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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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Here's some key links if you want to learn Tekken Tag Tournament 2:

TTT2 For Dummies

Avoiding The Puddle Text Tutorials

Avoiding The Puddle Video Tutorials

Most new fighting games are trying to strike the elusive balance of “easy to learn, difficult to master”. Ideally, the game has mechanics that are intuitive enough to understand instantly, or have a tutorial that's so thorough that new players will understand. Then, the depth of the game emerges naturally through learning matchups, combos, and your own character's unique abilities.

This happens to be a game that I found hard to learn, and even more difficult to master. It'll kick your ass at the start, but once you start to understand how the game works, it rewards you every step of the way.


The first thing that immediately caught my attention when watching Tekken gameplay were the crazy characters. There's Black Disco Stu, a kangaroo, a bear, a robot maid, and so many other characters that are very far out of the traditional fighting game archetypes.

Really, seeing that Snoop Dogg has his own stage and wrote a song for the game was a big selling point for me.



The craft put into this huge cast of unique characters carries over to the rest of the game. Menus are very clear on what options they provide and load quickly, the graphics in game are incredibly detailed and even include small touches like characters getting dirt on them as they fight, and the soundtrack is a fine combination of rock, trance, and dubstep.




Watching gameplay for Tekken, especially commentated ones, was a bit daunting at first. I try to watch a lot of footage of people playing the game to get tips and learn the ropes, but I was lost. Thankfully, the tutorial of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is long, detailed, and has the exact amount of challenge I wanted.

Note: If you're watching Tekken tournaments with commentary, 1 and 2 are Left Punch and Right Punch. 3 and 4 are Left Kick and Right Kick. Took me forever to realize that.

[i]
[/i]

The Fight Lab is one of the best tutorial modes in a fighting game right now. If you want to get into Tekken but are afraid of the high learning curve, I guarantee you the Fight Lab will help you out.

It's split into multiple chapters, each one focusing on a certain element of gameplay and ending with a boss battle. There's also a lot of text boxes for the “story” of the Fight Lab that actually give more detail into when and why you need to use certain techniques.

For example, the guarding tutorial starts off with lessons on how to block high and low attacks and escape throws. Then you're thrown into a gauntlet of color-coded enemies who will either attack high, low, or try to throw you. The lesson helps, but the real importance is getting to use your experience in an actual combat situation right away.

The Fight Lab doesn't hold your hand, either. You have a health bar, and some of the mission constraints are very strict. So you can definitely get knocked out and have to retry a stage, but you are also rewarded with bonus Gold (for customization) if you do very well.


Even as I began to understand the game more, I frequently revisited the Fight Lab to replay older missions and hone my skills by shooting for higher ranks.



One of the most daunting things I've experienced as a new player to fighting games is “Who do I pick?” Especially in games with huge rosters such as this one. I want to try out every character and see if I like the way they handle, but it's not realistic with a lineup of 55 characters. So I took the advice of a beginner's guide and just picked who I liked.

What I would recommend doing first, unless you are 100% sure who you want to play, is going into Arcade Mode, choose Solo, and pick a character you think is cool. I started off with Lili and it happened to be a good choice. Something about the character just “clicked” and I felt like I knew how to play as them effectively in a short amount of time.

Once I found my main character, I jumped into Practice Mode and learned her key moves. You want to learn all of your character's launchers, Bound moves, and moves that allow you to tag to your partner after they connect. Luckily, there is a Command List that has an icon next to all of these moves. You'll want to practice their Sample Combos as well, which the command list also includes along with video demos.

I probably harp on this a lot but EVERY FIGHTING GAME SHOULD HAVE IT. Command Lists and move demos are invaluable for new players and even veterans who want to make sure they're doing the moves correctly!



Now, how do you actually play this game? To simplify most of what I learned...AIR COMBO. A lot. Here's your general game plan in Tekken Tag Tournament 2:

1.Launch your opponent

2.Do a short combo that ends in a Bound attack

3.Tag your partner in

4.Combo again

Ideally, you want to do this as much as you can to drain your opponent's lifebar because they can't do anything about it. You can't block while you're getting punched in the air, you see.

In practice...it's not that simple. Speaking as a beginner, this game can be frustrating as hell. Advanced players will pop you up in the air, juggle you, and carry you into the corner where you get hurt even MORE. Air combos don't typically do a lot of damage, but they carry you towards the wall and wall combos HURT. So it gets disheartening to spend what feels like most of the round in the air: you can't do anything about it.

The emphasis on juggles is why Tekken was a game I initially overlooked because it looks like you spend too much of a round being helpless. I'll admit I was a little biased. Still, persistence pays off and there are ways to counter being juggled. If you don't have great defense or spacing, people online will BEAT it into you. So while the game looks crazy as hell, the spacing is so important. You can almost never just rush in and go crazy. Patience is the key to winning most rounds.


Backdashing is an important tool to establish space, but has a recovery period at the end that can be easily punished. One thing I didn't quite get the hang of was backdash canceling, which lets you get some breathing room but is much safer than a normal backdash.



I felt like sidestepping in this game was less useful than in other 3D fighters, only because so many moves track. They'll hit you regardless of your position, so I didn't feel a need to use them that often.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 turned out to be a game where I spent more time than expected just working on movement: sidesteps, dashing, dash cancels, and jumping. It took some getting used to because it's very different from Virtua Fighter, but I think the controls feel great. I've quit playing fighting games before because the characters feel awkward or unresponsive to my inputs, but TTT2 does not have that problem.

There are a few minor issues have with Tekken. There are a couple of Free Moves (like God Hand!) that every character can do. On wakeup you can do a big springboard kick that has a lot of startup frames and covers a lot of space. If you can break into a full sprint, you can either tackle or do a slide that knocks down. Also, hopkicks are a universal launcher for everyone (I think everyone has it?) that you can do by jumping and inputting Right Kick. I don't know if everyone has these moves though, as the game or tutorial doesn't explain what they are or how to do them. Throws and how to throw break could have been explained in more detail because they are more complicated than they seem: each character has a 1+3 and 2+4 throw that you must input a certain button to break. Then there's air throws, wall throws, and tackles that require a certain input to break. The tutorial doesn't go in-depth enough with what seems like a pretty complex throw system!

Save yourself some grief and read this tutorial http://www.avoidingthepuddle.com/news/2012/9/5/ttt2-beginners-guide-unit-2-types-of-attacks.html, but I do wish they would explain these things in the game.



[u]What I Liked:[/u]

-A fantastic tutorial for beginners and experts. It teaches you all the things you'll need to know, and then gives you a tough pop quiz to make sure you know how to do them.

-Presentation. The music is great, the characters are cool, there's a huge amount of customization, the menus are smooth, and the character endings aren't even constrained by the game's art style.



-Very challenging to get into, but extremely rewarding once you begin understanding the systems.

[u]What I Didn't Like:[/u]

-Long load times in some occasions
-Random lag spikes online
-Tutorial doesn't explain some of the more obscure aspects like backdash canceling, free moves, and throw escapes

Tekken is a tough series to get into for a newcomer. You won't get any lucky wins here, you'll have to earn them. And while it's frustrating initially to just feel like you're getting juggled to death, the reward of unleashing your own air combos is very much worth it.

I feel like this is one of the few fighting game series that hasn't changed significantly over the years, so if you were good at Tekken before you will probably still be good at Tekken. I hear the movelists for characters don't change much between releases, so I'm probably going up against people who have been with their characters for years.

It'll take a long time to get to a position where I feel I'm truly “good” at the game, but I think it's worth it. The game does one thing very right: it just FEELS good when you hit someone. Like you actually hit them and not just a hitbox. There are a few strange elements with “flop” stuns where you're comboing your opponent's legs and not them, but it still feels pretty satisfying.

As a beginner, I'd recommend Tekken Tag Tournament 2 to beginners. It's rough at first, but if you stick with it it'll pretty much beat the fighting game fundamentals of better spacing and better blocking into your head. It's a long road to getting good at Tekken, but a road worth traveling.

Photo Photo Photo








All pictures from Xensin. I found the link at http://ufgtus.wordpress.com/. Check it out, they're really great! http://www.flickr.com/photos/xensin/sets/72157633637670661/

Last year, I bought Skullgirls and this heavy $200 arcade stick. I couldn't really play against many people online back then, but I kept myself busy by learning how to play each of the several fighting games that came out that year.

I've been able to play online with more regularity recently, thanks to getting a fiber-optic internet...thing. I have no idea how it works, I just know I can play fighting games online mostly lag free. So after training as well as I could, I got the crazy idea to go to my first tournament ever.



As I've said in previous blogs, the experience of playing online is hardly comparable to playing locally. I've had very few experiences playing games locally, and by that I mean “I have played Skullgirls against one of my friends a handful of times”. So the pressure of playing when you're sitting right next to someone, with a group of people behind you watching and talking is way higher than “if I lose, I'm gonna rank down”. So I'll go into each game I entered, and what it was like playing it against someone sitting right next to you.

Friday

Persona 4 Arena:  I might have psyched myself out a little bit before playing this game. I saw someone else playing my main character Kanji, much better than I can play Kanji. So I knew this person was in my pool, and I really didn't want to lose to them and make a fool out of myself. I ended up only playing a handful of casual matches before my actual pool began.

First game, I took a few rounds but ultimately lost. It was against a player who was clearly WAY above my level and played a character I had a terrible matchup against. So I didn't feel too badly about it.

The next game, I won handily against a player who was clearly better than me, but I could tell that he wasn't on top of his game. I think he just played a game and lost, so he was a little rattled and messing up where he normally wouldn't. Of course, I'm not too great either and my win was pretty sloppy. I could hear the Kanji player behind me talking trash about my play, which kinda made me feel bad. I haven't fully gotten over tournament nerves, so I was dropping what little combos I knew. Still, I'll take it.

The last game, I was playing against a player who I recognized from the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 community. I've seen him on the internet! But I didn't get starstruck or anything, because that would only make me nervous and make my chances worse. By this point, I didn't care that people were watching just a few feet behind me. But I DID feel stupid when I lost...badly. Kanji works best at close range and has few options when far away. His character was Yukiko, a zoner who kept me at basically full screen and chipped away at my life until I died. I got frustrated while being juggled and comboed with no way to retort, but didn't give up. I think I took one round but was thoroughly beaten, and with that, I was eliminated.

Divekick: This game seemed to be incredibly popular throughout the whole tournament, and had an E3 style booth setup as well as a table to play casual matches. And while I've unfortunately heard a lot of complaining about this game online, I feel like everyone should play Divekick. It might change their mind on it.

Divekick is a simple game, but even with two buttons each character is incredibly unique in terms of special attacks, movement, and hitboxes. I played a lot of this game before and my pools to find which characters I liked. I ended up settling on Mr. N and Markman. There are character-specific matchups, but the tiers aren't so wide that there are “top tier” and “worthless” characters. What impressed me the most about this game is that it captures the essence of fighting games: reading your opponent. In most fighting games you want to get your opponent to do something, or wait for them to slip up so you can hit a combo and do huge damage to them. In Divekick, one hit ends the round. So you spend the entire game waiting for your opponent to slip up, or scaring them into a situation that's advantageous to you. It's tough to explain, but after a few matches I completely understood it. At their core, fighting games are about reading your opponent and trying to predict what they will do. Instead of every match containing multiple instances of this guessing game, Divekick rounds only contain one. It's really tense, and really fun.




Anyway, I did somewhat well in this tournament! Didn't get out of pools, but I beat a fair amount of people and even “frauded” two of them (when you win five rounds to zero). By the time I was eliminated, I got a good amount of experience, and even got some direct training on how to play Markman by the tournament organizer (Thanks Keits!). I'll definitely be picking up this game when it comes out.

Saturday[u]:[/u]
Skullgirls: Holy crap, I did terribly in this game. I mean, I had an idea of how bad I was (because I lose every online match I play), but it was even harder to deal with in person. I played three matches and didn't take a single round from anyone I played. Didn't even get close. I did play a couple casual matches afterward, but didn't do any better or learn much from it. Then again, I didn't know where to start as "how do I get my ass kicked less?" doesn't tend to lead anywhere. Oh well.

BaraBariBall: I entered this tournament because of the free entry, and was pleasantly surprised when I finally got my hands on it. First of all, this game should have had some more exposure. Until the finals there was only one table with two setups to play on, in the back of the ballroom. It's a really fun game, a combination of Super Smash Bros and...whatever sport it is where you have to dunk a ball into the opponent's pool of water.

Luckily I shared a hotel room with two experts of the game and learned a lot of tactics from playing with them. I beat a few people in the tournament but was ultimately eliminated. Like Divekick, it's a game that's simple to pick up but takes a certain amount of skill to master. It is very accessible, but practice and character knowledge pays off.

Here's a video of the aforementioned experts playing to better illustrate what it's like.


Mystery Game Tournament: This was really special, and something that sets UFGT apart from other fighting game tournaments. There was a small setup of three TVs near the main stage where you entered into a tournament playing...something. At seemingly random intervals, the tournament organizers would switch the game to something different. I saw Sonic Adventure 2 Battle being played, Virtua Fighter Kids, weird, obscure fighting games I had NEVER heard of, and Hydro Thunder during my pool.

To sum up how strange and fun this tournament was, one of the finals matches was Soul Calibur 2 on DDR pads. It's that real.



I had way too much fun and laughed way too hard while playing these weird games, and I will be entering the Mystery Game Tournament for sure at next year's Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament. Here's a video of the Grand Finals, where you can really see how most matches go: players scrambling to find out how to play before eventually figuring it out and putting on a really hype match.



Since I was eliminated from every game I entered by Sunday, here are some other things I just wanted to note.

CHECK-INS: Remember to be early for your tournament pools, everyone. Because sometimes they'll pronounce your name wrong and it takes longer for you to check in than everyone else. Most people don't use the term "perfidious" in normal conversation, you see.

MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3: I watch a ton of streams, but I've never actually seen this game being played in real life. Holy crap, it is fast and flashy. The streams really don't do it justice. After watching some matches, I see why people get so into this game: it's like it was created specifically to draw attention and excitement.

People got REALLY serious about this game too. While I was in Divekick pools I heard some guy yelling at the station behind me. Turns out a full-on argument about the game/car ownership had broken out and he was getting REALLY upset. So upset that photographers rushed over to capture a possible fight breaking out. And during finals, another fight almost happened on the main stage!



Myself and a lot of other players talk a lot of trash about Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but I understand now why people get so into it and why it's considered the most hype fighting game out. I probably won't play it ever, but I understand.

FUN & GAMES: While I had some downtime, I checked out this fun little diversion. Located near the back of the ballroom, there were three $1 entry non-video games to play for fun and profit. Yes, games where you actually had to interact with people IRL.

If you won any of these games, you get a raffle ticket and a lot of “doubloons” to cash in for prizes at the prize table. To make sure everyone had fun (and kept giving money to play!) they even gave losers a small amount of doubloons. Basically, you messed up if you left this tournament without getting SOMETHING from that prize table.

I spent most of my spare cash playing Divekick 21, a blackjack variant where you basically have hit points and can pass undesirable cards to others. So while my first few games were pretty amicable, some people want to play a little rough. That means DIRECTLY BUSTING OTHERS BY HANDING THEM CARDS in blackjack. It was really fun, and I even won a game!



I played a friend in Balrog Ball as well, which I can't describe but reminds me of a similar ball-rolling game that I played at Magic Mountain years ago...plus Street Fighter. The important thing is, I beat him and got another raffle ticket and some more doubloons.

I didn't win any of the raffles but left with a cool UFGT9 mug full of candy, and a small, fancy glass (also full of candy). I hope the Fun & Games tables return next year, as they're a great way to kill time between your matches. Or just hang out...I swear I saw some people just playing these games the whole tournament and never saw them play a video game. It was that good.

THE CROWD: This is another reason why I want to go to more tournaments. You really can't get the same energy watching a stream than you can watching these players live while sitting in the crowd. These people were absolutely hilarious. A man of questionable sobriety with a funny hat spent $100 combined in character auctions for Injustice and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, only to lose immediately and get mocked by the announcer on stage. But he won a raffle later so it's all good.



Audience members pulled out money to bet on an impromptu rock-paper-scissors match. People not only react loudly to someone pulling off flashy combos in a game, but yelling along with the characters on screen as they did super moves! My personal favorite being a few upstanding citizens yelling “FUCK YOU!” as Lobo flips off his opponent.

I also noticed that after every match I played, a handshake (or fist/elbow bump if you're germaphobic) is customary. Even if it was the most rage-inducing match ever, you shake hands. It's just a video game, in the end.

This match is pretty incredible to watch, but being there and hearing the crowd lose their minds at the conclusion made it unforgettable.



There's so much more to add, but I'll wrap it up here. Next year, I want to go back, improve my game, and bring my own console to play Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown with others. I saw some people playing it in the Bring Your Own Console area but didn't have time to join, unfortunately.

Going to a tournament was a humbling experience, as I learned that I'm nowhere near as good in any of these games as I thought. I have a long way to go, and I won't excuse it by saying “well, I spread myself too thin by playing too many games”. Nope! It gave me the drive to learn more and compete even harder in the future.

If you're even remotely interested in fighting games, go to a tournament. It was expensive for me, but it was worth it. I can't say what you'll get out of it, but what I got was a renewed interest in the games, and the motivation to improve myself even more as well as attend local tournaments.

It showed me, for better or worse, what games I really want to put more work into. At this point I'm still playing Persona 4 Arena regularly, I've gotten back into Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown as pretty much my “main” game and am playing it a lot, and I got so discouraged by losing in Skullgirls that I haven't touched it since...I don't know about that one now. We'll see.

So, thanks to Keits and his staff for making the tournament run smoothly and providing TONS of extra stuff to do outside of competition. Thanks to all those Godlike Sundays guys for sharing a hotel room, being hilarious and fun to hang out with, and keeping me up at 4 AM playing Capcom games, damn it. And thanks if you read this. Hopefully I've sold you on seeing a side of the fighting game community most casual players don't see.

I'm still playing all the fighting games I can get my hands on, too. I've got Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Street Fighter X Tekken and Injustice to work through so one of those will be up next.

Photo Photo Photo








Even though I'm sure you're cool and already finished this game, EXPECT SOME SPOILERS HERE.

A few days ago, I completed a gaming goal that I was working on since late 2011. My goal was to get 100% completion on Saints Row The Third, including every single Achievement. It took a lot of time, more money than I expected thanks to downloadable content, and it was completely worth it.



I'm not really gonna talk about the process of getting 100% completion, because the end of that writing would be “and then I did donuts in an airport for 40 minutes”. That's not really the point. I want to talk about why I decided to revisit the game and finish those last few percentage points.

I've been a fan of the Saints Row series since the first game, and was completely enthralled by Saints Row 2 back in 2008. So I was unbelievably hyped for Saints Row The Third, so hyped that I broke a years-long streak of not renting games in November 2011. I couldn't afford my own copy until the next year, but as soon as I got it I literally did not want to put it down. I convinced friends to buy copies to play co-op, I downloaded and uploaded characters to SaintsRow.com, I even hunted down all the original music in the game and obsessively tried to find out who composed it.

Well, I say that last one as if I'm not still doing it every single day. But I digress.

So, I liked the game so much that I didn't want to play anything else. Why not play it to completion then? To the point where I could say “this is one of my favorite games ever, and I've gotten everything I can get out of it”. And after a couple of years, I did.

Due to the unstoppable train of games coming out and a growing backlog, I knew I couldn't realistically play the game forever, as badly as I wanted to! So after completing the main story mode at least three times, I've pinned down why I like Saints Row The Third so much. It's not just a great game, I think it's one that other open-world games should be taking lessons from. Let me explain.



The Music

The licensed soundtracks in open world games rarely stand out to me, just like the radio in real life. This one, however, grew on me in a way I wasn't expecting. The KRHYME station introduced me to rappers I'd never heard of like Yelawolf and Robert Raimon Roy. It made me search out what good, new rap was coming out in 2011. 

I couldn't recognize any of the tracks on the electronica station by name, but they're all extremely catchy and great driving music. Continuing the trend from previous Saints Row games, the classical station is filled with the most recognizable songs of the genre. And Adult Swim has perhaps the best station in the game, spanning multiple genres and having genuinely funny ad breaks and DJ banter.



The radio isn't the best part though. The use of licensed music in missions is brilliant. This moment is made by the music: (open in Youtube, copyright won't let you watch the embed)


I was bored of Power by the time this game came out. Couldn't stand it anymore. It was in every movie trailer and every other video game trailer. This mission still gives me goosebumps because of how perfectly the music is used.

It isn't just the few setpiece moments either. As opposed to many open world games, the missions are neither dead silent nor “spiced up” by a radio song you've already heard one hundred times. No, there are original compositions everywhere in this game, from mission music to a large variety of store tracks to excellent end of mission themes. The music is used so well in this game, and the effort put into using an ORIGINAL soundtrack in this type of game is admirable. Well, at least I think it's original. I've been sleuthing around for a while to see if it's just a lot of lesser-known acts that were licensed out, or if it was produced in house?

Volition, please respond to my emails on this. The people want to know.

The Economy

Every open world game gives you cash for completing missions, even if you don't know how or why you get it. What do you usually do with that cash? Buy more weapons and body armor. Saints Row The Third actually has reasons for you to seek out the cash, really good ones in fact!

It's easy to piss off rival gangs, so how about having safe spots everywhere? Buying stores gives you the security to call "base" whenever you jump into a store you own, getting all the heat off of you.

Buying stores also gives you an increase in the money you gain every hour, which lets you buy upgrades for your character more often. The steady increase in the amount of money you earn is balanced by the steady increase of prices for upgrades. Some skills are locked until you get enough experience, and since main story missions typically give you loads of experience, the game subtly nudges you to keep doing those.

You're encouraged to keep doing activities, build up your character, and drain your wallet all the time. It's one of the few games in this genre where money is really important, not just a way to get more ammo and guns after you die. The whole system is genius.



There's always something to do.

It's incredibly tough to put this game down, because there's something around every corner. A new sidequest, a building to buy, collectibles, enemy strongholds to bust up, in-game goals to progress toward, and so much more. Even if you're just wandering around aimlessly, you'll get calls to come help in a random turf war! 

Again, many open world games give you your main quests and a few scant side missions. Saints Row The Third is stuffed with content, and most of it is fun to do. And if it isn't fun, it's at least profitable due to that great economy. I find it difficult to play the game in short sessions because of the constant allure of "one more thing to do" being around every corner.

If Saints Row The Third isn't the best open world game I've ever played, it's damn sure in the top 3. Forgive the cheesiness here, but I feel like completing the game fully is a way of showing appreciation. Like, “thanks for making one of my favorite games ever, Volition”. I rarely take the time to perfect a game and I've never been a hardcore Achievement seeker, but when a game is this special and still fun to play multiple times, it's worth it.

Getting that last Achievement was a little bittersweet. I felt a bit sad after uninstalling the game, but I guess it's natural to feel that after letting go of something that's been a part of your life for years.

I'll probably replay this game in the future, but it's time to move on to other things. I'm hoping Saints Row IV gives me the same feeling as this game did, but there's a lot to be skeptical about in the upcoming sequel. That's a discussion for another time, however.

If Saints Row IV misses what makes The Third such incredible fun, I'm hoping that other developers played this game and took notes. Because I'd love to play another game worth perfecting, no matter where it's from.
Photo Photo Photo








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.

And if you're going to UFGT9, let me know!
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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:
http://www.eventhubs.com/news/2012/dec/19/mike-watson-virtua-fighter-5s-lack-support-should-be-example-how-game-dies-community/

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.

Also one of the tournament organizers saying the game wouldn't be at EVO 2013 kinda made it seem like this wouldn't happen.

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".

Or you could donate to a good cause in support of your game too!








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.