I’ve been getting into fighting games lately. Just one of my many interests, I guess. My boyfriend is a fantastic teacher, and I’ve been listening to his gaming logic of genre for years now. Like, fighting games have a science behind them, logic and reason for winning and losing. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from him and when I talk about this, it’s a bizarre combination of years of conversations with him and my rare personal experience.
A small group of us have been poking at Blaz Blue: Continuum Shift on the 360. Considering how quickly fighting games usually release new versions of their games, Continuum Shift is considered old, though I think it was released only a year or two ago. My sewing machine is three times as old, and I still consider it fairly new. Apples to oranges, perhaps, but I’ve been trying to play with some friends online and if they actually have this particular version of the game, they have is for a different console. So, only a small group of us have been poking at this game.
I’ve had problems picking up fighting games in the past. Every time you see someone really good at a fighting game, flashy moves combo into more flashy moves. There’s an inherit time investment needed to learn combos, so I respect those that devote themselves to something they love. Obviously, I would like to win a couple rounds now and again, too. But I run into a problem playing against others who just spend more time practicing than I do. Combo reliant fighting games can be really intimidating for new or casual players, like me.
What’s a combo? The concept is simple enough. Every time you clash with your opponent, someone will win. Damage will be dealt to the loser. Repeat. You can maximize the damage you deal to your opponent by linking more moves after you’ve won the clash. My boyfriend is better than I am at fighting games. If he wins about 4 clashes in a round in Blaz Blue, that’s enough clashes to take away all my health. It doesn’t matter if I win 6 out of 10 if I don’t do enough damage to take him out before he beats me.
Then I remembered that fighting games are an elaborate game of rock/paper/scissors. This is a concept my boyfriend has been talking to me about for years now. So I looked at the roster of characters in Blaz Blue and tried to find the characters that don’t require me to learn combos. If I can learn my character moves, I can try to “poke” my opponent to death.
“Poke”? The downside to most non-comboing characters is that they’re slow. The upside is that they’re hella strong. If my well placed ‘poke’ is similar to the amount of damage from another character’s combo, then I have a chance of winning. If I win a clash, I’m going do comparable damage, even without me learning combos.
Blaz Blue has two. Tager and Haku-men.
Tager is considered a “Grappler”. From what I understand, most of the time, this type of character is large, making them easy to hit, but they have much more defense than other characters. It takes a lot of damage to kill them. While you’re doing that, they are trying to “throw” you. By forcing you to come close to them for a long period of time, it allows the “grappler” to use the extremely close, unblockable properties of their throws, which usually yield extreme damage.
But I don’t like how Tager looks, so I chose Haku-men. Haku-men is a fairly slow, heavy hitting character, and, to me, seems to be based off the fighting principles of Street Fighter. He has a series of parries, meaning he can (very precisely) catch an opponent’s move and cause damage to them.
This is how Haku-men’s fights generally work for me. I’m consistently in a state of mind of measuring my opponent – where they are, what move will they do next, how much meter they have left, how quick they’re coming at me. Then I respond, and I try to stay away from my opponent to give me time to think. Typically, most fighting game characters are extremely aggressive. If I stay away, they come after me. And you can’t block if you’re making a forward movement. When they dash at me to attack, several options run through my head. Can I throw out a quick attack to stop their charge? Can I catch their attack when they get to me? Can I jump over them and attack from above? Should I just block and wait for another opportunity?
Haku-men is different than most fighting game “rush down” characters. They have dashing abilities to get across the stage quickly, quick firing combos to apply pressure on their opponents, preventing them from retaliating. With Haku-men, I wait for their mistakes, plan what I think they will do next, and punish them for being predictable. It’s methodical and rewarding, because when Haku-men hits, he hits hard.
Sometimes I win with him, sometimes I don’t, but with Haku-men, Blaz Blue has turned into a unique fighting game experience that I’m enjoying. That’s really all that matters, right?
And I think I want to play more Street Fighter.