Yeah, it’s that time again! Time to pretend I know what I’m talking about when it comes to fighting ga- I mean, welcome to EVO 2018!
…I say, even though I might as well be light-years from the main stage. And even though by the time you read this, it'll effectively be over. Still, as a fighting game observer and dabbler, I can’t help but look to the genre and its top performers with glee. This is probably as close as I’ll ever get to having a sport or teams I can root for -- except wrestling, maybe -- though I can’t say I’m regretting my preferences.
Feel free to scrounge up shove your eyeballs into whatever EVO stream (or archive) catches your eye. In the meantime? I’m here to talk about a bunch of fighting games as a celebration of the event. So let’s start off with the big one: Street Fighter V.
Soooooooooooo I might have lied about starting with Street Fighter V.
--I’m not a Terry guy, so my reaction to seeing him Rule 63’d is more muted than most -- doubly so because his/her existence got leaked well in advance of the reveal. That said? Now that I’ve seen the “new” character in the flesh -- lots of flesh, as it so happens -- the Fatal Cutie managed to get a sensible chuckle out of me. The next step for SNK and crew is, of course, to Rule 63 every other character in the KoF roster. Honestly, I’m surprised and disappointed that they didn’t make that the central premise behind SNK Heroines. Gimme FemRalf. Gimme FemShen Woo. Gimme FemAsh. Come on, that last one’s easy.
--On that note? It is an absolute tragedy that some of the new faces have gotten in before the classics we know and love. Seriously. We got Mui Mui before we got King? We got Sylvie before we got Blue Mary? Dafuq are the devs on, and where can I get some? They can’t even use the excuse of “no assets”, because they all showed up in KoF14!
--Oh right, the actual game. Eh. I haven’t played it, and the game’s still a few weeks out from release as of writing. Hard to judge something I’ve never touched. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested, though; I could do without a decent chunk of those costumes and blushing heroines (I’ll never understand why embarrassed girls is a thing for some people), but if the simplified gameplay makes it akin, execution-wise, to Smash Bros., then hey. It could be a thing. So we’ll see what happens.
--ADD VANESSA, YOU COWARDS.
--So I may have made a huge mistake. See, ever since the Season 3/Aracde Edition announcement, I’ve been eager to play as Falke. My reasoning: as nice as it is to see the old World Warriors make their revamped returns, I’m more interested in seeing new fighters pop in and what they have to offer. That’s true of every game, to be clear; I wouldn’t mind getting Raphael back in Soulcalibur VI, but I want to see the new guys take the stage -- or at least get more priority/attention than the old mainstays. That’s just my stance, though.
--Getting back on topic: I didn’t have enough Fight Money to get Falke (up till recently, I’ve been playing intermittently every couple of months) so for whatever reason I thought I could buy her and be on my way. Turns out I could…but near as I could tell, only if I bought the character pass and thus everyone else. I’m not happy about it -- great, now I’m a Blanka owner -- but I bit the bullet. I guess that’ll at least put me in position to play G and Sagat. Guess which of the two I’m more interested in? Yep. Good old Uncle Slam.
--Anyway, Falke. She is…not a great character. That’s been the consensus among the community, near as I can tell, but playing awful characters hasn’t stopped me before. I mained T. Hawk and subbed Dee Jay throughout SFIV, and the latter was so bad you could get Dee Jay-specific combos off of him because his hand extended too far. Low-tier pain is nothing to me.
--The assumption here is that -- thanks to her staff -- Falke is a long-range fighter with some good defensive options. Projectiles, pokes, mid- and long-screen control, etc. That’s sort of the case, but not reliably. She’s got pokes with her f.HP and cr.MP, and her st.MK has a bit of range to it, but…ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhauuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. Very few of her crouching normals are special-cancellable, and you have to try to link them together in any respectable fashion. She cancel some of her standing normals, but of the bunch, cr.MP has abysmal range. Unlike other characters (as far as I can tell), you can’t get any links off of her heavy attacks.
--Falke’s default projectile -- the standing version -- has such a limited range that I kind of want to cry whenever it comes out; it’s best used for combos, though I’m not sure if you can get anything else off of it by virtue of the recovery frames even on hit. I’m not too confident in her meterless anti-airs, especially since her upward staff special doesn’t always have the range or speed needed for combos. Her V-Skill is supposed to negate fireballs and tack on damage in combos at close range, but again, the speed is a problem. Assuming lag didn’t interfere, I’ve eaten various fireballs because the move didn’t activate in time.
--I guess what I’m getting at here is that I don’t know what role Falke is supposed to play. If she’s supposed to control space and distance, why do her staff nromals not support that? If she’s supposed to be a close range combo machine, then why does she not have any reliable combos outside of the bare basics? Plus there’s the problem of playing online, thus adding online lag on top of the infamous frame delay throughout SFV, making a bad situation worse for this character in particular. Generally, it seems as if whatever good Falke can do, someone else in the roster can do it better.
--With. All. That. Said. I’m still using Falke. I’m still enjoying her, more or less. Even if a huge majority of the cast has a “fuck fireballs” mechanic built in, her low sniper shots are still useful in the fireball war and generally attacking from long range (with their speed and trajectory, they can catch foes unaware and get around the hitboxes of their negating V-Skills). She may not be able to get a ton off of a stray hit, but a poke is a poke, and I’ve used them to great effect mid-match.
--I guess the trick is to get comfortable with Falke’s normals, and how to get damage in wherever I can. If I had to guess, I’d say that I should be using st.MK more so I can cancel that into her lunge kick for a knockdown/momentum shift. Jumping in with her might yield max damage, but this is SF, and jumping in tends to equal death. In exchange? V-Trigger 1 is a godsend for me so I can have fireballs/range on tap. If I can routinely combo with/into them, I’ll be in better shape.
--My biggest problem in this game -- and pretty much every other fighting game -- is that my overall damage output is low. Especially when it comes to the burst damage from a big combo…mostly because outside of Guilty Gear and maaaaaaaaaaaaaybe BlazBlue, I don’t have any. I’m the type that wears down foes with pokes, projectiles, and BnBs, unless I’m playing a grappler and can thus sprinkle in a command grab. Step one is to not only learn those extended combos, but to have the courage and composure to try landing one mid-match.
--But lately, it seems like there are problems out of my hands. I want to get better at SFV, no question. Despite my best efforts -- with Falke or otherwise -- it seems like I can’t improve because all I ever get to fight are shotos. More often than not, they’re shotos with bad connections and icons of flags I’ve never even seen before. Granted I’m rusty on my flags, but still. If I have to run a Google search to know where my opponent is from, then I’m in for a match with lots of jitterbugging, lag, and I swear to God an activation of BITES ZA DUSTO.
--I’ll go ahead and his at Capcom for making so many global connections (and I use that word lightly) possible, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut the problem with fighting Ryu, Ken, and Akuma ad nausem is that I don’t have the matchup experience I need against the rest of the cast. Even then it’s a gamble, because I lost to a lagging Ken and his tatsu shenanigans. (“He can’t possibly be safe after that, so I should -- oops, ate a DP.”)
--Seriously, how am I supposed to know how to fight Bison if I never fight any Bisons? What do I do against Balrog? And I got my ass shredded by a Kolin player, who showed me things that I didn’t even know Kolin could do. Despite me also being a Kolin player.
--So I guess the takeaway here is that I should pick up Alex.
--For fear of this post being dominated by SFV, let’s mix it up with some BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Briefly, though. To be perfectly honest, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve played it -- not much since the character pack with Jubei, Yang, and the rest came out. It’s not that I have anything against the game; it’s just that the idea of playing the game online is terrifying, because I haven’t cultivated much in the way of skill/savvy in ArcSys’ anime fighters, at least online. That’s a fancy way of saying “I don’t want to get wrecked by people who live and breathe the game.”
--My gut instict is to jump back to the safe, shallow end of the pool with SFV. I know that that’s the game that my brother and I will be playing together most (with the exception of Dragon Ball FighterZ, no doubt), and besides, there’s a lot less to learn and manage. When it comes to team-based fighters, I, uh…I don’t. I pick two or three characters that I like, largely ignorant of their synergy or maxing out combo potential. And BBTAG presents a wealth of problems, given that I just barely have a grasp of its inputs, let alone how to use them effectively.
--So basically, I’m worried I’m going to have this happen to me the instant I try heading online.
--Right now my team (HA!) is Orie on point, with Blake in the rear. Her boomerang assist with Gambol Shroud is exceedingly useful, especially given that Orie doesn’t have much in the way of projectiles by herself. Then again, Orie -- like most of the Under Night characters -- has some MASSIVE range with her attacks. Maybe not with all of her standard normals, but certainly whenever she brings out her Stand for a sword slash.
--I did briefly run Carmine and Yang on release day (no Bumblebee, remarkably). The blood-based fighter is exactly as I remember him from his game of origin, meaning that -- if you’re willing to burn through your life bar -- you can pin down a foe with a slew of projectiles, or even freeze them in place if you super on reaction. As for Yang? Certainly, she’s rad…but I’ve cooled off on playing her because I don’t want to have her Yang Install automatically activate every match. I can’t handle “I BURN” getting stuck in my head again.
--Now, I’m not saying Waldstein is the ultimate grappler…but I am saying that he’s what I call a problem-solver. He solves the problem of getting in with a fighter as slow as a crippled moose by just plain having gigantic range on everything. His basic special is a massive punch that voers the space ahead and the air almost simultaneously -- and the strong version of that is a triple punch with basically the same effect. There’s no way he’s as good as I’m hyping him up to be (I THINK), but I racked up 20-ish wins against my brother without even having to try. Maximize power, indeed.
--Gordeau is a problem, but not an unsolvable one. That’s…pretty much all that needs to be said. Besides “don’t get hit”. Now that that’s done?
--The ship has sailed on me ever being competent in Dragon Ball FighterZ. And by “competent” I mean “know more than just how to do the near-universal magic series”. The only one I have extended combos with is Piccolo. Possibly Android 16, but I haven’t used him much since that one patch. I’m not going to be making any big comebacks anytime soon -- at least not with any flashy moves you’d see in a Twitch clip.
--Again, I don’t have a team -- just a loose assortment of characters. I picked up Yamcha a while back, and he’s been useful -- though apparently I should be using him as an assist character more than a frontline fighter. Fancy that. Years of playing/sucking at Mahvel has led me to believe that beam assists = godlike, but the only character I have with a beam assist -- and a far cry from the Gokus’ Kamehameha -- is Tien. So on one hand, I’m shooting myself in the foot with my wimpy team composition. On the other hand? Level 3 Sparking + Tien = DARK TIEN RISES.
--It feels like I need to be able to think in eight dimensions in order to play this game. DBFZ is hyper-aggressive, with the few defensive options you have being stopgap solutions or insanely risky. I don’t know how the pros do it; in my few online matches, I’ve just had to sit there and respect my opponents hammering Square, paralyzed and punished if I try to fight back. Admittedly it’d probably help if I knew how to guard cancel and tag in an auxiliary teammate, but that just begs the question: how likely am I to get smacked with a combo-starting 2H?
--Still, Base Goku and Base Vegeta are on the way, so maybe it’s time to get back in. Say what you will about them using up valuable slots on the roster, but…well, they already got in most of the heavy hitters. The next step is to get Dodoria or Bojack, and I doubt people are chomping at the bit to have them show up.
--Beyond that? Even though I’m more likely to play as Base Vegeta, there’s something strangely refreshing about Base Goku being present and accounted for. He certainly hearkens back to a different time in the Z canon, something that, despite the outcries of asset reuse, still seems decently reflected in his move set. You can really feel the monkey-like energy and flair, whether he’s wreathed in red flames or not. I’m intrigued.
--I’m just not looking forward to the ass whooping I’m in for.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’ll just about do it for now. See you guys next time. By which I mean “not at EVO 2019”. That’s way too far away, and who knows when that’ll be?
In all seriousness, though? Fighting games may not be the most popular franchise out there, but damned if they’re not the most thrilling and chilling simultaneously. At this stage, I’m fine with just watching the experts and pros go at it, because it’s not as if I’ll ever match their skills. On the other hand? I was being serious when I said “thrilling and chilling”; going up against my bro in heated, down-to-the-last pixel matches is an adrenaline rush that few games have ever managed to match. Long live the genre, and best of luck to anyone with the guts to venture deeper.
There. NOW that’ll just about do it.