Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Fighting Games!! - Round 2

Firstly, a quick apology on taking so long to follow up my previous article.

(If you haven't done so already, it would be better off reading that first)

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In the last article I touched on how I was of the belief that 'Fighting Games' as a genre just didn't have what it takes in terms of depth and staying power, in comparison to other games I owned. I also know for a fact some people reading this will probably have nodded there head along with that statement in agreement, because it really takes something special to motivate you into playing Fighting Games for you to uncover the beauty within them.

Now. Even though I had yet to uncover the depth and endless replay value a good fighting game can provide...I was still arbitrarily buying them, in fact let me go over some of the ones off the top of my head I've bought over the years;
Street Fighter Alpha (series) [PS1], Tekken 1, 2, and 3 [PS1], Soul Blade [PS1], Street Fighter ex plus a [PS1], Clayfighter 63 1/3 [N64], Super Smash Bros [N64], Fighters Destiny [N64], Tekken 4 [PS2], Super Street Fighter II Turbo [GBA], Mortal Kombat Shaolin Monks [PS2], Mortal Kombat Armageddon [Wii], Primal Rage [SNES], Bloody Roar [PS1], Virtua Fighter 3tb [Dreamcast], Hyper Street Fighter II [PS2], Smash Bros Melee [GameCube], Soul Calibur 2 [GameCube], Capcom vs SNK 2eo [GameCube] Dead or Alive 3 [XBOX], Smash Bros Brawl [Wii], (plus re-purchasing of some classic Snes fighting games on the virtual console), SSFIIT HD Remix [XBLA] Garou: Mark of the Wolves [XBLA], not to mention Street Fighter III as well as plenty of other great Capcom, and SNK fighting games on the Dreamcast...

When I heard of Street Fighter IV coming out, I was definitely excited to see what it would be like. For the most part Street Fighter IV was expected to mainly just be a visual improvement over the previous Street Fighter games, although personally I was excited to see an actual new entry in the Street Fighter series after a number of years of not having anything original released. Now, again...at this time I hadn't really uncovered any of the true depth within fighting games, it just happened to be a big franchise that hadn't been fresh in a long time, and the nostalgia of the series led me to pre-order the limited edition, which I received a day earlier than it’s release date (internet shopping ftw).

When I finally popped it in, I was immediately loving it on a visual level. Straight away I dove into arcade mode with “Ken”, scraped through on “easy” by mashing out the special moves I knew from previous Street Fighter games, and was loving that it had a familiarfeel to it of the great Street Fighter games of the past in terms of controls.

I played about with other characters and used the internet to get move lists handy, so that I would at least know how to do each characters special attacks. Played some VS mode when I had friends round, partly to show them that the new Street Fighter game was cool, and partly to show off anything I had learnt from my time playing it.

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Now...here’s where my eyes on fighting games slowly started to become much more open. I occasionally dabbled in the online mode on Street Fighter IV, most of the time getting my ass handed to me by people that would just overwhelm me... similar to how the computer would do on one of the harder difficulties. For a while I just sat with the thought “they’re well good” and just leave it at that.

Eventually though (through more playing), I started to grow more aware. It started with some really close matches online against people on a similar skill level to me. I’d have some narrow defeats where I would actually ask myself...”what do I need to do to beat [insert character name]/ [insert specific move I was always getting hit by]?”, and through playing more and more, I would learn little tactics that seemed to have a high percentage of working for me, as well as getting an idea of what other people would do with different characters, a.k.a. getting match up experience!

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I primarily stuck with the character “Ken” for a while, although this was beneficial as through doing so I got fairly good with him. I was no longer simply mashing out move inputs hoping for the move to come out, I knew what I was doing with each button press. I was fully in control of my own actions. Fighting online meant I got to fight a variety of different people using different characters, and not only that but I’d see how different people I played online actually usedcharacters differently. For instance you could get “rush down” type players who will be in your face and be all out offensive, or you could get “turtles”, which are people who sit back, and look for opportunities to punish unsafe moves etc that you have thrown out, there are more types of player than that, but those are just 2 common examples.

Anyway, no longer was I mashing buttons, and hoping for the best.Each match was becoming a mind game. If I won, I felt great for it. If I lost, I would try to recap what I was doing that was getting punished. Clutch matches (when it’s really close) became on par with one of the most intense ‘edge of your seat’ moments I’d ever experienced as a gamer (and on a much more common basis than say...narrowly beating the final boss on Sonic 2 with no rings left).

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It was around this point, whilst I was getting more and more interested in getting better at Street Fighter IV that I came across “I Got Next”. It’s basically a documentary on the fighting game community of Street Fighter IV (as well as giving you an insight to the Fighting Game scene as a whole).

I Got Next is free to download via a legal torrent distributed on the official site, a longer and more updated DVD version of the film will be available in late 2011. >>Click here to go to the official site<<

This was a massive eye opener for me on just how intense and how serious fighting games where, and it made me even more hungry to get better and learn more. It was somewhere around this time that I dragged one of my local friends into Street Fighter IV too. I showed him “I Got Next” and it really pushed him into appreciating the depth to Fighting Games, and the drive to become a great player. This was somewhat a blessing to me too, as thanks to this I had someone local I could play on a regular basis, and if I improved, he improved, and vice versa.

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I’ve come a long way with fighting games over the past 24 months... To a point where Fighting Games have become like a sport to me. Thanks to a rise in internet streams over the past 2 years, I get access to watching some of the worlds greatest fighting game players going against each other in tournaments with money and respect as the motivation to win. I’ve found myself staying up late into the early hours (due to time zone difference) watching some of these streams as the intensity and hype is equal to that of a major sporting event. Plus at the same time...I can learn things from seeing how high level players use or abuse specific characters.

The infamous Street Fighter III Daigo vs Justin Wong "Parry Video"
From "EVO" 2004

Personally, my main game right now is Super Street Fighter IV. I have sunk more hours into SSFIV in the past year than I have any other game (and I'm an avid gamer, I've put 180 hours+ in Pokémon Heart Gold [released March 2010] and SSFIV easily beats that on time played). I've grown much more fond of a lot of the older fighting games I never really understood growing up either, through playing a game for a few hours as well as reading up on them, you can really see what makes a truly great fighting game (as well as what makes a truly awful one).

I also would really love to go to Las Vegas to attend "EVO" one year too. Evo is basically a big 3 day fighting game tournament held annually, where a lot of the worlds best players all meet to battle it out through a double-eliminator tournament bracket to prove there skills at a game.

Last year Daigo Umehara from Japan took 1st place in Super Street Fighter IV, along with roughly $20,000 in prize money for doing so.

Amazing EVO 2010 montage.

EVO 2010 on Vimeo.

If/ when I go, I’m not expecting to go over there and be a threat to the big name players I admire, I will definitely train hard building up to it when I do go though, and do my very best. Although just being at Evo itself will be an amazing experience, meeting some great people, getting some great photo’s as well as doing some Vegas holiday/ tourism stuff once the tournament is over, naturally.

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It’s safe to say that I will never look at fighting games as simple shallow time killers any more. Even the fighting games I suck at, I know that if I invested the time into them, I would see a return for it.

To try and break it down simply. You should try and think of fighting games in a similar way to how the mainstream FPS games are these days... In which although these FPS's have solo modes chucked in, the real meat is generally in the multi-player!

It's awesome that online gaming is so commonplace these days, and that all the new fighting games include online modes in them, meaning you can always find real opponents to play with, as well as the internet speeds and netcode to keep up with fighting games online.
Although local offline multi-player is truly where it's at if you have the chance to experience that (hence the reason I've tried to round up local fighting game players where I live).

Seriously though, with fighting games...if you play people on a similar level to you, if you enjoy the game you're playing, and if you enjoy levelling up your skills at it, then you'll find yourself wrapped up in one of the most rewarding video game experiences you'll ever find.

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