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I go by many names. Masterace, Perfidious Sinn, KD Beaston, Perfidious Syn...uh, that might be it actually.

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I've looked at a lot of games since I started taking fighting games seriously around two years ago. I've covered most of the subgenres and found what I like and dislike about most of them. However, this is my first time covering a game that isn't finished.

Street Fighter IV isn't a new game, and I guess some of its various problems and weird glitches can't really be fixed in this incremental update (Check out this article for more on that). There's things wrong with Ultra Street Fighter IV that were wrong with the game when it first came out...but the bug list is pretty intense. http://forums.shoryuken.com/discussion/190962/usf4-bugs-and-improper-set-character-data-list-please-contribute/p1

I don't care enough about frame data to get upset about some of this, but there are things that affect the characters I play, and I can feel it.

For Poison,

“On block Super grants the opponent 100% of the "on hit" meter.

Ultra 2 input cannot end with any UP input. 2X half circle back -> up back +3P results in EX Rekka instead of U2. Fireball input cannot end with any UP input. QCF+Up results in a jump instead of canceling the prejump frames into fireball.”

For Elena,

“Move list priority is incorrectly set. Elena's super and ultras are ranked as higher than appeal or focus. This allows for canceling focus attack into ultra / super by utilizing an armor absorb cancel.

Most multi hit specials are inconsistent on a large majority of the cast resulting in mid move drop outs.”

It may not mean much to new players, but I ended up spending around $35 for this game ($20 for the base game, $15 for the Ultra update) and that's a lot of money for a game that's not finished. The weird glitches aren't the only reason why I say this. There's things that I found which hampered my ability to learn SF4 as a new player.

Ultra Street Fighter IV has no tutorial. The previous iteration Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition 2012 had no tutorial. And despite the theory that Street Fighter IV is great to get beginners into fighting games, I don't see it. I'm not new to the genre, but I am new to this game and there is just one included resource to learn how to play: an in-game text manual.

Do you know what a Focus Attack is or how to perform it? I didn't without looking it up! I also didn't know that Focus Attacks have three levels with different attack properties or how to do the extremely important Focus Attack Dash Cancel.

The “Trial” mode is the closest the game comes to a tutorial. You're given a set of 24 combos to perform, the first few teaching you how to input some of your character's special moves and Ultras.



The problem is that Trial mode is one part of the game that's currently unfinished. Upon entering Trial Mode you see this screen:



This game has seen many iterations since 2009. The Ultra Street Fighter IV versions of characters have changed since the previous iteration, AE2012. Trial Mode gives you combos that might not even be possible in Ultra. The inputs for Super or Ultra Combos are occasionally inaccurate, since a handful of them did change with the latest update. And Trial Mode never teaches you about the new mechanics for Ultra, Delayed Wakeup and Red Focus. There are entire characters missing from Trial Mode, so you'll have to go to Training Mode to try out their movesets.

And even if this mode were fully updated, it would be inferior to Persona 4 Arena's challenge mode. That challenge mode displays your needed inputs for Special Moves on screen at all times, allows you to quickly reset both characters positions with one button press, and includes a Demonstration where you can see the computer performing the combo so you can tell what you need to do.



For a game where combos are extremely reliant on timing and 1 frame button presses, it's crazy to me that there's no Demonstration so I can even see how the combo should look.

Since the game just straight up leaves out the resources you'll want or need to learn it, I looked elsewhere. Luckily there's a large database online, and I'll link a few videos that helped me a lot in learning.

UltraDavid and James Chen go over the basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq3pJ-LvxVA&list=PL45-KVgrSkf7Yz5S3dGWZ3Sfti-3A8k0d

The USF4 Guidebook by MetalMusicMan04: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiWHE0iGG74

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf35PwXonb0

Shoryuken Bruh on Combos, Links and Timing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU7xRoVRUxQ&list=UUrq8B--z8VyqzrQBtv5JxOw

It's good that this game has been around so long that people are REALLY good at it and willing to teach.

So, since there were no Trials for my character of choice, I jumped into Training Mode and just messed around for a while. Training has its ups and downs.

+You can set the CPU to “Auto Block” which is crucial for learning the timing on combos. If you time your combo correctly, every attack will connect. If you mess up, the CPU will block and you'll know that the timing is wrong. “Random Block” is also useful for learning to cut your combos short if they're getting blocked.

+Input Display lets you see if you're inputting a move incorrectly, so you know why it's not coming out.

+It's very easy and quick to record and replay a training dummy's actions

+You can turn on Fight Request from here, allowing you to train while waiting for online matches. Way better than sitting in a lobby!

-You can't quickly restart the training state by hitting the Back or Select button

-You can disable Fight Request from Training Mode, but you can't turn it back on

-It takes too long to leave Training, pick a character, and go back in due to the load times

-You can't set the dummy to break throws

-You can't set the dummy to do Delayed Wakeup

The last one is also silly because Delayed Wakeup affects some characters significantly. Characters like Ibuki and Cammy prey on opponents getting up after a knockdown because they can put them in an extremely difficult to block situation, but Delayed Wakeup can throw off their timing when used correctly. So why isn't a Training option? The game's not finished.


(Your worst nightmare until you get good at the game)

So, after spending not enough time learning my commands I jumped into Ranked mode online. I would highly recommend going into Ranked over Endless Battle, and be sure to set the skill level to “Same Skill”. Jumping into Endless Battle or Ranked (not on Same Skill) is like diving into shark infested waters. This game has been around for so long that basically everyone playing it is good, or at least better than you will be at first.

I found getting into matches via Fight Request in Training was preferable, because the experience of going to “Xbox Live Battle” is a mess of refreshing, clicking lobbies as they disappear and kick you back a layer, loading, refreshing the search, loading, loading again.

Once you get online, the netcode ranges from “OK” to “atrocious”. I've had many matches where “Waiting For Player” messages pop up every few seconds, making the game nearly unplayable. I've had matches where the game felt fine but my controller inputs were blatantly not coming out, resulting in it registering two simultaneous button presses when I presses three, or a double QCF registering as only one. I've been playing with friends for several matches in a row, and for some matches it randomly decides to make the netcode much worse for no real reason. It's not the worst netcode I've ever experienced, but it's outclassed by nearly all of its contemporaries.

Playing Ultra Street Fighter IV online actually wasn't an endless loop of me losing every match like I expected, but I'm sure it's only because I'm on Same Skill. I win the majority of my matches in my rank, but if I'm fighting someone more skilled it's never close. I feel like I'm stuck and won't ever be able to beat people at a higher rank than me, no matter how often I play.

But I can admit Street Fighter IV is a unique case here. There are people playing this game that have been playing since 2009. I can't realistically expect to get to that level because I can't make up for the several years of practice other people have on me. It's one of the reasons why I wouldn't recommend this game to beginners.



The timing for combos and inputs for certain special moves makes this game even more difficult to get into. Many combos rely on one frame links which rely on pressing buttons in some esoteric, unexplained timing. There are a few characters with “Target Combos” which work like strings in other fighing games (input moves as quickly as possible) but not everyone has the benefit of having easy, reliable combos. Some special moves like Cammy's Hooligan Throw have weird inputs like

360 commands are very difficult to do without jumping, so playing grappler characters as a beginner is an exercise in accidentally jumping forward when trying to do a command throw, and your opponent realizing you're trying to do a command throw and avoiding it. I still can't do double 360s consistently without jumping. I've had issues pulling off Delayed Wakeup even though I input it correctly, and I can't really explain why.



What I Liked:
+Large cast of unique characters. Even the ones who fall into the same class feel different

+Launching into online Ranked mode straight from Training or Arcade

+Animated cutscenes in Story Mode

+Ability to individually change character voice languages

What I Didn't Like:
-No tutorial

-Trials aren't helpful

-Online netcode isn't good

-Combos rely on strict timing and it's difficult to tell how to do them correctly

-Numerous glitches, some of which affected my gameplay (like hurtbox glitches and inputs being overlapped)

-Some special moves have very complex inputs

-Training Mode lacks a few options like setting the dummy to break throws or use Delayed Wakeup

-Arcade Mode isn't useful for learning the game because the AI reads inputs, making it an unfair match

-Online menus are clunky

-Lots of loading

Ultra Street Fighter IV is an update of an older game and will understandably have some drawbacks. From my perspective as a new player trying to learn it, it wasn't very enjoyable. I think it's difficult for new players to get into in terms of gameplay and its dated presentation. The only reason I've won 100 online matches so far is because I've built up fundamentals playing other games. I keep it simple online and never try to do advanced combos, partly because of online lag, partly because I find the combo system awkward.

Ultra Street Fighter IV is a good game to get into if you've already been playing Street Fighter IV for a while, or you're incredibly dedicated and want to dedicate your time to making it the only fighting game you play. For new players, trying to play this game as your first will be frustrating and I'd recommend other, more modern games.

Here's some links again for beginner tutorials that helped me out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq3pJ-LvxVA&list=PL45-KVgrSkf7Yz5S3dGWZ3Sfti-3A8k0d

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiWHE0iGG74

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf35PwXonb0

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrq8B--z8VyqzrQBtv5JxOw
Photo Photo Photo








I can't claim to know much about the history of DC's heroes and villains. I never watched the Batman or Superman cartoons when I was a kid, and I've read a grand total of five comic books in my life. The appeal of DC characters punching each other didn't draw me into Injustice: Gods Among Us. What drew me in were the things I saw in Injustice that no other current fighting game had.



The mechanics that makes Injustice stand out aren't new. Dead or Alive had level transitions for years. Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee had interactive objects as a major part of gameplay, as you threw bridges and buildings at your opponents. Still, seeing these elements combined in one game immediately set it apart from other 2D fighting games. In movies and cartoons, superheroes and villains always smash their opponents through buildings and throw heavy junk at each other. It only makes sense to put it in a game about superheroes.

To beginners, the interactive objects in Injustice can seem cheap. They do a punishing amount of damage for what seems like relatively low risk. However, the tradeoff is using any interactive object has a slow startup that can be punished easily. If the object is a thrown item, it always travels in the same path. I quickly memorized how each object would react so I could jump out of the way or evade it with the small amount of invincibility frames on backdashing.



The level transitions are very painful to get hit by, but not every stage has them and are only activated if you get hit by a slow wall bounce move that is easy to avoid.



And if you still find these elements of the game too distracting or unfair, you can turn them off. The Injustice community has generally accepted level transitions and interactables as fair for tournament play, which is cool because it's one of the things that sets the game apart from others, especially its predecessor Mortal Kombat 9.

But before I started worrying about getting hit in the face with air conditioners, I tested out various single player options to see if Injustice would be a game I could get into. The tutorial is highly recommended, as it teaches nearly every aspect of the game quickly.



I had a couple of issues with the tutorial in the end. One is just an issue with the Reversal system. After you block any attack you can input a special move and do it faster than normal, which is a feature in most fighting games (Street Fighter comes to mind). I like how it says “Reversal Window” when it's possible, but the timing is so awkward that I never really go for Reversal moves because I don't know if they'll come out or not.

The second issue is that the tutorial doesn't teach you enough about your meter.



You can hit the meter burn button while using an interactable to gain several hits of armor, making many of them basically safe to use. To assist in stage transitions, you can also meter burn your wall bounce (back+heavy) and your ground bound (forward+heavy). The tutorial also doesn't teach you which interactables can be Meter Burned, which might be understandable because there's a lot of them.



After the tutorial, I jumped into the Story Mode. Similar to Mortal Kombat 9, you play a large cast of characters through the story, giving you a chance to learn their moves. I also enjoyed the minigames that took place between fights to break the monotony. But what was up with Superman killing all those civilians?



That's not all for the single player content. There's Battles mode where you fight several characters while hindered by a gimmick like draining health, handicap matches or a shortened time limit. There's S.T.A.R. Labs that contain a huge amount of challenges for each character. If you want to learn more about how to play a character, the S.T.A.R. Labs all contain a mission that acts as a brief tutorial. There's even some missions that are execution drills, forcing you to use a handful of special moves over and over until you can do them easily.



There's one issue with S.T.A.R. Labs as a training device, however. You have to unlock later character's missions by getting enough stars on the earlier ones. If you want to play Wonder Woman or Ares' tutorials, you might have to beat over 100 missions just to unlock them! Also, some of the downloadable characters don't have tutorials at all.

For those characters, the excellent Training mode makes things a lot easier. On top of expected features like full control of the AI's states including record and playback, you can turn on a detailed display that tells you how much damage a move did and what region it will hit (mid, high, low, or overhead). You can highlight where you need to stand to use an interactive object or transition. You can tag up to six moves to appear at the top of your screen so you don't forget them as you practice, eliminating the need to return to the pause screen and look up moves every couple of seconds.

That last one is something I think should be included in every fighting game. Tagging moves is amazing. You can even tag moves for multiplayer matches if you're the type of person to freak out and forget your moves mid match (I am!)There's frame data on each move and combo string, but I've heard it's not accurate.


(credit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-HApsuNV7Qb5QAxXVucW0g)

So in my quest to Get Good, I found the S.T.A.R. Labs missions were actually more helpful than I thought. Missions where you can't let you opponent hit you once are a quick drill on your character's movement options and keepaway attacks. Missions where you have to hit a high-damaging combo force you to innovate on the spot and maximize your damage. Of course, looking up YouTube videos like the one I linked above helped a lot too.

Now that I've been playing online a lot and winning enough to get a fair amount of hatemail, I've really found out what I enjoy about Injustice. With the exception of maybe The Joker and Cyborg, there aren't any matchups that have felt hopeless. Most characters can perform a 20%-30% basic combo with one bar of meter, and their Character Power helps them out of desperate situations. I play lame in most fighting games, which naturally drew me to Raven as a keepaway character. Raven's Character Power lets her cover basically anywhere on the screen with projectiles and grab her opponent from full screen. The Character Power is a great feature that makes each character feel totally different even as they share the universal inputs.

I feel like the game is fairly easy to pick up because of the universal mechanics like down+Medium for launchers and back+Heavy for wall bounces. If you can hit those, you can get a quick and easy combo. It just takes training to maximize your damage off of that one hit.

With the exception of a few weird command grabs and Close/Far projectiles, the inputs aren't difficult and the combo strings aren't dependent on strict timing; you just input them as quickly as possible and they work. Clash is an interesting twist on a traditional “combo breaker” because you only get one and it's dependent on meter, so even if you break the combo you could still be one hit away from losing.



I've enjoyed Injustice: Gods Among Us more than I thought I would, and I've been playing it regularly since April, just recently passing 200 matches played (with a little over 100 wins). The game is balanced well enough that you can get wins with most characters (except for The Joker and Cyborg probably), and I have fun playing it. It would be an injustice if this game doesn't get a sequel with even more DC characters I don't know.

What I Liked:

-Execution barrier is low. Most combos don't rely on strict timing and are easy to execute

-Many strategic uses for meter

-Story Mode that lets you try out many characters, and has fun minigames

-S.T.A.R. Labs provide more solo content than most other fighting games

-Very detailed and customizable Training mode

-Daily Challenges gives an incentive to keep playing online

-Unique online multiplayer modes

What I Didn't Like:

-S.T.A.R. Labs contain character tutorials, but they aren't all unlocked from the start.

-Netcode can be unreliable

-Lots of quitters online

-Awkward inputs for some special moves like command throws and Close/Far projectiles

-Damage effects don't look good

-Load times are frequent and too long

-Input window for reversal attacks is difficult to discern

If you're looking for a good starting point to learning a character, check out http://testyourmight.com/forums/choose-your-hero-villain.233/
Photo










Since the initial trailer, Grand Theft Auto Online seemed like a dream coming true for me. I've been a fan of Grand Theft Auto for a while, and have lots of memories playing the game with friends locally. I remember the extremely limited and strange feature in San Andreas that allowed you to play brief 2 player Rampages.




The online function of Grand Theft Auto IV was a little better, but the awkward menus and my growing apathy toward most of the game kept it from being the GTA Online experience I really wanted. I liked Grand Theft Auto V a lot more, and the online function looked like exactly what I wanted.




Creating and leveling your own character, participating in structured Jobs and Missions with friends, or just roaming the enormous game map. It was everything I wanted and I couldn't wait to jump into it with friends.

I've played Grand Theft Auto V for about 300 hours now, and about 100 of them were spent in GTA Online. While I'm still having fun when teaming up with friends, and while the game has significantly improved since release, I have a handful of issues with it that I'd like to see improved with future patches. I want Grand Theft Auto Online to be the best it can possibly be, and maybe fixing some of these issues will help with that.

Character Creator Is Bad

[b]
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I have very few positive things to say about GTA Online's character creator. It's confusing, convoluted, and probably worse than every modern character creation system out there. Instead of choosing your character's physical appearance with sliders, you choose what your parents and grandparents looked like and they give you an appearance linked to that. You also choose your character's lifestyle with a weird time assignment system that doesn't seem to affect anything but starting stats...which doesn't matter because you'll level all those stats up to full naturally.

The biggest problem here is that your character looks different in the Creator than they do in the game. So I had to start over after creating them and sitting through copious load screens, because they had a weird face in game. My proposed solution is to incorporate a plastic surgeon in GTA Online so you can fix your appearance as needed. It might link back to the same broken character creation screen, but it's better than having to remake them from scratch.

Failed To Find A Compatible GTA Online Session
Revisiting the image I posted at the top.




I get this message 90% of the time that I try to join GTA Online from the main menu. The process is as such:

1. Hit A at startup to join GTA Online

2. Sit through several minutes of loading time

3. Failed To Find A Compatible Session

4. Sit through brief load time to get kicked into GTA V single player

5. Try to join GTA Online again

6. Sit through several minutes loading time

And if I don't get step 7 (get kicked out again), I'm in the game. It's silly. My proposed solution is to put me in a solo session if I can't connect to a group one. Kicking the player back to GTA V for them to start the loading process again is maddening, especially when the game takes so long to load up in the first place.

GTA Online separates lobbies by your Targeting Mode: Free Aim, Traditional GTA, or Assisted Aiming. I only play Free Aim and I assume the other lobbies are more populated, which could lead to my repeated “failed to join” experiences. But don't punish me by making me wait longer. Just put me into a Solo Session if necessary. There are plenty of things to do solo! I really don't mind!

Passive Mode and the Broken Spawn System
Most players in GTA Online lobbies want to kill you. A lot. In theory, you can go into Passive Mode and be left alone while you go about your business. Passive Mode protects you from getting shot by other players.

In practice, Passive Mode isn't passive enough. I've found in this state, you can still be killed if a player runs you over or kills you with explosives. If you get into your car, they can shoot you and your car can be blown up.

If you're getting hounded by a player who is killing you over and over, Passive Mode is near worthless because of another oversight: the respawn system. After death, you respawn close to where you were killed and in many cases, close to the player who killed you. I have had more than a few instances of getting killed by a player, respawning, trying to get a car to drive away, and getting shot down because Passive Mode disables when you're in a car.

My solution to this problem is allow you to respawn at a chosen location after death/suicide. The handy Interaction Menu allows you to set a waypoint for major landmarks at any time. How about adding an option to choose your respawn point on death? If you want to stay near the place you died, leave it off. If you need to get out of there and avoid spawn kills, pick a location from the menu. Seems like an easy fix.




"On Call" Doesn't Actually Work
I've complained multiple times about no one joining lobbies in GTA Online. Maybe it's a complaint about the playerbase as a whole, but I haven't had a race or mission start quickly in months. People just don't want to join. This could also be linked to Free Aim lobbies having lower population, I admit.

So, this was my routine. I'd make a lobby for a race/deathmatch/whatever, and wait.



I've waited up to 20 minutes for games to start before, even using the “Auto-Invite And Play” button which allegedly “Finds players to quickly start a session” for you. No dice. I've probably spent more time waiting in empty lobbies in GTA Online than doing anything else.

So, in a recent patch Rockstar added “On Call” mode. You can queue up an event and continue to roam the open world as players join. But I've never seen anyone join. Tried every match type, waited for over 10 minutes, and nothing. Does the feature even function? Can I still change match options when I join?

No one really knows!

I guess my solution is to yell at everyone playing the game to make them join lobbies, but that's unrealistic.

No Tracker For Online Goals
One cool things about GTA Online is that you can level up and are given a HUGE amount of tasks and challenges to complete to help you level faster.



It's anything from spending cash on clothes to killing people in Deathmatches enough times with a shotgun. A lot of these challenges can be completed alone, so I still enjoy jumping into GTA Online alone just to grind through some of them. It's a cool feature that gives GTA Online some added value outside of “roaming about” and “doing missions”

My nitpick is that you can't tell how much of a challenge you've done until you finish it. Well, you can't tell QUICKLY at least. To look at your progress you have to pause the game, go to Stats, go to Awards, and find the progress of what you've done by scrolling through multiple pages. The pause menu isn't really slow, but it doesn't load fast enough!

You know what would be nice? A progress tracker that pops up as you get closer to completing an Award. Think Gears of War.

[b]
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See how the bars in the bottom left aren't fully filled, just a reminder of how close you are? GTA Online should definitely have that.

In the end, a few of my problems can be solved just by “get more people playing matches”. The general mindset of GTA Online players seems unfocused on the missions and more on killing random players; just go into any lobby and see how many people with bright red Mental States you see. Even though I prefer playing races and co-operative missions, I can't change how those people want to play the game (yet?)

GTA Online is fun, and I wouldn't have put 100 hours into it if I weren't enjoying it on some level. But there's a lot of improvements to be made before it can reach its full potential, and I hope they are made so it can really become the multiplayer Grand Theft Auto experience I've always wanted.

Heists.

Photo Photo Photo








Some of the pictures used in this post are from Old Abbot.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/124173938@N02/sets/72157644502259238/ 
They're the ones that look great, in comparison to the ones I took myself on my phone.

Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament 9 was a blast in 2013. I chose wisely for my first tournament ever, and had fun throughout the weekend even when I wasn't competing. I was a little bummed to hear that this year's event would be the last Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament, but I also knew that going to it was a necessity.




In contrast to last year, I entered less games which allowed me to manage training time better. I learned from playing in 2013's event that there are certain games that I just don't do well in competitively and avoided them this year. My tournament results benefited from doing so, but only slightly.

Friday

Street Fighter X Tekken:
http://ufgt10.challonge.com/UFGTX_SFxT_PoolC1



Divekick:
http://ufgt10.challonge.com/UFGTX_DK_PoolD1

I have no way to play Divekick at home. The last time I played was before Addition Edition, a huge balance patch that changed the majority of the cast. However, since Divekick fundamentals are impossible to forget, I got back into the swing of things very quickly. I also got some help from other players during casuals, asking them a lot of details about the changes my characters (Markman and Mr. N) received as well as theirs. That's what I've found in general when playing fighting games locally. If you've got questions, 99% of people are nice enough to help you.

In the tournament, I lost my first game, won the second, lost the third and got eliminated. I'm fine with that because I am completely out of practice and Divekick is a game that never makes me upset (for long) when I play it. I still think it's great fun to play casually and a good way to secretly turn your friends into fighting game fans. What I really liked to see were the people who play Divekick as a main game and are incredibly good at it. It's so exciting to watch at high levels, and see how different the game looks a year later.

Also, shoutout to the guy playing Divekick with Donkey Konga bongos.



Saturday

Mystery Game: http://ufgt10.challonge.com/UFGTX_MYST_PoolI1

I wouldn't have felt right if I went to UFGT and didn't enter the Mystery Game Tournament. I was quickly eliminated after playing Bloody Roar and another fighting game I cannot recall (which involved leveling up or absorbing enemy powers Mega Man style...it was unclear) but this tournament is always fun and moments of it had me laughing harder than anything else all weekend. I saw people playing Burnout, indescribable Japanese minigame collections, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters, and it all culminated in the most unbelievable Grand Finals of the night: Don't Break The Ice.




I can't wait for that video to go up.

That was it for the tournaments I entered. Here's some other observations I had throughout the weekend.

Playing Casuals


I made sure to play many more non-tournament matches this weekend than I did last year. In my downtime, I was playing Injustice, Street Fighter X Tekken, Divekick, and a little bit of Skullgirls. The whole time I made sure to ask questions. It was extremely helpful to get some matchup experience against characters I don't really see in online play. I didn't enter the Injustice tournament, but I played a lot of casual matches against people better than me. I lost a lot, but I learned a lot more and I'd love to play that game in a tournament some day.

As I try to improve in more fighting games, I've found that this is a lot more helpful than grinding out training mode alone. Having people to share ideas and strategies with is great, even if you're still losing a lot. Really, I just wish I played more casuals during the weekend.

Side Tournaments
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Through Saturday and Sunday, I heard a TON of side tournaments being announced over the speakers. I remember hearing them for Persona 4 Arena, Chaos Code, Melty Blood, Super Turbo and more that I surely missed. It was really cool to see people organizing these tournaments for games that weren't on the main schedule. Some of the games I've put a ton of time into and enjoy are less popular, but it was encouraging to see that there's basically a scene out there for any game if you're looking hard enough.

The Crowd Experience



Since I entered less games this year, I had more time to spend just sitting in the crowd watching people play. Even for games I know nothing about, it's so much fun just to watch them being played on stage. There are countless moments that I can't capture in photos or videos that weekend. The crowd broke out in dueling “Let's Go Cena/Cena Sucks!” chants while WWE All Stars was played during the Mystery Game Tournament. People loudly heckled and cheered for players on stage during the Marvel X tournament, excited to see many characters that almost never show up in tournament play. I came dangerously close to losing my voice cheering for Double A as he got extremely far in the Marvel X tournament (good job dude! Follow him on Twitter!) I might not be good enough play on the stage, but watching people play on streams is nothing like seeing it in person.



The ending of Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament is a little sad. Even though I've only been for two years, I've grown attached to it as it was the very first tournament I went to. The brackets ran very smoothly again thanks to the people running pools (and Keits, of course) wasting zero time screwing around, and I appreciate it. I can only hope any future tournaments I go to run as well.

Going to these tournaments has been a strong step forward into me becoming better than “mediocre” at fighting games. I still enjoy playing Street Fighter X Tekken and Injustice a lot, and playing casuals made me just want to play the games more and improve. I'd like to check out some local tournaments around my area now that I have more free time and the ability to get to them.

I had a lot of fun at Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament X, and I'm glad I got to be there for the last one. I can't wait for Combo Breaker.


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The “next generation” of game consoles isn't just around the corner anymore. We're fully into it and it's an exciting thing to observe. I've already seen how the Wii U, Playstation 4, and Xbox One have all found their places in the market and drawn unique audiences despite their general similarity.

Xbox One is still plagued by its bad reputation and weak start, but is making up for its stumbles with a price drop (and Kinect drop), dropping the Gold requirement to watch Netflix, and a handful of excellent exclusives like Killer Instinct and Dead Rising 3. It's still not the place to go for exclusive games, but there are enough titles there that make it a very attractive option for me. Mostly due to my overwhelming love of Dead Rising.

Playstation 4 has been riding high on its early trouncing of Xbox One, overshadowing it in support for indie games, less scumbag business tactics, and large number of console exclusives. They're pretty lucky that Microsoft messed up so badly right out of the gate, as I imagine that turned many indecisive co
nsumers into surefire Playstation 4 buyers. Giving away free games with Playstation Plus and regular discounts can't hurt as well. If they're still in first place for console sales, it's easy to see why.

Wii U has seemingly struggled with the issue of games being few and far between. Mario Kart 8 was just released, but the next big titles like Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, and Super Smash Bros are still floating around with an annoyingly unspecific “2014” release date. I know Wii U owners that are upset with a number of things: the limited utility of the GamePad, publishers dropping support, paying for the console before the price drop and not having enough games to play. But at least those few games are genuinely great. Wii U might not take the lead as far as sales go, but I think overall it has the most games I'd like to play right now. In the end, that's what matters most.

So after considering the pros and cons for each system, I have a solid idea of which one I'd like to buy first. They're all worth a purchase for different reasons, but deciding which one to get first is important to me. It could be years before I get another.

Before that, however, I got another gaming platform. While I think most people are willing to pay attention to pros and cons of the major current gen systems, this one a lot less love. The games available range from shallow wastes of time to disgusting, blatant cash grabs in the eyes of gamers. But the funny part is most people already own it.



I received my first smartphone, an iPhone 4, as a gift last year. I probably spent more time fascinated by the features in the first month of ownership than actually making calls. It's a brilliant piece of technology to just have in my pocket at all times, and cuts down on the amount of time I spend struggling with my dying laptop significantly.

More importantly, there are games! A huge, scary App Store filled with them. There are clones of more popular games, games that I don't know why were even allowed onto the store, and even ports or adaptations of games I've played on other consoles. I feel like in my social circle, the general reception of iPhone games ranges from “negative” to “they aren't even games”. So over the past few months, I took recommendations and followed my own interests to see what iPhone games are like. There are obviously some duds in the bunch, but there are many more games that shocked me with their quality. For better or worse, iPhone games can accomplish things no other console games can do.

Device 6

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Device 6 was probably the first iPhone game that surprised me with its depth, especially because most of the game is just reading. However, the developers took full advantage of the platform to make a game FOR the iPhone that feels like it. The text wraps and slinks around the screen, forcing you to rotate the phone as you slide through it. Clues for puzzles are hidden in strange audio logs and songs, meaning you'll need to put on headphones or be in a very quiet room if you want to progress. There's 'backtracking' that means you'll have to go back to a previous text passage/room to explore another branching path.

It's definitely challenging as well. I had a notepad beside me to scribble down notes on the more complex puzzles. It never gets as confusing as old PC adventure games, but it is surely a test. This isn't a game to kill time with at work. It's one you want to sit down at home by the fireplace with. Hot chocolate and notepad close at hand, obviously.

The only issue is as a puzzle game it isn't very replayable. Once you know the solutions to the puzzles it's tough to forget them. I've deleted it from my phone for now, but I'd love to revisit it in a year or later when I've forgotten how to automatically complete everything.


Sonic Dash
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Sonic Dash, in comparison, is not a game that requires much brainpower or time investment. It's the game I played while sitting in a waiting room, on a bus or during downtime at work. A simple free-to-play endless runner with the hook of adding characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. To be honest, this is the only game of its type that interested me because I do like Sonic games so much.

It was also my first experience with how an advertisement supported free-to-play game works. In this case, it was a little annoying. After every run, a skippable 15 second video ad plays. It'll be for another game or app that is not related to Sonic Dash at all. I was confused by this because the games are so unrelated, it's like a different company just bought ad space in this game! Also, it liked to replay videos every time you went from the game's shop or Challenge Menu back to the main menu...which led to me often getting stuck in a loop of accidentally watching ads over and over.

The game rewards you for continually playing. You get to spin the Wheel of Fortune once per day to get powerups or the Grand Prize (or you can spend an in-game currency for more spins). There are daily challenges that grant you score multipliers and more in-game currency (or you can spend in-game currency to automatically beat the challenges). I came across one challenge too annoyingly time consuming to bother with, and ended up spending $3 for enough in-game currency to bypass it. This also completely removed the advertisements from the game, which is a nice touch.





After working my way up to my goal over a month, I unlocked my favorite Sonic character to play as...and my motivation to keep at the game dropped. The challenges are now too difficult to reasonably complete, and I won't spend more money on the game to pass them. Since I've reached my personal “goal” with the game, I've played it much less.

Ridiculous Fishing
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Ridiculous Fishing is another great game to play in short bursts, but has much more longevity than Sonic Dash. As a paid game, there are no advertisements, daily challenges, or even an option to pay real money to progress. It all depends on your skill. Even with the upgrades you can purchase, if you're not good at tilting your phone to avoid fish you will not reach to bottom of the pond. Speaking of tilting, this is the only time I've used the accelerometer in my iPhone. Didn't know it had one until playing the game.

It has an excellent sense of humor with the goofy encyclopedia of fish, constantly updated in-game Twitter parody, and the concept of blowing up fish with machine guns for money. Since reaching the ending I've played it a lot less, but its charm keeps me coming back as much as my drive to catch every fish in the game.

Injustice: Gods Among Us
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Wondering how fighting games would work with a touchscreen, I picked up this game after spending a lot of time with the console version. Injustice mobile and console link up, rewarding you for accomplishing tasks in each game. Beat a tough challenge in the console version? Get a rare card for the mobile game. Beat enough battles in the mobile game? Get a new skin for the console game.

The gameplay is pretty simple. Taps are light attacks, swipes are heavy attacks, and you build up meter for special attacks which are simple minigames that grant bonus damage for doing well in. It's not too challenging or deep, but it's a mostly inoffensive time killer.

Where Injustice mobile falls apart for me is the currency system. You get very little money for completing each battle, from 400 to 1000 coins. The cool characters you actually want to play as start at 45,000 coins and go up. Also, the battles get progressively harder as you go on, so you WILL need to spend coins upgrading your special moves to get further in the game.

Overall, it leads to a feeling of never having enough coins. I'll beat the game by consistently upgrading my team, but that means I'll have no coins to buy a cool character I want. The struggle is eased a bit by getting a daily Login Reward, but those are rarely coins or good characters. I played many hours of this game before recently hitting the wall. Even if I kept playing it, I'd never be able to get the characters I want without spending money. And while the game is free and you never NEED to spend money, it's unreasonably time-consuming to get the Cool Stuff (TM) without spending money.



Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

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I have no idea how this game played on the Nintendo DS. I can tell you that it translated so perfectly to the iPhone that I never noticed it was a DS game. All of the information and gameplay options are on the one screen, and I never felt like I was missing a perspective by not having the second screen.

The game itself is excellent. The animation is fluid and beautiful, the music is so catchy it's almost annoying to have these tracks stuck in my head all day, and it delivers a mystery in a slow pace that makes big reveals even more satisfying. It is NOT a game to play on the go at all. There is a lot of text to read, and there are many opportunities to ignore the story and explore the world and its characters. I have my phone on me everywhere, but I only played this game at home so I could absorb every clue and line of dialog. And while the puzzles are mostly easy (there were only two I had to restart multiple times), seeing how I altered time and saved someone's life made me smile. It's not just “good for the iPhone”, I think Ghost Trick is a game everyone should play no matter how you get to it.

It wasn't my first choice for a new gaming platform, but I'm happy with my iPhone so far. Recently games like Hitman GO and Monument Valley have taken up my time, both of them being games I sit down at home with a good pair of headphones on to play. I have had more difficulty finding games to play in short sessions that interest me, now that the appeal of Injustice and Sonic Dash have worn off. Still, if the only games I have on my phone are ones that I can only play when I'm NOT on the move, I'm fine with that.

I've spent plenty of time considering what my next big console purchase will be, and getting that will cut into my time playing iPhone games significantly. Still, I'm glad I took the time to give the underdog a chance.
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So this is what it comes down to? I go for months without a new fighting game blog, and when I come back it's just covering a game I've covered before? For shame, me!

There's even games I haven't covered yet, like Street Fighter IV, Third Strike, and Injustice. I picked up some new fighting games since last time, but here we are. With a game I've already done. What a slacker I am.



Fighting games have the tendency to do this. If you wait a while after the original release, you're almost guaranteed to get an “ultimate” edition with balance tweaks and new features. Normally I wouldn't cover the same game twice, but I feel like Ultimate deserves praise. I was kind of lukewarm on DOA5, but this update pulled me back in with its promise of excellent training systems for new players. If you're bad at fighting games like I am, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate goes out of its way to help you.



I criticized vanilla DOA5 for burying its tutorials in the Story Mode, with no easy way to revisit them. This time around, there is a huge 42 part tutorial that covers every single concept in the game. Even things that weren't explained in the previous game's tutorial and systems I have never heard of are explained. They're accompanied by brief text boxes, clear on-screen instructions, and tests that make absolutely sure you grasped the concepts by having you perform them in a battle.

It's one of the best tutorials in any fighting game I've ever played. There's even a brief section that touches on frame data into easy-to-understand terms, teaching the concepts of startup and recovery. It's not only the perfect tutorial for learning DOA, it's a good lesson to learn if you're picking up any 3D fighting game.

As great as this mode is, it isn't perfect. The biggest issue I had was the aggressive AI during the test/mission sections. You have to complete a specific objective while fighting an opponent. As the challenges got more difficult, the AI gets increasingly aggressive, to the point where I found it difficult to even START doing my mission before I got knocked out by the AI. Helena and Ayane in particular are so tough that they're keeping me from finishing a handful of missions.

Some of the more esoteric concepts could have used more instruction than a text box. What would have helped a lot would be a demo, so I could see the computer finish the mission. At times I didn't know if I was timing my moves correctly and had to look up videos online.


[i]I used to lose to Christie 100% of the time in DOA5. Now I lose to Helena.
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Dead or Alive has a large cast where each character plays very differently. So while you will get down the basics of the game in the tutorial, you won't get far without actually learning a character.

I praised the Command Training in the original game, and it's relatively unchanged here. They even added a shortcut to view demonstrations of the moves: Back+RB. The command was previously "click the right stick" which is impossible on arcade sticks, so good on them for fixing it.

There's another feature that is crucial to learning your character of choice: the brand new Combo Challenge.



I love this feature. Every character has a long list of combos that you can complete as a check list. I feel like it's a feature that many fighting games don't bother to include, because they expect players to learn combos by experimenting or observing others playing the game. Still, it's incredibly helpful for new players who might have trouble putting together a bread-and-butter combo from scratch. I'm one of those people who always ends up looking for combos on Youtube because I have trouble forming my own, but this puts that feature right in the game.

Of course, it doesn't teach you the most optimal, flashy stuff you'll see in tournaments. It does waste the last couple of slots on tag combos which I never use because I don't play Tag mode. And my biggest complaint of all is that there is no Demonstration function here, so you can't tell if you're timing your hits correctly.

Despite that, Combo Challenge is a brilliant addition and a feature I want to see in more fighting games. The last one I remember doing so was Persona 4 Arena.


I chose to show Rachel's Combo Challenge because she's a new addition and my main character in the game. I never really settled on a character in the original game because none of them fit my playstyle, but luckily for me, one of the new ones did. She has a limited moveset and is slower than most characters. However, she also has a lot of moves that stun or knock down on hit, and hits like a truck when she connects.

Command Training is a good way to test and see if you can even play a character, but Combo Challenge helps even more. By finishing all of her combos in that mode (even the Tag ones I'll never use), I knew I found my main character.

One aspect of the game that still needs some work are the online features. In Rank Match you get this screen.


Due to how many options there are, finding matches is more difficult than it should be. The “opponent strength” option is good for finding people in your skill level, but your rank isn't shown on this screen. I found myself setting the region and connection to “any” just to get matches because there aren't too many people online. There should be a “quick match” button here, and simplify the opponent strength to a single menu with three options: Stronger, Weaker, Same Level.

There is an option to search for matches automatically during Training mode, which I used more because I didn't want to stare at a “searching...” menu for too long. However it seems that this search doesn't take your rank in consideration, so I kept getting matched up against opponents that were much stronger than me.

The online connection still needs work. It was mostly unplayable in DOA5, but it has been improved to the point where most matches are pretty good and have little input delay.

However, the game doesn't compensate for lag well. Either the game runs well with minimal lag, or it's a slideshow. Also, the connection bars don't really show how the game's connection will really be. They could be full, green bars and the match will still lag terribly.

Despite the issues with online, I came away with a pretty positive opinion on the game. With better character balance and having a character I actually know how to play, I'm enjoying Ultimate much more than I thought I would.

I'm getting a better understanding of how each character's combos work. Most characters have quick strings that are fast high-low mixups, which can be pretty tough to block due to their speed. That's where the Holds come in. In theory they're combo breakers that can get you out of impossible vortexes if you guess correctly. In practice, it's a lot tougher to Hold properly than it seems.

As I've played the game more, I've found that blocking has gotten increasingly difficult, putting more emphasis on Holds. So now I'm in the point where I'm studying characters in training mode to see which moves hit high or low so I can react with a Hold properly. It's a lot to memorize especially in the middle of a match. I'm understanding the system better but losing most matches because I'm not reacting quickly enough yet.

So while the game is more balanced than before, it will take a LOT of time to get truly proficient at it. I've played about 100 online matches now and I've got a 30 percent win rate, losing the majority of my matches. Dead or Alive is a long-running series, and it strikes me as the type of game that will be easier for veterans: they already have seen which moves hit high, low, or mid through years of practice and are know when to Hold and counter them.

Still, the new game balance goes a long way in cutting down frustration. I feel like I only lose to players that are clearly better than me, not just because I suck at fighting the ninjas (the ninjas are still top tier though). Matches go by quickly and being able to beat up a training dummy while waiting for matches cuts down the frustration a bit.

I'm nowhere near good at the game, but actually being taught how to play the game helped a lot. I've already played Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate a lot more than the original version.

[b]What I Liked
[/b]-Tutorial Mode is one of the best out of all current fighting games. It teaches every single aspect of the game in an easy to explain way, and tests you frequently to make sure you understand the concepts.

-Combo Challenge gives new players a foundation to build from. It teaches you the moves, and also when and where to use them.

-The presentation is still excellent. Character models change over the fight (getting dirt on their clothes and sweating), and the environments are varied and well designed.

-The character balance is very good. Even the top-tier characters in the game have clear weaknesses so they're not unreasonably difficult to fight.

[b]What I Didn't Like
[/b]-Online netcode is inconsistent. In matches with good netcode, it's nearly lag free. If there is some latency, the game utterly fails at compensating for it. The framerate becomes a slideshow, and you can feel the delay between hitting a button and getting a response.

-Online menu system is a little too complicated and occasionally locks you in points where you cannot back out to the main menu.

-No Demonstration for harder tutorials in Combo Challenge and Tutorial. It would have helped to see how to time my moves in these tutorials.

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate sets an incredibly high standard for what fighting game tutorials should be. It teaches every system and concept of the gameplay, teaches you all the moves for your character of choice with Command Training, and even gives you some basic combos with Combo Challenge to help you get started. I found the online competition pretty tough and the netcode needs work, but the majority of online matches were smooth.

If you're not a fan of the game's focus on Holds and stuns, Ultimate won't change your mind much. But if you're even a little bit interested in the game, try out the fantastic tutorial modes and see if you can get into it. It'll give you a fighting chance even if you're as lousy at fighting games as I am.