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.
For those of you who have been following these, I’ll occasionally add a section for action items at the end of the article. These are a bit like homework – it’s something you can try immediately. Let me know what you think in the comments!
You’ve maneuvered around your opponent, applied pressure, and opened them up. What happens now?
Like offense (which I covered in a previous article), knocking someone down is usually a very advantageous situation. Your goal is equally straight forward – you want to maximize your advantage and potential return on whatever you choose to do next. This situation is a narrow and defined part of fighting games, and important to understand, as rounds can be won and lost when someone gets laid out.
Knockdowns vary greatly by character. At the very least, you can minimize your opponent’s defensive options and mount a safe offense. At most, you can eliminate your opponent’s defensive completely while simultaneously creating an ambiguous mixup of some sort.
Again, like offense, what you do after knocking an opponent down can be researched and practiced on your own in the lab. As far as goals, you want to maximize your safety (against mashing, reversals, and whatever system mechanics are available in the game) while also making sure you get as much return on your investment as possible.
Let’s take a character like Ryu, in a game with no variation in wakeup timing, and look at what a knockdown situation would look like from the perspective of the attacker and the defender.
You (playing Ryu), knock down the opponent (playing Ken), and do a cross up jumping medium kick. What does this do?
- If they reversal, the reversal should whiff or be blocked by Ryu, which would lead to a punish. If they block, the jumping medium kick should connect. This is a common technique in fighting games, known as a “safe jump” – basically keeping you safe from your opponent’s defensive options when they get up.
- If they do choose to block (which, if you judge the risk/return on doing a reversal, they should), they would have to change the direction that they are blocking. If not, they’ll get hit, which would lead into the same situation.
What happens here is all based on how much knowledge your opponent has. When you get knocked down, you generally have an extremely limited amount of options available. The more awareness they have of how your knockdown works, the better they should be able to judge the risk about trying to counter you.
Let’s look at a more specific example. I’ll use a character that has a relatively simple but extremely effective knockdown – Mitsuru from Persona 4 Arena.
When Mitsuru knocks you down in the corner, she can set up an ice mirror that the opponent is forced to block. From there, she may choose to do a low, an instant overhead, a delayed low, or a delayed instant overhead. If the opponent gets hit, then they get frozen by the mirror, and you can combo them again into the same knockdown. If they block, Mitsuru can continue her offense safely.
The basic mixup is just high or low. The delayed low and delayed high is to force them to block “properly” – since the default low or high don’t hit at the same time, the opponent can block low, then switch high.
As far as defensive options, Mitsuru recovers so quickly that she can block most reversals in the game.
With all of the above in mind, it’s on the defender to know how this works and what they can do about it. The setup covers most defensive options, but Aigis, for example, can use her Awakening super to escape, since it’s faster than a standard reversal.
Since this is a recurring situation, it is easy to break down and refine the plan. I generally split it up like so:
- General idea
- Exceptions (As in, what characters can stop me)
- Counters to those characters
And I’ll do that for every type of knockdown at my character’s disposal. On defense, you don’t necessarily need to know all the intricacies of what your opponent does when they knock you down, but you should be able to recognize what knockdown they are going for, what kind of options they’ll try to cover, and how. The description of Mitsuru’s corner knockdown above can be read from both an offensive and defensive perspective – and as I said before, the more aware you are of your opponent’s options, the better you’ll be able to defend against it.
Take advantage of your knockdown; depending on the game, a solid knockdown can mean you win the round!
(Featured image c/o FGC: Rise of the Fighting Game Community)