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Persona 4 Arena

Updated at 6:20 p.m. Pacific with corrected video timestamps and on May 5 with updated information on Page 3.

Everything is subject to desensitization. In professional wrestling, a leg drop was once a finishing maneuver. Then it became a basic part of many wrestlers’ tool kits, so now they have to do the leg drop from the top rope or off a ladder to stand out. Eventually someone says “Screw it: I’m going to do a leg drop off the top of the Titantron!

Fighting game supermoves have undergone a similar transformation. What were once merely enhanced versions of special moves are now extended showcases of flashing lights, bone-shattering blows, and dynamic camera angles. Let’s take a look at the evolution of these ultimate attacks and find out how we’ve come to this point.

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Note: I’m counting the length of the supermove from the moment the move activates (the “superflash”) to the moment the character can move freely again. For Fatalities and Instant Kills that automatically end the round, I’m counting the moment the move activates to first indication of the KO screen.

The Street Fighter Super Combo

Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Chun-Li’s Senretsukyaku:
1.5 seconds

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AUdg24T5vQ&start=63]

Back in the day, the First Lady of Fighting Games’ Senretsukyaku (Super Lightning Legs) lasts barely more than a second if it connects.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike: Chun-Li’s Houyoku-Sen: 2.9 seconds

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_1-4FozgJc&start=69]

Super Combos were a big hit, so the World Warriors got more of them in the Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter III series. This barrage of kicks takes twice as long as the original version, as Chun-Li now takes time to sting her foes with both legs and a straight-up thrust kick. I guess that’s why it has a different name from before. But it’s still fairly brief.

Street Fighter IV: Chun-Li’s Hosenka: 8.1 seconds

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtRVQQ2aKu4]

In the SF4 games, landing the new, glossier Ultra Combos takes greater priority over mere Super Combos. The posing Chun-Li does before and after her Hosenka are about as long as the attack itself, and other Ultra Combos give people enough time to mimic the motions before returning to play without any problems. What happened?