So, the official change log for AE 2012 has been released, and as expected, the highlights of the log are the major nerfs to Yun, Yang and Fei Long. After skimming along the list, though, a few changes really caught my attention and got me excited about seeing how some of these new tweaks could have an effect on high level play. This patch is apparently the final balace that SSF4 will have, and it looks like the playing field has the potential to be shaken up quite a bit with some of the new move properties introcuced. Below, in no particular order, are the five characters I am looking forward to trying out in the new AE 2012 build the most. I wont go over EVERY change each of these characters have, just the main ones that really grabbed my attention. Also, i'm leaving out my main, Adon, as his tweaks just solidify his position as my main all the moreso.
JURI - While she has never been one of my main characters, Juri has always been fun to play as. Juri's tweaks focus on two primary areas - her Fuhajin (charge kick) and Ultra 1. Fuhajin's first kick motion got a 20 damage buff, up to 50 from 30, so a quick combo from her is going to sting that little extra amount every time. Her Ultra 1 is really where things get interesting though - she may only get 1/3normal meter charge from some moves while the Feng Shui Engine is active, but her forward dash now covers more space when the move is active, which I think will throw off some opponents. Most interestingly, EX Shikusen (dive kick) now has far different properties depending on which combination of kicks are used while in Feng Shui. More hit stun was added on to her Senpusha (pinwheel) to give her some more FADC potential as well. Juri has the potential to be a much stronger offensive weapon than she already is. Looking forward to seeing just how different Ultra 1 feels. I've always felt that an U1 Juri is a far greater threat than an U2 Juri, and these tweaks should push some Juri players to switch up their ultra usage more often.
EVIL RYU - Hooray for this health buff. Seriously, I already love playing as E.Ryu, so more health is awesome. I have called him SSF4's "proverbial glass cannon" in the past, but this buff from 850 to 900 Health and Stun will give him that extra sliver of health that could make or break a round. As if everything about him and his moveset wasn't already screaming "attack, attack, attack", now he has a new set of tools that allow some fantastic corner pressure. The one change that I really love is the new forward MK cancel. He can now cancel this move into an Air Tatsu. The corner pressure potential with this is astounding, as its now possible to do Foward MK>EX Tatsu>Medium or Heavy Ryusokuaku (axe kick) in the corner. In fact, both of those versions of the axe kick can be used on a knocked back opponent now. 10 more damage to his sweep, 20 more for his Super, and for some interesting wakeup games, his target combo now knocks down. Add in the fact that the charge time to do a full Ultra 1 has been shortened, and you have a character that I expect to see a great deal more of both online and in tournament play.
GOUKEN - I only really started messing around with Gouken a few months ago, but he quickly became one of my favorite characters to play as in the game. I may be upset that Gouken's HP Senkugoshoha (palm strike) will not go nearly as far across screen as it used to, but all of the new tools Gouken has make for some fun possiblities. The two most blatant changes are to his Super's startup (Forbidden Shoryuken only has a 3 frame starup now, way down from the previous 11 frames) and, of course, his Ultra 2, Denjin Hadouken. Denjin now acts much more similar to the Denjin people know and love from Ryu in SF3: Third Strike - the move goes faster, charges in the same way as in Third Strike, and got a slight damage buff. Add in an extended counter-hitbox to the MP and HP versions of his Kongoshin (counter), and the unexpected addition of making his Far MP special cancelable, and you have a character who already has a great damage output, but with a good number of new tools to fall back on. Really looking forward to the new combo potential with that far standing MP>Gohadouken>FADC>so on will give. Ultra 2 Goukens are exceedingly rare right now, but this patch should change that up for sure.
CODY - Let me get this out right away - I hate Cody. I hate playing against Cody. He confuses me. I've never understood why some of his combos work even though they feel like they take a minute each to complete, or why he has such excelent anti-air normals, but I feel like his new additions in AE 2012 deserve a closer look. Most of his changes are added hit stun when Cody is using his knife, which I really like. A good Cody with a knife is kind of like playing Vega at times - that knife is going to hit you from much further away than you may anticipate. Picking up the knife is also much safer now - you can block while doing so, or so it would at least seem. His Bad Spray, the wakeup move where he tosses dirt at his opponent, is now special cancelable too. This won't have an effect often in matches, but it's a strange trump card to add to Cody's already kind of random move set. Oh, did I mention that his walk speed has been increased? To me, that is his biggest change, for a high pressure Cody is already a frightening enough opponent to begin with. Now he will be able to close in on you at a much faster rate - add in the knife, and you have a character who may be able to whittle your life away much quicker than one would think.
ONI - Again, health buff is a major game changer here. Oni's health and stun are both up to a solid 1000 now, but what really draws me to him is summed up in three words - Airborne EX Tatsu. Off of his air dash, an EX Tatsu now causes Oni to suddenly drop straight down towards the ground. Can you imagine the crazy crossup game potential that this gives Oni? The Air EX Tatsu is now a one-hit move that does 140 damage flat, so no worries about needing the move to hit multiple times to ensure damage. The first hit of his second Target Combo, Back MP, is also less likely to screw up combos on crouched opponents. The hitbox of the actual palm blast from his air dash was also made bigger. Really, I already liked Oni, but a few more tools and this new crazy EX Tatsu are going to make what I consider a very good character all the more unpredictable.
I think this patch update has the most potential to really shake up the tier lists for AE more than any update to SF4 has beforehand. Even the most minor of changes could make a character go from great to amazing (heres looking at you, Cammy), so you'll be sure to find me glued to my screen once this update is out, just so I can try to find every little new opportunity my favorite characters have. How about yourselves, though - What are the real gamechangers here? Who do you expect to be a contender that wasn't before? For me, I expect to see quite a bit more of Evil Ryu and Gouken in the future, but only time (and the pros) will tell.