The inane argument of "Which style is the best?" is almost as prevalent in Street Fighter as it is in real life. The big difference is, in real life some styles do have quantifiable advantages over others in certain circumstances, and there are in fact some styles that you would quickly dismiss as viable options for a realistic combat system. In the Street Fighter Storytelling Game, the all-overpowering concept of game balance mandates that there be no superior style, or even styles no one would ever take, because it subtracts from variety and interest in the gaming experience if everyone eventually just practices Uber Style X and uses Maneuver Y.

Really getting an easy to understand comparison of the styles as presented in the various books is problematic.  There are some cases where a certain style seems like it has a very big advantage in the ring, based on intelligent pklayer tactics, but another style seems to have the edge in ass-kicking numbercrunched maneuvers, while some styles rely on "variety," which is another way of saying that you will probably suck, but have a larger pool of sucking methods to choose from.  For this study, let’s consider only the "defining maneuvers" of the styles.

Definitions

A "defining maneuver" is a maneuver which is available to the style in question at the lowest cost available.  These are the maneuvers which are the hallmarks of the style, and the ones a player is most likely to learn within it.  Players who design a character with a certain maneuver in mind will naturally choose the style that offers the best deal on it, and as the character progresses the player will choose the maneuvers which are the most cost-efficient.  Nobody ever chooses Kung Fu because they specifically want the Dragon Punch.

A "desirable defining maneuver" is a defining maneuver within the style that people base their designs around.  This typically means high-powered attack maneuvers with a high power point cost; although the Buffalo Punch is pretty good, anybody can get it for 2 points (and does), and so the fact that NA Wrestling gives you a break on it isn’t an influential factor in choosing a style.  It also ignores maneuvers which are typically useless (i.e. Esquives) and maneuvers which are weaker version of other maneuvers (i.e. Hundred Hand Slap or Flying Body Spear).

A "unique defining maneuver" is the first thing a prospective stylist will look at.  These are defining maneuvers that are shared by no other styles, and if one of these maneuvers happens to be in the player’s calculating little mind, this makes his style choice easy.

In these comparisons, when looking for the cheapest maneuver associated with a style I also take into consideration the point costs for all prerequisites, so although Kabbadi and Shotokan Karate may both buy Inferno Strike for 5, the cost of the prerequisite maneuver Improved Fireball is 3 for Shotokan and 5 for Kabbadi, so Inferno Strike is not a defining move for Kabbadi.  In any weird cases, I just total the number of points for the maneuver and all prerequisite maneuvers.  In all cases I don’t bother to list the maneuvers which are available to everyone at a single cost.

Let’s look at the various styles from the perspective of the basic rules on their own, then in total with all supplements.

Basic Rulebook
 

Style Defining Maneuvers Desirable Defining Maneuvers Unique Defining Maneuvers Unique Desirable Defining Maneuvers
Boxing Dashing Punch, Dashing Uppercut, Fist Sweep, Head Butt, Hyper Fist, Turn Punch, Deflecting Punch, Brain Cracker, Head Bite, Head Butt Hold, Jumping Shoulder Butt Hyper Fist, Turn Punch, Head Bite Dashing Punch, Dashing Uppercut, Turn Punch, Head Bite, Jumping Shoulder Butt Turn Punch, Head Bite
Capoeira Head Butt, Backflip Kick, Double-Hit Knee, Forward Flip Knee, Back Roll Throw, Knee Basher, Beast Roll, Rolling Attack, Vertical Rolling Attack, Musical Accompaniment Rolling Attack, Beast Roll Double-Hit Knee, Beast Roll, Musical Accompaniment Beast Roll
Kabbadi Head Butt, Slide Kick, Energy Reflection, San He, Brain Cracker, Head Butt Hold, Flying Body Spear, Chi Kung Healing, Cobra Charm, Extendible Limbs, Fireball, Ghost Form, Regeneration, Repeating Fireball, Yoga Flame, Yoga Teleport, Mind Reading, Telepathy Repeating Fireball, Yoga Flame Flying Body Spear, Cobra Charm, Extendible Limbs, Regeneration, Yoga Flame, Yoga Teleport, Mind Reading, Telepathy Yoga Flame
Kung Fu Dim Mak, Monkey Grab Punch, Rekka Ken, Double-Hit Kick, Dragon Kick, Stepping Front Kick, Deflecting Punch, Maka Wara, San He, Hair Throw, Drunken Monkey Roll, Chi Kung Healing, Zen No-Mind Dim Mak, Rekka Ken, Dragon Kick, Zen No-Mind Dim Mak, Monkey Grab Punch, Rekka Ken, Dragon Kick, Stepping Front Kick, Drunken Monkey Roll, Zen No-Mind Dim Mak, Rekka Ken, Dragon Kick, Zen No-Mind
Native American Wrestling Buffalo Punch, Ear Pop, Shockwave, Wounded Knee, Air Throw, Back Breaker, Bear Hug, Brain Cracker, Grappling Defense, Iron Claw, Neck Choke, Stomach Pump, Storm Hammer, Suplex, Thigh Press, Air Smash, Diving Hawk, Thunderstrike, Ghost Form, Thunderclap Iron Claw, Stomach Pump Buffalo Punch, Shockwave, Storm Hammer, Diving Hawk, Thunderstrike, Thunderclap N/A
Sanbo Ear Pop, Spinning Clothesline, Turbo Spinning Clothesline, Double-Hit Kick, Air Throw, Back Breaker, Bear Hug, Brain Cracker, Grappling Defense, Iron Claw, Pile Driver, Siberian Bear Crusher, Siberian Suplex, Spinning Pile Driver, Stomach Pump, Suplex, Thigh Press, Air Smash Iron Claw, Stomach Pump Spinning Clothesline, Turbo Spinning Clothesline, Pile Driver, Siberian Bear Crusher, Siberian Suplex, Spinning Pile Driver N/A
Shotokan Karate Dragon Punch, Flaming Dragon Punch, Air Hurricaine Kick, Foot Sweep, Hurricaine Kick, Maka Wara, Energy Reflection, Back Roll Throw, Fireball, Flying Fireball, Improved Fireball, Inferno Strike, Repeating Fireball, Stunning Shout Dragon Punch, Flaming Dragon Punch, Improved Fireball, Repeating Fireball Dragon Punch, Flaming Dragon Punch, Air Hurricaine Kick, Hurricaine Kick, Flying Fireball, Improved Fireball, Inferno Strike Dragon Punch, Flaming Dragon Punch, Improved Fireball
Special Forces Spinning Backfist, Spinning Knuckle, Flash Kick, Flying Knee Thrust, Flying Thrust Kick, Foot Sweep, Handstand Kick, Spinning Foot Sweep, Air Throw, Hair Throw, Knee Basher, Neck Choke, Thigh Press, Cannon Drill Flying Thrust Kick, Cannon Drill Spinning Knuckle, Flash Kick, Flying Thrust Kick, Cannon Drill Flying Thrust Kick, Cannon Drill
Sumo Wrestling Head Butt, Hundred Hand Slap, Ear Pop, Foot Sweep, Double-Hit Kick, Spinning Foot Sweep, Maka Wara, San He, Knee Basher, Air Smash, Flying Head Butt, Stunning Shout, Toughskin N/A Hundred Hand Slap, Flying Head Butt, Toughskin N/A
Western Kickboxing Fist Sweep, Hyper Fist, Spinning Backfist, Double Dread Kick, Double-Hit Kick, Flying Knee Thrust, Slide Kick, Wounded Knee, Deflecting Punch, Back Roll Throw, Brain Cracker, Knee Basher Hyper Fist, Double Dread Kick Double Dread Kick Double Dread Kick
Wu Shu Backflip Kick, Double-Hit Kick, Great Wall of China, Forward Flip Knee, Handstand Kick, Lightning Leg, Whirlwind Kick, San He, Air Throw, Back Roll Throw, Flying Heel Stomp, Rolling Attack, Vertical Rolling Attack, Wall Spring Lightning Leg, Rolling Attack Great Wall of China, Lightning Leg, Whirlwind Kick, Flying Heel Stomp, Wall Spring Lightning Leg

Overall not too horrible… there are some styles which are obviously better off from a numbercrunching perspective, namely Shotokan Karate (especially Shotokan Karate), Special Forces, and Kung Fu.

Western Kickboxing seems to have a raw deal until you consider that it also has the best break on Hyper Fist, one of the crunchiest of all maneuvers, thus defining it as "DD Kick and Hyper Fist Style."

NA Wrestling seems deceptively good until you realize that nobody has ever actually pulled off a Storm Hammer due to its low low speed, and the only really good manuever that uniquely defines it is… Buffalo Punch, the maneuver everybody buys as a 2 pointer "any."

Sumo has always been the weakest maneuver-wise… nobody makes a sumotori with the wide-eyed dream that someday he waill achieve the wonders of the Hundred Hand Slap (a Hyper Fist at -3 speed) or the Flying Head Butt.  Sumotori just pump up their physical attributes and buy Buffalo Punch.

Also note that Boxing, while it has a less than stellar list of maneuvers (the Turn Punch is good but hard to set up) gives the player the advantage of never having to buy Kick technique.

As far as NA Wrestling and Sanbo, the two basic rulebook "grappling" styles, it’s generally been a toss-up as to which you get, since it didn’t make much of a difference.  You get NA Wrestling if you want a cheap Buffalo Punch to start with, you get Sanbo to start with 6 willpower.

Then came the supplements.

All Rulebooks
 

Style Defining Maneuvers Desirable Defining Maneuvers Unique Defining Maneuvers Unique Desirable Defining Maneuvers
Aikido Foot Sweep, Slide Kick, Spinning Foot Sweep, Deflecting Punch, Improved Pin, Pin, Fireball, Repeating Fireball Improved Pin, Repeating Fireball N/A N/A
Animal Hybrid Eye Rake, Head Bite, Jaw Spin, Ripping Bite, Tearing Bite, Dragon’s Tail, Pounce, Tail Sweep, Typhoon Tail, Upper Tail Strike, Venom Ripping Bite Head Bite, Jaw Spin, Ripping Bite, Tearing Bite, Dragon’s Tail, Pounce, Tail Sweep, Typhoon Tail, Upper Tail Strike, Venom Ripping Bite
Baraqah Ear Pop, Monkey Grab Punch, Spinning Backfist, Foot Sweep, Wounded Knee, Deflecting Punch, Maka Wara, Dislocate Limb N/A N/A N/A
Boxing Dashing Punch, Dashing Uppercut, Fist Sweep, Head Butt, Hyper Fist, Lunging Punch, Turn Punch, Deflecting Punch, Brain Cracker, Head Bite, Head Butt Hold, Jumping Shoulder Butt Hyper Fist, Turn Punch, Head Bite Dashing Uppercut N/A
Capoeira Head Butt, Backflip Kick, Cartwheel Kick, Double-Hit Knee, Forward Backflip Kick, Forward Flip Knee, Dislocate Limb, Knee Basher, Backflip, Beast Roll, Rolling Attack, Tumbling Attack, Vertical Rolling Attack, Musical Accompaniment Beast Roll, Rolling Attack Beast Roll, Musical Accompaniment Beast Roll
Elemental (Air) Air Blast, Elemental Skin, Elemental Stride, Flight, Heal, Lightness, Push, Sense Element, Vaccuum Flight Air Blast, Flight, Lightness, Push, Vaccuum Flight
Elemental (Earth) Elemental Skin, Elemental Stride, Heal, Pit, Sense Element, Stone, Wall, Weight N/A Pit, Stone, Wall, Weight N/A
Elemental (Fire) Elemental Skin, Elemental Stride, Fire Strike, Flaming Fist, Heal, Heatwave, Sense Element, Spontaneous Combustion Fire Strike, Flaming Fist, Spontaneous Combustion Fire Strike, Flaming Fist, Heatwave Fire Strike, Flaming Fist, Spontaneous Combustion
Elemental (Water) Drain, Drench, Elemental Skin, Elemental Stride, Envelop, Heal, Sense Element N/A Drain, Drench, Pool N/A
Jeet Kune Do Ear Pop, Monkey Grab Punch, Backflip Kick, Flying Knee Thrust, Foot Sweep, Scissor Kick, Stepping Front Kick, Maka Wara, Backflip, Drunken Monkey Roll, Light Feet, Wall Spring Scissor Kick N/A N/A
Jiu Jitsu Ear Pop, Foot Sweep, Spinning Foot Sweep, Deflecting Punch, Missile Reflection, Air Throw, Back Breaker, Back Roll Throw, Grappling Defense, Hair Throw, Improved Pin, Neck Choke, Pin, Stomach Pump, Suplex, Thigh Press, Throw, Breakfall Grappling Defense, Improved Pin, Stomach Pump Air Throw, Back Roll Throw, Grappling Defense, Hair Throw, Throw, Breakfall Grappling Defense
Kabbadi Head Butt, Slide Kick, Brain Cracker, Head Butt Hold, Flying Body Spear, Cobra Charm, Extendible Limbs, Fireball, Ghost Form, Leech, Mind Reading, Regeneration, Repeating Fireball, Telepathy, Yoga Flame, Yoga Teleport Repeating Fireball, Yoga Flame Flying Body Spear, Cobra Charm, Extendible Limbs, Regeneration, Yoga Flame, Yoga Teleport Yoga Flame
Kung Fu Knife Hand Strike, Monkey Grab Punch, Rekka Ken, Double-Hit Kick, Dragon Kick, Stepping Front Kick, Deflecting Punch, Maka Wara, Drunken Monkey Roll Rekka Ken, Dragon Kick Rekka Ken Rekka Ken
Ler Drit Ducking Fierce, Forward Slide Kick, Scissor Kick, Slide Kick, Flying Heel Stomp, Flying Punch, Mind Control, Mind Reading, Psychic Rage, Psychic Vise, Psycho Crusher, Psychokinetic Channeling, Telepathy Scissor Kick, Psycho Crusher Flying Punch, Mind Control, Psychic Rage, Psychic Vise, Psycho Crusher, Psychokinetic Channeling Psycho Crusher
Lua Double-Hit Knee, Wounded Knee, Dislocate Limb, Eye Rake, Improved Pin, Iron Claw, Pin, Sleeper, Light Feet Improved Pin, Iron Claw N/A N/A
Majestic Crow Kung Fu Hundred Hand Slap, Monkey Grab Punch, Triple Strike, Double Dread Kick, Double-Hit Kick, Flash Kick, Stepping Front Kick, Iron Claw, Rising Storm Crow, Air Smash, Flying Heel Stomp, Wall Spring Double Dread Kick, Iron Claw, Rising Storm Crow Triple Strike, Rising Storm Crow Rising Storm Crow
Native American Wrestling Buffalo Punch, Ear Pop, Heart Punch, Shockwave, Wounded Knee, Back Breaker, Bear Hug, Brain Cracker, Face Slam, Iron Claw, Neck Choke, Sleeper, Stomach Pump, Storm Hammer, Suplex, Thigh Press, Air Smash, Diving Hawk, Thunderstrike, Ghost Form, Thunderclap Iron Claw, Stomach Pump Shockwave, Thunderclap N/A
Ninjitsu Boshi-Ken, Shikan-Ken, Shuto, Heel Stamp, Disengage, Dislocate Limb, Eye Rake, Hair Throw, Flying Heel Stomp, Rolling Attack, Vertical Rolling Attack, Wall Spring, Balance, Death’s Visage, Entrancing Cobra, Leech, Sakki, Shrouded Moon Rolling Attack Boshi-Ken, Shikan-Ken, Shuto, Heel Stamp, Disengage, Death’s Visage, Entrancing Cobra, Sakki, Shrouded Moon N/A
The Pankration Buffalo Punch, Ducking Fierce, Ear Pop, Fist Sweep, Head Butt, Spinning Backfist, Double-Hit Knee, Flying Knee Thrust, Foot Sweep, Slide Kick, Wounded Knee, Maka Wara, Back Breaker, Bear Hug, Brain Cracker, Dislocate Limb, Knee Basher, Pin, Stomach Pump, Suplex, Air Smash, Flying Heel Stomp, Ground Fighting, Thunderstrike Stomach Pump Ground Fighting N/A
Sanbo Ear Pop, Heart Punch, Spinning Clothesline, Turbo Spinning Clothesline, Back Breaker, Bear Hug, Brain Cracker, Iron Claw, Pile Driver, Siberian Bear Crusher, Siberian Suplex, Sleeper, Spinning Pile Driver, Stomach Pump, Suplex, Thigh Press, Air Smash Iron Claw, Stomach Pump Spinning Clothesline, Turbo Spinning Clothesline, Pile Driver, Siberian Bear Crusher, Siberian Suplex N/A
Savate Dashing Punch, Spinning Backfist, Turn Punch, Ax Kick, Double-Hit Kick, Reverse Frontal Kick, Slide Kick, Deflecting Punch, Displacement, Esquives N/A Ax Kick, Displacement, Esquives N/A
Shotokan Karate Dragon Punch, Flaming Dragon Punch, Knife Hand Strike, Lunging Punch, Air Hurricaine Kick, Foot Sweep, Hurricaine Kick, Maka Wara, Fireball, Flying Fireball, Improved Fireball, Inferno Strike, Repeating Fireball, Stunning Shout Dragon Punch, Flaming Dragon Punch, Improved Fireball, Repeating Fireball Dragon Punch, Flaming Dragon Punch, Air Hurricaine Kick, Hurricaine Kick, Flying Fireball, Improved Fireball, Inferno Strike Dragon Punch, Flaming Dragon Punch, Improved Fireball
Silat Monkey Grab Punch, Double-Hit Kick, Dragon Kick, Stepping Front Kick, Deflecting Punch, Maka Wara, Iron Claw, Sonic Boom Dragon Kick Sonic Boom N/A
Spanish Ninjitsu Monkey Grab Punch, Backflip Kick, Cartwheel Kick, Forward Backflip Kick, Slide Kick, Air Suplex, Choke Throw, Suplex, Backflip, Diving Hawk, Flying Heel Stomp, Light Feet, Tumbling Attack, Wall Spring N/A Air Suplex, Choke Throw N/A
Special Forces Spinning Backfist, Spinning Knuckle, Flash Kick, Flying Knee Thrust, Flying Thrust Kick, Foot Sweep, Handstand Kick, Spinning Foot Sweep, Hair Throw, Knee Basher, Neck Choke, Suplex, Thigh Press, Cannon Drill Flying Thrust Kick, Cannon Drill Flying Thrust Kick, Spinning Knuckle, Cannon Drill Flying Thrust Kick, Cannon Drill
Sumo Wrestling Ear Pop, Head Butt, Hundred Hand Slap, Double-Hit Kick, Foot Sweep, Spinning Foot Sweep, Maka Wara, Bear Hug, Face Slam, Head Butt Hold, Knee Basher, Air Smash, Flying Head Butt, Stunning Shout, Toughskin N/A Flying Head Butt, Toughskin N/A
Tai Chi Chuan Dim Mak, Monkey Grab Punch, Foot Sweep, Slide Kick, Spinning Foot Sweep, Deflecting Punch, Energy Reflection, Missile Reflection, San He, Pin, Chi Kung Healing, Chi Push, Zen No-Mind Dim Mak, Zen No-Mind Dim Mak, Energy Reflection, San He, Chi Kung Healing, Chi Push, Zen No-Mind Dim Mak, Zen No-Mind
Thai Kickboxing Elbow Smash, Turn Punch, Double Dread Kick, Double-Hit Kick, Flying Knee Thrust, Foot Sweep, Stepping Front Kick, Tiger Knee, Wounded Knee, Maka Wara, Brain Cracker, Head Butt Hold, Knee Basher, Jumping Shoulder Butt Double Dread Kick, Tiger Knee Elbow Smash, Tiger Knee Tiger Knee
Western Kickboxing Fist Sweep, Hyper Fist, Lunging Punch, Spinning Backfist, Double Dread Kick, Double-Hit Kick, Flying Knee Thrust, Reverse Frontal Kick, Slide Kick, Wounded Knee, Deflecting Punch, Brain Cracker, Knee Basher Hyper Fist, Double Dread Kick N/A N/A
Wrestling Ear Pop, Back Breaker, Bear Hug, Brain Cracker, Improved Pin, Iron Claw, Knee Basher, Neck Choke, Pin, Spinning Pile Driver, Stomach Pump, Storm Hammer, Suplex, Thigh Press, Air Smash Improved Pin, Iron Claw, Stomach Pump N/A N/A
Wu Shu Backflip Kick, Cartwheel Kick, Forward Backflip Kick, Forward Flip Knee, Great Wall of China, Handstand Kick, Lightning Leg, Whirlwind Kick, Backflip, Flying Heel Stomp, Rolling Attack, Vertical Rolling Attack, Wall Spring, Balance Great Wall of China, Lightning Leg, Rolling Attack Great Wall of China, Lightning Leg, Whirlwind Kick Lightning Leg

The only styles which are relatively unharmed by the addition of the supplements are Shotokan Karate (hey, it’s Ryu’s sacred cow style), Kabbadi (where most defining maneuvers blow anyway), and Wu Shu (Chun Li’s sacred cow style).

Kung Fu takes it up the ass as its maneuvers are handed out to everyone and everyone, in styles with such insane crunches as Improved Pin to boot.

Take a look at The Pankration.  Sure it’s thin on unique defining maneuevers, but it’s got everything cheap and crunchy from NA wrestling, plus others, at super low costs.  Same with Wrestling.  Why would you ever take Sanbo when you could take Wrestling and get most of the good maneuevers, none of the useless ones, and the added bonus of the hyper powerful Improved Pin?

Conclusion

It’s my opinion that the people who formulated the styles in Contenders were more interested in the marketing appeal of "One jillion new fighting styles!" than balance or playability.  Most of the styles, especially the obscure ones which looked too hard to research, could have been left out and nobody would have cared.  They simply looked it up in a martial arts encyclopaedia and assigned some arbitrary maneuvers, in the process watering down the flavor of such special maneuvers as Zen No-Mind and Maka Wara.  Many of the "new styles" are more or less clones of Kung Fu, especially Silat, beter known as "Sonic Boom Kung Fu."  Lua is almost unrecognizable as a distinct style.  Maneuver list looks thin?  Just add Improved Pin!

The Zen No-Mind factor is particularly disturbing.  Yes, Tai Chi Chuan gets it for 2, which seems appropriate, but consider that Tai Chi Chuan (1) starts with 1 willpower, and (2) has no sicko slow honking damage maneuvers, which is what you want to have on the table for Zen No-Mind.  Now consider that whereas ZNM used to only give a 3 point break to Kung Fu, there are now seven styles that get it for 3 points.  Why in the world would Thai Kickboxing, a notoriously external art, get Zen No-Mind?  The authors simply had no imagination.  My personal theory is that the authors, obviously poor players (as evidenced by their horrible errors in the Player’s Guide) erroneously figured it was a poor maneuever, a common mistake among inexperienced players, and simply decided to have a big Zen No-Mind yard sale.

Another big problem is the writers’ inclination to leave the video game mindset and try to be too real-world about the new fighting styles.  Savate in particular is noticeably horrible, its relative weakness in special maneuvers (growing from a desire to make it seem realistic) being balanced out by retarded rules about special shoes.  The inclusion of Jeet Kune Do is also odd… as presented, it’s a style with lots of crunchy maneuvers to choose from, at absurd costs.  Wouldn’t it be easier to leave it alone and just introduce it into the campaign as a philosophy of certain fighters, in accordance with Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Lee himself?

In short, the writers of the supplements (and Contenders in particular) could have presented far fewer styles and made them distinct, instead of adding tons of carbon copies.  The only purpose now in looking through styles is to narrow down a specific numbercrunch, like Silat’s infamous Zen No-Mind Sonic Boom.  With a little imagination and some liberal application of "any" maneuevers, players and GM’s can have the same subtle nuances in their fighters without resorting to making up a whole new "style" without thinking it through, lending stupid imbalance and confusion to what is an elegant and unique gaming system.

2 Responses to “Street Fighter Style Analysis, or Why Supplements Suck”
  1. There actually are some internal aspects to traditional Thai Kickboxing. But Zen No Mind still contradicts a martial art which dictates that offense is the best defense.

    Even in terms of game mechanics it’s stupid since That Kickboxers have access to Tiger Knee and Elbow Smash which are vital tools to any speed freak. Why would you want to wait to the end of turn when you got the single fastest maneuver in the game in your arsenal?

  2. What I want to know is pretty simple: did anyone ever create a Saikyo (Dan Hibiki’s form) for this game? My friends and I want to run it, but strangely enough that’s part of what we want to see.

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