Laura Matsuda is the older sister of Sean from Street Fighter III. They may be related by blood, though their fighting styles differ dramatically. While Sean is a shoto in training, Laura is a master of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Maybe he could have learned a thing or two from his big sister?
Laura’s normal moves appear to be fairly standard issue. Each button fits the general Street Fighter archetype of what it does in terms of damage, speed and reach. She has a few target combos as well, such as her forward heavy punch into heavy punch, as well as medium punch into medium kick.
What makes her normals unique is that she doesn’t really have any links to speak of outside of jabs linking into themselves. I think I’ve seen someone link her forward heavy punch into standing medium punch, though it’s not very practical. She has a few combos that start with light attacks, but they end with either the elbow-only Bolt Charge or fireball, neither of which are much to write home about in terms of damage.
Instead, she’s going to rely on landing a heavier hit and cancelling into a beefier special move. Whether you fish for it, frame trap for it, or wildly flail your limbs, she doesn’t really have much in the way of low-risk-high-reward options.
Landing that big hit is a bit easier thanks to her Linear Movement V-Skill. By holding a direction and pressing the medium attack buttons, she performs a faster and farther command dash. She can also cancel her command back dash into a forward command dash, giving you even more maneuverability. You can even cancel an attack into a command back dash, allowing you to slip away into safety if they block an unsafe move. Regular dashes have their uses, but I generally try and use her command dash every time.
If you just press the medium attacks without a directional input, she performs Volty Line, an Abel-like wheel kick. The kick doesn’t have the reach or damage of Abel’s wheel kick, but it is easily performed with a button press and it acts as a relatively-long-ranged overhead attack. You can also use it to end her forward heavy punch into heavy punch target combo.
The key to Laura’s offense is her Bolt Charge. Performed with quarter circle forward punch, she charges at her opponent with an elbow to the gut. Depending on the strength you use, she performs different actions. The light version is just a short-ranged elbow that ends a combo and doesn’t do much damage, but it appeared to be safe (or relatively safe) on block. The heavy version is an anti-air attack, where Laura hits her foe out of the sky and slams them to the ground.
The medium punch version is an elbow to the gut that allows her to transition between two different grabs. Hitting punch gives you the Split River, while the Rodeo Break comes out when you hit kick. The Split River pushes the opponent back with Laura landing on the other side. The Rodeo Break keeps the opponent in place while Laura lands on the same side she started on.
In the vast majority of cases, you want to end her combos with the medium or heavy punch versions of the Bolt Charge. What she lacks in combo potential is made up for by the damage created by this move and its variations. If you have the meter to burn, you might even consider using the EX version of the move, which is a ground-based elbow with much more reach.
Bolt Charge is an attack with follow-ups that look like command grabs. In actuality, her only real command grab is the Sunset Wheel. Twisting her foe into position, she jumps in the air and flips them around before smashing them into the pavement. As far as command grabs go, this one is fairly standard issue except for the EX version. By spending meter on this move, she quickly charges forward by about sweep distance before performing the grab. Because of its insane reach and the speed its performed at, you can catch a lot of people off guard. In situations where your opposition is blocking in anticipation of a Bolt Charge, snag them with the Sunset Wheel to keep them honest.
Her most unusual move is her Thunder Clap, which is a short-range fireball that travels maybe a third of the screen at best. It is a poor zoning tool and you won’t win any projectile wars with it, but it has uses in setups and combos. After a hard knockdown, such as the one created by the Sunset Wheel, toss out a fireball just before they wake up. You can use the hit of the fireball to apply pressure or just straight-up grab them before the fireball makes contact. The EX version puts the opponent in juggle state, allowing you to smash them out of the sky with her heavy Bolt Charge. I didn’t really get comfortable using it for the few hours I’ve played with her so far, but I’m excited to see what possibilities players will come up with for that move.
Her V-Trigger is called the Spark Show. In this state, she gains more stun on all of her attacks, can cover more ground with her Linear Movement dashes and her fireballs travel farther. I probably should have made note of this during the stress test, as I didn’t track how this impacted her gameplay. When I get more time to play as her, I’ll update this piece with my thoughts.
Finally, her Critical Art is the Inazuma Spin Hold. This is a command grab that causes her and her opponent to bounce around the screen in what looks like a Blanka ball. Like many of the other command grab Critical Arts in the game, you can combo into it, making it a more useful tool if you have the meter to spare.
Compared to what I’ve seen of the Street Fighter V cast, Laura seems the most basic in terms of learning curve and options. She’s definitely more beginner friendly, though advanced players may grow tired of her limited ability to create on the offensive end. If you can work through that, she’s a fun character with high damage potential. She definitely caught my attention during my playing time with her and I’m excited to explore her further in the full release of Street Fighter V.