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I've been getting into fighting games recently (some of which are: Super Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken), but there's one piece of terminology that I can't find a solid definition for - what exactly is a "setup"?

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A setup is a generic word for the preparation needed to land a "canned" attack that is either guaranteed to hit or has a very high percentage to hit.

Sometimes setups are mistaken for combos, but in a combo every consecutive attack is guaranteed to hit if executed properly. This is not true for a setup.

Especially in Street Fighter people distinguish between:

  • Unblockable setups (see: What does unblockable mean?)
  • 50/50 setup - its really hard to figure out if it crosses up and it sometimes does and sometimes does not. Sometimes even the agressor does not know which side it will hit on
  • "the rest" - sometimes it is clear which side a setup will hit on. If you "know" and "recognize" the setup you can "react" on it.

Usually you have to meet certain criteria for a setup, like:

  • You play against a specific character (e.g. Akuma vs Guile)
  • You have already pulled of a specific attack (e.g. forward throw or sweep)
  • If you execute a given command list (not necessarily combo) you can hit the opponent (e.g. instant s.HK whiff then instant HK Demon Dive)
  • Usually you can then combo into whatever you are able to execute (maybe just a sweep)

This is why there are different categories for setups:

  • Forward throw setups
  • Corner setups
  • Character specific setups
  • Corner setups
  • Hard knockdown setups
  • Crossup setups

You can combine those (e.g. unblockabe, forward throw setup on Guile in corner)

You should alter between your setups randomly to keep the opponent guessing and force him to make mistakes.

If a character has many setups that directly lead to another setup scenario he is considered a "vortex" character or he "has a vortex". Good examples in Street Fighter 4 are currently: Akuma, Cammy and Ibuki.

There are some sites that list setups by game and charcter:

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Though I can't find a source for it anywhere, from it usage it appears to be exactly what it says on the tin - the way in which you lead your foe into a combo or special move, then executing it.

In other words, when you're preparing to launch a major combo against an enemy, you might try to lure them in by backing up, or close the distance with a dash, or feign a dash so that they swing and miss so you can start the combo while they're in mid-animation.

The "setup" is the plan that you have towards launching that move, including the move itself and its conclusion.


There's also another, more literal explanation - fighting games typically get played on a console, or if not on a console, then with some kind of controller to help simplify button input. Or, if there is a fighting game tournament, a standard arrangement of controller/console/players that makes the tournament fair to the players. That way in which they organize these things is their 'setup'.

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    I assume that the questioner meant the first of those definitions. If I'm correct, a player might get a knockdown on the opponent, deliberately whiff a certain move, and the execute another move. This is a setup because if done correctly, the second move will then be perfectly timed to hit meaty - thus the whiffed move was still part of the 'sequence' the player used, but isn't really a 'combo' because it didn't hit the opponent. Would this be a correct example? – DTR Oct 30 '13 at 15:00
  • Sounds about right. A combo is a series of quick moves that chain together without giving your opponent a chance to react, but the Setup includes the part where you lead the player into that combo. – Zibbobz Oct 30 '13 at 15:08

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