August 9, 2018

The EVO 2018 Fighting Game Funtime Fiesta -- ARCADE EDITION

Well, I didn’t think I’d be doing this again so soon.  But since every fighting game company under the sun decided to drop megaton after megaton within the past few days -- with the characters to show for it -- in a desperate bid for exposure, attention, love, and those sweet, sweet FGC dollars, here we are again.

Let’s do this lickety-split.  Because apparently, gamers have nothing better to do than devote their lives to whatever game has the shiniest addition to it.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends.  Or, alternatively, the void.  But at least this time, we’ve got waifus to keep us company.  And now that the stage is set, let’s cross fate yet again with…

--I think it’ll be a while until we find out what the mysterious “new fate” is in BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle.  At least officially; data miners have apparently uncovered evidence that Senran Kagura characters are next in line.  I’m mostly okay with that, because if the rumors are true then it means I’ll be able to make a double fan team with Yumi and Yukiko.  On the other hand, adding the Senran crew probably won’t do the game’s reputation any favors -- both in terms of adding MORE DLC to a game plagued by it, and throwing in some salacious anime waifu bait -- so we’ll see how it goes.

--Not to go off on a tangent, but can I just take a minute to gush about the game’s official art?  I love it.  I covet it.  Admittedly that was true of Central Fiction’s character art, but it’s in full force with this latest installment by Konomi Higuchi.  So sharp!  So clean!  Such a high contrast!  Just look at Hakumen here, or Blake there!  The only concern?  Given that the art makes all of the girls chestier than their canon appearances -- compare Yang in RWBY to Yang in BBTAG’s art -- it’s…uh…going to be interesting to see what happens if the Senran Kagura girls hit the drawing board.

--Anyway, the most recent character pack features Nine, Izayoi, and Mai from BB, Mitsuru, Akihiko, and Labrys from Persona 4 Arena, and Merkava, Yuzuriha, and Mika from Under Night.  As a formality, I decided to give the characters that struck my fancy a try.  Incidentally?  That includes one of the latest (if not last) entrants into the BB games proper.

--I never got around to playing Mai Natsume.  She was DLC, and neither my brother nor I were willing to buy in on a character we were lukewarm at best toward (and to be perfectly honest, a game we only played/owned a couple of times to share our energy with ArcSys).  I know where Mai comes from, and based on that source material, I couldn’t summon the will to get hyped about her.  If anything, she generated anti-hype.  “Oh boy, another cute high school girl who forms a club with other cute schoolgirls.  What an original concept.”  

--Like, BB has always veered into anime territory and made OTT tweaks on tropes and archetypes, but some of the latest entries play it way too straight for comfort.  When the most interesting thing about Mai is “used to be a boy”, and that’s already well-worn territory, it’s not enough to sell me on a character.  Also, her costume is kind of meh.  Better than Makoto’s, to be fair -- at least she’s got pants -- but it feels like they just tagged underboob out for sideboob.

--But then I actually tried her out in the game, and I’m like “Okay, wait, no.  Hold on.  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  This character’s actually cool?  Whoa, look at that!  Look at that!  That’s actually pretty cool!”  To be clear?  I actually haven’t taken Mai into a match, be it in local play, online, or even against the CPU.  But I’m a sucker for lances, and I prefer characters with range to help me in myriad battles.  Mai seems simple enough with the stats/properties to provide what I need, but with enough flourishes to grind my foes down.

--If I remember right, the sprites in BB were realized by building 3D models first, and then superimposing 2D art atop them.  Whether or not that’s really the case, I get the sense that the dev team really had fun bringing Mai to life.  Mai’s poses and animations are lavish, to say the least, and really helps her shine in the wake of a less-than-exciting backstory.  I wonder if those lavish animations will hamper her frame data; as artful as her anti-air normal is, I’m worried that more time was spent on it looking pretty and less on it being useful in a fight.  We’ll see.

--In the meantime, I’ve also picked up Labrys.

--I don’t know how strong or practical Labrys is in a fight, partly because I only touched her in the last few days of my P4A career.  Maybe she’s actually the missing link for me.  She’s got something of a high/low game with her Guillotine Axe and winch shenanigans, and if her special gauge is at full charge she can dish out massive damage in one shot (on top of, I assume, high attack power in general).  I’m interested in using her more -- maybe with her on point and Mai in the back.  We’ll see, given that I know next to nothing about assist usage/team composition.

--BBTAG is, certainly, a game I enjoy.  I don’t play it nearly as much as I should, yet there’s a reason why it made it to EVO this year besides “it’s the newest one”.  Despite that, I think it has a secret strength that helps it stand out: it’s a repository, and a haven, for franchises that have slipped out of the public consciousness.  It’s a crying shame that P4A is basically buried, and Under Night is as obscure as it gets; thanks to BBTAG, those games -- and BB as well -- have gotten a deserved second chance at life.  Let’s hope it doesn’t go to waste.

--Although speaking of Under Night?  I gave Mika a shot because I know nothing about her.  She’s basically Jon Talbain as a pseudo grappler -- or, alternatively, Mahvel’s rendition of Hulk with his Gamma Charges.  As for Yuzuriha?  I tapped out super-hard and super-fast on her.  Apparently my brain is too simple and un-evolved to understand how she works.

--Okay, now I’m not saying that I’m giving up on Falke (sunk cost fallacy, yo), but I am saying…FRIENDSHIP ENDED WITH FALKE.  NOW G IS MY BEST FRIEND.  I don’t know what Capcom’s design philosophy is with this or any other character, but it seems to me like they gave G a lot of tools that other characters have, only imbued with presidential power.  That’s kind of a roundabout way of saying “master of none”.  Under normal circumstances, at least.

--He’s got a high rush punch and a low rush punch, just like Q did back in the day; hard to know if they’re 100% safe on block, but I got away with plenty of them in my trial run.  He has a projectile, but it doesn’t cover the whole screen and it seems like its startup is comparatively slow -- not slow enough to be impossible to combo into, thankfully.  He has a command grab, too, and he can combo off of it.  Plus he has a flip kick that doubles as an anti-air, but only if you read the opponent and catch them preemptively.

--Add G’s V-Skill to the pile of “fuck fireballs” Skills in the game.  He puts up a gold force field around him that negates projectiles and converts them into meter for his V-Gauge -- and it’s something you can combo into if your opponent’s close enough.  What really makes G shine, I think -- I didn’t get to test it out mid-match -- is that he can enhance his moves and effectively gain “levels”.  More levels = more hits, combo potential, and damage.  Probably would’ve helped against my brother and his Sagat.  

--It’ll be a while yet before I reach G’s full potential, but I want to mess around with him more.  If nothing else, Uncle Slam has a shockingly strong/useful command grab (with armor) as part of his V-Trigger II kit.  So, to reiterate:

--Now let’s talk about Sagat.  Just because SFV has tried for the longest time to put a damper on the fireball wars of old, the Emperor of Muay Thai has returned to cast the die once more.  Even if G can nullify a number of tiger Shots from the other side of the screen, it doesn’t mean much if the Sagat is unwilling to relent.  G still has to find a way in somehow, which means that he can’t rely on his V-Skill if he wants to win.  That’s where Sagat will get you if you aren’t careful.

--It’s WAY too early to know if he’s the terror that he was in vanilla SFIV.  Despite that, he’s still a threat.  If you don’t have a reliable way to get in, you’re in for a hell of a rough time -- and recklessly jumping to avoid a Tiger Shot (or just jumping to preemptively “dodge” one) means eating a Tiger Uppercut instead.  That’s the SF standard, I know, but half the battle is finding a way to stay on top of a guy who can clip you with a swath of normals if you dare to enter his attack range.  Kind of makes you wonder what good your max damage combos will do if you can’t even land a single hit…

--It’s not like I have full access to frame data, but Tiger Knee is harder to punish than you’d expect (at least with G, and my turtle-blooded self at the helm).  That means there’s a 50/50 mixup where you have to figure out if he’s going to throw you or catch your “counter” with a Tiger Uppercut.  It’s unpleasant, to say the least.  As is his delayed roundhouse on V-Trigger II; it has armor and guard breaks at full charge, but if you jump to avoid it Sagat can land the hit anyway and combo off of it.  Don’t let him land it.  Challenge him quickly with two hits or a throw.

--Well, I didn’t get bodied as badly as I thought I would.  14-12 in my brother’s favor.  Not bad, given that A) he’s logged probably 15 times more online matches than me, with the training room hours to show for it, and B) outside of making sure the characters properly downloaded, our session this week was the first time I’d played since Vegito and Zamasu came out.  I’m ridiculously out of practice, but pretty much went in going “Screw it, it’s fiiiiiiiiiiiiine” and expected absolute murder.

--Since I’ve basically endured 2 separate trials by fire in the past week (and some 5 hours of fighting game time against someone who’s the Indy 500 champion to my obese 5-year-old on a tricycle), I’m really starting to see where my preferences and habits good and bad come in.  Big bro’s speed and reaction time are leagues better than mine, meaning that approaching him from the front or above is a death wish; he’ll clip you with normals and spring into a massive combo if you even try.  

--The one way I’ve found to consistently beat him is to attack just outside his range but still within yours, and/or with projectiles.  Basically, the very edge of mid-range or the full breadth of long range.  SFV isn’t 100% conducive to the former because it’s reportedly plagued by “stubby normals”, while Dragon Ball FighterZ isn’t 100% conducive to the latter because there are multiple ways around projectiles.  Still, it’s not impossible.  I just have to be very careful, or else.

--Yet that just feeds into one of my biggest overall weaknesses: I’m too desperate in a fight.  I’m rarely secure or confident enough, which leads to me panicking when I don’t need to.  So I end up getting too overzealous and running into obvious setups/traps simply because “I NEED TO GET A HIT NOW” or “HE’S PRESSURING ME, I NEED TO DO SOMETHING”.  Or my personal favorite “NOW I HAVE TO JUMP IN EVEN THOUGH I HAVE NO PLAN AFTER THAT.”  The fact that I can’t keep my composure is part of the reason why I’m no pro like SonicFox or Go1.

--With that said?  I’m seriously starting to resent DBFZ these days.  The more I play it, the more it seems like your options are either “apply pressure and never stop” or “get pressured and pray”.  Between assist shenanigans and the Vanish mechanic (teleport behind a foe at the cost of 1 meter stock), an opponent can lock you down for days if you don’t have frame-perfect reactions.  

--And even if you know a Vanish is coming, it doesn’t help unless you sniff it out super-early and hit with a 2H; because its frame advantage leaves you remarkably safe on block, you can keep attacking without repercussion.  You’ve got no clue how many characters I’ve lost because I tried and failed to challenge a Vanish.  Yeah, you can Vanish as a counter on reaction, but then you have to spend your meter for a non-combo.  And supposedly excess Vanishes should create a meter deficit you can exploit, but the rate at which you gain meter means that someone on the attack can continue to attack.  Seemingly forever.  

--Don’t worry, though.  I’m not salty about it or anything.  And it’s not like I need to git gud, b-b-baka.

--Progress is slow, but I’m learning how to use assists more effectively.  Not so much to extend my combos (though I’m getting better for my Android 16 play), but more for locking down an opponent.  The only way I can ever get a breather in this game is if I force an opponent to block -- which gives me the chance to land a free Dragon Rush, or otherwise sneak in an overhead to break through defenses.  As I discussed with a friend not too long ago, she reasoned that assists are “really cheap” and “almost like cheating”.  I’m inclined to agree with her, even if it’s the nature of the beast.

--I think what I appreciate most about Base Goku/Vegeta is that their eyes and models in general hearken back to the early days of DBZ.  I’m glad I know the canon well enough to recognize certain moves and poses, even if I barely get the chance to relish the sight mid-match.  Beyond that?  B. Vegeta has an OTG command grab that I couldn’t land for the life of me, though his knee drop special seems incredibly useful for catching foes unaware -- especially given its tracking power.

--B. Goku is, well, another Goku.  He seems to have a command grab too, and a couple of sneaky beam attacks leading into a dive kick.  Apparently the Kaio-Ken gets stronger as he loses team members, but thankfully I was only on the receiving end of a full assault once.  It remains to be seen if either character will have ridiculous tech, but right now?  I would rather refine my skills with the characters I use now, rather than starting over with a new entry.

And that’ll just about do it for now.  Fighting games went ham this week (and last), but given what event went down, there’s no better time for them to take the center stage.  Still, it feels like my poor body and mind can’t handle much more of the strain; I need to take a breather before I fall apart.  Probably a good idea to focus on Octopath Traveler again.  Not like there are any other fighting games worth talking about right now.

Wait.  I feel like I’m forgetting something.

Eh, it’s probably nothing.

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