I’m not going to get into this in much detail because everyone has already made up their minds (haha) on this. But once again like I said earlier, what people think passes for “mind games” makes me cringe.
What focus attacks do to the overall mind game of SF reduces the game to “I thought he was gonna do this, but he did that and I was surprised”. This is to SF/2-D fighting mind games what Green Eggs and Ham is to literature. The positional aspect of mind games is negated (poking to prod a jump/dash/run/crouch/lay down) because the strongest defensive aspect is still there. The distance element of mind games is mostly negated since the whole cast fights at the same distance.
Also to eliminate some common misconceptions in this thread.
–Focusing does not help balance. SF4 has a rigid top tier. SF4 has been horribly unbalanced almost solely because the #1 & 2 characters can use focus attacksbetter than all the others. Were you to play CvS2 in all P groove (don’t do that), the top tier would be very rigid also (Cammy/Sagat then a 5-6 character 2nd tier). This is merely an excuse for laziness in game design and is completely wrong. People need to stop going there.
–Focus does not help character variety. The variety of character types is completely negated because focus attacks would solve the character too completely. These character archetypes are completely eliminated and in their place, more semi grappler characters are inserted. Focus attack does not promote character variety, it promotes homogenity.
Like I said I’m not going to get into too much detail here mostly because everyone’s minds are made up and not willing to listen to logic. It’s just like I said earlier. What people think passes for “skill” and “mind games” are why there will never be another great 2-D fighter.
Once again, this is exactly what I’m talking about. This is something I’ve been saying for years, but I don’t think people even know the definition of mind games anymore. “I thought you were going to do this but you did that” is a mind game in the same way that Green Eggs and Ham is a book. In other SFs/other 2-D fighting games a distance character will make sacrifices of damage (either for or against) in order to achieve the desired position. In almost all versions of SF2, playing Dhalsim involved a fair amount of getting hit on purpose just to get some kind of other objective. This is not in any game with focus attacks. Why would it be?
Also even in the mid-range game, there are FAR fewer multi-level setups. For example, ST Vega. A lot of the time I’m poking, I’m not trying to get any damage. If you happen to run into something, that’s fine. I’m just trying to move you out of that space. In 4, this doesn’t exist. Why would you back up? You can’t damage me from back there. What would I gain by you jumping? You still have access to your strongest defensive option in the air and for some characters, you have multiple offensive options in the air also. I gain nothing from moving you. This is why there is no viable Vega-type character in SF4. He’d be less than useless. These are the types of things that this kind of game eliminates.
Also, even the most basic element of position is useless in this game except for combos. Because fireballs are mostly useless, you can’t really use the stage as a weapon in this kind of game. For example in ST, on Ken’s stage if I have a dominating FB, half the fight for me is trying to put you in the corner and then trying to stand on the dock pillar. By ceding that position to me, you probably lost the round right there. There’s nothing even REMOTELY close to that in any game with a focus attacks. This dumbs the game down tremendously. You no longer have to worry about stopping my drive for position and avoiding this kind of strategy. You no longer have to think about whether or not I’m sacrificing damage for position or going out of my way for some kind of throw/move that will put you in the corner. This strategy is dead.
And on the topic of character variety, you completely missed the point. For the sake of argument, let’s say I agree with you. (You’re wrong by the way since 3 of the 4 characters you listed play as semi-grapplers, but again, let’s say for the sake of argument that I agree) These character archetypes are in other 2-D games, but all those other types of characters that can’t be put into a game with a parry are in too. Even pretending I agree with you, that’s less than 1/2 the character variety that shows up even in half-assed 2-D games like CFJ and CvS1. For better games like ST, CvS2, a couple versions of KoF, that’s probably less than 1/3.
As I’ve been saying before, this is why 2-D fighting is mostly dead. Why would you even bother putting out another 2-D fighting game when even the enthusiasts of the game don’t really understand what makes 2-D fighting work.