I like Street Fighter. Street Fighter hates me. I don't know what I've done to hurt it so, but my patience is paying the toll. I give so much and get so little. I know it's my fault for being shit, but I'm also fairly certain the likes of Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong are robots. We should probably fear them.
Ever wonder why Capcom put out so many iterations of the same games? We have to keep them busy.
If you're good at fighting games this entry will probably leave you with something appropriating the warm, satisfying glow of post-match victory. I wouldn't know; losing will be a common theme here. See, fighting games live up to that old cliché of being easy to learn but hard to master. Once upon a time, young me and my brother would happily let Ryu and Ken throw punches at each other (before we inevitably started throwing punches at each other), without ever worrying what we were missing out on. That is, until puberty had finished mauling me and I purchased Super Street Fighter IV, looking for a jolt of nostalgia.
You see what they never tell you about that old adage is that once you begin to move away from the basics, and try to submerge yourself in its terrifying depths, your initial moronic enjoyment and modicum of skill disappear. You will always feel like you could be doing better, effectively ruining your enjoyment in an actual match, until you get better. You will overthink every input instead of just going with the flow, and therefore you will be even shitter than when you first started. This will remain until you build up muscle memory for the ridiculously tricky inputs. And there's no going back.
It might be quicker if I wait for this to become a reality
I should probably rewind a bit. I booted up SSF4 after I got it, and was soon pulling off hadoukens (hadokens?) and shoryukens with joy. This was impressive to me, since we had lost the manual to SF2 and had no idea what we were doing as kids. Then I started looking at move lists, and things got complicated. Excitingly so. Chains, links, kara throwing, plinking, cross-ups... it was baffling. After many online tutorials*, I felt well versed in fighting tactics. I even bought an expensive fight stick (worth it by the way). I was ready to get good at it. In theory, that is...
Pulling this shit off is hard. Seriously. To give you a picture of how hard, I should explain link combos. Combos (or chains) are when you cancel the animation of one move into another, giving the opponent no chance of blocking if they were hit with the first move. Not too hard, but bear with me because we're getting technical.
Linking differs from cancelling in that it requires the second move to come out at almost the exact moment the animation of the first ends, when the opponent is still stunned from the attack. Notice I replaced the word 'second' with 'moment' in the previous sentence; a second would be WAY too lenient. The animation frames in which the first attack ends and the second executes must be less than the frames the opponent takes to recover from the first attack. This can leave a window of one frame. SF4 runs at 60 FPS. You can have a sixtieth of a second
in which to do this. It's not as soon as you can either, because the first move has to finish beforehand. How important is this? These links are almost always essential in any combo worth pulling out when you have an advantage.
Also, practice links until your head explodes.
To even have a chance of pulling these off in a match you have to plink (priority link), which due to some quirk in the game mechanics doubles your chance of pulling the link off, if you press a weaker attack immediately after the proper one. Again, split-second timing. Even the solutions are tricky.
Now, you may find all this fine and dandy in training mode, but for me combining all these tactics (I've barely scratched the surface, believe me) into one unified playstyle against another human is insanely demanding. I'm too busy trying to spot opportunities to actually act upon them; this has to be so ingrained upon you that it's virtually a reflex action. I see someone jumping at me? Quick, shoryuken! I've fumbled it! Fuck! Half my health bar's gone. There will be no such thinking for the pro; if someone jumps at them, an uppercut will be the automatic response.
You have to learn how to block effectively too. Your opponent will be doing the same, so you need to find a way 'in', to get the aforementioned advantage and pull off a damaging combo. This has to be done whilst maintaining your guard, so wild flailing is out and learning 'safe' moves is in. If you manage to get a combo off, the opponent will likely fall down or dash out, and you have keep on the attack to maintain momentum. Anyway, you get the picture; you always have to be on the ball and aware of all your numerous options. It's a constant cycle of acting and reacting, with no room to breathe. In case you couldn't tell, this is exhilarating.
To me it's like a game of speed chess on rocket skates, but to take a move you have to perform sleight-of-hand tricks perfectly. You have to be aware of both your's and your opponents spacing, anticipate their tactics, sometimes manipulating both, and react accordingly within real time
. My loss record should indicate how out of reach this is for me, at present.
I couldn't find a picture that represented that last analogy, so here's a picture of a slightly disheartened puppy instead.
I've focused on Street Fighter here as it's arguably the most technical, but I'm loving the relatively less demanding likes of Blazblue and MvC3, as well. I'm still struggling with both of these too though, as my basic point remains. You know, the chess thing. It's basically comes down to a lot of practice, until all of these tactics just come naturally.
This all probably sounds quite negative, but I am loving it. Honestly. The satisfaction when you pull off these tricky manoeuvres is almost unparalleled in gaming. Against another human, especially a friend (or a certain spamming sibling) that's multiplied a hundred-fold. So, I'll keep plugging away in the hope that it all comes together, and I grab a few more glorious victories. The slow drag of progress is still tangible enough that I'm hanging on, much like learning the guitar (another source of frustration and
satisfaction) or anything worthwhile, really. That does it, I'm not going to stop until I see this:
Was this post anything less than this? Sound off in the comments, then.
*Many thanks to VesperArcade's YouTube channel and shoryuken.com for their help, so far.