I’ve started playing Abel seriously as an alternate to Ryu, I say alternate, but I’ve been playing him fairly exclusively this past week. He’s a good change of pace from Ryu, and the approach is completely different. Where shotos excel at zoning you out and spacing for anti-airs, Abel’s game involves up-close mixups, combined with command throws and a roll that bypasses most attacks. His anti-air game is pretty weak, though. He has a throw that catches jumping opponents, but the timing and angle that it comes out at causes it to miss most of the time.
Abel is pretty challenging to use, as he has no basic “safe” strategy, unlike say Ryu who can throw fireballs, and shoryuken his opponent out of the air when he tries to jump. Ryu can win matches using almost nothing but cr.mk into fireball, and shoryuken. Abel doesn’t really work that way. Instead his game is based on reacting to the opponents actions and punishing their mistakes. And at intermediate to higher levels you really need to get into your opponents head and condition him into playing in a way that Abel can punish him at will. Many players call this using mindgames.
Here’s an example. Say Abel knocks down his opponent. As the opponent gets up he can:
1. Stay back a bit and sweep the opponent, as his sweep has deceptively long range
2. Use a Wheel Kick, which must be blocked high, alternate with sweep to mix it up
3. Dash in and use either regular Tornado Throw, which beats counter-throws, or EX TT, which beats most attacks
4. Roll behind the enemy, and attack from the back
5. Jump over the enemy and go for a crossup
6. Do nothing, block.
The thing is, this isn’t even all his options in that scenario. He can use his step kick to dash in and start another mixup for example. The step kick itself leads to another half dozen options. Of course, not all those options are safe, and if the opponent guesses correctly he can knock Abel out of the mixup. Still, he’s a real versatile character. And I think that’s the key to his appeal for me. I really have to out-think and psyche out the opponent to win with Abel, so when I do win, it’s very satisfying. The flipside is that when I can’t get his offense rolling, it’s very frustrating. “I should have done this, I should have done that” kind of frustrating. Still when you totally Yomi your oppenent’s game, and make him feel that everything he’s doing is getting countered or punished, there’s no feeling that compares.