Around this time, I would usually be posting a blog about the latest fighting game that I've tried out and how I'm bad at it and stuff. Since my last blog about Dead or Alive 5, I've picked up both Anarchy Reigns and Street Fighter X Tekken. Anarchy Reigns is pretty unconventional but shares a lot of characteristics with modern fighting games. I'd like to write about it more in depth later.
Right now, the semi-regular schedule of this series is on hold. Instead of trying a lot of new games, I'm going to try to get much better at a few? Why?
I'm going to my first tournament.
Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament 9 is May 24-26, and I'm going. It's a Road To EVO event where the top players in each game get points that determine their seeding in the EVO tournament. It's a major tournament, and one that I can actually afford to attend, so why not?
Over the past few months, my ability to play head to head against people has been very limited. I wasn't able to play online in most games until just last month, and I have one friend to play Skullgirls locally that I can't visit as often as I'd like.
I'm going to this tournament because I want to see the other side of competitive gameplay. Playing fighting games in person is so different than playing them online that netplay vs. real life play feels like playing two different games.
No matter how perfect the netcode is, the fact that the game is being played over the internet always adds a bit of choppiness that changes how you play.
When I've played sitting right next to someone, you can see so many things you can't see playing online. You can predict your opponent's movements. For example,I tend to expose myself a lot by mashing the double QCF input REALLY early in Soul Calibur 5. No one online can tell I'm mashing quarter circles like my life depends on it, but they can sure as hell hear it when I'm mashing it while sitting right next to them. Then block it. Then kick my ass.
Here's the games that will be featured at UFGT9, and the ones I've entered in bold.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition ver 2012
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Street Fighter x Tekken ver 2013
King of Fighters XIII
Mortal Kombat 9
Skullgirls Persona 4 Arena Mystery Game Tournament ver 2013 Injustice
Divekick ver 2013 Soul Calibur V
Vampire Savior (aka Darkstalkers 3)
Vampire Hunter (aka Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge)
I like Soul Calibur V, but I'm not very confident in my skills with it yet so I didn't enter. Maybe next year!
The Mystery Game Tournament sounds crazy. From what I've heard, it could be literally any game. That sounds like something you don't get in regular monthly tournaments.
I'll be playing BariBariBall, which isn't a fighting game but looks fun anyway.
Divekick should be an interesting tournament as well. If you've never played it before, you should when it is released on PC, PS3, and Vita this year. It's simple and only requires two buttons, but it also encapsulates everything fighting games are about.
So for now, I don't plan on buying more fighting games because I gotta focus. I don't think I'll get too far in any of the games I'm entering because I'm not very good. But this is an essential part of getting better at these games. You want to play people who are better than you, because that'll expose all of your bad habits and show you what you need to practice the most.
I'm hoping this experience will give me that, but I'd be fine with just meeting a lot of cool people and playing these games locally, which I almost never get to do.
If anyone has any training tips for the games I'm playing, I'd fully welcome them. If you want to play on 360, I could always use the practice.
Before I even started playing fighting games, I had a strong interest in the complexity of the games. I spent way too much time listening to friends discuss tactics and character balance in terms I could only slightly understand and sitting in front of Twitch streams in awe and confusion of the best players in the world competing.
I had always been aware of the Evolution Championship Series, because, well, it's HUGE. Even someone with a passing interest in fighting games could hear about EVO, it's like the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, and World Series all mixed in one. Only with a little bit less physical violence than football, baseball, and hockey.
So, while I haven't seen the community firsthand yet by attending a tournament, I've been playing these games for several months now, trying to figure out which one I like the most. Last night I excitedly watched the Wakeup SRK stream to find out which games would be at EVO in 2013.
But why do I care?
Realistically, I won't be making it to EVO this year for a number of reasons. Financial reasons are the most obvious, but I don't even know if I'd go if I could afford it. Like I stated before, I've never been to any tournament for any fighting game. EVER. I've watched a lot of them on streams, but it's not the same as going.
Currently, I'm planning to attend the Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament in May, since it's the closest "major" tournament to my home and I actually know people in the city. It doesn't make sense to me to never attend any tournaments and then head to EVO as your first one. So I'll start small-ish.
So, if I'm not attending, why was I so interested in the game lineup at EVO, to the point of even cheering or being upset when certain games were announced? It doesn't really make sense if I'm not competing, right?
I'm watching the EVO stream for entertainment. So if I'm complaining about the free entertainment being provided to me, I think I'm being petty. I'll admit it. It's like having cable television and being upset that Honey Boo Boo is on. Just change the channel!
But in the moment, I was upset. I was irrationally angry that I would possibly be "forced" to see games I don't like on the stream, like Street Fighter X Tekken or My Little Pony: Fighting Is Magic. And I have no right to be upset. In hindsight, I was almost ashamed to read my reactions from last night. I was essentially getting upset over something I don't even have to see.
The interesting thing I've noticed about this fighting game community is a bizarre obsession with death. If a game isn't being streamed at weekly events, it "died". If a game has an unorthodox style in terms of either gameplay or visuals, it's pronounced dead on arrival because it'll never catch on. And the clearest sign of death is exclusion from EVO.
If your game is not being officially represented at EVO, it is dead. Pack it up, play another game.
On one hand, I can see why being represented at EVO is a HUGE deal. It's the one time of the year where the spotlight is intensely focused on fighting games, where millions of people will watch this competition, even if they know nothing about what's happening on the screen. I should know, I used to be there.
And the fear of death is getting pretty real these days. Check out this article:
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown was dropped from the Wednesday Night Fights stream recently. Despite the best efforts of veteran players, the attendance levels for the tournament were too low to keep running actual tournaments.
That is how a game dies. When people stop attending tournaments, things in the game stop being discovered. These streams aren't run online, they are run because people show up to actual tournaments to compete in person. If that isn't happening, there won't be any tournaments to stream, and the game just...stops showing up.
So, why are the games at EVO there? Why did some of the picks make people upset? Let's look at the list first.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Mortal Kombat 9
Street Fighter X Tekken 2013
King of Fighters XIII
Persona 4 Arena
A few of those are givens. Marvel and Street Fighter are established as cornerstones of the EVO tournament to the point that it would be weird to NOT have them there. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is there because at least one 3D fighter is needed, and TTT2 has been critically acclaimed as one of the best out there. King of Fighters XIII arguably had the biggest crowd reaction at EVO 2012, and the game has been evolving (terrible pun not intended) since.
Then it gets complicated.
Mortal Kombat 9 will be returning to EVO for its third year in the row. I noticed a lot of people angry about it because they dislike the game for being boring to watch, unbalanced, and seeing the same people in the finals of the tournaments each year.
Street Fighter X Tekken will be returning to EVO for its second year in a row. After last year's showing, some people were confused as to why the game even made it in the first place: it was released in an unfinished state and plagued with glitches, the on-disc DLC scandal and gem system made people dislike Capcom even more than they already did, and the tournament was played in a bizarre 2v2 format which didn't help the fact that many people found the game boring to watch.
So, am I completely satisfied with the lineup at EVO 2013? Not exactly, but I understand why some games I like wouldn't make it in. And I also understand why the games I don't enjoy watching DID make it in. Mortal Kombat 9 has a large, dedicated community that runs plenty of tournaments on a regular basis. Street Fighter X Tekken is about to get a patch that changes or fixes problems that many people had with the vanilla build, and possibly a change of format would make for a very different-looking tournament than last year's. It still has a fair share of fans, probably more than most of us want to admit.
Games I'm personally attached to like Skullgirls, Soul Calibur V, and Virtua Fighter 5 have very small playerbases and wouldn't get enough entrants at EVO to justify putting it on the big stage: in terms of entertaining viewers and making good business sense, it's just not a good idea.
In hindsight, I shouldn't care enough to complain that my "favorite game" didn't make it to EVO. The best I can do is support the games I enjoy by attending tournaments and introducing new people to it. If your game didn't make it, I can guarantee that this is the most productive thing you could do. Get your game big enough to get recognized. Complaining about it may be cathartic, but it won't achieve your goal.
And if you're upset that a game you don't like is on the main stage, you don't have to watch. You don't have to change your game of choice to line up with what's on the main stage. You also can't change what's on the main stage.
The best thing to do, if you want your game to thrive, is to keep playing it. Get more people to play it with you. Try to attend tournaments. I know I will, because that would get a lot more done than my initial strategy of "complain on Twitter".
Part 6 of my attempt to confuse my own brain by playing a lot of fighting games in a short period of time.
Before I start talking about this game, I think I should point out that I'm not trying to be condescending when I make certain statements. It just so happens that the particular feelings I have about this game might sound that way, and you should know that I'm definitely not trying to sound like a jerk...even though I might anyway.
The sentiment of “I understand why you like this, but I cannot like it” is what I'm referring to. People seem to get offended pretty often when someone else says this, maybe because they feel like they're being patronized. Unfortunately, this is exactly how I ended up feeling after spending a good amount of time playing this game.
I see many of the reasons why people enjoy this game, but for a variety of reasons that might only make sense to me, I cannot enjoy the gameplay Dead or Alive 5.
I like a lot of things about Dead or Alive 5, and I feel like I should outline what those things are before I go on. Now, I've never played any games in this series, so jumping right into the Story mode is a great idea, right?
Of course it was! I enjoyed the Story mode of Dead or Alive 5 a lot, probably because most of it was just incomprehensible. It's obvious that this is a story that has been ongoing for years now since the very first game. I respect their commitment to keeping up the storyline, especially in contrast to other games in the genre which either have no story at all, or have a lackluster story you don't care about, SOUL CALIBUR V.
So, it was cool seeing this pretty lengthy story mode with fully animated and voice acted cutscenes and excellent music. I was oddly captivated by the worst anime cliches, uncomfortable incest subtext, and the best fight over a dumpling that I've seen in any video game:
From the perspective of an outsider, this was like stepping in on episode 50 of an anime series I've never watched before. It's so utterly predictable in terms of all the anime tropes it hits that it should be annoying, but due to the great production values and oddly charming characters...it works. It really shouldn't, but it works.
Starting off on the Story mode was also a good idea because it is the closest thing the game has to an actual tutorial. You play as most of the characters on the roster, so you're getting fight experience with them that will hopefully aid in picking a character to stick with. Also, each Story mode match has a bonus objective which gives you an element of the game's systems and lets you put it into practice.
This starts with things as simple as “Land Mid Kicks” and goes all the way up to teaching you how systems like Power Blow and Critical Burst work.
I like how the game teaches you in a hands-on manner. At the same time, I have a few problems with the teaching of the systems ONLY being in Story mode.
If you want to go back to see a lesson again, they are not clearly marked. The chapters are organized by character and name, but you cannot tell which chapter contains which lesson. I wanted to go back into the Story mode to practice Combo Throws. So to find what chapter contains the Combo Throws lesson, I had to look it up online. I don't think I should have to do that! Either label them clearly in your Story mode, or put a Tutorial option somewhere else in the game where they ARE clearly labeled.
You can only practice these tutorials while a pretty tough AI beats on you. I found myself getting knocked out sometimes before I could even complete certain tutorials because you're expected to defend yourself AND do commands which are sometimes, quite difficult.
By "tough AI" I'm mostly referring to losing to Christie EVERY TIME I FOUGHT HER
This is somewhat balanced by the game's Training mode, which is very well developed. It's easy to set up your AI opponent to do certain moves. For example, I had to set them to do every height of punch and kick because I wasn't going to go back into Story mode to try to find the mission that tells you that Forward+Hold is your counter against middle kicks.
The Training mode has every feature one could ask for in a Training mode. A wealth of options to customize every aspect of the AI's behavior, input display and frame details, and an option to jump directly into Command Training without a load time.
Command Training isn't perfect, however. At any time, you can click in the right analog stick to watch the AI demonstrate what you should be doing. I found myself needing this more than once on moves when the timing was unclear. The complaint I have is that I'm using an arcade stick, which only has one analog stick. And it's definitely not a right one. So if I needed to see a demo, as I often did, I had to have a regular controller handy to do so. Maybe it's the game's way of subtly telling me that I should be using a normal controller, but I tried and the arcade stick is more comfortable for me. Sorry!
Also, a few moves have notations that aren't entirely clear. What's the difference between white arrow and a black one? The game doesn't really tell you, so I had to find out for myself that white arrows mean hold this direction while pressing a button, and black arrows mean tap the direction and the button at the same time. What does it mean when a button has a white arrow on top of it? Or when they have smaller arrows stuck to the top-right or bottom-right of them? Well, I don't know and the game won't tell you. I assume that's something else I'd have to look up on the internet.
It may seem nitpicky but I have played other games that clearly spell out the notation for each arrow and allow you to view move demonstrations in Training mode even if you're using a non-standard controller.
This is one Command Training that I don't think I can ever finish.
My next few points get more into the territory of things that probably wouldn't bother me as much if I was a veteran of Dead or Alive games. Since I'm not, I just found a few things to feel weird to me in the gameplay. It's not something I expect everyone to relate to, but hopefully I can explain in more detail why this game doesn't feel natural to me.
When you hold back, you block. There is also a Hold button which blocks as well. This is a little redundant to me. Sometimes I don't want to block, I just want to walk backwards and put some space between myself and my opponent. However, the game is forcing me to block and move backwards really slowly, which doesn't help with the “putting space between us” part.
The Triangle System is what sets Dead or Alive apart from a lot of fighters. Holds beat Strikes, so if the opponent is attempting to Strike you, a well-timed Hold will deflect their attack and damage them. Strikes beat Throws, so if the opponent is trying to throw you, a Strike will often hit them first and cause extra damage. Throws beat Holds, so if the opponent has whiffed a Hold, you can throw them and get a damage boost from that as well.
In theory, I really like the idea of Holds. Few games have options to get out of long combos, and in some of them it can feel unfair as you get juggled through the air with no way to really stop it. Having a hard counter is a good idea in theory. In practice, Holds became necessary too often for my liking. Each character has a fair amount of moves that put you in a stunned state. You can't do anything in this state except Hold, and if you guess wrong you'll be very vulnerable, take extra damage, and possibly be juggled into the air where you are defenseless until you hit the ground. I started feeling like there was no reason to Hold unless I was put in a state where I could ONLY Hold.
I may be describing the system badly, but it's something that's about feel for me. I didn't feel like using Holds was necessary when it usually led to me messing up the Hold and taking extra damage. Throws seem to miss unless your opponent is a completely neutral state, but sometimes even that wasn't guaranteed, so I found myself using less Throws as I played more and more.
The Power Blow is a sort of super attack that any character can use once their health bar gets low enough. It has a long charging period where you are vulnerable, however. The move does a lot of damage and could be a legitimate comeback mechanic if you weren't so vulnerable during it. It's quite easy to predict when a Power Blow is being charged and either step out of the way or just hit someone out of it. Good idea in theory, but not in practice.
I like the ideas the game has, but when I was actually playing I found that the best option was to knock your opponent into the air and juggle them as much as I could. The combination of feeling bored by the gameplay and not finding any character that fit my playstyle may be something that only I experience. I am by no means saying Dead or Alive 5 isn't a good game. It's just not a game I can enjoy.
What I Liked: -The ridiculous, hilarious, and surprisingly well-produced Story mode.
-The soundtrack. Half of it is so bad that it's good, and the other half is so good that it's great.
-The presentation. The character models all look great and the effect of them sweating and getting dirt on their clothes as they fight looks much better than expected. Each level having multiple stages and hazards makes fighting in them feel different, which is something that most fighting games don't have.
-Training Mode is one of the best in the genre and has every option you'd ever want.
What I Didn't Like:
-Some awkwardness in character movement. Throws seemed to miss when they shouldn't, holding Back to block and having a Block button seemed redundant. The Hold system in general.
-No dedicated tutorial mode, which meant hunting through the Story mode or looking up certain tutorials online.
There's a lot of this game that makes me wish I could like it. The characters are interesting and unique, the stage hazards add to the gameplay without feeling unfair, and that soundtrack is so awful. And so good. I will recommend playing this game if you have an interest in it, as I feel like it is accessible despite the slightly screwed-up method of teaching game mechanics. In the end, my dislike of the game came down to it feeling a bit clunky for me and not finding any character that “clicked”, and that's something completely subjective to me. In the end, it's just not something I could see myself spending a lot of time playing but I can see the appeal.
It's a weird feeling.
I'm running a little low on current fighting games that I'm interested in playing, so I'm thinking of a slightly different idea for the next time I do one of these. I'm thinking of playing an older game that isn't part of the current wave of fighting games. A lot of them came out in 2012, but there are a few games that came out before the current "wave" that I'm interested in. Or I'll just finally cover Street Fighter X Tekken. We'll see.
Part 5 of my ongoing efforts to try a lot of fighting games until I find one I can get good at.
I know I go overboard on the background when I'm talking about these games sometimes. That's because I'm trying to gain some sort of basic understanding of it. All of the fighting games I've played so far have some basic connections but are EXTREMELY different. So even if I don't know what I'm talking about, I want to have some knowledge before starting.
What did I know about Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown before playing it?
It's really hard. The voice acting is terrible. And you can do somersault kicks.
I'm being introduced to this franchise late and unprepared. I'm running to Virtua Fighter 101 to take my final exam and I haven't even purchased my books or met the teacher yet. I'm going to stop making this terrible metaphor.
To put it simply, I've never played a Virtua Fighter game before. I had no knowledge of the characters, what the tiers look like, or even the hilarious inside jokes that I seem to miss out in EVERY fighting game. And as you know, the inside jokes are the best part.
So after downloading the game, I jump into the tutorial. There's a fair amount of characters, but I'm not totally overwhelmed by what I see. I picked Vanessa and began working down the list.
I feel like I'm picking up the basic concepts easily, and there are only three buttons (Punch, Kick, Guard), which makes it seemingly less complex than the last 3D fighter I played (not true). And the first thing I noticed is that this is an EXCELLENT tutorial. It teaches you every basic action in the game, AND advanced ones that I keep forgetting to use, AND they each include several pages of text so you'll know which situation to use these moves in.
At one point, the tutorial turns into Sparring Practice: a fight against an AI opponent. So I think “hey, they'll probably be just a punching bag. It's a tutorial after all!” NOPE. He whooped my ass! If I didn't have infinite life, I would've lost this TUTORIAL fight. That also stuck out to me: the AI is tough but fair. And if you don't take advantage of many tools you have, the game is not afraid to kick your teeth in. The tutorials get more complicated after this point, and I spent more time than I'd like to admit on the last two: they're hard.
After finishing the tutorial I headed into...Command Training? I love command training! I complained about Mortal Kombat not having it, and I was delighted to see it in Virtua Fighter.
It's something I think every fighting game should have, and after exploring how different each character is, I appreciated having the “flipbook” style training where you must complete a move before you go on to the next one. Really, my only issue with it is that only certain moves have video demonstrations. Some of the most difficult moves DON'T have an accompanying video, which just seems weird. It's like they chose the moves to record at random as opposed to demonstrating the most difficult ones.
The Free Training Mode is good enough for offering the ability to set your training dummy to be an AI controlled sparring partner and being able to tweak every single aspect of their behavior. What was interesting to me are the statistics you can put on the screen during training. I don't know what the hell most of them mean, but I'm trying to learn because they look really useful. “Detailed stats” appears as a pop-up on the screen that shows you execution, the amount of damage a hit does, and your advantage. I'm assuming having a positive advantage number (+20 for example) means you will recover to a resting state more quickly and be able to defend yourself, while a negative advantage is an “unsafe” move that leaves you open to counterattack from your opponent. Input display, I have no idea what the hell it is. It shows your inputted commands on the screen alongside numbers, and I just do not know what the numbers mean. If you can explain it to me in a way that I'd understand, that would be great.
The single player offerings in this game aren't too deep: Score Attack and Arcade are in pretty much every fighting game and are self-explanatory. Special Sparring is locked unless you buy all 2400 Microsoft Points worth of DLC, and since I'm not crazy, I didn't do that and don't know what it is.
Then there's the License Challenge mode, which is almost another form of training. Each Test is a set of five fights that have conditions for each match. If you lose a fight or fail to complete a condition, you're going all the way back to the beginning of the ladder. Tough, but fair.
Pictured above: the cause of nearly all of my License Challenge failures.
I say it's another form of training because they force you to use basic concepts of the game in a real fight. You need to guard X amount of moves in one. You need to perform a 3 hit combo in another. You need to remember to do Defensive Moves (sidestepping) and Offensive Moves (dashing forward during a sidestep) in a test I kept failing because I don't naturally use Offensive Moves.
Unfortunately, I can't play any games online. It sucks because I know the best test of skills in fighting games is against an actual opponent: learning to read their moves and behaviors is arguably more important than being able to string together a 30 hit combo. But the AI in Virtua Fighter is more than competent, it's actually quite tough. The enemies in License Challenge become more difficult as you rank up, and Score Attack opponents rarely give you a break.
The reason I mentioned so much training material is that the game seems to know it NEEDS it. This game is hard. Each character has a HUGE amount of moves to memorize, and most seem to have some kind of alternate stance with even more moves! My character Vanessa has offensive and defensive styles that can be easily switched between, but determining when I need to switch between these styles and remembering the moves on the fly is a lot to take in. The damage output in the game is high, so a few mistakes could lead to a very quick loss. You will almost certainly get destroyed if you don't know how to block properly, but blocking too much will open you up to getting thrown, and you do NOT want to get thrown in this game. It hurts.
So, it's difficult. It also prepares you for the difficulty with its vast training options. The amount of damage each character is capable of putting out in a short time is intimidating, especially if you're knocked off of your feet and juggled. On the other hand, the gravity is realistic so you usually can't be juggled for long, and there are lots of options for a quick ground recovery. Vanessa has a move that allows her to grab her opponent's legs from the ground and do a VERY painful grapple. It's pretty neat.
For the most part, you can't just combo someone to death in this game. There are too many recovery options to make it possible. You're rewarded more for being patient and finding the opportunity catch your opponent off their guard: rushing in and trying to launch a long string will almost always end badly because of how many defensive options every player has.
Despite not being able to play online, I'm drawn to keep playing this game. I find myself loading it up at least a couple times a week to do some more License Challenges and mess around in training mode to put together some sloppy combos. I keep playing this game despite not having the option to play online for now.
The only thing I worry about is it not having a long-term audience. I know IPLAYWINNER and 8WAYRUN host weekly tournaments featuring Final Showdown, but the game is 2 years old. I think it's a fine game, but will it be around next year? All I know is as soon as I can get online, I'm going to be all over that. I'm just hoping other people will be there.
Of course, a game that I really enjoy has to be the one that has already been out for several years. Great timing on my part.
What I Liked: -Robust training options. Command Training, a Tutorial that covers EVERYTHING, and the fun License Challenges that force you to use the game's mechanics in combat. Even those input displays in Training Mode that I cannot decipher look useful!
-Tough AI. They never feel unfair, but they put up enough of a challenge to make single player feel rewarding.
-Fair gameplay. You can recover from being juggled easily, and since the damage output is high, mounting a comeback is always possible if you're skilled enough. It's not the type of game where you just get juggled, eat supers, and die. The only comeback mechanic is skill.
What I Didn't Like:
-Locking out an entire mode as DLC. There's no way to unlock customization items in the game without paying $30? Kinda crappy.
My complaints about the game have nothing to do with the core gameplay. It's incredibly solid all around and I want to keep playing it. Like I already said, once I can play online I will be playing this online A LOT. The game hits the perfect sweet spot of being “easy to pick up, but hard to master” and it's one of the few fighting games that would be perfect for someone new the the genre to pick up. It just teaches you everything you need to know and rewards you for putting in more time and learning the game.
Next time I'm either going to talk about Street Fighter X Tekken or Dead or Alive 5. Vote in the comments for which one you'd want to see! And I'll pretend like I haven't already bought both and decided!
Part 4 of my ongoing series, in which I try lots of fighting games to find one that I'm good at.
It's been a little too long since I've devoted some time to trying out another fighting game. I played Persona 4 Arena a lot, and enjoyed it thoroughly because of my appreciation of the Persona series. On the other hand, I haven't been playing it much recently because I burned myself out on it. I liked the Story mode but it was REALLY long. In fact, I played more Persona 4 Arena more than any other fighting game I've played this entire year just working through all that single player content. I'm still not sure if it's the game I'll be devoting a ton of time to in the future, but I've played too much of it to not come back at some point.
Since then I picked up another game I've been interested in for a long time. Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition was $20 at GameStop. That's a full game, four DLC characters, and that awesome Mortal Kombat movie from the 90s for 20 bucks? How could I not get that?
This always makes me laugh and I don't know why
Mortal Kombat was one of the first fighting games I ever played. Being a kid in the 90s, I looked at this game with intense violence and gallons of blood and said "I need to play this because my parents hate it!". And I did! Granted, I only played it in short bursts at a friend's house, but I still have memories of laughing hysterically at the ridiculous Fatality moves in the original game.
So, my first reason to pick up this game was my innate fondness of the Mortal Kombat aesthetics. I love the ridiculous violence, stupid costumes, and bone-crunching sound effects. The game just looks and sounds BRUTAL.
How is this not instantly fatal?!
The second reason I wanted to try this game? I was persuaded not to.
As I do with every fighting game I'm interested in, I watched a lot of videos and streams of the game before and after trying it. People in comments for the EVO 2012 Mortal Kombat matches HATE this game! Whether it be complaining about certain characters being cheap, being upset that such a casual friendly game is played in high-level competition, and worst of all, calling the game boring. I can't ignore such negativity.
I also know some people who were pretty negative about Mortal Kombat and as far as I knew, haven't played it. That's always been an interesting phenomenon I've noticed with gamers, especially those in the "fighting game community". They love seeing things fail. If a game didn't get the amount of entrants that you personally needed at a major tournament, it's dead, move on to the next one. If a game you don't like is being played it's dead and no one else should play it. When a new game of a similar style comes out, the old game is DEAD and we will all move onto the next game now (example: Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is out. Every other 3D fighting game must now be ignored. This is what people actually believe).
It's a unique form of pessimism that I'm not too keen on, so maybe I haven't been playing fighting games long enough. But I don't care to follow a trend and stop playing a game because someone on the internet told me it's dead. In fact, the negativity towards this game just made me want to play it more because that's just how my brain works.
Since I'm counting here's what games are dead right now:
-Dead or Alive 5 and Soul Calibur 5, because only one 3D fighting game is allowed at a time (Tekken Tag Tournament 2)
-Skullgirls, since it hasn't gotten patched and isn't at any major tournaments
-Mortal Kombat, because...they don't like it I guess
-Persona 4 Arena. A new Blazblue or Guilty Gear game is coming out so we're dropping P4A.
So, I'll stop ranting and talk about the actual game now.
There's a lot to talk about for this game, perhaps more than any game I've played for this series so far. There's a TON of content in Mortal Kombat.
After finishing the tutorial, the first place I went was the Challenge Tower. This isn't just a lot of increasingly difficult fights, it's full of unique match stipulations, mini-games, and activities that I don't think you can replay anywhere outside of the Tower. So far I've done Test Your Sight/Might mini-games, a pseudo shooter level, played matches where I could only use special moves or can only defeat my opponent while having half of my moves locked, and even had a rather pointless fight over a teddy bear. Seriously.
After progressing to a point where I got totally stuck in the Challenge Tower, I switched over to the Story mode. HOLY CRAP this is a great story mode! I don't know anything about the Mortal Kombat mythology as a whole, but this story mode felt like an abridged, yet slightly altered version of events that happened in past games. The graphics and overall presentation are superb; I especially enjoy the way cutscenes seamlessly transition into fights without a loading screen. The fights are generally without gimmicks as a contrast to Challenge Tower, but I was so enthralled by the story itself that I didn't care. I did have to drop the difficulty to Easy at one point to progress, but the fights are still significantly challenging on that difficulty. The 1v2 fights are still unfair and took many replays to pass, but the game even fixes this issue by subtly dropping the difficulty if you fail too much.
And I fail too much, so I definitely noticed that.
Then there's a whole Extras menu to explore. Every time you finish a fight in pretty much any mode, you get koins to use in the Krypt. This is where you piss your pants from jump scares unlock concept art, extra fatalities, codes to input before fights, music...more concept art. There's a ton of stuff to unlock, and therefore, a lot of reasons to keep playing. Since I cannot actually play online, I appreciate when a game gives me plenty of reasons to keep playing in single player, and Mortal Kombat has a TON of reasons to keep playing.
Now, I got all that out of the way because I need to discuss my issue with the game. It doesn't teach you how to play it very well. I'm probably spoiled by having playing games with really in-depth tutorials and combat training, but Mortal Kombat does not have that. And I think it could use that.
The game's tutorial teaches everything a basic tutorial should. What each of the five buttons do, how to perform special attacks, and the mechanics of the tag system. That's serviceable, but my issue with this is that it doesn't go far enough. There are over 30 characters in this game, and they often don't share commands. Besides the basic Crouch+Back Punch for uppercuts and Away+Back Kick for Sweeps, that is.
The tutorial teaches you Johnny Cage's pop-up move to begin Juggle Kombos but no one else's. You'll learn how to do special attacks for a few characters, but every character has several special attacks with pretty different commands. I think what this game really could have used was a command tutorial.
Trying to learn the moves of so many characters in training mode was a pain. I'd have to pause, look up the move or kombo, and unpause to try it out and hope I got it right. It's a simple process, but when I'm playing a new game I like to test out every character's capabilities and see who fits my playstyle the best. Doing this for every character in the game is immensely time consuming and could've taken much less time with a command tutorial.
There are also some quirks in Mortal Kombat that took getting used to. I've never played a 2D fighter with a block button before. The same basic principles for fighting games apply, you block high to avoid middle and high attacks, you block low to avoid low attacks. The thing that caught me off guard was that there are a LOT of overhead attacks (high attacks that must be blocked high), and a fair amount of combos that seemed to just break guards randomly. I never figured out why my guard would be broken on certain attacks or combos, and the game never mentioned guard breaking moves so I found myself getting frustrated when I got hit when I thought I was blocking correctly.
The combo system doesn't exactly work like any other game I've played. I got stuck on the combo section of the tutorial for a long time until I looked up this little tip: you have to input these combo commands as quickly as possible, or they will not work. It's strange to get used to and makes the character's movesets feel limited when you don't really experiment to get certain moves to link: if you're not doing the particular combo on the movelist and inputting commands as quickly as possible, it's not gonna work.
One unique Mortal Kombat element I did understand and immediately took a liking to was the way the meter works. It's not just a meter that lets you know when you can use your special attack. When it's full you CAN do a very damaging X-Ray move, but in some cases this might not be the best choice. You can use one chunk of this bar to use an Enhanced Special Move, which is just as it sounds: a stronger version of one of your special attacks. If you have two bars you can perform a Breaker to get yourself out of a combo, and this could turn the tide of the match. The meter also carries over between rounds. I wasn't expecting it, but this game has one of the smartest applications of a super meter I've seen. If you're about to lose, it might not be the best idea to save your meter for an X-Ray attack because you might get KOed before you can use it. On the other hand, the meter seems to go up more quickly for successful blocks and taking damage than hitting your opponent a lot, so you could use an Enhanced Special Attack or X-Ray as a comeback mechanic. The Breakers seem almost necessary when you're in the unfortunate position of being juggled in the air (which happened to me more than once in online matches.
What I Liked:
-A TON of content. Even if I don't see myself getting good at this game, I know I'm gonna keep coming back to it for a long time. Either to play some goofy fights in Challenge Tower, finish the incredibly-well done Story mode, or try to figure out the secret commands I can make my Avatar do in the online lobbies.
-The game's overall presentation. These characters aren't realistic but the sound effects are bone-crunchingly BRUTAL and these moves look like they hurt a lot. The X-Ray and Fatality attacks are a bloody hilarious spectacle that I never got tired of seeing.
-Unique application of the traditional Super meter. The X-Ray meter can be used as a comeback mechanic since it builds faster for taking damage than attacking, but if you're taking too much damage you'll just be dead. Breakers are a good risk-reward spending of meter because it can get you out of trouble but usually leaves the bar empty. Enhanced Special Attacks do extra damage but can easily be blocked if you use them incorrectly.
What I Didn't Like:
-The training and tutorial modes don't go far enough. You learn a few special attacks and key elements of the game from the tutorial mode, but it leaves out a lot and would be better served with a full command training mode. They even split some more basic training elements away from Training/Tutorial and put them into the Challenge Tower, which doesn't make much sense. Since every character is different in terms of some basic commands and Special moves, why not put in a mode to help me learn these moves better?
-The fact that you need to input most combos as quickly as possible to do them successfully. It makes the combat system feel a bit more stiff and not open to exploration.
-Difficulty in single player modes, especially Story mode, was pretty harsh. Even on Easy some of the fights seemed unfairly difficult.
I left Mortal Kombat feeling a little conflicted. I love the game's presentation and single player modes, but I don't feel like the game ever gave me the tools I needed to get any better than mediocre at it. I passed a lot of Story mode and Challenge Tower but felt like I was kinda flailing through it, and my online fights were ALL miserable failures. It would take me a lot of time to get better at this game, and some research outside of the game to do so. And while I do like the game, I don't think I like it ENOUGH to do this. That could just be my problem though. I had fun but the game isn't very friendly to newcomers.
Since I have an admitted preference for 3D fighters over 2D fighters, I've bought Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown and will probably get Dead or Alive 5 soon. It'll take a bit more time to learn the systems of new fighting games while so many other good games have been coming out this year, but I'll keep at it until I find the one game that I'll get really good at. Unfortunately I don't think Mortal Kombat will be that game, but there's so many more to try. Seriously, what's up with fighting games this year? There's like a million of them...but there are worse problems to have than "there's too much stuff to play", right?
Part 3 of my ongoing series of trying and failing miserably to get good at any fighting game.
It's been a while since I've written one of these. My immediate positive reaction to Soul Calibur V lead me to try more 3D fighting games, and since then I've gotten a little better at that game and I'm trying to learn Virtua Fighter V. I've learned the "keypad" notation which I can't explain well here...just look at this. It's useful to know, I promise.
Before I get into what game I'm playing now, I have some advice for anyone else who is trying to get good at fighting games. If you're as green as I am, it could help probably!
1. Watch your game. Get on Twitch.tv, get on Youtube, and find gameplay commentaries of tournaments, casual play, whatever. This has helped me so learn games faster than I ever expected I could. By watching REALLY good players in Soul Calibur V, I learned some tricks to try out with my characters and how to improve my game. It helps even more if there are knowledgeable commentators who explain the tactics at play. It won't automatically give you muscle memory that you'll need to do the crazy combos they're pulling off; that just comes with a lot of practice. But in my experience, watching gameplay helped me learn things about fighting games I never would have just discovered on my own.
2. Don't force yourself to play a character. You should never pick your character based on tier or someone else's opinion on them. These games have a lot of characters with a lot of different moves, and you should try them all out to find out which one suits your style the most. And even when you find one that "clicks", try some more to see if they do too. Not every character makes sense to every player, and you shouldn't focus on becoming a master at all of them. Find the one that suits you best and practice with them until you're awesome.
So, back to the game I'm currently addicted to!
I don't know if you knew this about me, but I love Persona 4. It has a permanent place on my top five favorite games of all time list and I would legally marry it if that were possible. My fondness for that game, and knowledge that Persona 4 Arena continues the story of Persona 4 sealed the deal. I HAD to buy this game.
Persona 4 Arena was developed by Arc System Works, the developers of BlazBlue. At least, that's what I've heard. To be honest, I know very little about BlazBlue and Guilty Gear and I don't really care to play them. Those games seemed incredibly complex and impenetrable before I was even trying to get good at fighting games, and they still do now. I also don't care for the company's tendency to release multiple iterations of BlazBlue in seemingly short time periods AND put DLC characters in them...it's just a little off-putting to me.
I probably just lost all my street cred for dissing BlazBlue so bad. As if I had any in the first place.
On the other hand, Persona 4 Arena has excellent character design AND understandable gameplay. It's complex, but not overwhelmingly so. A big part of that is the multiple learning tools the game gives you.
I've said it before, but I love when fighting games actually try to teach you how to play them. These games are really complicated, and I want them to explain what the hell is happening in as much detail as possible. I praised Skullgirls for doing this, and Persona 4 Arena does it even better.
The first learning tool they give you is Lesson Mode. For a four button fighter, there are a LOT of commands to remember in this game. The Lesson Mode gives you all of them and has helpful text boxes that tell you why you should use these moves. I still haven't fully learned how and when I should be using certain techniques (the short hop and One More Cancel in particular), but I'm glad the developers went out of their way to explain why these things are useful.
I like how the commands are universal for each character, so even though there are a lot of things to keep track of, you always know what's going to happen when you press buttons. Your top two buttons are always gonna roll, even though every character has a different roll length. 236236 (double quarter-circle forward)+C/D is always gonna be your normal Super, and 214214 (double quarter-circle back)+C/D is always gonna be your Awakened super. Even though it works differently for everyone, B+D is always gonna be your Furious Action. And so on.
The second learning tool the game gives you is Challenge Mode. Each character has 30 challenges that get more difficult as they go on. These challenges are basically a list of combos every character can do. So not only does the game teach you basic concepts that apply to every character, it gives you tips on how to play them and goals to strive towards. I can do at least 20 challenges for each character so far, but some of them took a long time to get down and took a lot of practice. It's really rewarding to get the big "CLEAR!" message when I finally finish a challenge I've been grinding out for an hour, and as I'm doing these, I'm understanding how to use every character better. And since the roster is small, it is feasible to get a basic understanding of how everyone works and what combos you can reliably pull off with them.
How To Play Mitsuru: Always use this move.
The final learning tool the game has is a fantastic training mode. You can set the dummy to multiple states like jumping, blocking, etc. You can even record the dummy's behavior and play it back, which I've used to learn how to avoid certain attacks that always hit me. Like Mitsuru's Furious Action. Damn that move.
I won't really talk too much about the Story mode besides that I'm enjoying it a lot. There are some weird discrepancies between the stories though, because it is a tournament and not EVERYONE can win in the tournament. Therefore the endings for each character are different, and it's tough to tell WHO was really fighting that final boss or who truly "won" the tournament. Maybe it's because I haven't unlocked the True Final Path of Truth yet.
I can't speak about the Story mode in a wholly unbiased manner either. I can say that if you like Persona 4, the Story mode is a sequel to it and you need to see it. If you don't like Persona 4, maybe skip the Story mode. I think it's good, but if I didn't like Persona so much I would get annoyed at reading so much text and fighting so little. Luckily Arcade mode condenses the talking and has a lot more fighting, so that might be a good single player choice if you're not a crazy person who played Persona 4 for thirty-eight weeks.
To sum it up, and putting most of my feelings about Persona aside, I think this is a great game. It has many more options than most: Art Gallery, Sound Test, a RIDICULOUSLY LONG (for a fighting game) Story mode, Challenges, and lots of sweet unlockables. As someone who had never played a 4-button "anime" fighter in the past and is still pretty new in the world of fighting games, it does an excellent job of teaching you the basics with the Lessons, Challenges, and very detailed Training mode. Highly recommended if you're new to the genre or an old pro. It's just a really good game.
What I Liked:
-Lesson Mode and Challenge Mode actually doing a LOT to teaching how to play the game. If you're new to fighting games, this is one to check out. It'll ease you right in.
-Consistent rules for every character. Everyone shares the same commands for certain attacks/actions (Evasive moves, Sweeps, Furious Actions) and super moves. SP Skills are almost always Double Quarter Circle Forward (236236) + C/D, Awakened SP Skills are almost always Double Quarter Circle Backward (214214) + C/D, Furious Actions are always B+D, etc.
-It's a sequel to Persona 4!
-For the most part, the gameplay is pretty fair. You can Burst out of seemingly endless combos to get some breathing room if you need it. When your health gets low enough you get some extra meter and access to a REALLY powerful super move that could change the tide of battle. Throw escapes are really easy, and the game even tells you if you were blocking a move incorrectly so you know to do it right next time.
Even the Instant Kill mechanic (yes, there is an Instant Kill) is mostly for the person who is already going to win. Even then, it is possible to miss it so it's not even guaranteed.
Oh, and can I talk about how cool the Instant Kill is for a moment? Not only is the character doing some intense, visually ASTOUNDING attack, it plays that awesome final boss song from Persona 4. It's a strong candidate for the "HYPEST SHIT EVER" Award.
What I Didn't Like: -Even as I'm having a huge fangasm about the Story mode, it really is a TON of reading. It's a cool story, but perhaps a poorly delivered one. And it's full of plot holes.
-THE MUSIC DOESN'T LOOP. For a game with such fantastic presentation in terms of visuals and audio, why is this even a problem? It's not a problem in any other fighting game I've ever played. The music just fades out and restarts from the beginning, as if it's a one-song CD with no Repeat function. It's a little annoying in Story mode but TERRIBLE during fights. Those awkward moments of silence before the song starts again. Wow. Terrible.
-No Rematch button in Versus.
That's about it! This game is quite accessible for newcomers but has such an absurd amount of depth that I'm not sure I'll ever really get good at it. It's really fun to play, and I'm personally glad it wasn't just a cheap cash-in on the license: this is a legitimate, tournament ready fighting game.
I'm trying hard to get started on another game, but I'm having too much fun with this one at the moment. And I've gotta see how the story ends! So I'll be back next time to talk about another fighting game that I might get good at. Maybe one of those BlazBlues since I sorta know how ArcSys games work now? Maybe one where the music loops (SERIOUSLY?!)