Marvel vs. Capcom 3 releases next week and I can tell just from looking at you that you are in no shape or form ready for its glorious arrival. You’re not excited, and that’s just unforgivable! I’m talking to you, guy who has never played a fighter, you, guy who hasn’t played a fighting game in fifteen years, and you, guy who played one a single time and made up his mind about the genre based purely on that experience.
What’s that, guy who’s been avoiding the genre? You played Mortal Kombat in grade school? I’m not even going to dignify that with a response. Just shut up and sit down, we’re going to have a little talk. To everyone else, those of you who are familiar with the genre, why don’t you go play some MVC2 and grab a tube of Pringles. Me and the fighting game virgin need to talk, since he apparently made up his entire mind about the genre after playing one or two games. Unacceptable! Allow me a few moments to convince you that your convictions are wrong and that you need to give these games another try.
Since you played Mortal Kombat 2 on your Super Nintendo over ten years ago the genre has changed. Chain combos are no longer the norm. Yes, I remember them as well. It was difficult for a ten year old child to memorize a ten hit combo, let alone every single characters special moves and fatalities. Yes, I remember how hard it was to fight people who spammed jump kicks and abused broken mechanics, but at least you could uppercut when it was time to do a fatality. Well, you’re a grown man now and it’s time that you acted like one. We’re putting away those long, broken memories and we’re going to revisit the genre. To those of you who are constantly whining that the genre has gone stagnant, let me make one thing clear: fighters have evolved substantially since their first inception, and are well on their way to becoming accepted as one of the premier competitive video game genres. Just listen to what I’m about to say and I think we’ll all agree that, by the end of this article, you’ll be ready to give the genre one last try before condemning it because you can’t flippin’ quarter roll.
Fighting games are not difficult to play anymore, I promise you this at least. Back when they first came out, you could hardly combo in Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat required ridiculous button combinations to pull off even basic bread and butter attack strings. Those days are gone. Now, most Japanese 2D fighters are using a new system: the gattling combo system. Instead of memorizing intensely long strings of attacks to perform pre-programmed, canned attacks, you’re able to simply string together basic attacks to create combos on the fly.
Doesn’t make sense, you say? Well, how about this: when you button mash you’re simply at the mercy of your character’s animation frames. If you mash a quick hit that connects with an opponent, that same hit will connect over and over until he is out of range giving you a several hit long combo. That’s easy, right? It doesn’t do much damage and it sure isn’t fancy, but that’s how work is done. Now, instead of memorizing strings of attacks you’re simply expected to know your characters attacks and what they do so you can experiment on the fly and string things together. You know that your jab hits fast and your kick hits hard and slow, so you hit your opponent twice with the jab and then once with the kick. Now you’re comboing! Look at how far we’ve come in only a single paragraph!
Okay, but now you’re concerned that you still can’t throw a fireball to save your life. That douchebag Ryu keeps sitting at the back of the stage throwing hadoukens at you and laughing because you can’t fight him. Ok, well, you could always jump over the shots and attack him, but why not try and give him a taste of his own medicine? Most special attacks in contemporary fighting games all use the same basic language of commands. What I mean is that 90% of the time if you pick up a character and do a motion you know from another character that motion will still work but with different results. That sentence sounded more complicated than it really is, I swear. All fighting games rely on a system of directional inputs followed by a face button. A hadouken is down, down-toward (diagonal), then towards your opponent plus punch. That makes Ryu shoot fire from his hands, but the move also works on other characters! For Cody in Street Fighter 4, a quarter roll (meaning a quarter of the directions on the D-pad or joystick rolling in a direction) forward and punch will throw a rock. For Fei Long, you get a punch. In other games, like Guilty Gear, Ky will shoot lighting, Faust will open a door, and Chipp will punch uselessly (as he does). The point is that if you learn one character from one game those skills will carry over to another character and even other games. Plus, these inputs are not difficult to master. After a few minutes of training you’ll have Ryu shooting fireballs consistently. It’s that easy. The roll of a thumb takes only a split moment and most games have training options for growing accustomed to the motions.
You’re right, though, there’s still a lot more to learn. Each fighting game brings its own unique mechanics to the table. These mechanics separate the boys from the men, so to speak. Learning advanced techniques is not necessary to enjoy the game, let me be the first to tell you that, as I certainly am no master of the Roman Cancel from Guilty Gear. These mechanics are in place simply to create depth in the game and to set its engine apart from others. A good fighting game has a lot of depth, allowing for flexibility within its system. Most players will never even use X-Factor in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but if they wanted to the option is there and it could promote even more strategic maneuvers.
Maybe I’ve convinced you to at least try a new fighter, but you don’t know where to start. Let me point you in the right direction. Before learning slower, more strategic fighters like Street Fighter 3 and 4, I suggest you try something a little more free form. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 certainly fits this bill, as the characters attacks are speedy, and many of the complicated maneuvers performed in the videos you might have seen are easier to pull off than comparable ones in other games. If money is an issue, however, there are two solid choices for starting out: Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. I would give my full support to Guilty Gear for its sheer accessibility and new player friendliness, but it hasn’t seen a new version since PS2 (though one version is available on Xbox Live Arcade and it is a proper port). BlazBlue is still accessible, but with fewer characters it lacks some widespread appeal. Also, I’m not a fan of some of the character designs in general, but that’s neither here or there. Other options are finding copies of older arcade fighters and playing them on the PC, as several (Samurai Showdown IV, Street Fighter 3, King of Fighters 2003, Last Blade 2) can help one get used to certain mechanics, but not all of them are entirely accessible.
Here’s my challenge to you: before MvC3 drops next week I want you to obtain a 2D fighter from the last five years and give it a shot. Play with friends if possible, but really give it a genuine chance to grow on you. I think you’ll find that these games are not what you remember them being and that they can be an absolute blast when played with a group of people.