After a brief sojourn in which I didn’t discuss the main theme of Shoot the Rookie at all, I’m now returning to the subject of difficulty in video games with a look at one of the genres often described as being difficult for newcomers – Fighting Games.
Despite my general ineptitude when using a controller, fighting games were something I picked up early in my re-education from a Turn-Based-Strategy PC gamer to a console gamer. I have previously written about my introduction to Rhythm Action Games, which occurred at university and my first experience of Fighting Games was around the same time. The first series I was introduced to was Tekken.
This was often played in a social set-up: a bunch of people in a tiny room (occasionally a big room and occasionally in costume) either playing versus battles on a winner-stays-on basis or passing the controller around to communally complete story mode. This was primarily in Tekken 5 (which I think we initially rented from Blockbuster!), although I did also play 3, 4 and latterly Tag Tournament 2. Before this I had thought fighting games might be a bit macho, but the character roster in Tekken 5 is large and had more diversity than I expected, including a panda, a bear, a kangaroo and a man with a leopard head. This level of silliness piqued my interest.
I was nervous about playing it at first, particularly in front of other people, but one thing that struck me early on which was not the case with, say, platformers, was that I didn’t need to remember the function of very many buttons. Tekken 5 only utilised the D-pad and the 4 action buttons, each with it’s own corresponding limb. There were no shoulder buttons, triggers or cameras to worry about.
Clearly, that description is wildly oversimplifying the fighting genre, but picking up the most basic ideas of Tekken is simple. Have a quick mess around pressing each action button to see what it does, then try combining those with different directions. Even grabbing an opponent is theoretically simple as it is just pressing two of the action buttons simultaneously. Now, after a while of playing arcade mode, I realised that there was a move list hidden away, and just looking at this blew my mind. I had no idea there would be so many options, or that some of the combos would require so many precise inputs.
This kind of scared me off. I realised at this point that some people were going to be masters of this game, and I thought I might be a bit late to the party. However, I persisted. I tried to work my way through the (slightly too difficult) tutorial and I picked a character to master. I chose Julia Chang (I will admit now that this MAY have been a mistake), and learned about 5 decent combos off by heart. This isn’t enough, but what it did was give me options. I could look at the situation I was in and I could unleash an attack that at least seemed like it might connect, based on distance and timing. What it didn’t do was give me enough scope to be very creative, so inevitably I would end up doing some button-bashing to try to escape from evil 12 hit combos (Xiaoyu sweetie, I’m looking at you!).
Button bashing, whilst indicating a lack of knowledge, can be a useful tool for a rookie. Not just because it can occasionally result in a lucky outcome, but sometimes you even end up firing up an amazing move, which you can then go and learn, thus increasing your repertoire without being overwhelmed by every single combo available. In essence, although you start off pressing the buttons randomly, you do start to get a ‘feel’ for the character you are using and then your inputs become a little less random.
Another fighting game series I’ve played a lot, although with less success, is Dead or Alive. Thus far, I’ve played DOA 2, 3, 4 & Dimensions. Now having said previously that I found Tekken quite easy to pick up and play, I found DOA much trickier, and I’m still a bit of a button basher when playing this game. Many DOA games utilise more buttons than I’m used to. Dimensions on the 3DS for example uses the L & R buttons as well as the traditional direction and action buttons, plus utilizing the touch screen. The story mode in Dimensions is basically a run through of the whole DOA story up to that point, whilst also serving as a tutorial, and although I found this useful at the time, I have now forgotten what it taught me. Also, possibly as a direct result of learning how Tekken works, I find it really difficult to remember what each action button does. One of the things about not being very coordinated with a controller is that when you pick up a new game you expect the buttons to be mapped the same, which of course they are not. I still can’t get the hang of the ‘Hold’ and ‘Counterattack’ button, so I prefer ignoring it in favour of the simpler ‘Punch’, ‘Kick’ and ‘Throw’.
One thing that isn’t often mentioned in regards to fighting games, is that on top of the actual gameplay, I really like the characters in both of these games – as ridiculous (and ridiculously clad) as they might be. Whilst the stories are incomprehensible, I find myself drawn to play as characters who I like, and am unable to play as characters I dislike. So for example, I never play as Brian in Tekken because he seems to be made of pure evil, even though he is super strong! On top of personality, there is style, and I think this is an important part of how people choose which character they main as.
As I said previously, my main character in Tekken is Julia, and my main character in DOA is Tina. Now Julia’s style isn’t out-and-out wrestling (lets not talk about Jaycee…), I think it’s a mixture of martial arts, but it does include some wrestling elements, whilst Tina is a professional wrestler. Had you asked me to choose based on style before playing the games, I most certainly wouldn’t have picked wrestling styles, but as it turns out, Julia’s relatively small moves list and Tina’s power are a good fit for my play style. I think a Pro-Tekken player could make Yoshimitsu look completely amazing, however whenever I try to use him all he does is sit on the ground, and occasionally he stabs himself with a sword – hence why I stick to slightly more straightforward characters.
I’ve read in some notable gaming publications over the last few years that the fighting game genre is dwindling. Established series are finding it difficult to attract new players and that the difficulty in learning how to play them may be one of the reasons. With that in mind, I am very excited to be trying out ARMS for the first time over the course of January, and I will let you know how I get on in a later post.
So anyway, who do you main with and what’s your favourite move? If you prefer Street Fighter, I want to hear about that too! Let me know below.
Thanks for reading
“I’ll break your face!”