If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been posting long reads on Tuesdays about fighting games. They’ve ranged from how-to guides to strategy and philosophy. This column is a continuation of that.
I want to share my experiences with both new and intermediate players who might be stuck. If you read one of these and think, “Well, that was obvious,” then good! If you take something away from these articles, then that’s good too.
If you have any questions or suggestions for topics, feel free to ask me on Twitter at @LordKnightBB.[hr]
1. Combo practice
Combos are integral to modern fighting games, and consistency is key. Generally, I aim for around 95%+ consistency on standard combos, and 70%+ on “hard” stuff. Keep in mind that “hard” is subjective depending on your execution level.
If you’re trying to learn something difficult or unusual, practicing a lot is good, but give yourself a breather every once in a while. Give your hands time to recover and ingrain what you’ve practiced. For example, when I picked up Valkenhayn in BlazBlue: Chronophantasma EXTEND, I couldn’t do his wolf 5C > wolf 5C, which is pretty much necessary to play him. When I did grind combos, I’d always dedicate an arbitrary amount of time (let’s say, an hour or so) to work on this specific motion, and no more. I try to allocate a specific amount of time because, personally, if I don’t get something after practicing it in one sitting for a while, I get frustrated. Basically, include breaks in your practice time so that you don’t burn out.
Finally, consider your combo selection. The “goal” of combos can vary depending on the game, but generally your priority is to maximize damage while maintaining an advantageous position. If your game has a burst, you can try to explore more burst safe routes as well.
2. Matchup Strategy Development
Perfecting and practicing setplay
I personally spend a ton of time doing this. You should know exactly what to do against every character when you knock them down and what options they have to defend against you. This is a highly advantageous situation for you, and you should try to maximize your return as much as possible. Depending on the character you’re playing, you might not get mixup per se, but you should be able to establish a safe offense. If you don’t know what to do, you should definitely take the time to figure it out.
Move, hitbox exploration
This may sound simple, but it actually takes time and has many variables. At the beginning, you want to get familiar and comfortable with your character’s moveset. As fighting game players, we’re quick to identify uses for attacks and label them as useful or useless, but as time goes on, a move can evolve.
Depending on the game, you can test your moves against different universal defensive options, how different system mechanics work against each other, etc. For example, in Arc System Works games, I always try to find ways to make my opponent’s Counter Assault (or Dead Angle, or Alpha Counter, or whatever) whiff using an attack instead of hard baiting.
3. General problem solving
I spend a lot of time on this as well. This ties into matchup strategy development, but sometimes, as soon as a set of online matches are over, I’ll go straight into training mode to try to replicate what happened and flesh out potential responses. I know that training mode varies by game, but there’s (probably) a way to replicate the situation. If there’s something you don’t know how to do, ask someone for help! Don’t be afraid to reach out to other players to get an explanation on how to do things. It’s much better than half-assing your recording and getting answers that are essentially wrong.
This also ties into experimentation. In my mind, “matchup strategy development” and “general problem solving” are a little separate. So, when I’m trying to solve a problem, sometimes I’ll try really unusual things to see whether or not it will work. As in, when you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s kind of easier to “experiment” than just going in and messing around (although there’s nothing wrong with that).
Finally, I want to add that while you can’t practice neutral alone, you can definitely use training mode to find answers to specific neutral tools. This is kind of simple process: you play, you have a problem against X ground normal or jump-in, you go to training mode to figure out how to respond if your initial response doesn’t work, repeat.[hr]
Editor’s note: Some of you may notice that this is a slight adaptation of Steve’s recent piece on how to best utilize training mode, which he has chosen to provide an idea of the areas he’ll cover in his ongoing column. Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments and be on the look out for more in the near future.