In honour of Dan shedding his reputation as Street Fighter’s worst character, we learn from FGC legend and Esports.GG’s Justin Wong why he is now a force to be reckoned with.
For those unfamiliar, throughout his time in the Street Fighter universe in both lead titles and crossovers, Dan has remained uncompetitive. He made his first appearance in Street Fighter Alpha 1 in 1995 as a secret character. By Alpha 2 he was playable from the start. Winning as Dan was a flex. Losing to him was simply unacceptable.
In the Alpha series Dan’s fireballs had no range, the majority of his normal attacks did low damage and his specials were both unsafe and slow. His moveset was as feeble as his backstory as an overconfident self-taught martial artist running a failing Dojo. In fact Dan’s only defining qualities were his taunt and lovingly awkward victory pose.
Dan was terrible by design to mock rivals SNK
Dan was created by Capcom as a stab to their aspiring rival SNK. SNK had made Art of Fighting and King of Fighters, which drew a striking resemblance to Street Fighter. As a cynical tip of the hat to the knock-off titles, Capcom took pieces of popular SNK characters for their new addition. From SNK’s Art of Fighting (1992) they took the face of Robert Garcia, a pink version of Ryo’s karate gi outfit and the mannerisms of Yuri Sakazaki. The result was Dan Hibiki, a character terrible by design.
“Dan gave the player a challenge. The challenge was to win with Dan. I think that’s what Capcom wanted Dan’s purpose to be,” said Esports.GG’s Justin Wong. “I think they purposely made him bad, but if the player can make him good they get a certain satisfaction that they beat the game or are that much better than their opponent. It got into people’s mindsets, the last thing you want to do is lose to Dan.”
“He super shined as a joke character when Street Fighter IV came out, when the FGC saw its revival,” said Justin Wong. “He had this very funny run and everything about him was super trolly. In SFIV Capcom decided to show him as a joke character through his animations instead of his special moves. They turned him from a fighter really trying hard to be just a troll fighter.”
After 26 years Dan is finally a viable character in SFV
With the arrival of SFV Dan in the Winter Update, things have changed. Dan’s time as a joke character is apparently over. So what is the secret behind Dan’s miraculous transformation from joke to actual Street Fighter after 25 years?
“In Street Fighter V they have the V-Trigger system and the V-Skill in general, which is a comeback mechanic. I think what they did with Dan was pretty interesting because how can you make a joke character have a comeback mechanic?” said Justin Wong to Esports.GG. “In my opinion Capcom actually gave Dan a little bit too much power with the V-system, and because of that he is no longer a joke character.”
“When you think of Dan in old Street Fighter games, like the Alpha series you think of his taunts, even when you face the computer. If the computer knocks you down or throws you he goes into a taunt. That’s his gimmick. In Street Fighter V both his V-Skills are taunts, BUT the thing about it is that you can cancel special moves using V-Skill 1 into taunt.”
Dan's V-Skill "changes the whole dynamic of how people think"
“This means special moves that are usually unsafe, are now safe. They’ve given Dan something to abuse in a match. When you have something that you can abuse and the enemy can’t stop it, it makes the character annoying but also viable.“
“For his V-Skill 2, when you hit a specific normal like a jab or a light punch or medium punch, you can cancel each of the normals into a V-Skill taunt. This gives you a window of opportunity to push another button.
“This is important because SFV relies on frame data. A perfect example is Dan’s standing heavy kick which is a -4 move. Dan should not be able to press another button but because of the power of V-Skill 2 frame data goes out of the window. Dan can now be plus on any normal he presses, it removes that weakness completely. It changes the whole dynamic of how people think.”
“This is the first time that there are characters that can cancel unsafe special moves into a V-Skill and also cancel unsafe and negative normals into positive normals. It will catch a lot of people off guard. There is even a true infinite that only Dan has. If Dan hits you in a corner, you actually don’t get a chance to play. K.O.”
Chance of Capcom nerfing SFV Dan 80%
During Capcom’s official Dan reveal at the Tokyo Game Show in September 2020, Street Fighter V’s Director Takayuki Nakayama outlined their vision for Dan.
"For Street Fighter 5, we've retrained the good points that made him (Dan) particularly entertaining while making his taunts and other things that didn't have many uses viable," said Nakayama. "We think he's kinda got a new coat of paint and is a new, fun character to play as."
SFV Dan’s “new coat of paint” has seen a surge in the character’s popularity and viability but Capcom might have to bring out the nerf hammer according to Justin Wong.
“It’s very possible Capcom will nerf Dan (laughs),” said Justin Wong. “Even though the thought of it is very funny, the whole understanding of Dan is that he is meant to be a joke character in everyone’s eyes.” Chance of Capcom nerfing Dan 0 to 100%? “I think the chance of them nerfing Dan because of his infinite combo is 80%,” he added.
V-Skill 2 the culprit for Dan's sudden brilliance
“I see Capcom nerfing V-Skill 2, where the true infinite combo will be completely gone, which makes me sad because I loved landing it in a match. I think SFV Dan being this good was accidental. The infinite was found on Day 1 and I don’t think Capcom realised the V-Skill would be this broken. The comeback potential of the V-skill system gives SFV Dan a dangerous opportunity to be a very good character. Just look at how Punk destroyed the whole competition with V-Skill 2.”
Justin Wong was of course referring to Victor “Punk” Woodley’s recent monumental victory at the Next Level Battle Circuit (NLBC) in February. Punk won the NLBC as Dan and took down several NA heavyweights along the way just a week after the character was released.
“Right now Dan is in the middle of the character tier-list, a top 20 character,” said Justin Wong. “His ability to remove frame data makes him almost like a Dan from a different dimension but playing in Street Fighter. Dan is now part of their world but he is not playing by their rules.”