In fighting game jargon, a shoto is any playable character whose special moves follow a specific pattern. Short for shotokan, the style of karate practiced by Ken and Ryu of Capcom's Street Fighter series, who are thought to be the first characters of this type.
The characters' moves use the following pattern, assuming the character is facing right:
- Missile - activated by moving the joystick down, down/right, and right, accompanied by an attack button (usually a punch). The effect is to shoot a projectile across the screen. Usually, there is some delay in actually launching the projectile, and a short period after it is thrown in which the character cannot move. Also called hadouken, after the move used by Ken and Ryu. Mnemonic: Starting from Down, roll the joystick forward.
- Rising Attack - activated by moving the joystick right, down, and down/right plus an attack (again, usually a punch). The character's body rises into the air while performing some kind of attack (usually an uppercut, but sometimes a kick of some sort). Some fighting games embellish the attack by adding flames, or by making the character invincible while rising. In almost all cases, the attack is powerful on the way up but the character is vulnerable while falling. Also called dragon punch or shoryuken, again after the move used by Ken and Ryu. Mnemonic: The controller motion looks vaguely like a zigzag. Note that this is generally the hardest move to master, as the motion is somewhat awkward.
- Lateral attack - Starting from down, move the joystick down/left, then left with an attack (usually a kick, in contrast to the other two). The character's body rushes toward the opponent, usually spinning, and attacks by touch while doing so. Vulnerable from directly above or below; also usually (but not always) vulnerable to missile attacks. Sometimes called a hurricane kick, after the spinning aerial kick used by Ken and Ryu. Occasionally called Tatsumaki-senpuukyaku for the same reason, but this is seldom heard. Mnemonic: Starting from Down, roll the controller backwards.
If the character is facing left, rather than right, then left and right reverse in terms of controller movement, so that missiles and rising attacks move towards the opponent, and the lateral attack faces away.
Generally, shotos play more or less the same way; medium-sized characters that exhibit a balance between speed and strength. Once you've learned how to play one shoto well, you can generally pick up other shotos quickly, so this class of character is a popular choice with beginners.