SF4 Game Mechanics: Focus Attacks (Balrog Emphasis)
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Focus attacks in general is a game mechanic which changes properties depending on how long you hold it, there are three levels when you charge a focus attack. A focus attack has super armor during certain points of the move’s animation in which it can absorb a single non-armor breaking attack. Focus attacks have startup, active, and recovery frames. Level 1 and level 2 focus attacks have super armor during the charging but not during the swing (animation where charging stops and the actual attack begins, this will be referred to as the “swing”) while level 3 FA’s have armor up until the attack hits. Lvl 1 can only crumple stun on CH, lvl 2 can crumple stun on hit but is blockable, while lvl 3 is unblockable, crumple stuns on hit, and breaks armor. No focus attacks cause chip damage.
Just as some moves have super armor, the armor breaking property is hardcoded onto certain moves. This property is also given to reversal specials, but they ONLY affect moves that have super armor (i.e. FA’s and ex specials with armor). Reversal specials are those moves that are done as soon as you leave blockstun. Reversal specials are also attached to moves you do as soon as you get up after a knockdown. This does not affect moves that lose to armor breakers such as counter ultras. You can tell if a move has super armor if you attack and you hear glass shattering, sometimes moves will win but there will be no sound of glass shattering.
The crumple stun** is weird because for the first part (until they hit their knees), they are considered grounded, while the portion where they’re on their knees and falling toward the ground, they are considered airborne. Practically this means a couple of weird things like Zangief doing a lvl 3 focus attack and then tiger-kneeing a motion for Ultra 2 and it Focus Attack - Siberian Blizzard, Gen doing a focus attack and then following up with a late crane U1 or crane Super and it connecting is a way this can be used. This is also the reason why if you don’t do Balrog’s super/ultra 1 after a FA quick enough sometimes it’ll juggle and sometimes it’ll give the full grounded damage.
When an opponent begins a focus attack, they can only do one of two things: release and dash cancel (this can also be done during charging or after an attack hits or is blocked). Most normals and specials can be cancelled into focus attack and then they can be released or dash canceled. Forward dashes are faster than backdashes but backdashes have invincibility (e.g. you can backdash to avoid Claw’s Bloody High Claw). With those two ideas in mind: when it has super armor and an opponents options once they begin a focus attack; the FA has inherent weaknesses. An FA can be beat by 1) any attack that comes into contact with an opponent when it doesn’t have super armor, 2) reliably by an armor-breaking attack that hits when it has super armor, and 3) any grab if in range. Also because of the inherent use of dashing, a focus attack is also susceptible to anti-backdash attacks.
On block and hit (or absorb) a focus attack can be cancelled into a dash** or a taunt(lvl 1 absorb). When an FA is cancelled into a dash the recovery becomes the animation for the dash and the frame advantage after the attack is blocked/hit changes. Depending on the frame data of a characters FA and dash, they can be either very positive, or very negative on block. For example Chun-li and Dhalsim are at two opposite ends of the spectrum, After a lvl2 FA and forward dash Chun-li is +7, while Dhalsim is -10. By comparison there is only a single frame difference in the recovery of their FA, but the backdash makes all the difference (15 vs 32).
Also if a Focus attack hits you while you’re airborne (backdash included) you will be put in a juggle state where certain characters can follow-up with attacks. Lvl 1 puts you in a mild juggle state (similar to an AA TAP) while lvl3 rockets you across the stage. Abel for example can juggle an ex.fs from an ground-air lvl 1 FA and can juggle Ultra 1 from an ground-air lvl 3 FA.
The following are some practical applications of the Focus attack in regards to Balrog (and the whole cast to some degree):
Balrog has a 22 frame backdash and an 18 frame forward dash, after a blocked lvl2 FA and he cancels it into a forward dash, he’s +4. Thus lvl2 FA xx FADC cr.lp, st.lp xx lp.ds is in fact a blockstring. Chun’s do this OFTEN.
Punishing Some DP FADCs:
Some opponents have the option of guessing safely with 2-3 ex bars (2 bars with ryu, 3 bars with rufus), where they do a quick move with invincibility and fadc backdash. In most cases this makes a move completely safe even if their opponent blocks. With certain characters this simply makes the move safer, but not unpunishable. In general specials that are FADC-backdashed can be punished on block if their backdash is equal to or greater than 27 frames.
Applicable special move are:
[*]practically anything in the corner
Getting the full grounded punish will change according to the speed of their backdash and the recovery of the move. For example Ryu’s dp FADC backdash is really fast and needs to be punished with Ultra activated with kicks and the first hit be an upper, while Rufus ex.mk with flipkick follow-up fadc backdash can be hit with full grounded ultra activating with punches and holding punches even though they have the same backdash speed. In contrast to punishing Ryu and Rufus, Cammy’s cannon spike fadc backdash cannot be punished because her backdash is so fast (20 frames).
Make FA’s Whiff with headbutt:
A post was made a while back about why sometimes you headbutt FA’s and they get grey health, the move whiffs as you cross them up and then you can punish. What happens is that you headbutt when they have super armor and they release during this time (in an attempt to punish) and because of headbutts you’ve already cleared them, they miss you completely and go through the whiff animation as if they missed all together since you can only dash cancel while charging or after hit/block. Thus you have ample time to punish with a decent combo and cause considerable damage, the easiest followup being a throw, and the most damage with cl.hk etc.
This seems to work a bit more reliably with characters who have a decent amount of lean back in their animation and that characters who have FA’s that don’t have much horizontal range. This allows balrogs’s hurtbox to clear the FA’s hitbox early enough to not get tagged. Good examples are Balrog and Dictator.
Bison focus attack hitbox:
Balrog focus attack hitbox:
[Crumple Stun**], TAP, Ultra 1/Super
The reason this works is because balrogs TAP, when used as an anti-air, causes a juggle with the same properties as a headbutt and because the op is considered airborne during the crumple stun when the TAP connects, they are launched into the air and you can follow up with an Ultra or a super.
**Oiled Hakan can cancel a dash immediately into a normal click here for more info.
**Gen can parry/cancel into a stance change (which has 0 recovery frames) click here for more info.
**Crumple stun can be replaced by OH xx FA, CH lvl1/lvl2 FA, or lvl3 FA
**Dan has an exceptionally weird crumple stun animation, FA, TAP combo whiffs consistently
The usual disclaimer: IF something doesn’t seem right, point it out so i can correct or prove that it is.