I’m shocked and a little bit stunned. When it was announced that both G and Sagat, the latest and final additions to Street Fighter V’s Season 3 roster, was announced that they were going to be made available on the same day, most people were excited to get their hands on controlling the King of Muay Thai and not that interested with trying out the President of the World. It’s really not that unbelievable as Sagat is a well-beloved character and G is, well, an unknown factor.
Now that a couple of weeks have passed and everyone had tried out both G and Sagat, initial impressions show that most people, including fighting game pros, think that G is great and Sagat isn’t. The reaction has taken me aback because my impressions for both characters are totally the opposite; G is just okay while Sagat is terrifying! Sure, the King has some problems but Sagat has the potential to be a top tier character, if used correctly.
Before we get to how he plays, I have to comment on his new design in Street Fighter V. Capcom didn’t give him a radically different look. He’s still the 7-foot kickboxer he’s always been. He does look like he’s slimmed down quite a bit, though. I remember him looking like a hulking monster in Street Fighter IV and, while he’s still beefy, it does look like they made his muscles more proportioned to his stature. He’s more “wirey” looking, which means he still has muscles but they’re just not overly large. I do have to say I don’t like his default costume all that much. The ragged shawl looks weird. Unfortunately, I don’t really like any of his new alternate costumes. I especially dislike the one with the tattered shorts and handkerchief that acts as a makeshift eyepatch. Guess I’ll be sticking to his Nostalgia costume since that’s the one that looks the best.
I will understand why some Street Fighter V fans are more enamored with G than Sagat. G is just a kooky and unique character but he’s only good when you power up his President meter gimmick. Sagat, on the other hand, has some really glaring weaknesses. For one, he’s a big guy, which means he’s a big target. It is kind of easy to clip him from a well timed jump attack if you get the chance, but that’s easier said than done. We’ll discuss that in more detail later. Also, despite Sagat’s rather long limbs, a lot of his normal attacks feels stubby. While his Heavy Punches goes out really far, he doesn’t extend his arms with the light and medium versions all that much. This does make him feel awkward at times, especially when you poke out his crouching medium. It looks like it can strike further than it should but it whiffs a whole lot from my experience.
He also doesn’t have a 3-frame attack, which does make it more difficult to react to punish whiffs as well. Sagat doesn’t have all that much in the way of frame traps as well. While most of his normal attacks are safe on block, the lack of a really quick button means that you have to be a little more devious when pressuring with Sagat. His best button when it comes to frame traps would be his standing medium punch as it’s +3 on block and it comes out in 6-frames. I can definitely see a lot of Sagats using this button when trying to pressure his opponent in the future. But that’s not his only button that’s good. While most of his normal attacks aren’t plus on block and they do come out rather slow, Sagat makes up for it with the number of meaty attacks he has. Most of them have 3 active frames, making his meaty game really good.
From what I’ve mentioned, Sagat’s normals aren’t all that great. However, his unique attacks combined with his specials is what makes Sagat the monster he is! The punch version of his Tiger Shot is great. Although you can duck under them, its height makes it difficult to traverse. Balance this with the kick version of the Tiger Shot and you’ve got an excellent zoning game. His Tiger Knee Crush may come out slow but, properly spaced, can be a great way to get in on your opponent. The EX version also has great corner carry. However, his best special move is his Tiger Uppercut. You can make the Tiger Uppercut do more damage if you perform his V-Skill, the Angry Charge. Doing the Angry Charge does leave Sagat open for a good second or two but the payoff is huge if you connect with the Tiger Uppercut.
While his special moves are really good by themselves, Capcom has decided to give Sagat a gimmick unique only to him in Street Fighter V. This is the ability to “kara cancel” any of his special attacks. For those not in the know, the kara cancel enables Sagat to cancel some of his unique attacks into a special move. This was something that was possible before in Street Fighter IV for several characters but now only Sagat has this ability. By doing a kara cancel, you actually make Sagat move a little bit forward with something like his forward+medium kick or forward+heavy kick but immediately do the special move motion before the unique attack comes out. This gives him more range on his Tiger Shots, Tiger Knee Crush and, most importantly, his Tiger Uppercut. His opponents essentially have to traverse his projectiles and try to jump in but Sagat will be able to knock them out of the air by doing a kara cancel into either his Tiger Knee Crush or his Tiger Uppercut! This makes Sagat fantastic at zoning! Also, you can even extend combos using the kara cancel, which makes him even more scary!
Speaking of his unique attacks, they’re pretty good by themselves without the kara cancel ability. The forward+medium kick makes Sagat take a big step forward and kick downward. This is a low attack and is a good way to catch someone who is trying to walk back out of Sagat’s range as it locks him into a block stance when you do the kick. His forward+heavy kick may not be able to hit crouching opponents but it is a surprisingly good anti-air attack. If it Crush Counters, you have to option to hit them with a Tiger Uppercut for damage or carry them to the corner with an EX Tiger Knee Crush.
Sagat’s V-Triggers also have their own purposes. His first V-Trigger, the Tiger Cannon, makes Sagat throw a massive fireball at his opponent. He has the ability to chuck 3 of them when activated. The Tiger Cannon projectile hits 5 times and will eat through other projectiles easily. It also comes out very fast, making it a great way to catch your opponent by surprise. However, I think Sagat’s second V-Trigger, the Tiger Assault, is slightly better. Activating Tiger Assault gives Sagat 2 new moves. Pressing forward and both heavy attacks executes the Tiger Rush, a forward moving double knee, which is great in combos and corner carry. If you just press the heavy attacks, Sagat does the Tiger Spike, a big side kick with armor. The Tiger Spike can be charged up to launch the opponent into the air or even guard crush the opponent. Tiger Assault just has more utility than the Tiger Cannon but I think they both have their uses depending if you want to zone or pressure the opponent. His Critical Art, Tiger Rampage, is an auto-combo that does good damage and is fully invincible from its startup up to the last active frame, making it something to be feared as well.
I’m honestly shocked that a lot of people are saying that Sagat isn’t all that good. From my time with the character, he almost feels top tier since it’s very difficult to get close to him once he gets his zoning game rolling. He may not be all that strong in the pressure department but he does have a few moves that can force his opponents to hit the panic button and that’s where Sagat can overwhelm them. I’ve already seen Bonchan owning opponents using Sagat, which does show how much fans are underestimating the King of Muay Thai.
You’ve created a monster, Capcom. But I like it!
What do you think of Sagat’s return in Street Fighter V? Let me know in the comments section below!