Combos – Cover

Sucking Less at Fighting Games: Combos

This is what you’ve been training for. No more will you idly sit by and be destroyed by your so-called friends, who delight in stomping you into the ground and throw the smack talk out at you between rounds, only exacerbating the situation to the point where you want to just beat them up instead of their character. No, after you learn the basics of combos everything will change and you will suck just a little bit less at fighting games than before. You might even be able to say you’re ok at them once you’ve got combos down pat.

Combos are what happens when you’ve grasped the most basic of ideas behind fighting games: hitting buttons fast enough in quick succession. How this usually works is easy enough to understand: when you hit an opponent and they don’t block an attack they go into what is known as “hit stun,” where the opponent recoils from the attack (it looks like they are getting hit) and so long as they are in that animation, they can be hit by additional attacks.  When you properly link them, most fighting games nowadays have a combo count go up somewhere on the screen during or after the combo. If the combo count shows up, that means you properly did it. When you play fighting games, normally when you hit several buttons in quick succession your attacks will most of the time link together into a combo while your opponent is in hit stun. Normally, the most common of combos is something like hitting your weak or light attack twice in a row. An example of this in Street Fighter would be something like doing light punch twice in a row or light punch followed by light kick and making sure they connect together to do a two hit combo. After that, you need to experiment to see what other moves can follow up after the two hit combo. This will give you the basic knowledge of what does and doesn’t combo off of certain moves. The easiest way to do this in fighting games nowadays is using character specific challenge modes which teach the basic combos of specific characters to you all the way up to advanced combos. Certain moves, however, simply cannot combo together, as one of them either takes to long to recover to start the next one or the other attack takes to long to start up.

Challenge mode is an excellent way to learn the ins and outs of a characters combos. Unfortunately, not every fighting game has character specific challenge modes yet.

Challenge mode is an excellent way to learn the ins and outs of a characters combos. Unfortunately, not every fighting game has character specific challenge modes yet.

Sometimes this may actually be a bit more difficult then some people would imagine, since you need to hit the buttons in very quick succession depending on the game in order for the combo to actually happen. I am speaking of multiple frames of a second, not a half second or full second. So timing can be very tight. If you wait too long, or your fingers are too slow when hitting the buttons, your first attack will connect and hit your opponent, but due to your slow-a** fingers, your second attack will come out too slow and your opponent will no longer be in hit stun and will go back to their neutral state where they can block your attacks. This is what you want to avoid a lot of the time when doing combos, because if you drop a combo (meaning you fail to perform it properly), then your opponent most likely can punish you and perform a combo of their own on your and ruin both your day and possibly the round.

Certain characters with ranged attacks, such as Peacock from Skullgirls, can actually perform there combos from full screen.

Certain characters with ranged attacks, such as Peacock from Skullgirls, can actually perform there combos from full screen.

People may think “It seems like my attacks do less damage after the first hit, so why do I want to do these combos if it means I do less damage?” There is a reason for doing these combos. Yes, damage scales when you do a combo and the longer the combo goes on the less damage it will do. This means that after a point in the combo, its best to end with some sort of special move or super attack which either does not scale or does enough damage that it can serve as a functional finisher to the attack. Additionally, combos can do more damage if done in the proper location or can fail if done in the improper location. For example, when somebody is in the corner and they are being comboed, different kinds of combos can be used. Normally, when people are comboed they are carried across the screen, but when you are in the corner they do not go anywhere. Typically when this happens, it means combos can be either extended or different attacks can be used for additional damage that normally wouldn’t be able to be used outside of the corner. This is called a corner combo, and its important to at least have a vague idea that if you are comboing somebody in the corner than you should probably be able to do more damage than normal by comparison.

So lets say you’ve mastered the idea of a basic combo to start with. So you can hit your buttons in succession fast enough so they’ll link and you can do it with enough regularity where its not an issue. Cool, but those combos themselves can be very specific and there can be a variety of different combos to use for different characters or depending on the position that you are in when you start the combo as well. For example, Carl Clover from the BlazBlue series is quite a bit smaller than other characters in the game and because of this he actually falls out of a combo that would work on 90% of the cast. What this means is that your normal combo will not be as effective due to his size and that you will need to perform a slightly different combo for that character if you want to maximize your damage from the combo.  While not as important as knowing your basic combos, its important to know that your combos will not always work against certain characters.



Combos most of the time are what is going to make up your damage in fighting games. While having an understanding of poking, blocking, and when to attack is essential, it is imperative that you know how to do the damage when the opportunity presents itself. Your opponent isn’t going to make it easy for you to win, so sucking a little bit less and improving yourself is the first step towards being better. Give that challenge mode a try or give experimenting with your own combos a go in training mode. Practice makes perfect, so get to it.