I usually get a lot of questions when it comes to grapplers. "But what about Zangief? How could you possibly play Zangief?" If I'm giving demos at an event, eyes light up and I get unprofessionally giddy. I LOVE ZANGIEF!
Hit Box techniques with grapplers are one of the most unique, rewarding, misunderstood, and underutilized tools. In fact, these strategies reinvent Zangief in a whole new perspective. He is no longer just "Zangief." He transcends to Hit Box Zangief.
So with that said, let me share with you my knowledge of the powerful tools you can add to your arsenal on Hit Box!
How 360s Work on Hit Box
Grapple motions in Street Fighter follow some very peculiar rules:
First: As a circular motion, 360's are not actually 360°, they are 270°. This means you do not need to roll a complete circle, only a 3/4 turn.
Second: The game only looks for cardinal directions (Up / Down / Left / Right). No diagonal directions are required for the motion.
Third: You do not need to hit these directions in any particular order.
With these three rules we are able utilize powerful techniques. It is more than an input shortcut; it is an entirely new playstye in its own right. Welcome to Hit Box Zangief.
Take your index finger and let it rip! By sliding our Index Finger we are skipping all of the diagonals! This is the fastest way possible to input an SPD.
Slide Right, Down, Left
Up + Punch (Right Hand Thumb and Index)
For all of these grapple techniques we will be using our right thumb for the Jump (Up) button. It let us you slide like crazy and still time the finish perfectly!
P1 side and P2 side have the exact same input. We are still hitting all four cardinal directions, so it doesn't matter which side you are on.
Instantly SPD from crouch.
This technique is so blindingly fast that you can access it any time in the neutral when it's time for hugs.
Now things are getting interesting! Getting in with Zangief can take an entire round, so you do not want to miss your brief window to capitalize the opportunity. In this part I am going to show you three critical ways to have your piledrivers automatically at the ready before you have even decided to throw or not.
Walking backwards and forward is actually our first two inputs of our piledriver (Left and Right)!
[Left / Right] Shimmy
Down -> Up + Punch (Down into Down + Up + Punch)
This can also be input rapidly as
Up + Punch
Down + Up gives you an SOCD Up input. On a Hit Box, Up always beats Down, so you just need to add the Jump (Up) button with your thumb.
Up + Punch
Rolling a quick Quarter Circle Back sneaks in our first two inputs: Down and Back, and when we begin walking forward we now have 3 out of the 4 cardinal directions buffered up and ready to go.
To finish the SPD simply add Up + Punch before your buffer window runs out (20 frames or so). It does not matter that you end with a diagonal, the game still accepts it as a 360 motion.
So if you want to approach you can recycle [QCB, walk Forward] over and over again to refresh your piledriver buffer. And then when that magic moment arises, you simply finish the motion in one frame.
Walk into Crouch Block Buffer
Back -> Down (hold) (tap Back into crouch block)
Forward -> Up + Punch (SOCD (Left)Down(Right) -> SOCD Up)
This one is the most complicated, but it is absolutely amazing!
Instead of approaching into a crouch block, we are sneaking an extra cardinal direction into our neutral game to queue up a grapple. By crouch blocking with Back into Down-Back, we now have Forward and Back buffered into our crouch block.
From this point we have our buffer frames to decide whether or not we want to commit to a grapple. If your opponent also decided to block or whiffed a normal and stuck out a juicy hurtbox, we now can instantly finish our grab motion with cunning use of SOCDs.
By adding Forward to our crouch block we are using SOCD Neutral. On Hit Box Left + Right cancel each other out to neutral; so Left + Down + Right gives us only a Down direction.
By adding Up to this we are now holding all 4 cardinal directions. On Hit Box Up > Down, and Left + Right = Neutral; so Left + Right + Down + Up gives us a single Up input.
Confused? Do not worry about it! Nobody wants math class right now. All you need to know is that it works. So give it a try! In 2 frames you can go from crouch block into a SPD without hesitation. The buffer window is just enough time to react and make sure that they are blocking.
720s require practice. There is no way around it. The motion I am recommending feels super awkward at first, but when you practice and develop the muscle memory, it is unparalleled. To prove my point, here is a standing 720:
You see how fast that was????!!!! This is just a demonstration. Do not worry about learning Standing 720s. (But I'll teach you how to do them anyways later.)
Slide left, Jump, Slide right, punch. We are not actually doing circles at all.
Slide (Right, Down, Left) (index finger)
Up (tap) (right thumb)
Slide (Left, Down, Right) (index finger)
It is very important that you are on and off of the Jump button instantly. It has to be a very quick tap. It is the hardest part to learn of the Slide 720. The quicker you are on and off of the Up Direction, the better and faster you can slide. If you are on the Up too long, you might be sliding back at the same time and muddle up your inputs.
I am not sliding very fast in this demonstration. Begin your grapple quest with slow and confident motions. Build off of this positive reinforcement! It is very important to build the right muscle memory so that you can eventually develop blinding speed.
To avoid accidentally jumping, 720's are commonly hidden within the animations and recovery of other moves. In this case we are sliding our inputs within a Forward Dash.
Not only will this prevent accidental jumps, it will also give you a good amount of time to slide out a smooth 720. Remember, you have the entire Dash animation to complete the motion.
This is the best practical setup for implementing 720's into your game plan.
Tick throws are a common strategy to catch your opponent off guard when they are expecting a full block string or frame traps.
By throwing out a jab to check our opponent's guard, we're also providing a recovery animation to hide our 720 input and still keep us from accidentally jumping. This setup has less recovery time, so it is the next level of increasing your grapple speed and confidence.
Now we are into the extra curriculum. The final form of grappling is completing the motion raw with no setup required. Standing 720's are so fast that you finish your 720 before the Up input jumps you off the ground.
Note: I do not recommend even trying to do this until you are extremely confident in your Slide 720s (above). It is ridiculously hard. Getting your first Standing 720 will take hours and days of practice.
This is the exact same motion as the Slide 720, but we need frame-perfect sliding.
However, the hardest part is not the slide motion, it's being on and off the Jump button instantly.
Striking the Jump Button:
Pressing and releasing a button in one frame is difficult. If you don't release the button fast enough, your slide will give you diagonal inputs and your super will not come out -- subsequently making you jump or throw a normal 360.
If you think in terms of pressing-and-releasing a button, you're already too slow. Pay extra attention to how you press the Up button.
Think about it as one step: POP. Slap that Jump button and springboard off of the ricochet. I also tend to hit the Up button towards the outer rim and pull my thumb away while still passing through the button.
Now that you know it's a critical piece of the motion, experiment and see what makes the most sense to you. Ultimately, it's just hard.
But then there's the dream. When you have this in your arsenal, your opponent is terrified. A 720 can happen any time you have meter at any given moment. Every buffered setup they are trained to watch out for is now out the window.
If you are going to attempt to learn Standing 720s, be sure to take breaks and stretch your hands. I repeat: This is likely the hardest single motion in fighting games. Even as a challenge to get one, it's not for the faint of heart.
But I believe in the dream, and I believe in you! This is the potential of Hit Box Zangief.