Zangief is an interesting character in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (ST) in that he is considered bottom tier, yet he is scary enough that he can win. One time in Tokyo, I saw that champion Zangief player Kuni was next up to play and his opponent was Dhalsim (very hard match!). I asked Kuni if he could win. His response: “If you can thread the needle, then you can win Zangief vs. Dhalsim.” Indeed. Amazingly, even Kuni has his superior, who he refers to as his Master: Pony Zangief. Pony famously beat several Dhalsim players in quick succession in a Tokyo vs. Osaka tournament.
I’d like ordinary humans to be able to play and enjoy Zangief, not just superheroes like Kuni and Pony. This first set of changes is for ordinary humans and has very little effect on the experts.
Easier Control Motions
- Spinning Piledrive is now half circle back, forward + punch or half circle forward, back + punch.
- Super is now half circle back x 2, forward + punch or half circle forward x 2, back + punch.
- Green Hand is now quarter circle forward + punch (rather than the clunky forward, d/f, down + punch command from ST)
- Running Grab (and Double Suplex) is now half circle back + kick or half circle forward + kick.
- Kick lariat now has alternate command of jab + short (KKK still works)
- Punch lariat has alternate command of strong + forward or fierce + roundhouse (PPP still works)
- That’s a lot to digest, so let’s go over each one.
The SPD (Spinning Piledrive) command has a lot of footnotes. First of all, many players complained that doing an SPD after a ducking short was harder with the new motion than it was in ST, which defeats the entire purpose of having an “easier” motion. In response to this, you no longer need to even do the first forward or back input. You can hold d/f and then go down, d/b, back, forward + punch. Also, that last input can be substituted for any up command (u/b, u, or u/f) and it still works.
For old curmudgeons, the original 360 command (which actually only requires 270 degrees, fyi) is still there too.
All this stuff makes the SPD command significantly easier, but it really doesn’t seem to affect balance much at all. Expert Zangiefs could SPD with amazing precision anyway, and they still can. Now the common man can do it too. I actually would have liked it a bit more if we made you do one extra input on the SPD if you skip that first input, but the easy SPDs have worked out fine in playtesting. The real challenge is getting into a situation where you can actually land the move with Zangief anyway.
Next up, the super. Note that original 720 command is no longer there, sorry. The new command (that can be done without jumping) is a fine replacement though! Note that the shortcut that we allow for the 360 do NOT work for the super. You must start the command with either forward or back, not with d/f. This is the one change to commands that really does affect the experts, because it makes a “walking 720” possible. That said, remember that Zangief has extremely short range on his super.
Green Hand Command
The Green Hand is a dragon punch command in later SF games, but it seems unfortunate that Zangief needs a more complex motion to do green hand than the opponent needs to do a fireball. In HD Remix, I made it a fireball command: qcf+punch. This should be a welcome chance from the old forward, d/f, down + punch command, because that command often made the green hand come out on accident when you were trying to walk up then do low jabs. Although the new command kind of barely overlaps with the SPD command, it really doesn’t overlap if you do the SPD properly.
The alternate commands for the lariat are mostly for pad players. On a standard controller, it’s easier to use your thumb to hit jab+short than it is to hit 2 or 3 kick buttons. I prefer the new command on a joystick too, personally. You can still use the original PPP or KKK commands, but notice that you CANNOT use 2 punches (or 2 kicks) to lariat, as in some console versions. The PP and KK commands interfere with advanced players using the “piano method” of inputs for the SPD. If you have no idea what that means, check out my advanced tutorial video about Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.
So the commands are easier, but what are the real tools Zangief has to compete now?
Green Hand with Less Recovery
Green hand now has 4 frames less recovery. Earlier development versions had even less recovery, but they proved disastrous. The purpose of the green hand is to destroy fireballs, and the 4-frame faster recovery makes it a little more practical. It also allows Zangief to pressure a bit and threaten an SPD if he does the move from fairly far away. Do it too close and you’ll still get hit back though.
For most of the development of HD Remix, the green hand also knocked down. This was originally John Choi’s suggestion of how to give Zangief a chance against Dhalsim (try to hit his limbs, knock down, then get in). It was actually very fair in that particular match, but it raised more and more questions in other matches. It flat out beat Bison because trading with Bison’s standing kicks (Bison’s main strategy in that match) leads to a virtually guaranteed win if you get a knock down. I was somewhat willing to live with that, but more and more and more problems surfaced. The knock down version of green hand was simply too strong in too many matches and lead to strange gameplay for Zangief. Rather than a throw character, he became a knock-down-with-green-hand character, then maybe throw. So green hand does NOT knock down in the final version of HD Remix (and did not in ST, either).
Faster Running Grab
Running Grab is much faster. The roundhouse version is the most significant and it travels fast. You can catch turtles off guard with it, and at some ranges it’s even guaranteed after a blocked low medium kick! The only reason this move remains fair is that it still does very little damage and leaves Zangief kind of far away.
Kick Lariat’s Invulnerable Feet
Many people requested a kick lariat that was like Hyper Fighting’s, in that it has invulnerable feet. I tried many versions of this, and it was extremely powerful in the ecosystem of this game. Many, many times during the course of development, someone claimed that something is too powerful. My usual response is to say, “Ok beat me with it, or at least make me afraid of it.” I can count on one hand the number of times anyone really did this. Graham Wolfe certainly did in this case. He told me to pick whichever character I thought could beat the HF lariat most easily. He then proceeded to absolutely destroy me by mixing up punch and kick lariat while not even really paying attention to the match. I had to counter them in different ways and guessing wrong meant knock down, then facing SPDs.
The final version works like this. The kick lariat is the same as ST except it has a different sound effect and the feet are invulnerable during the first rotation only. You can use it for some footsie tricks, but a careful opponent can still counter it by sweeping you, as long as he sweeps late, toward the end of the lariat.
Punch Lariat’s Feet Can Hit
The punch lariat has a functional change, too. In ST, both lariats have a really big attack hitbox that appears for only a few frames near the start of the move. In HD Remix, the punch lariat’s version of this hitbox extends all the way to the floor, so it can hit low attacks. Remember that only the very start of the move has this property and if you try to hit a low attack this way, you’re committing to doing an entire punch lariat, which is pretty long. This is somewhat useful at hitting Dhalsim’s low fierce and it seems theoretically good at hitting Guile’s low forward, but in practice it’s very difficult to hit Guile with it. At least it’s something though.
Vega is a tough opponent here for a lot of different reasons. One reason is Vega’s off-the-wall attack is extremely difficult for Zangief to hit if Vega does it repeatedly and tries to hit at the tip of the claw. Zangief has two slight changes to deal with this. First, his jumping strong hitbox extends farther now and actually matches up with the graphics for his hand, similar to the jump strong hitbox in Street Fighter Alpha 2. In practice, it’s still pretty hard to hit wall dives with this move though.
More importantly, his low fierce has a hitbox that extends upward 2 pixels more than before. This very tiny change is barely enough to make it beat Vega’s wall dive most of the time. Considering how hard this match is in general, I’m hoping Vega will still be fine here, he’ll just have to use different strategies.
Last and not least is the new hop. In fact, this might be the most substantial change of all. In ST, Zangief had four different commands for this move: back+strong, toward+strong, back+fierce, and toward+fierce. All four lead to a worthless move that usually got you killed. The move now has only one command: toward+fierce, the same command as X-ism Zangief in Street Fighter Alpha 3.
The move is significantly faster, hops higher over low moves, and recovers almost instantly. Hop into SPD is a strong tactic. The hop goes over low attacks well, and you can even combo a sweep after it if you somehow manage to hit a standing opponent with it. Really though, whiffing the hop is where it’s at. This mixup between doing lariats and the new hop was strong enough that some players were worried about Zangief being too good, but considering his former bottom tier status and the improvements of other characters across the board, I think he needs this to compete. If you look for it the hop, you can stand fierce it on reaction with Ken/Ryu. Or, you can let it land and go for low forward, fireball combo (though his recovery is so short that this requires good timing on your part).
Easier commands, tricky lariats, a faster green hand, anti-Vega attacks, and deadly good hop are what you get. Zangief is quite a threat now. That said, he still loses to literally half the cast (Cammy, Blanka, Fei Long, Vega, Chun Li, Sagat, Honda, Guile to name a few). He has enough tools that having good player skill can help you overcome those matchup disadvantages even more realistically, and he's far more accessible to more players with his easier control motions.