Welcome to this lesson of the Turtle Hermit School! This lesson is focused on how to learn new characters.
Learning new characters is one of my favourite things to do but I see a lot of new players struggle to learn new characters unless they can find a guide on how to play them. Guides are a great resource but learning these things yourself as well is really important.
The main problem I see is prioritisation, I've had new players approach me and say "I've picked up [X new character] this morning and I can't find any assist combo extensions". Combo extensions are fun but are way down the list of your priorities. This lesson is going to be all about learning the ins and outs of any character in the game. You can then supplement this understanding with a guide.
Since we need a guinea pig and Kazunoko is the man, I'll be using Adult Gohan as an example. You should pick a character you're interested in and follow along with me.
Step 1: Push all the buttons
The most important part of learning a new character is to get familiar with all of there normal attacks and special attacks. Push all of the buttons and learn the speed and range of all of their attacks. This includes their lights, mediums, heavies, ki blasts and special moves. Most of these will change in the air so make sure you try them out.
You're looking for any move that strikes you as 'good', things to look out for include their fastest low, unusual overheads, long range normals, multi hitting attacks, attacks that leave you close to the opponent, attacks that move you away from your opponent and any invincible normals.
Identifying these can be pretty tricky and you'll likely miss something if this is your first time. You don't need to find everything yourself, you can watch high level play of your character or ask in a discord server (like the one linked at the bottom of the page, what a coincidence) to help you focus on good tools.
The characteristics that stand out to me with Adult Gohan are:
Long Range Normals
All of his normals, both on the ground and in the air have great range. His longest normal is his 2M and his longest light is 2L though his 5L has good range. His 5H is good but 2M is a better normal at range.
He has an easy and fast low with 5L and a long range overhead with 214L/M/H. This becomes full screen after using a level 1! His j.2S is a fast fall that lets him switch from overhead air attacks to fast lows very quickly.
His 2M slide allows him to approach and fish for a combo at the same time. His 2S on the ground gives him a great escape tool and neutral poke. His j.5S is used for the same purpose and is hard to super dash through.
Multi Hitting Specials
His j.236L/M/H attacks are multi hitting and last a long time. This makes it really easy to time assists for block pressure. You can transition to these easily with 2H > 236L/M/H. j.236H(hold) is active for a really long time and controls a lot of space.
Armed with this knowledge the next steps become a lot easier to do, you're priorities may be dependant on your playstyle but I'd recommend everyone follow this rough order.
Step 2: Find a simple, reliable combo
Next up we want to find the most basic, simplistic combo you can possibly find for your character. One so easy you can do it in your sleep. Most characters can use the universal combo: 5LL > 5M > 2M > 2H > SD > j.5LLL.
If you are familiar with the more advanced version you can use that instead: 5LL > 2M > 5M > jc > j.5LML > j.2H > SD > j.5LML > jc > j.5LLL. If your character can't do this combo, you'll want to experiment with skipping awkward normals or not using air 2H. This works just fine for Gohan so I'll stick with it. If you want to learn these then I'd recommend my guide on combos.
The important part is how you start the combo, by starting with 5M or 2M you can get a lot more damage but starting with 5L or 2L will be faster. Learning when to use one over the other and being able to combo off both is crucial. After landing an airborne attack on a grounded opponent, most characters can go straight into the 5L starter combo without losing any extra damage. The first hit of the combo decides most of the damage scaling.
Step 3: Staying safe when you get blocked
Now that we have an idea of how we'll be getting damage, we can use the same string to begin our block pressure. The idea is to use the same string every time, and make subtle changes when the attacks are blocked. This is called hit confirming from blockstrings and I cover it in more detail here:
For the purposes of this lesson, use the knowledge you gained in Step 1 to decide on a way to escape when they block your attacks. Gohan's 2S is a perfect normal for this as it's perfectly safe and gets him out of trouble. Most characters can use their 5S to keep the opponent busy and then backdash/jump backwards. Failing that, calling an assist will almost always keep you safe so long as you're close enough and time it right.
Step 4: deciding on neutral tools
I'll be covering the neutral game in more detail in the future but for the purposes of this lesson, use your knowledge from Step 1 to pick out some strong neutral tools.
Things to look out for include long range attacks, attacks that move your character forward/backward and anything you can follow up with vanish. A well timed vanish following an attack will cause a wall bounce into a combo (detailed below) or cause them to block the vanish, where they are at a disadvantage, your fastest normal should beat theirs.
You should also consider how your character's assist can be applied in the neutral. The loose rule is that long assists should be thrown out mid/full screen and then dashed up behind and short assists should be saved for block pressure or to convert a super dash into pressure.
Gohan's assist falls into the second category, SD > Gohan Assist > Forward Airdash > j.ML will convert into pressure for most characters. SD is a risk though so don't use it too much.
Gohan's core neutral tools are:
Long Range Normals
As mentioned above, his normals have excellent range and he can use them to safely approach. His air normals are also very good, his j.M is fast and has great range.
Beam attacks are excellent in the neutral, they control a lot of space and you can confirm into a combo or pressure with vanish. Gohan's 236S fills this role.
Retreating Ki Blast
His 2L on the ground and 5L in the air can be used to safely escape from danger and also fish for a vanish in the same way as his beam. It is also quite difficult to super dash through unless done quite early.
After a level 1, Gohan's 214L/M/H will teleport to your opponent anywhere on screen. It's very easy to overuse this move and it can often miss/be punished. Use very lightly as it can become a bad habit.
Step 5: Pick a Simple mixup
Dipping back into the lesson on pressure and mixups, your next step is to find a special you can connect into an assist. When you've got them blocking the assist, you can alternate between a small dash into your 5L string or a small dash into a dragon rush.
That mixup is as simple as they come but is used at all levels of play. Depending on your team, you may be able to get more complicated stuff. Try to find a way to Instant Air Dash into a j.H. You can then Dragon rush if they block or use your 5L combo route if it hits. Mixups are where most high level practice and experimentation goes, start simple and work up from there over time. This should be fine for now.
Gohan's got a great option for this mixup, using 2H > 236M leaves you close and gives you a long time to time your assist. All assists will let him do the above small mixup but a lot of assists will let him try for a crossup here.
Step 6: More combos
This is the final stage before the process opens up. Getting fancy assist conversions is a lot less important than comboing off as many situations as possible. We've already got our basic combos down, now we need to learn how to combo off vanish.
First off, the starters we can use are important to know, for Gohan the common starters are ki blasts, 236S and his reversal.
The combo for vanish is usually universal but it can depend on the height and the character. Most characters at most heights can do Starter > Vanish > Forward Dash > 5M > jc > j.LML > jc > j.LLL. Most characters can actually start that combo with 2M > 5M but it's a lot harder so let's keep it simple for now.
Step 7: Optimisation
This is where I'd recommend prioritising your learning based on your own shortcomings or preferences. From here on out, it's all about getting more and more complicated, more optimal and less predictable. Learning faster and stronger mixups is what I focus on at this point but it's up to you. Here are some things to learn in a rough order I'd recommend.
- Chaining multiple supers together for each member of your team
- Corner specific combos for extra damage
- Meaty timing
- Deflect follow up
- Staggered pressure (lesson coming soon)
- More mixups
- Assist specific neutral conversions (e.g. Gohan Assist > Super Dash)
- Assist extensions
- Any other high level character specific tech
Need some feedback or guidance?
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