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Wednesday
Nov122008

Street Fighter HD Remix: Blanka

Blanka is considered bottom tier in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (ST), but even in that game he has a lot of potential and a lot of things going for him. The throw range on his bite is enormous. His crossup (jumping short) is excellent and easy. After the crossup, you can go for a combo, a bite, a blocked hit into a bite, another crossup, or a blocked hit into another crossup. Also, Blanka’s roll attack does really good damage. HD Remix Blanka retains all those good features, and gets some boosts.

Horizontal Rolling Attack

In ST, most characters can hit back Blanka’s roll after blocking or even being hit by it. In HD Remix, it recovers faster, but it’s still not completely safe. Dhalsim and Balrog are still able to hit it back easily (with standing fierce and jab rushing punch, respectively). Bison can still hit it back with a well-timed Psycho Crusher. But Honda no longer gets a free hit after the roll, and Ryu no longer gets a free red fireball. Blanka actually lands fast enough from his roll to jump over a fireball if Ryu throws one right away. That’s quite an upgrade from getting hit back and knocked down every time, and it’s even a little better than I wanted. I would have preferred if Blanka had to block Ryu’s fireball after Ryu blocked Blanka’s roll, but making even this small change made the roll much too unsafe against too many things from too many other characters.

There are two other upgrades to the horizontal roll. First, the jab and strong versions travel a slightly shorter distance than before. This makes the old tactic of whiffing a roll into a bite even better than before. Furthermore, the jab and strong rolls now have the same rotation speed and sound effect as the fierce roll, so you can’t tell which roll is coming by the way it spins or the sound. This is conceptually similar to Ryu’s fake fireball in that you’re not sure if a real roll or a whiffed roll into bite is coming.

As playtesting progressed, Blanka distinguished himself as a top character. He was rarely played in ST because of extremely weak matches against Ryu and Old Sagat, but he now does fine in those matches and probably has an advantage against Sagat. Meanwhile, his good matches were still good: he still has advantage versus Vega, Zangief, and Guile. Zangief has many upgrades in HD Remix, but Blanka’s standing strong can still shut down every one of Zangief’s jumping attacks, his roll is still safe, and just jumping straight up roundhouse is still tough for Zangief to deal with too.

My point is that Blanka’s power level started to be a concern, and it really bothered me that he could fierce roll all day against Zangief with little worry. His roll does lots of damage and nearly always results in a favorable trade, and it’s one of the very few moves in the entire game that hits on the first frame. In order to give this move some drawback, I made him take more damage if he’s hit out of it. This is similar to how the move worked in Street Fighter 2: World Warrior, but the damage penalty isn’t as huge as in that game. Blanka only takes extra damage if you hit him out of the horizontal roll itself, not the recovery. This lets Zangief try to low fierce the roll for good damage, and also lets Vega and Cammy try to trade with it without coming out way behind in damage on trades.

And one last note on the fierce roll: I know that Fei Long can use good timing to hit it back with rekka punches x 3 every time. In the end, I decided to leave this because there was no way I was going to make the roll recover even faster and Fei Long needs that extra range on his new rekka punches. Besides, with Blanka having most (all?) of his counter matches fixed, I didn’t feel too bad for him having to play carefully against Fei Long.

Diagonal Rolling Attack (Rainbow Roll)

The so-called Beast Roll or Rainbow Roll was not at all useful in ST. It has long startup time as Blanka jumps back before rolling and it has long recovery, allowing almost every character to hit Blanka back, even if he hits with this move. In HD Remix, the initial hop back part is greatly sped up, and the recovery is drastically improved. Blanka actually recovers before the enemy if they block this move, allowing him to keep up his pressure. At mid screen, it’s now a realistic way to go over fireballs, but the hop back part of the move still leaves Blanka vulnerable to a solid fireball trap.

Hop

The hop is a pretty good move, allowing Blanka to move around quickly and hop into position to throw. The old command is press all three kicks while holding either away or toward on the joystick. This motion still works, but now you can use either jab+short, strong+forward, or fierce+roundhouse instead of three kicks, if you like. This is a great benefit to players who use a gamepad, but even I prefer the jab+short command on a joystick. I find it easier to hit those two buttons quickly than any other two because my thumb and index finger rest on these buttons. If your mileage varies, you can always use the original command, though.

The hop back has the same invulnerability from the ST, but it generates much less super meter now. The hop forward has an additional nine frames of foot invulnerability which theoretically allows him to hop over sweeps somewhat, but in practice this has not proven all that effective.

Vertical Ball

The vertical ball is unchanged, but I just want to point out that it’s one of the only moves in the game that can hit on the very first frame. This makes it incredibly good air defense and it’s impossible to “safe jump” against Blanka because of this (see the video tutorials on Capcom Classics Collection 2). The move is also vulnerable on the first frame which means Blanka often trades, but the trade usually does damage in his favor and leaves the enemy knocked down, allowing Blanka to go for his tricky crossup short.

Note that we did fix a bug with this move. In ST, moves that can hit on the first frame have an unintended property that if the opponent tries to block them on the very first frame, there is a 50% chance the move will hit anyway. These 1-frame semi-unblockables are fixed in HD Remix (but left unfixed in HD Classic Arcade). You can toggle this bug on/off in each mode with the dipswitch settings, too.

Electricity

The properties of this move are unchanged, but fewer mashes on the punch buttons are required to activate electricity.

Super

Blanka’s super is one of the worst in the game in ST, so it’s improved in HD Remix. The startup is faster and the recovery is faster so it doesn’t get hit back all the time on block like it did before. You can actually use it just for the sake of getting close and going for crossups, if you like. If the move hits, it will now always knock down.

Blanka’s rolling attacks are the main upgrades here, allowing him to roll more safely against some of his biggest enemies, such as Ryu, Sagat, and Honda. His diagonal roll gives him a new pressure option that also doubles as a way around fireballs. That said, fireball characters can still keep Blanka in check (back away and sweep the diagonal roll as it ends or just dragon punch it), but the matches should be a lot closer.

–Sirlin