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Thursday
Nov132008

Street Fighter HD Remix: Fei Long

Fei Long is usually considered one of the five worst characters in the original Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (ST), but he’s still pretty deadly if he can get close to the opponent and get his offense going. The trouble is, it’s very hard for him to ever get close enough to most characters to get it going. Also, his flying kicks move (aka dragon kicks, aka “chicken wing”) is just too hard for most players (including myself) to physically execute. Unlike the other tiger knee-like moves, the flying kicks required you to start with back on the stick, then go down/back, down, down/forward, forward, up/forward + kick.

Fei Long, Version 1

In HD Remix, Fei Long, along with Akuma, have the notorious distinction of each being the best character in the game and the worst character in the game at various points throughout development. The changelist for HD Remix, version 1 was:

• Flying kick move changed to qcf+k (easy!)
• Flying kick with short button can go through fireballs during startup.

The control change immediately made him fun, and being able to do short flying kicks over fireballs easily seemed like just what he needed. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast was just too powerful relative to this. Fei Long seemed like the worst character, or close to it.

Fei Long, Version 2

Then came a ridiculous number of buffs. I was going to make Fei Long viable, damn it!

• All three version of Flying Kicks can go through fireballs at startup.
• All rekka punches (qcf+p) travel farther.
• Super travels much farther, which also makes it safer on block because last hit doesn’t whiff so much

And this ease of use stuff:

• Flame kick input window is bigger (easier) and not random.
• Medium and roundhouse flame kicks always knock down and can juggle.
• Input window for second and third rekka punches longer and not random.

Expert players who played this version said Fei Long was unquestionably #1. His flying kicks were too good at locking opponents down. Like in ST, they can combo in standing fierce, then all three rekka punches. Ouch! His super became the best in the game and you could even juggle with a flame kick afterwards for a total of 90% damage. (Oops!) Also, you could get about 3 supers per round if you tried. You could also juggle flame kicks after flying kicks due to something that seemed at the time like a consequence of putting a juggle property on a move that could catch the enemy on fire and one that couldn’t. It turned out that the ability to juggle with flame kicks after flying kicks wasn’t because of that at all. It was a straight-up bug, but I wouldn’t realize that until months later. Anyway, to top it all off, Fei Long could pretty much ignore fireballs and do the new qcf+k command to go through them on reaction, every time.

Incidentally, a lot of people requested that he be able to cancel his ducking medium kick into rekka punches, but that is really the last thing he needs, as I hope you can see by now. Giving him that would be similar to SF3:3rd Strike Chun Li’s ducking medium kick into super. She can stick it out constantly and if it happens to hit, bam, super. In Fei Long’s case, he wouldn’t even need super meter to deal huge damage off his 3-Rekka series. What we need to do at this point is turn the knobs DOWN on Fei Long. It was useful to see him this powered up state though, because it gave me a frame of reference for what a “too good” and “not good enough” Fei Long look like.

Fei Long, Version 3 (a.k.a version 20)

This is really more like Fei Long version 20 than version 3, but I’m compressing the story for readability. He’s now settled down into seemingly fair state.

• Flying kick move changed to qcf+k (easy!)
• Flying kick with short button can go through fireballs during startup.
• Flying kicks have 5 additional frames of recovery. This prevents you from comboing if you hit, and it also prevents you from trapping people by doing the move repeatedly.
• Flying kicks have worse priority air-to-air during the first hit, so it’s easier to counter them with a jumping attack if you predict them.
• All version of flame kicks always knock down and can juggle. They can still juggle after you juggle with flying kicks, so have fun, combo-maniacs.
• Flame kick input window is bigger (easier) and not random
• Rekka punch input window is bigger (easier) and not random
• Rekka punches travel a little farther, but not as far as in Version 2
• Super travels farther and faster (by a lot) but not as much as Version 2
• Super is now vulnerable at Fei Long’s head during 4th and 5th hits
• Super meter gains reduced on flame kicks and flying kicks
• Super knocks the opponent down too quickly for a flame kick to combo after

The farther reach on Rekka punches allows Fei Long to actually deal some block damage vs a defensive Honda. It also makes it a little easier to pressure a defensive Guile who mostly just sits there and does low forward and the occasional sonic boom. (Both of those matches are still hard for Fei Long though).

The flying kicks are easy to perform now, and still have many uses, but they cannot really be abused like they could in some situations before. The recovery time at the end prevents you from constantly looping flying kicks -> fierce -> flying kicks, etc. I don’t want to give the impression this move is weak though. It still has 14 frames of invulnerable startup, it still juggles and travels in a useful arc, and it’s still an overhead attack (must be blocked high).

The addition of these 5 frames of recovery was very controversial on the forums throughout development, but I never figured out why anyone complained about this. Fei Long is still safe after this move, except if he’s too close versus Zangief or T.Hawk (but you can beat Zangief with just the fierce button anyway, so who cares?). It’s practical to do the flying kicks many times in a round. If you ever hit a jumping opponent, you can juggle with flame kicks. On hit or block against a grounded opponent, you can usually do a flame kick right after and they can’t really do anything about it. The biggest mystery of the entire balancing process was why people saw the new flying kicks as worse, rather than better. They are better overall, despite being worse in some ways.

Going Through Fireballs With Short Flying Kicks

The short flying kick going through fireballs is a help, but not a total solution for getting close. The opponent can still back up and sweep you if he predicts this move. But it’s at least one option to get around fireballs, rather than practically no option, as he had before. At a certain range, you can threaten to go through fireballs on reaction and hit the opponent. There’s little they can do in that situation other than try to fight Fei Long at a different range.

I think it was a real mistake when I let all three versions of this move go through fireballs on startup, because even if it were somehow fair, it goes too far in negating the power of projectiles in Super Turbo. It just felt wrong.

Super

The super move is very useful and a key move for Fei Long now. Its new range helps tremendously. To balance that out, he can no longer get so many per round and if the opponent does predict it and jump over you, he has at least some hope of hitting you back (for example, with Ken’s new longer-reaching Hurricane Kick from behind!).

Version 4 (aka version 25)

Doing a blocked flying kick, then immediately flame kicking was so good (as opposed to worthless, as the forums believed) that it started to feel like a problem. It’s a mindless situation that came up constantly in Fei Long matches. After a flying kick, if he does a short flame kick, it will beat pretty much everything you do, and Fei Long will be safe if you block, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t do it every time.

This just highlighted the problem with any move being invulnerable on startup and safe block. That’s generally a bad idea, and that’s why Cammy’s cannon spike has worse recovery now (but still safe a lot of the time), Balrog’s jab buffalo headbutt has more recovery (but is still safe most of the time), and Ken’s jab dragon punch still has the same vulnerable box on his head that he had in ST (but is still mostly invulnerable). If anything, I gave too light of a touch in trying to remove invulnerable and safe-on-block moves. The touch was also very light on Fei Long, and his short flame kick has more recovery now. At point blank it’s not safe on block, but in most cases it still is.

Toward the end of development, something threatened to ruin Fei Long. We discovered a bug in HD Remix’s juggling system that affected several characters and let them do combos larger than they should be able to. This affected Fei Long the most because fixing it removed his ability to juggle flame kicks after flying kicks. Remember that the all-powerful version 2 Fei Long could do this juggle, and I chose to keep it and tone down everything else because the juggle was fun and he needed something like that to get to the right power level. But now other characters badly needed this bug fixed. What to do?

My solution was to fix the bug for the sake of the other characters, then implement a special case for Fei Long to let him keep those juggles that we balanced him around for months. Most characters have a juggle limit of 3, which is reset if they hit with a super. Fei Long’s juggle limit is now 4. You can do a total of 4 hits, mixing flame kick and flying kick hits however you like. At that point, hitting with the super is still allowed and resets the count as usual, but the last hit of Fei Long’s super triggers a special knock down that ends your combo. Believe me, you want that last clause because things got really out of hand without it.

Conclusion

It was a long road to take Fei Long fro the bottom to...wherever he ended up in HD Remix. He is much more fun now, partly because executing all his moves is easier, and partly because he’s generally juiced up. Longer reaching rekka punches and a longer reaching super give him even more offense, while the new short flying kick gives him a mild new way to get in. Although he lost one difficult combo (flying kicks into fierce into rekkas), he gained a very practical new combo (flying kick juggle into flame kick juggle), giving him good damage dealing potential.