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Sucking Less At Fighting Games: Steps Towards Higher Level Play

Fighting games can be brutal to the uninitiated. Maybe that one asshole friend of yours who spends a little too much time playing them convinced you to give it a whirl and promptly stomped you and any possible interest you had into the ground. Maybe you’re sick of the trash talks that come off a little too hard when you have your ass handed to you in Street Fighter. It could be you’re sick of losing to people online who spam the same stupid moves all day. Or maybe you just want to be better at fighting games and that’s all the reason you need. By looking at what higher level players do, we can see there are certain things new and intermediate level players can do to step up their game so that they can have a turn with the smack talk. Some of these things include: practice, pressure, and creativity.

First off, find a character and stick with them. The first thing players need to do when playing their respective fighting game is to find a character that you either think is cool or is fun to play. There’s no reason to even pick up the controller if you aren’t enjoying your character. If you have fun then you’ll do better since you won’t choke under pressure. Looking at the characters may be a daunting task depending on what game you’re playing, but rifle through all the characters and hopefully you’ll find someone or something which appeals to you on some level. Maybe you think that big burly Russian who piledrives bears is awesome, or maybe a mad scientist cat person who summons fireballs and messes with gravity is more your thing.

 

 

The first step to getting better at a fighting game is to find a character that you enjoy and stick with them until you are comfortable with them.

The first step to getting better at a fighting game is to find a character that you enjoy and stick with them until you are comfortable with them.

From here, a player needs to understand that most characters have good and bad match ups. Some characters may do a lot of damage, but they find it incredibly difficult to get in against other characters  who can fight at long distance and maintain their distance. Likewise, a character who relies on projectiles and maintaining distance may have issues with very offensive characters who have ways to get around their zoning tools. This forms the basis of something in high level play which is known as “tiers”. Tiers are basically a summary of a character’s match ups in a fighting game and they are given a rank based on a letter grade system. Characters who are considered to be very good and have fewer bad match ups would be ranked higher than a character who has a hard time against the majority of the cast. It is important to note that tiers may be a measure of how good a character is, but they are certainly not insurmountable. Its better to consider it a measurement of how much harder you may need to work with your lower tier character to beat your opponent who is using a higher tiered character.

Next up, actual gameplay. A player needs to spend some time in practice mode, and there’s no real way around that. Now, this may seem like common sense to a lot of people, but you need to be smart with your time as well. Most people don’t have the time to just dump hours upon hours into a fighting game just playing people online hoping that they will acclimate and learn what they need to and suddenly be good. Fighting games don’t necessarily work like that, and a lot of the people online are sharks circling the waters of online play for unsuspecting victims hoping to find some easy matches to rank up faster to get away from the low ranked plebs. This is why training/practice mode is your friend. Aspiring players need to understand that they need to go into practice mode with a slightly different mindset compared to normal games. For most people it’s better for them to go into training mode with specific goals set prior. Maybe “I want to do a combo that does X percent of my opponents life” is the goal you set for yourself, or maybe its something as easy as “I want to find a combo that I can end with a super move.” Either way, in fighting games it is good to set immediate goals that you can achieve in a relatively short amount of time and to let your achievements pile up on top of each other and form a big ol’ pile of talent.

 

Challenge modes in more recent fighting games also have specific goals for players to help build their skills quickly.

Challenge modes in more recent fighting games also have specific goals for players to help build their skills quickly.

Another important part of fighting games is putting pressure on your opponents. Pressure is when you force an opponent into a defensive position where they can’t retaliate as easily as normal and is a big part of what makes fighting games what they are. How this is done varies depending on the character, but there are certain things that every character can do. One form of pressure comes from “mixup” where a player will do attacks that hit both high and low, hoping they will miss a block so that they can perform a combo. Cross-ups are another form of pressure where players perform an attack and land on the opposite side the opponent was blocking on, hoping that their opponent will miss the block. Putting pressure on a knocked-down opponent is a huge part of the pressure game in some fighting games. This pressure (known as Okizeme, or Oki for short) involves performing attacks that basically determine how your opponent can wake up or limits his options. Oki pressure can come either from using a projectile and timing it so it is right on top of an opponent as they stand up, or sometimes just performing a meaty attack as they are getting up that will force them to block. The point of Oki is force your opponent to stay on the defense even when they are getting back up.

 

A well placed projectile can serve as good pressure against an opponent who is recovering and standing up.

A well placed projectile can serve as good pressure against an opponent who is recovering and standing up.

 

Creativity can be an important part of fighting games. It goes without saying, but new applications for old moves can often have surprisingly effective results, simply because people are not used to them. Most players of fighting games are creatures of habit, and it will take at least a couple of attempts before your new application of moves can be solved.  This is much more prevalent in games with team building elements such as the Marvel vs Capcom and Skullgirls series, where you can call in your teammates to perform attacks in the hopes of catching your opponent off guard or just barreling through them. This can also be applicable to things like team creation as well. Sometimes people are not quite so sure the exact specifics of your characters/team combination, and you can use that to your advantage.

You won’t get be amazing overnight. Fighting games are kind of a slog when it comes to progress, but going into practice with specific goals, as well as practicing your pressure and thinking outside the box can definitely help a new and intermediate players get better at the game. Give it a shot if you have some time.



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