Sakura is a close pressure character who relies on meter to extend combos (via FADC) and create mix up situations (via EX Tatsu). She relies on a shorter range footsie game using an arsenal of excellent normals to work towards big payoffs from high damage/stun combos off of close HP crouching HP or close MK into light kick tatsu loops.
Sakura’s characteristic tools in SFIV AE 2012 are her light kick tatsu which is 0 frames on block, has good priority and is highly comboable, and her close HP which is 3 frames and also leads into the combo of choice. Because of this Sakura’s best game plan is frequently point blank pressure, using your up close advantage you press your opponents with normals that cancel into tatsus while staying even or at advantage. Outside of point blank range, Sakura relies on crouching MK xx shoryuken, standing HK, extatsu, and jHP/HK to get in. In many matchups timing a jump HP to stuff an antiair and begin pressure or connecting a cr mk xx shoryuken into a safe jump/mixup are your main routes in.
Sakura’s current pressure game relies on comboing into ex tatsu and then while the opponent is airborne landing 2 hits of Sakura otoshi (usually LK), this creates a hard knockdown environment where Sakura can run set various set plays. Most commonly these are jhp/hk/mk safe jumps mixed up with empty jumps. In a number of situations (especially midscreen) the best option after the otoshi knockdown is to time a meaty charged fireball which will allow you to follow up with the jumping mixup of choices.
Key skills with sakura are: Successfully hitting max damage loops (plinking crHP after lkt shaves the hardest link down to ~2f), learning to time otoshi setups (notice that whiffing the 3rd hit of otoshi while airborne effects setup frame timing, this can be hard to see in videos as the screen scroll hides it but if Sakura yells “SOKO DA” while airborne the 3rd hit has been whiffed), learning to hit normal and ex FADC into combo starters (the 3rd hit of normal dp gives the frame advantage for f.dash clHP; while the 5th hit of ex has enough frame advantage for f.dash clMK). Lastly once you’ve learned how to be dangerous when you get the hit, learning to frame trap and pressure effectively while not being easy DP bait or pushing yourself out of the pocket will keep the pressure on.
At least where SFAE2012 is concerned if you’re looking for a “super ryu” I’d suggest taking a look at the way Infiltration currently runs Akuma. Most of the classic shoto tools are there combined with air fireball to provide greater zoning versatility and the threat of a serious vortex after hard knockdown. However if you’re looking for a fun combo-oriented character with great up close normals and great damage potential, consider Sakura.
Trademark/Starter Combos: Two major variations, those that end in SRK (techable knockdown, no meter) and those that end in EX Tatsu (untechable with otoshi, 1 bar minimum)
3f normal hit confirm into srk:
cr.lk>cr.lp>cr.mk xx hp shouken (srk)
3f normal hit confirm into ext:
cr.lk>cr.lp>cr.hp xx ex tatsu
(lk tatsu or cl.hp) xx lk tatsu>cr.hp xx lk tatsu>st.lk xx ex tatsu>sakura otoshi x2 (lk reaches) (hit punch twice in the air to combo into hard knockdown)
If the above combo doesn’t hit (Ryu is a notable exception, the st.LK will whiff after cr.HP xx tatsu) then either:
cl.hp xx tatsu > cr.hp xx ex tatsu
cl.mk xx tatsu>cl.hp xx tatsu > st.lk xx ex tatsu will combo into otoshi
Invincible reversal (3 bars): ex srk FADC (5th hit) f.dash cl mk > tatsu loops
Make sure to leave the stick neutral for any cl mk combo since any forward direction will get cr mk.