Advanced SF4: All About Dummies

Anyone who has practiced a combo in Street Fighter IV and then tried it on Blanka can tell you, the character you’re hitting is very important. Very few of the combos in Maj’s incredible TACV’s work fully on more than one or two characters, beacuse each dummy has unique quirks.

SFA2 Gen combo vs ZangiefIn older Capcom games, a dummy’s vulnerable area consists of invisible rectangles that loosely follow the sprites displayed on the screen. Using a hitbox viewer to peek under the hood, we can see the game engine handling these combat interactions. Red boxes represent attacks and blue boxes represent vulnerable spaces.

We can see that SFA2 Zangief’s hittable boxes stay rectangular no matter what his sprite does. Even if his sprite is bending over or leaning back, it doesn’t effect the combo.

SF4 Abel combo vs VegaIn Street Fighter 4, recovery hittable boxes are procedurally generated and closely follow the character model. Even a slight movement, like the subtle rising of Claw’s head here, can be used for a meaty setup.

Notice that Abel’s hand is outstretched for several frames before Vega headbutts him. Because every character has a different model in Street Fighter 4, it’s possible for the same combo to work differently on every member of the cast.

Please note that although recovery frames follow the model very closely, active frames and startup frames are similar to the old-style boxes.

SF4 Chun Li's s.HP vs crouching Balrog

Chun Li’s far s.HP consistently whiffs through Balrog’s crouching hitbox in SF4, despite her fist clearly touching his shoulder. In any hitbox-based fighting game, there are bound to be at least a few visually misleading interactions.

SF4 Ryu's c.MP vs E.Honda

Each character also has many different reactions to being hit – based on where they are hit and the distance from the attack. Above you can see a standing Honda getting hit by Ryu’s c.MP from two different ranges. Up close, Honda gets hit in his ribs and turns to the side. From further away, Honda gets hit in his stomach and bends over.

M.Bison's j.HP vs Vega

Here you can see that Claw has different reactions to Dictator’s j.HP depending on whether he gets hit low, medium, or high. These different hit stuns can seem quite random because extremely minor changes can cause huge differences. Figuring out what kind of reaction you want and how to cause it is very important.

You might think that identifying which characters are good combo dummies is a straightforward process: just pick the tallest and fattest guys, and do all combos on Zangief and Sagat. However, even characters that are normally horrible for combos can be used in some unique meaty setups, because of their varied hit reactions.

It’s pointless to mention every character in detail – once you get a combo idea, you really need to try it on nearly every character to find the best target. It helps to know that Blanka, Dictator, Balrog and most of the women are hard to combo on the ground, and the tall muscle men are easy. However it would be remiss of me not to talk about some of the best combo dummies.


SF4 standing Seth

One of the first steps to designing an SFIV combo is coming up with an excuse not to do it on Seth. Seriously, this guy has everything. He’s almost as tall as Sagat, he has one of the widest hitboxes, he has some of Dhalsim’s reach tricks, he has the lowest vitality and stun in the game, and it just feels really good to hit him.


SF4 standing Rose

Rose has the most unique setups by far. She has a good dash and the slowest fireball in the game, allowing for the best fireball trade combos. She also has a unique far s.LK – if it trades, it still counts as a counterhit. On top of that, her crouching hitbox is almost as small as Chun Li’s.


SF4 crumpling Dhalsim

Dhalsim doesn’t quite have the speed or reach of Seth, but he has a lot more useful angles. He also has the most useful EX fireball and ultra for trade setups.


SF4 standing E.Honda

Honda has a really small pushbox, letting you to practically stand inside him. This allows for longer link combos and registers close attacks from slightly farther away than normal, like Gouken.


SF4 standing Sagat

Many characters’ hands extend past their bodies during hit stun, allowing them to be struck by standing attacks from far away. Sagat, Seth, Abel, and Chun Li all have useful hands.


SF4 crouching Chun Li

A common reaction to being hit in the head is for the head to swing back and then return forward. This allows meaty setups by placing an attack where the head was – when the head returns, you score a delayed hit.


SF4 standing Dhalsim

When a character gets hit low, they often duck down or to the side. Because the head is briefly out of the way, it can be used for meaty setups such as Chun Li’s LK Spinning Bird Kick loop.


SF4 crouching E.Honda

Crouching Honda is deceptively short and surprisingly wide. Crouching characters in general are easier to hit with low attacks from long range.

This covers the most commonly used combo dummies in Street Fighter 4. However for almost every character in the game, there exists a combo that only works on them. If you come up with an amazingly groundbreaking combo idea, don’t give up until you’ve tested it on the entire cast.

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7 Responses to Advanced SF4: All About Dummies

  1. Maj says:

    Haha i like the nicknames you came up with for some of those dummies/setups. I think this article is a great primer for conveying the concept of fluid dummy hitboxes. There’s always more details you can add, but after a while it becomes overkill. At the end of the day, a lot of it is pure trial and error – although it helps to know what you’re looking for.

    Just a couple of minor notes …

    You’re right about Balrog being a terrible target for ground combos, but he’s probably the best dummy in the game for juggle combos because he bounces higher than anyone.

    Also Honda isn’t the best dummy for multiple standing close attacks. It actually depends on the attacks you’re using, but crouching El Fuerte is probably the best in general. Among standing characters, i think Seth is better than Honda, and Gouken is overrated.

    Lastly, the female characters aren’t all as thin as they look. Cammy in particular is a pretty decent combo dummy, and crouching Sakura is really useful too. But yeah, it’s pretty tough to compete with standing Seth, standing Dhalsim, crouching Honda, and fireball-chasing Rose.

  2. onreload says:

    Lots of useful info in here. Reminds me of Maj’s old CvS2 dummy guide, which explains all those weird times Mai falls over like a doofus

    So on a standing character, is it really only three unique reel animations? One for crouching? And no random factors? Does counterhit have a special reel, or just added hitstun/damage/stun?

    I knew something was weird about this darn game when with Claw vs. Ryu I did j.HP, land, d+HK (slide) and the second attack went right through

  3. error1 says:

    I considered adding a boxer example just beacuse his ground and air hitboxes are so strange. His ground hit box is really quite big but it feels like he is always pushing you away, and he seems to get extra height of juggles.

    Yeah I wanted to do something like that cvs2 guide, but every single dummy in sf4 is useful.
    There are more then three, especially when you get into different strength attacks and crouching, the problem is a lot of them look really similar.
    You really just need to try reactions and see if any look promising.
    For example to combo Sagat’s F+hk vs Seth you need it so he doesn’t move his head back or down so you have to hit him low. The only hard attack that can get that reaction is a deep

  4. Snoooootch says:

    Great Job, error! I like your touch on the “Fist bump.” Abel truly is a fist bumper. :)

    Oh, I also like Dhalsim’s huge hit box when he falls. He’s the only character that fei long can hit immediately with a hk chicken wing after a flame kick FADC. . . and STILL get all 3 hits of both the Chicken wing and the U1. Sim is my personal favorite dummy.

  5. Doopliss says:

    It would be nice to make a huge list in a few years, mentioning every character’s stats and different intricacies as dummies.

  6. Tigre III says:

    Very interesting stuff, specially for combomakers. I like how its exposed, with all the pics, and one flash animation! wow nice work man.

  7. Maj says:

    Doopliss: I agree, but i don’t know if anyone’s willing to tackle that much work. If you want to give it a shot, i’m sure it would be very much appreciated by the community.

    You might want to start compiling notes now though. You’d be surprised at how much of this stuff you start to forget when you’re not using it.

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