A small part of using different command sequences is preserving game balance; a particularly advantageous move can be slowed down slightly by making its command input requirement longer. This is why super special moves often have longer commands than special moves (and special moves more than command moves, and command moves a teensy addition to normal moves...).
Another small part of it is being intuitive; though standard conventions (quarter-circle forward for projectiles; quarter-circle back for rushing moves; dragon-punch motion for anti-air) do have a little bit to do with it, some moves are tweaked to use certain directions for whatever reason (e.g. command moves that reach further forward often use a forward direction; the stereotypical anti-air ends with the down-forward direction so you can duck under certain midair things; the stereotypical rush move ends with the back/block direction to counterattack truly bogus offense, and so forth). Your duty as a player is to figure out which of your character’s moves (if any) you can exploit due to this. It may not mean much at truly advanced levels of play (where it becomes second nature), but it‘s a pretty good mental exercise for beginners.
These command motions are found in almost every 2D fighting game. Beginners need to learn these in order to get a good foothold at these games.
I have included instructions for each of these basic motions for three methods of directional input: arcade stick (arcade, homes of fans), gamepad (console fans who do not have an arcade stick for whatever reason [they’re strapped for cash? they don’t like it as much? they’ve never had the opportunity to get one? arcade sticks aren’t as portable? reasons abound.]), and keyboard (computer players who don’t have or don’t use an adaptor for either of the previous two).
The quarter-circle forward motion comes from the Hadōken projectile in Street Fighter (which is not actually supposed to be a fireball, as it is often termed in English, but a blast of qi; this misunderstanding is quite understandable, since qi is a pretty foreign concept to most English speakers).
It is usually assigned to projectiles, hard punches or kicks, and weapons.
The quarter-circle back (usually “QCB”, also “hurricane kick motion”, etc.; 214 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “”.
The quarter-circle back motion comes from the Tatsumaki Senpūkyaku rushing move in Street Fighter. It is often assigned to forward-rushing moves, even in older games (like Terry Bogard’s “burn knuckle”). It is sometimes assigned to backwards-rushing or up-and-over-rushing moves. It is also often assigned to more defensive-minded moves.
The dragon-punch motion (usually “DP”, also “SRK”: both names take after the Shōryūken; 623 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “”.
The dragon-punch motion comes from the Shōryūken anti-air move in Street Fighter (which was actually given a voice-acted declaration of “dragon punch” in non-Japanese releases of the first SF).
It is usually assigned to anti-air moves of all sorts.
The half-circle forward (usually “HCF”; 41236 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “”.
The half-circle back (usually “HCB”; 63214 in numpad notation) is represented by the command sequence “”.
The half-circle back is often assigned to command throws.
The full circle (also “360”; numpad notation varies) is a somewhat-difficult motion, as one can probably tell just by thinking about it.
It should be noted that it is rarely actually a full 360º. The requirement is usually that you hit every vertical and horizontal direction once, in order.
Moreover, it is rarely necessary to differentiate between clockwise and counterclockwise full circles.
Finally, it rarely matters to the move itself what direction you start from. What really matters in this case is jumping: because the up direction must be hit at some point, you either have to start from the up direction (with all the risks of an empty jump), or be nimble enough to input the move without causing a jump (which is obviously preferable, but obviously not all that easy to do at first), starting from the side direction. Air 360 commands are pretty rare, so these consequences are practically negligible.
The 360 is practically always assigned to a command throw (and usually a very powerful one). More recent games pretty much eschew it because it makes playing old-school grapplers (like Zangief or Hugo) very, very hard compared to new-school grapplers (like Daimon, Shermie, or Alex... though Alex’s “Hyper Bomb” super still uses it).
The Sonic Boom motion is the basic horizontal charge move command. Notation varies wildly, depending on how a writer wishes to express the charge requirement. I use the text “(charge)” after the particular direction you are supposed to charge. This is nice because it is not abbreviated and it goes in the order it happens. This is not so nice because it is long-winded, does not give you any prior warning (other than the fact that it is long-winded), and just as confusing to newbies as any other notation.
For execution tips, see the article on charge moves.
The term “Sonic Boom” comes from Guile’s move in Street Fighter II. This motion is generally assigned to a projectile.
The Flash Kick motion is the basic vertical charge move command. For execution tips, see the article on charge moves.
The term “Flash Kick” comes from Guile’s move in Street Fighter II. This motion is generally assigned to an anti-air move.
Almost always for super special moves, some command motions (i.e. QCF, QCB, HCF, HCB, and 360) are doubled up. This is sometimes notated by adding a “×2”, and sometimes notated by doubling up the command; it really comes down to preference rather than convention in this case.
The charge commands are not usually doubled up, because a double-charge would be very strange to manage; instead, the SB-style double form is usually “ (charge) ”, and the FK-style double form tends to be fudged in in various ways, such as the “triangle charge”: (charge) .
The double 360 is particularly odd in that just as the 360 tends to actually be 270º, the “720” tends to actually be 630º (a full 360º plus 270º). It is very tough to pull off (especially standing), but if you want to be the baddest grappler player ever... well, get crackin’!
A very common motion for supers in SNK-made or SNK-influenced games (especially the KOF series) involves a combination of a quarter circle going one way followed immediately by a half-circle going the other.
The primary advantage is that these are not difficult to do, and do not often backfire in the same way that doubled-up commands do (e.g., trying to do a reversal dragon-punch and misfiring as a double-QCF super).
The primary disadvantage is that they still backfire (especially because SNK likes to go crazy with buffers and arcane commands). Invent a foolproof mechanism, and nature will come up with a better fool, I suppose....
These often show up, but aren’t necessarily common or popular, at least. In some cases, they are just rare for various reasons. In other cases, they are pretty tough to do, which is why they are no longer (or never were!) in vogue.
Taking its name from Sagat’s fast and deadly move, this command (often “TK”, if the writer bothers to use an abbreviation; 2369 in numpad notation) is represented by the sequence .
The tricky part to this is that the upwards direction will cause a jump if you tarry any longer than, say, a split second; ergo, your input timing has to be very precise to pull this off. In fact, Sagat does not have this “Tiger Knee” command in later games; just a QCF.
Nowadays, the Tiger Knee input (and other inputs with crazy upwards directions meaning very strict timing) is mostly used by people who still play the old-school games that use them, and by people who are actually using it as part of separate commands for buffered input.
There is nothing tricky to this at all, but it isn’t extremely common. You just tap down twice, then press the button, in a nice pleasant chain.
This is a nasty little chain for a nastly little move, which I am going to conjecture may have originally been a quiet shout-out from Capcom to the Mortal Kombat crowd, they being used to tapping directions for specials and such.
The command is “LP, LP, , LK, HP”. It is the most famous chain-type command outside the MK world, and the resulting move is quite iconic. Thus, Capcom has copied and parodied it themselves (e.g. Morrigan and Dan have their own “versions” of it), and Eolith snuck a few such similar commands in their two KOF games, just so the SNK crowd could have a few yuks (it’s pretty hilarious when Yuri pulls it off in 2001, I think).
This is just like the double-anything commands, except there’s more.
It isn’t seen very often, but that’s probably because it doesn’t really add any difficulty, just tedium.
This command (usually abbreviated “RDP”; 421 in numpad notation) is the back-facing equivalent to the dragon punch, but it isn’t really as common. Usually, it does what a dragon punch might do, but the character doesn’t have a dragon punch.
Off the top of my head, Fei Long (SFII) and Kensū (KOF) both have similar trajectories to their anti-air kicks that use this command motion.
Pretty exclusive to SNK games, this motion is “ (charge) ”. For some reason, it just doesn’t seem right that the particular flight path of the old-school Hien Shippūkyaku would be undertaken after walking backwards, but it makes perfect sense after waiting in a crouching position.
The new-school Hien Shippūkyaku is less like a flying arrow and more like... well, a real-life double air kick, so this command motion isn’t really used that much anymore.
Found mostly in old-school games that were still attempting to innovate and distinguish themselves from the rest of the SFII rip-offs, some command motions are performed as quarter-circles that progress downward instead of outward.
There is nothing theoretically difficult about these, but they feel strange. They are pretty much only left as a relic of the past. In particular, Nakoruru has kept this in her Kamui Rimse over the years.
Also known as “that @#$%ing pretzel thing”, among many other names. This is not that common, actually, but it is kind of fun to be able to do this one on command, and it has all the hallmarks of being a good thing to practice and keep in your arsenal, because Geese’s Raging Storm tends to cover a lot of situations, and it is really scary to face off against someone who can use it at will.
The command motion is “”. That is, it is a down-back, followed by a half-circle, followed by a down-forward. And if you think about it, that really is a pretzel shape.
(This is also a pretty good litmus test for whether you end up liking SNK games or you don’t).