Do Character Archetypes Matter In Street Fighter?

Do Character Archetypes Matter In Street Fighter?
Date Published: 6 January, 2018

Similar to many other competitive activities, the determining factors for winning and losing in fighting games are variable. However, unlike group sports which may rely on team chemistry, fighting games more so rely on player to character chemistry.

The unique thing about fighting games, is that there is no real blueprint for how to play the “right way”. A direct instruction akin to elbow in, and follow-through when practicing a jump shot in basketball simply does not exist in the realm of fighting games.


do character archetypes matter in street fighter wp 02
Bonchan (left) and Kazunoko (right) were synonymous with their respective characters in the SFIV era.

However, excluding the plethora of factors that all aid in the equation that leads to the answer of either winning or losing, I decided to hone in my focus on only one factor, that being fighting game character archetypes. This time, featuring the most recognizable franchise in the genre—Street Fighter.

Despite the nature of the experiment being more a fun observation than a scientific fact finder, we will still look are different values and follow rules to maintain somewhat of a controlled environment.


The values we will look at:

  • 5 major tournaments
  • A period of 5 years (2014-2018).
  • Winner character archetype.
  • Runner-up character archetype.

The rules in place are such:

  • Playstyles to play a secondary factor for unorthodox archetypes (rushdown, control, rekka, etc.).
  • Only final character of the set counts toward the result (in case of character switch).
  • Characters that technically fit two archetypes, will only be placed in one (Personal Opinion).

The character archetypes to be used for Street Fighter are as such:

  • Traditional – wields a standard fireball, uppercut, and average mobility.
  • Zoner – excels in long ranged combat, wields keep-out moves, such as projectiles, long limbs, etc.
  • Set-up/Mix-up – mobile, excels in close ranged combat, strong okizeme game.
  • Grappler – lack of projectile, wields untechable command grab, average to slower mobility.
  • Unorthodox – equipped with various tools that encompass many, if not all archetypes (EX: lack of fireball, yet equipped with traditional uppercut and a command grab).

do character archetypes matter in street fighter wp 03
Tokido defeating Infiltration at CEO 2016 in a battle of two traditional archetype characters.

The first major tournament we take a look at is CEO (Community Effort Orlando), and over the last five years, results proved to be fairly diverse, with no back-to-back archetype winning the tournament.

CEO 2014-2018 Results:

Year Winner Archetype Runner-up Archetype
2014 Akuma (Traditional)* Juri (Unorthodox-rushdown)
2015 Yun (Unorthodox-rushdown) Abel (Grappler)
2016 Ryu (Traditional) Nash (Traditional)
2017 Zangief (Grappler)

Nash (Traditional)

2018 Ibuki (Set-up/Mix-up) Cammy (Unorthodox-rushdown)

*Akuma fits both Traditional and Set-up/Mix-up archetypes.

The second tournament, and the one with the largest amount of participants in North America—EVO (Evolution), proved to have much more consistent results over a five year span, with four straight years of reign by traditional character archetypes.


do character archetypes matter in street fighter 03
Bonchan shaking Luffy’s hand moments after losing at EVO 2014.

EVO 2014-2018 Results:

Year

Winner Archetype Runner-up Archetype

2014

Rose (Traditional)*

Sagat (Zoner)

2015

Evil Ryu (Traditional)

Adon (Unorthodox-control)
2016 Nash (Traditional)

R.Mika** (Grappler)

2017

Akuma (Traditional)

Karin*** (Unorthodox-rekka)

2018 M.Bison (Unorthodox-control)

Akuma (Traditional)

*     Rose fits both the Traditional and Unorthodox-control archetypes.
**   R. Mika fits both the Grappler and Set-up/Mix-up archetypes.
*** Karin’s Unorthodox-rekka archetype allows for both control and rushdown playstyles.

The third tournament—SEAM (Southeast Asia Major), is one of the most difficult tournament in Asia, as it normally attracts a lot of talent from various regions. However, over the last 5 years, only two archetypes made grand finals, with the Traditional and Unorthodox archetypes splitting 3 wins to 2 wins.


do character archetypes matter in street fighter 04
Mago and his pick of Yang proved to be enough against Tokido’s Akuma at SEAM 2015.

SEAM 2014-2018 Results:

Year

Winner Archetype

Runner-up Archetype

2014

Ken (Traditional)

Yun (Unorthodox-rushdown)

2015

Yang* (Unorthodox-rekka)

Akuma (Traditional)

2016

Ryu (Traditional)

Ken (Traditional)

2017

Akuma (Traditional)

Rashid** (Unorthodox-rushdown)

2018

Rashid (Unorthodox-rushdown)

Akuma (Tradtional)

*    Yang’s Unorthodox-rekka archetype allows for both control and rushdown playstyles.
**  Rashid fits both the Unorthodox-rushdown and Traditional Archetypes.

The fourth tournament is normally the first major in North America, making it an interesting early test bed in the competitive season for any fighting game. It’s results showed the Zoner archetype with the most amount of tournament wins for the archetype out of all five majors used in the experiment.


do character archetypes matter in street fighter 05
Xian shaking Momochi’s hand shortly after defeating him at Final Round 2015.

Final Round 2014-2018 Results:

Year

Winner Archetype

Runner-up Archetype

2014

Sagat (Zoner)

Balrog (Unorthodox-control)

2015

Gen* (Unorthodox-stance)

Ken (Traditional)

2016

Nash (Traditional)

Ryu (Traditional)

2017

Ibuki (Set-up/Mix-up)

R.Mika** (Grappler)

2018

Menat*** (Zoner)

Akuma (Traditional)

*     Gen’s multiple stances allow him to modulate his playstyle to fit many archetypes.
**   R. Mika fits both the Grappler and Set-up/Mix-up archetypes.

The final tournament—Dreamhack (Winter/Summer) is normally one that caters more so to European competitors, which often adds an interesting factor to character selection and it is the only tournament that did not feature a Traditional character archetype win over the past five years.


do character archetypes matter in street fighter 06
Phenom bested Fuudo at Dreamhack 2016 with his Necalli.

Dreamhack (Winter/Summer) Results:

Year

Winner Archetype

Runner-up Archetype

2014

Fei Long* (Unorthodox-rekka)

Elena** (Unorthodox-rekka)

2015

**Elena (Unorthodox-rekka)

***Rose (Traditional)

2016

Necalli (Unorthodox-rushdown)

****R.Mika (Grappler)

2017

Ibuki (Set-up/Mix-up)

*****Rashid (Unorthodox-rushdown)

2018

Karin****** (Unorthodox-rekka)

R.Mika (Grappler)

*           Fei Long’s Unorthodox-rekka archetype allows for both control and rushdown playstyles.
**         Elena’s Unorthodox-rekka archetype allows for both control and rushdown playstyles.
***       Rose fits both the Traditional and Unorthodox-control archetypes.
****     R. Mika fits both the Grappler and Set-up/Mix-up archetypes.
*****   Rashid fits both the Unorthodox-rushdown and Traditional Archetypes.
****** Karin’s Unorthodox-rekka archetype allows for both control and rushdown playstyles.

Therefore, after going through all of the data presented, the final character tally stacks as such:

Character Archetype

Winner

Runner-up

Traditional

10 10

Unorthodox

9 9

Set-up/Mix-up

3

0

Zoner 2

1

Grappler 1

5

So what can we conclude, based on this data? Well, a few things; but the most glaring piece of evidence is the type of character used in the grand finals in 5 majors over the last 5 years.

The Traditional and Unorthodox archetypes made up 76% of the character pool, while the remaining 24% was divided among the rest of the archetypes.

do character archetypes matter in street fighter wp 01
Chart showing the percentage of character archetypes used in selected data range.

Secondly, the usage of “specialist” character archetypes, in the likes of Zoners, Grapplers, etc. Seem to be less common than characters that wield more of a traditional arsenal with regards to their move set.

Thirdly, and somewhat of an interesting observation made during this collection of data, is the tournament result of those who switch to multiple character archetypes throughout a grand final.

Players who changed characters are only 1-4 out of five instances where a switch occurred. The only tournament winner of the five was Momochi, when he elected to change over to Evil Ryu over Ken at EVO 2015, which additionally, is the only character switch that can be considered the same archetype out of the five instances.


do character archetypes matter in street fighter 07
Tokido and Infiltration made grand finals numerous time in the data range used for the experiment.

Therefore, after gathering all of the data, and putting everything in perspective under these set circumstances, we ask again, do character archetypes matter in Street Fighter?

The short answer, is no. However, the long answer indicates that character archetypes in Street Fighter certainly make a difference, just not the entire difference. The fact of the matter, is that there are too many variables to simply say that character archetypes dictate tournament success.

Factors such as characters that fit multiple archetypes, like Street Fighter V‘s R.Mika who shadows over both the Grappler, and Mix-up/Set-up archetype creates possibilities for different data outlooks based on a subjective view.

do character archetypes matter in street fighter wp 08
An additional reason to the variance in results for the experiment is due to SFIV and SFV differences.

Player skill is also an enormous factor, as top Street Fighter players like Tokido and Infiltration, made grand finals multiple times in the data range, therefore results featuring characters like Akuma and Nash, are possibly more so indicative of the players’ personal skill than their choice of a character archetype.

Lastly, despite the games belonging to the same franchise, it is a fairly evident that Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter V play remarkably different from each other, and although some of the characters fit the same archetypes, the game’s tactical structure ultimately dictates what is allowed and what is denied.

In conclusion, while there is some evidence to indicate that character archetypes matter in Street Fighter, there are simply too many other factors that can make a similar case, which ultimately is perhaps for the best.

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