I love fighting games. The problem is, they don’t love me back as much. XD
I’m the kind of fighting gamer that loves combo crafting. As a result, I spend a lot of time in Training Stages coming up with new combos and honing my execution for them. The upside – I’m able to pull off flashy combos in games like Ultra Street Fighter 4 and Skullgirls. The downside – because I don’t get to spar with the CPU and real people as much, my fundamentals (defense, spacing, anticipation, reaction) are weak, and I will often lose to a player who uses nothing but perfectly-timed normals and specials (especially Guile players. I absolutely hate Guile players! XD).
If you’re facing the same problems as I am, it’s time we did something about it, yeah? (^_^)
SHORING UP YOUR FIGHTING GAME FUNDAMENTALS
There are core principles that encompass all fighting games. If you wonder how pro fighting game players like Chris G, Justin Wong, PR Balrog, Ricky Ortiz, FilipinoChamp, Sako, and Tokido can juggle multiple characters for multiple fighting games at the same time during tournaments, this is why. If you have a firm grasp on the basics of fighting games, you can carry that knowledge over to other characters and other fighting games, despite the difference in presentation and mechanics.
If you’re new to the scene, here are a handful of links that’ll help you brush up on your basics:
- First Attack (UltraChenTV) – this web series (now on its 3rd season) was specifically created by James Chen (he’s among the most well-known FGC commentators) to (a) help non-fighting gamers get into fighting games, and (b) to help avid but untrained players get over their losing tendencies, by pointing out common pitfalls and how to avoid them. The episodes are streamed live over Twitch first then posted uncut on YouTube later, so there are times when the viewer will feel really bogged down by the lack of editing. Mostly though, time spent in this class is time well spent. Oh, and the episodes tend to cover generalities and don’t stick to just one fighting game either, so don’t worry overmuch if you’re a one-game specialist. (^_^)
- From Masher to Master – The Educated Video Game Enthusiast’s Fighting Game Primer (Patrick Miller) – if you prefer reading to watching, then you might want to pick up this free ebook from Shoryuken instead. There are instances when Miller gets sidetracked in the middle of an explanation, but if you’re patient enough, there quite a few illuminating ideas in here.
- Super Street Fighter 4 Tutorial (VesperArcade) – this brilliantly-crafted series focuses on the basic and advanced mechanics of arguably this half-decade’s top fighting game, SF4. But don’t fret – even if you don’t play the game, the vids also feature tactics and fightstick hand techniques that are equally applicable to other 2D / 2.5D fighters. Technical information is conveyed very clearly so that even a total newbie can understand. The pacing is tight, too – not a second wasted (little to no rambling, mistakes are edited out). I find myself revisiting each clip every so often just to perma-burn the outlined concepts into my synapses.
- Street Fighter Footsies Handbook (Sonic Hurricane) – As I’ve learned the hard way, a player with better footsies (protecting and acquiring territory during the neutral game using well-chosen moves), will always win out versus a player with better combos. A good number of the examples in this series concern bygone fighters like Street Fighter Alpha 3, but the core principles still hold up for present-day battlers.
- SRK Tutorials – I didn’t know until today that Shoryuken.com had a fighting game tutorial depository! Shame on me. (^o^) Currently totaling 19 pages of user-submitted tech, they cover pretty much every fighting game in current usage. Time to get digging!
- Witty Gamer’s Fighting Game Videos – *GASP* Take cover! It’s a shameless plug! *KABOOM!* XD All kidding aside, the aim for these clips is to make beginner-friendly tutorials for as many characters as I can for the fighting games I enjoy the most. So far, I’ve covered 2 SF4 characters (3 tutorials for Ken, 2 for Elena) and 5 Skullgirls characters (2 tutorials for Squigly, 2 for Peacock, 1 for Filia, 1 for Fukua, 1 for Eliza). Some of the tutorials started out quite rough, but I’ve gotten a bit better at editing. Just keep checking my YouTube channel – I’ll keep plodding away at this.
WORKING ON YOUR MENTALITY
With awareness of a character’s normal, special, and unique moves (and their respective hit priorities, effective ranges, and recovery time), you can easily defeat those who just pick up and play the game without prior research.With knowledge of efficient combos and the ability to complete them at least 75% of the time, you can be more imposing than opponents of otherwise equal awareness, because you can better exploit openings in defense.
This familiarity with your chosen character(s) for your chosen game(s) will be a tremendous boost to your confidence. You might even start feeling that you’re a cut above your peers – a hero of your local scene. You’ll start to think that maybe it’s time to sign up for a tournament.
That is, until, you meet up with a very strong opponent who overwhelmingly crushes you.
This is where mental training comes in. Because you need to be able to accept that losing is part of your growth as a fighting game player and as a person. You need to be able to face up to the fact that you fell short somewhere. Definitely, there are times when external factors beyond your control can affect your physical, mental, and emotional condition, making a loss feel inevitable. But the thing is, most of the time, you lose because you didn’t respect the game enough – you got too cocky, you underestimated the opponent, and/or worst of all, you didn’t put in enough practice time.
And next time, when you finally do win, you need to have the composure to recall just what it was you did in the match that clutched the victory for you. Because you need to be able to remember and repeat that the next time you’re in a similar situation. You’re not an ace at something until you can consistently generate positive results – otherwise, your detractors will just chalk it up to a fluke.
The good news? You’re not alone in this. There are many other fighting game veterans that have ridden this wild seesaw of success and failure – if you’re a romantic, you could even think of it as a warrior’s journey – the sometimes divine, mostly hellish rite of passage that separates the wannabes from the true afficionados. The great news? Some of these guys were kind enough to write in-depth about how best to prepare oneself for these sorts of things. Let me offer up these classics of the genre:
- Domination 101 (Seth Killian) – written in an in-your-face style for what was then a more close-minded and overly prideful fighting game community, it’s fascinating how these writeups maintain – and will keep on maintaining – their relevance.
- Playing to Win (David Sirlin) – the insights offered in this series of articles (which you can either read online or purchase as a complete book / ebook) apply not just to fighting games, but to pretty much any competitive pursuit.
- Step Up Your Game (Justin Wong) – the great thing about this series is that Justin Wong is currently an active, high-ranking fighting game pro. Because of this, his analysis can take both the broad view (generalities) and the narrow view (specifics), and he can tap into both historical and present-day lessons. The writing style is also very concise.
TAKING YOURSELF TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Once you’ve sharpened your fighting game senses to exceptional heights, then, like Ryu, you’ll start to wonder how far you can take yourself – if your skills can stack up to other serious practicioners of the art.
This would be the best time to start competing in tournaments.
- Capcom Pro Tour – this lists the premier fighting game tournaments that, if won, guarantee a spot at the year-end Capcom Cup Finals. This is a good place to check the scheduled dates for upcoming tournaments (be they major, local, or online).
No matter where or when you conclude your travels in this sphere of videogaming, give it all you’ve got until you’re satisfied. (^_^)