out guessing you’re going to throw one. This achieves a few things. On a shallow level, the opponent is going to think you’ve got no more tricks up your sleeve than just playing a basic zoning game. This couldn’t be more wrong as we got the amazing knowledge base on these forums. Anyway, if the opponent is going to treat you the same as he would treat Ryu in this particular situation he’s gonna get smacked by a few options. First, the sweep. You could say Ryu has this tool aswell but we’re not forgetting the reward we get off this compared to that plain jack. Focusdashing through your fireballs couldn’t be more riskier and if you are able to capitalize on every sweep the opponent will feel helpless as his options to deal with your zoning slink to a minimum. We also have what my community likes to call the RandoMBRandom, your opponent is so pre-occupied with trying to dodge your zoning game that he might forget to anti air or react to anything different than fireballs. This give you the opportunity to walk forward and press our favorite button or just demonflip throw the poor guy. Especially this made me cringe as I played against Infiltration (why didn’t I anti air this?!). Of course at a higher level of play these things may become a little more irrelevant as opponents are mentally hardened by years of experience. Still don’t forget these tools exist.
Moving on up from fireballs, let’s expand this a little more on zoning as a whole shall we? If you played ST you know how important it is to hit the sweetspot where your character has all his options available and the opponent has none. Other than a few characters who deny this indefinitely (think Fei Long, Dhalsim, Sagat.) this should be in my opinion be a main element of your game. Especially in matchups where your limbs are longer than your opponents, for example Sakura, you should have no problem oozing into your sweet spot and keep her at bay. As Akuma has the sickest walkspeed in the game plus an air fireball to give you alot of time to find this spot this should be a walk in the park (for reference: [http://www .youtube.com/watch?v=jr44n0NWuBo&t=34m25s). Against characters who deny these tactics there are other ways to set them up for the bait. For example Sim has very poor close range defense. He has no get out of jail free card or any tools to get you off him (except maybe for u1). Does this mean that you should just blatantly try to get in this range and press buttons? Far from it, even though you do not have the means in this matchup to force him into anything risky you can still confuse him with the tools you have left. For instance when you fill the screen with air fireballs he must react with something, if he goes for the fireball you demonflip, if he walks forward you can try regaining space with the time granted by the air fireball, if he jumps use the time to reposition yourself. As the match progresses he will probably get flustered and lose focus for maybe just one second, this is all you need to progress into the point blank range and deal some serious damage in any way possible. If this fails just fall back to the old gameplan. Safety is what keeps you from getting hit and makes the opponent make mistakes.
As Maj stated in his footsiehandbook our limbs are direct and indirect space control. Direct in the sense that when someone enters it he will get hit as soon as you press the according button. Indirect in the sense that when someone got his ankles hurt enough by our cr.mk of cr.hk he will (unless it’s a stubborn one) refrain from entering that specific zone. As in chess where pieces in good positions cover a load of spaces on the board so did you on the stage. Once this is achieved you can press your advantage with abit of bold rushdown poking (the almighty cr.mp) or just sit tight and enjoy your current mental advantage. This is one of the things where Akuma excels in, making the opponent scared because alot of your buttons (even more with Fireball FADC loaded) result in such a setback that a lot of times this isn’t word the risk prying a crowbar in a door which contains a monster ready to rip your guts out.
The following aspect is overlooked most of the time but this is in my opinion what separates the best players from the crowd. This is defense. The foremost reason why our defense is lacking (yes most of us have this) is that we have such great tools to not have to deal with pressure. I’m thinking teleport and ehh, no mostly teleport. This has gone unpunished in 99% of the matches we played for the first 3 years, when people finally discovered how to deal with this we got knocked in the head and forced to play an honest defense game. Don’t get me wrong it is still very effective to reversal a teleport during a blockstring or just on wake up when they’re not expecting it. But it is wise to keep it in moderation. Remind you, honest does not mean sit there like a jackass blocking for 5 seconds. We have a very good dp at hand, don’t be afraid to throw it out when you know they’re going to tickthrow or just blatantly walk forward. Also another solution for a opponent walking forward between hits is pressing jab to counter this walking forward. This keeps your opponent honest in his offense and hopefully a little more predictable. There are some exceptions though where I personally always go for the teleport. These include ambiguous corner mixups (against chars who have an ultra stocked it is risky but you just have to feel if you’d rather take a 300 damage ultra or 400 damage FADC combo, my choice here is pretty clear). Even against Fei Long who can get a guaranteed rekka or bison who can slide you down I think it is still more advantageous to take a few hits than deal with their devastating corner mixup.
Execution and Mental Awareness
Execution is another part often overlooked. With this term most players think of hitting your combo’s and setups. Although this is a very important part of your basic skillset when I think of execution I look more to consistently hitting that demon as an opponent hands you the match by jumping. Or just when you’re focused with playing footsies being ready to cleanly execute the DP as soon as he jumps. This is abit of overlap with being mentally ready but in my opinion execution and mental awareness go hand in hand. When you don’t have to worry about your ability to whiffpunish or punishing everything to the max with ease your mind has more space to actually worry about the things that are happening on a more subconscious level. Like noticing little habits or knowing when your opponent is going to jump. This can be practiced just by going in training mode, set the dummy to dance and then sweep or set the dummy to dance and then jump. You can try poking the dummy and anti airing the jump in at the same time. As this gets kind of monotonous because you know the exact moment when you entered the jump or poke in the record you can also practice this on lesser players where you can afford just to focus on these things.
I think we’re getting a clear view here why Akuma is the godlike brokentier character that he is. He has all the tools to keep the opponent from getting free hits and on the other hand has the all the tools to afflict serious damage to the opposing character as well as the player mentally. He can win the game with just one sweep but the best thing about it he can also win convincingly without it. My main message is to keep it in your mind to think street fighter instead of just Akuma, learn to close down your opponents options with any strategies or tactics you can come up with and stay clean with your spacing. Never get overzealous because when you lose because you went overboard it stays in your heart and that will make sure you will play like crap in the following upcoming matches.
This is my first draft any feedback is welcome.
If you want me to elaborate more on certain topics, have questions or want me to give my 2cents on a whole different topic just post and I will put it in the OP.
First draft, Reserved FAQ and space control tools per matchup