Sunday, February 19, 2012

On Fighting Games

I am not a big fan of fighting games. Until recently, I'd pretty much only played the Super Smash Bros. games, and those are far less complex than pretty much any other game in the genre. However, recently a friend got Soul Calibur V, and after getting sucked into the character creator I've been slowly working out how to play the game. And now that I've figured out how to fight without button mashing, I actually quite enjoy the game. But before I get more into why I like the game, I want to talk about why I only ever liked Super Smash Bros.
I've only ever had minor exposure to 'real' fighting games before, and each time I was turned off by the steep learning curve. With only a brief exposure to the games, I was unable to learn the combos and button mashed my way to victory or defeat. Their complexity frustrated me and prevented me from ever really diving deeper into the games. Super Smash Bros. was the only exception because it felt much simpler. There were only two primary attack buttons, and different attacks were easily distinguished by a single directional input. There was no risk of inputting apparently the same buttons and getting a different result (which has happened for me even after taking some time to figure out Soul Calibur V). Combos were determined by the player figuring out how to successfully string these attacks together, rather than memorizing a long input chain. Characters felt faster and more fluid. Using the percentage system instead of health bars made me feel like I stood more of a chance as a beginner, since there was almost no way for me to be killed by somebody spamming weak and hard to block moves. And of course there were better multiplayer options, though that's not something I'm going to hold against more standard fighting games for not having.

But now I've been playing Soul Calibur V for a while. Using the character creation tool, I created a character vaguely resembling myself based off of the samurai Mitsurugi. And then I started playing with my character. I very quickly gave up on memorizing moves from the extremely long move list, and more or less went back to button mashing. However, since I had considerably more time to play around with Soul Calibur, I was more methodical with my button mashing, and slowly figured out what a few basic button inputs did. And as soon as I had figured out how to consistently pull out a small variety of moves, I discovered the more strategic aspects of the game. Even though I only knew a few moves, I was suddenly able to fight competently, because I now knew how to hit where my opponent wasn't guarding. And that was enough for me to become more interested in the game. Since I knew some basic attacks, I was more willing to experiment with some new combinations and work out more of the game's mechanics, and the things on the move list started to look less like gibberish.

And that's more or less it. The realization that it's not actually about memorizing long combos (at least, not for Soul Calibur) has made me infinitely more interested in giving the genre another shot (I'm thinking about Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 next). That is, if I ever finish playing Soul Calibur V.

1 comment:

  1. There are some fantastic articles about game design, fighting games, and what it means to strategize at If you've already heard of him, then you probably know the articles I'm about to suggest, but if not, try:

    Playing to Win (this is part 1, but there are others and they are all great)

    Balancing Multiplayer Games (again, there are other parts)

    Donkey Kong 2 (is a great game, also here's an article about that)