So you wanna play fighting games, hmm? Tired of single player adventures, shooters, and Mario Kart? Good to hear! Fighting games can be daunting at first, with their difficult mechanics, steep learning curves, and flashy, devastating combos. However, I can promise you this: you’ll only be richer for the experience. But you ask, “Jovan, with so many options which one do I pick? How do I get started?” Well, today I’ll answer those questions and so many more.
WHAT GAME TO PICK
There’s a few things to consider here. First, your console. The most options naturally exist on last generation’s consoles. If you’ve got a Playstation 3 and/or Xbox 360, you have a veritable cornucopia of choices. If you’ve got a Wii/U, then you pretty much just have Super Smash Bros. From there, think about what you’re looking for in the game. Do you like realism, or fantastical super-powered gameplay? Well, that’s not the best way to look at it. Think more about what you like about the specific games that interest you, get that game, then pick a character. There are two ways to go about what character you pick. The first is the “favorite son,” choice, who is a character that best exemplifies the core mechanics of the game. Good examples of this character are Ryu from Street Fighter, Kazuya Mishima from Tekken, and Sol Badguy from Guilty Gear. By picking one of those characters, you expose yourself to the elements that are pervasive through the majority of characters in any given game. You can also go the route of picking whoever interests you. Maybe you like their design, their move list, or perhaps they “just feel right.” Personally, I have gone the latter route in every game I’ve played. You can even go so far as to pick a few characters, so the game doesn’t get stale. From there, give the game as a whole a spin with your new fighter. Some people say go straight into the training room and practice for hours. I disagree. Actually play the damn game. You didn’t spend perfectly good money to play one aspect of it. Go through the story mode, learn about the game’s story, the character connections, and so on.
LEARNING THE ROPES
You’ve played the game, you’re comfortable with your character, the game’s mechanics make sense, and now you’re ready to fight other players. So it’s time learn the fundamentals and advanced tactics. This is when you’ll start to rack up hours in training and online mode, because more than likely you would not have learned these techniques playing through Arcade/Story mode. Most fighting games do a pretty effective job of teaching you how to play your character for “competition,” by showing you attack combinations that allow you to maximize your damage, and look cool doing it. It’ll give you options that are 3 or 4 hits and easy to execute in many situations, and very technical combos that require a little more thought. Do bear in mind though, that the inputs change depending on which side of the screen you’re standing on, so you’ll want to practice your inputs on both sides. Speaking of inputs, let’s touch on execution briefly. Execution is just accurately pressing your buttons so that right attack comes out. You don’t want to input a half-circle motion and somehow end up jumping. Training mode will allow you to perfect this, so that you can ensure the right attack comes out at the right time. However, training mode does have its limits. You’ll find that it won’t really drive home perhaps the hardest and most important aspect of every fighting game: defense. Training mode is a vacuum of sorts, where you won’t learn what to do against aggressive players, what to do when you get knocked down, and how to simply just wait. Playing with other people is tantamount to breathing. This way, you learn where, when, and how to block, how to get up off the ground safely, and when to punish your opponent for doing something stupid. Early on, and even as you grow as a player, you’ll find yourself just pressing buttons hoping that something lands. While you’ll gets wins this way, I promise you’ll lose more matches than you should have if you had been blocking. There’s even defensive mechanics that open your opponent for serious damage, so that’s more incentive for sharpening those defenses. Simply, blocking keeps you alive. If you’re getting low on health, and you want to keep playing that round, then guarding and waiting for the right moment is in your best interest. Ultimately, be patient with yourself. Getting good at fighters may not come easy to you, and even if it does, there are moments that you’ll get frustrated with your inability to execute combos, constantly losing to certain characters, or falling victim to the same strategy. Just breathe, take a break if needed, and pick up your controller and get back to work.
“WTF ARE YOU SAYING?”
You’ll find that fighting game players use jargon that varies from game to game, and also prevails over the genre as a whole. As you get more advanced, you might find yourself researching tactics and strategies online. You’ll also find terms that barely qualify as words. Thus, I want to list a short glossary of a sort for some of the words you might run into.
Cancel: Cancels vary in a technical sense, but it’s all the same thing: cancelling your current input in order to do something else. Most times it’ll be a normal that cancels into a special attack, a special that cancels into an Overdrive, and multiple combinations therein.
Charge: Charges are motions that require to hold your one direction for a time, and then input the opposite direction, then your attack button. Usually depicted with an arrow that’s darkened, followed by a standard arrow. A lot of charge attacks are “special” attacks.
Dragon Punch: more commonly called “DP”, this input gets its name from Street Fighter’s Shoryuken (which means Rising Dragon Punch). It’s pushing forward, down, crouching forward in quick succession. Many games feature this input and it’s usually a good offensive option when waking up. It’s often depicted as a “Z”-shaped notation on command lists.
EX: EX attacks are enhanced versions from their standard counterparts, but consume sort of resource that game features. EX attacks allow you to gain a degree of tactical advantage, and sometimes do more damage.
Fireball: Usually referenced when talking Street Fighter’s Hadouken or any projectile. You press down, crouching forward, forward to execute. Mind, not all the fireballs use that input, but it’s most frequently used when talking about the standard fireballs.
Normals: These moves are just basic ones that don’t require directional inputs before the attack button is pressed. You have normals that can be used while standing, crouching, or jumping that simply require you to an attack button, no more, no less.
Safe/Unsafe: Attacks that are safe on block means that you can use them without having to worry about your opponent punishing you if they block it. Unsafe is just the opposite.
Specials: The definition of special commands varies from game to game, but it’s usually those attacks that specific to that character and require a form of directional input or specific command. Usually done with quarter/half/full circle input, or DP, Charge, or some other complex motion.
Super/Ultra/Overdrive/Critical Attacks: The name is different, but they refer to more or less the same things: These attacks are high risk, high reward attacks that do colossal damage at some sort of cost. These attacks are usually telegraphed by dynamic camera angles, character close-ups, darkening background, or whatever. They’re designed to be hard to execute, easy to punish and require a strategy to use them effectively and minimize risk.
Tech: Aside from meaning “technique,” it’s also short for “technical,” which usually refers to pressing a button in time with or during an opponent’s attack that allows to you block in a way that gives a tactical advantage over a standard block, such as having faster recovery. You can also tech throws so that you break them before the opponent actually has a chance to throw you.
Wake-up: Waking up is getting up when you’ve been knocked down. Different games have different options you can employ while waking up so that you don’t open yourself to additional attack while in this vulnerable state.