I swear to you, I am good at Street Fighter IV. When I stopped playing online I had a win rate of over 60% in nearly 200 fights. In my opinion that is somewhat respectable. Naturally I had expected that my skill level would translate somewhat faithfully into the upgraded Super Steet Fighter IV. Well I was wrong. On my way to 100 fights online I have achieved the disgraceful success rate of just over 27%. I try my best to compete with the speed and strategy of my opponents and almost always come up short. Have I gotten worse? I honestly don't think so. I'm employing the same tactics, and I can pull off most moves (except for full circles and double angle charges) when required. From what I can see, two things have changed:
As previously discussed, the matchmaking system employed by SSFIV pairs you up with local combatants unless you insist on taking the fights to other regions. Now I find myself participating in fights without any hitches in connection and fighting a different breed of opponents. The increase (not exponential, but noticable) in the fidelity of the connection for almost all of the battles I have fought in has taken away any breathing space afforded by lag.
2) Changing attitudes, evolving strategies
I've been playing Street Fighter for nearly twenty years now, and each iteration has had it's own quirks and exploits. Further to that, my contemporaries have always employed similar (if not identical) tactics to my own. In Street Fighter II, it was all about heavy (fierce) hits and projectiles. If you weren't throwing hadoukens across the screen, you weren't winning. In Alpha 2 and 3, my eldest brother discovered medium strength attacks and the game changed somewhat, with an emphasis on speed. While special moves and heavies continued to rule, the smart player could engage in fast, close-quarters combat to try and even out the life bars after copping a super combo. In the VS series (X-Men VS Street Fighter, Marvel VS Capcom), success depended on your ability to super jump, land chains of light hits and build up your hyper combo meter. In one of the last 2D fighters I had the privilege to enjoy religiously with company, Capcom VS SNK 2 asked my fellow players and I to make several meaningful choices before we even got to lay our hands on each other. Choosing the amount of characters to fight with, and how powerful they would be (ratio) and then the gauge system you would fight with. Forcing your opponents into corners was a solid strategy which would often result in victory. Timing was also a key factor in any successful bout, with Dramatic KOs being the order of the day. In Street Fighter IV, I earned many wins by pinning opponents to the ground with projectiles. Aiming to have players land on hadoukens after jumping, or colliding with them after they rose from the floor (after being knocked down).
With Super Street Fighter IV, players have taken to the following: (what I have dubbed) ultra juggles, throws (so many throws), light hits and light special moves. An ultra juggle happens when a player knocks me off my feet, forcing me into the air slightly, then unleashing an ultra combo. It's a usually a light special (such as a shoryuken) which forces me up, and then I will have a nice, big projectile waiting for me on the way down. I am often a victim of throw spamming (I know, I'm a bad sport). Its not like I am turtling though. For those of you who don't know, to turtle is to block for the majority of a bout. I could be midway through a Sumo Headbutt, only to be intercepted and thrown. It completely destroys my momentum and my enthusiasm. Finally, the reason why players are using light hits is obvious: they're fast, you are less vulnerable to counterattack and light hits get priority over a great many moves. I can't adapt though, I'm playing just as I did when I played Street Fighter IV. It is a different game, and my usual tactics just do not work anymore.
The only saving grace is hitting with a Metsu Shoryuken, it is the most visually stunning super move in the franchises storied history. It is animated so well, and the sound of your opponents jaw crumbling is enough sweetness to help swallow those bitter defeats.
What is your favourite fighting game? Have you ever found that your strategies don't carry over to a sequel?