Quick question from brand new SF4 player

So I just picked up SF4 and I’m learning about the basics of comboing. Cancelling I can do fine but linking is quite difficult.

It seems like the only way to link consistently is to just practice, and my question is as follows:
Is enemy hitstun duration and attack animation recovery length different for pretty much every move, or are they shared across characters? If I want to learn multiple link-reliant combos or multiple characters will I have to endlessly practice this link bullshit until I can just muscle memory the timing for dozens of different combos, or is there a very limited number of timings?

I also have a question about how p-linking works. If I hit medium punch and attempt to combo it with another medium punch and plink light punch when I input the second attack, if the first input misses will I medium punch or light punch?

Does plinking just give you two chances for your same combo to land, or does it give you an extra chance to land your combo except with the other key you pressed?

For your first question, the answer is yes and no. The hitstun/blockstun amounts will usually be different for each character, but once you learn to link with one character, learning links with another who has at least similar links will be much easier. (eg. if you learn Ryu’s c.lp c.mp link, Cammy’s c.lp c.mp link shouldn’t be too difficult to learn; On the other hand, you’ll have a harder time with Sagat’s links since his normals are much slower.)

Of course, if you really want to be consistent with your character’s link combos, then you will have to practice them.

p-linking takes advantage of input leniency and the fact that in SF4, buttons have priorities. If you plink :hp:~:mp:, it will register as two inputs: :hp: and :hp::mp:, and since :hp: has more priority than :mp:, for the link it essentially counts as two :hp: inputs. As far as priority goes, heavy > medium > light and kick > punch, also focus > throw > normal move.

Hitstun duration and recovery only changes if you land a trade, or a counterhit attack (recovery doesn’t change on this), otherwise if you land a clean hit on a character, the hitstun duration and recovery is exactly the same. What DOES change, however is the “get hit” animation on certain characters, so certain combos may be specific to only a certain characters. That being said, your basic Ryu combos should work on the majority of characters, with some working only at certain ranges.

The key to learning your basic link combos is practice…practice, practice, practice. I recommend staying away from advanced execution techniques until you get the basic timing down for your combos, that way when you throw in stuff like plinking, double taps, it’ll be a lot easier to land your combos consistently.

If you mess up your plink, then yes, your cr.lp will come out. If you do it properly, then you’ll have tricked the game into thinking that you pressed mp exactly 2 frames in a row, which makes landing combos with tight links a LOT easier. You’re basically giving yourself double the opportunity to land your links.

That being said, if you’re new to SF4, I HIGHLY recommend that you don’t try to focus on combos. Combos are the LEAST important aspect of SF, since the majority of the time you play a match, you’re not doing a combo. It’s far more important that you learn the basic fundamentals skills of SF: zoning, anti-airs, maintaining position, corner control, ability to analyze your opponent, ability to analyze your situation and what you can do to maximize the win. I’d much rather you just learn Ryu’s basic cr.forward xx fireball combo, and use that to win your initial matches. It’s much more important to learn how to earn those opportunities to do damage, rather than doing a combo. That way once you learn how to do combos, it’ll just increase your win ratio, since you’re tacking combo ability on top of your essential fundamental gameplay.

Thanks for the all the advice! I’m glad I learned about plinking now. I feel like it’d be a lot easier to just start off getting used to doing that when trying to land links rather than picking it up later.

And yeah I don’t intend to just sit in training mode mashing combos all day, I just wanted to understand what was ahead of me and the mechanics behind it.

Well said.

Thanks for this, btw, I had no idea this was the case.

Once you get used to doing a couple links, the rest will be easier. For me, the re-learning came when I was trying to do combos with extra links. For example a combo with 3-4 hits and a 2 frame link is pretty similar for a lot of characters and isn’t too tough to learn something similar on different characters. If you then tried to do a 5 hit combo with a pair of 2-frame links, to me it feels like a whole new combo situation even though the link timing is still 2 frames.

But once you get about 4-5 different link combos on different characters it will start to get easier. Your eyes and muscle memory really come together and everything sort of gels in combat. You’ll start seeing the option selects and getting those hit comfirms because you aren’t focusing on the timing for combos as much.

For any 1-frame links, do yourself a favor and p-link all of them.

Also, don’t practice timing when fighting Gief. If you miss a link , then you’ll eat some SPD.