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Hey kid, you wanna punch some nazis? Akatsuki Blitzkampf is a legacy doujin game seeped in the influences of Street Fighter 3 Third Strike but with a control scheme more akin to its anime contemporaries.
Taking place in an alternate world where everyone is still hanging around in World War 2 fits, Ausf. Achse is the final revision of the original Akatsuki Blitzkampf release and is the most popular version of the game as its sequel, En-Eins Perfektewelt, is mostly inaccessible state-side.
Despite it's doujin beginnings, ABK could arguably be one of the biggest breakout stars of the doujin scene with main character Ataksuki being a guest character in Under Night In-Birth and perennial meme Blitztank showing up in BBTag.
ABK is not an overly complicated game, instead focusing on solid fundamentals and a grounded Street Fighter approach almost countercultural to the heavily airdasher-inspired anime doujin games of the time. Much like its main inspiration Third Strike, it has a parry system called Reflector. Unlike Third Strike and like every Third Strike inspired game that came in its wake; Reflector is a button command that has a recovery to it when whiffed.
You will likely see lots of Akatsuki, Marilyn, and Sai as those characters are all popular and very strong, you will not see Blitztank because that character is as stinky as a turd on a hot sidewalk, and you will likely see Fritz because that character can be played with closed fists and a 0.3 GPA (Author's Note: See my Fritz).
With its recent inclusion on Fightcade 2, Element put out a Beginners Guide video to help new players get a handle on what ABK:AA has to offer. This introduces all basic facets of the game, including the music which absolutely RIPS.
One of many (many) Main Character + Assist Partner fighting games that feature characters from a variety of established properties. Aquapazza in particular draws from the games of Aquaplus and Leaf, giving us combatants from Utawarerumono, Tears to Tiara, and the reigning king of fighting game appearances; To Heart. It blows my mind seeing Multi from To Heart be a playable character in this game, she's been showing up in doujin fighting games since the 90s. This release from EXAMU has a dedicated community keeping it alive, as its only home release was on the PS3 and as of 2019 the US PSN store has delisted it. That hasn't stopped them from showing up, as Aquapazza has had a multi-year streak of appearances at Vortex Gallery/AnimEVO
There is a mechanic at play called Active Emotion that basically tracks your character's mood during the course of the game. While nothing understandably changes in a neutral state, depending on how you play you can be put into either High Tension or Low Spirits. If you are constantly forward dashing and attacking you can enter High Tension, where your attack, your defense, and the hitstun on moves increase, leading to High Tension specific combos. However if you backdash too much or spend too much time blocking, you can put yourself in Low Spirits which lowers your attack and defense plus allows you to be guard broken.
Take note of the color surrounding the character profiles in the corner, this will determine what their Active Emotion is. Neutral state is gray, High Tension is red, and Low Spirits is Blue. You'll also see arrows show up to signify which way their Active Emotion is trending.
The sister series to Guilty Gear, Central Fiction is the final update to BlazBlue and with the fresh addition of rollback the series has been given new life. While mechanically very similar to Guilty Gear, like in having its own version of Bursts and Roman Cancels, BlazBlue heavily emphasizes character-specific mechanics. All characters have their standard light, medium, and heavy attack buttons but the Drive button controls the attacks that are wholly unique to how that character operates. With the speed of its predecessor and the complexity of so many incredibly unique character expressions, BBCF is a high-octane experience that is a fitting cap to such a long and beloved series.
It is difficult to properly prep a spectator for BBCF because of how many high-complexity characters there are. Some Drives are simple to grasp, Mai's Drive centers around throwing her spear, and some Drives are wildly complex, Nine's Drive releases a unique spell based on what element attacks she has recently hit with. It doesn't help that many characters like Izanami or Susanno are just tough to follow, just know that when Izanami has a purple ribcage over her she gains super armor and makes children in the surrounding area cry. While it may be hard to parse what exactly each character is doing, this wide cast of characters with such unique gameplay designs is what makes BBCF such an interesting game to watch and play.
Barlowe has a character overview video that briefly explains what each character's deal is. For those fresh to BlazBlue, this will go a long way in terms of bringing you up to speed. While there is a large amount of nuance to both characters and systems, just being able to understand unique character mechanics like Azreal's weak point attacks or Izayoi's Zero Weave Gauge is critical.
It may say BlazBlue on the tin, but what really made the crowd erupt with joy when this game was unveiled was the inclusion of the cast from RWBY. This 2v2 Versus fighter is mainly built upon the crossover of BlazBlue, Under Night, and Persona 4 Arena characters, but the guest appearances are wicked. Heart Aino from Arcana Heart, Yumi from Senran Kagura, and the big boi himself; Blitztank from Akatsuki Blitzkampf. With a hectic pace and the type of damage that makes characters Megaman explode when touched, it's very easy to miss a round if you get distracted by checking your phone.
As one may expect from a Versus-styled fighter, just because your second character isn't actively controlled doesn't mean they won't be impacting the game. Obviously you can call them for one of three types of assist attacks but once they are on screen it is possible to Active Change to them, changing the assist character to the point character (yes, this makes disgusting mixups). The more advanced version of this is Cross Combo, giving you the ability to control both your point and assist character at the same time. While this requires a level of mental and physical execution, the reward for making it a 2-on-1 fight is extremely lucrative.
BBTag recently tore it up at Frosty Faustings 2022. Not only is the action positively raw but two of the best in the biz, Raph and Jaidlyn, are working the mic for this Top 8 showing.
Oh shit, a fight has broken out at the retirement home. Easily one of the most prestigious “Old Man Game” around, CvS2 is to grounded fundamental-based game what Marvel vs Capcom 2 is to high-energy team Versus games. This high watermark for the genre has multiple different pre-canned mechanics called Grooves which allow for different styles of play based on either Capcom or SNK games of old, like Alpha 3 V-ism or KoF 97/98. These drastically change how characters operate, not only by giving them access to different moves like rolls or spot dodges, but large changes like if they can short hop or run instead of step dash (which makes seeing Street Fighter characters who never were meant to run, like E. Honda, very funny).
Of the six Grooves, you are likely to see three of them the most, C Groove, A Groove, and K Groove. C Groove is a solid, if somewhat unflashy, groove that allows 3 bars of meter with the ability to do a Level 2 super into a Level 1 super for extra damage. A Groove has Custom Combos which allow top tiers like Bison and Sakura to do their Paint The Fence and Shoshosho combos respectively. Finally K Groove is a rather simple groove, giving you Just Defend (which is brolic as hell in this game) and Rage damage bonus, this makes for an easy groove for newer players as they get wicked offensive damage bonuses and access to a very useful defensive tool. However K Groove lacks one thing that makes C and A Groove shine; Rolls. The most iconic technique in CvS2 is the ability to Roll Cancel a special move by inputting roll halfway through the input and be able to retain the roll invincibility while doing the special move.
I once was playing casuals with the best CvS2 player in our state. After many rounds of getting my ass handed back to me, I finally landed a perfect jump-in against a rogue fireball they threw and was ready to take the round. My jump-in whiffed right through them as I realized they were Roll Canceling all their fireballs the whole set. I went outside and started drinking after that. Anyways, here's Bas who is the face of CvS2 in Japan, the dude is really good and is an excellent ambassador for the game.
One of the best grassroots success stories in the FGC, Catherine is a story-heavy puzzle game released by Atlus with almost zero intention of it's multiplayer making for a competitive community but that sure didn't stop a group of small, but highly dedicated players. This hybrid of a puzzle platformer has opponents racing to climb to the top of the stage while pushing and pulling blocks to either help in their ascent or to impose upon their opponent's progress.
The key to Cathy's competitive success is how interactive the gameplay is. By carefully removing blocks you can cause the stage to crumble downward depending on what supporting pieces you removed. This leads to plays where you can attempt to control the stage in a manner that boxes the opponent out of possible advancements or knocks them off the stage completely. After all, you don't have to win just by getting to the top, you can also win just by surviving.
Climb Cancel is the annual Catherine-focused event put on by the community, hosting Catherine and a variety of other under-represented and non-traditional fighting games like Senko no Ronde and Windjammers
It's Catherine again, but this time with an increased flavor profile. Full Body is the remaster to the original Catherine with new content both for single players and multiplayer. Because of this, Full Body does not act as a replacement to the original Catherine, so the community has decided to run both versions of the game to preserve the way the original plays but also enjoy the additions Full Body brings to the table.
A part of the game plan for Catherine is to use items that pop up on the stage to your advantage. In Catherine Classic these usually come in the forms of blocks you can manually place or energy drinks you can climb faster with. In Full Body you get access to new items that can drastically change stages, like Potions that turn you and your opponent invisible or Energy Drink which now is a multi-use item that lets you leap up more than one block height.
With the addition of new items, maps like Spiral Corridor become very different. Spiral features many death traps in the form of these purple void portals (toilets) that can suck up blocks and players who fall into them. With the addition of the new Wine item, which gives you a temporary protective shield, you can survive otherwise round-ending trips to the toilet.
Hot off the heels of the announcement of a new version, the most recent Chaos Code still sees tournament action, especially in the Midwest which has always retained a strong playerbase. A traditional airdasher by most metrics, Chaos Code features a frantic pace and genre-staple combo length. It is also one of the few games with an infinite input buffer, making the execution in the game easier than it might seem. Pay attention to the character select screen however, as one of the main mechanics of Chaos Code is the ability to select from a small list of specials and Supers or if you want a run dash or a step dash to alter the load-out of your character, allowing for different approaches to different matchups or playstyles.
If you are familiar with anime airdashers, Chaos Code will be easy to follow. There are mechanics at play that are not common to the genre but not crazy unique in and of themselves, like rolls or guard breaks. What you should look out for is Exceed Chaos; canceling into this state turns your meter into a timer bar where you can sneeze out Supers in your combos to the tune of massive damage. However, you better show up on Will It Kill? because after exiting Exceed Chaos you will overheat and not be able to gain meter for a while.
Tournament runner Crimefighter made a quick mechanics primer for Chaos Code. Lots of what makes Chaos Code special lies under the hood, so a quick spin through this will help identify smaller details in the heat of the action.
While developer French Bread is mostly known for their Melty Blood and Under Night series, they did work with Japanese publisher Dengeki Bunko on this crossover fighting game series. Featuring characters from popular works like Sword Art Online, Toradora, A Certain Magical Index, and even a guest appearance of Akira Yuki from Virtua Fighter, DFCI has a wide array of both fan favorites as playable characters, but also as assists to call mid-battle.
DFCI is a 2v2 game, but in the “Main Character and Assist” genre of 2v2 fighters. As such, picking an assist is a very important part of building your gameplan. The most prevalent system mechanic you will see is the Blast system; a series of bursts that all have different utility. Power Blast, activated in neutral, gives you meter, a health buff, and a damage buff. Combo Blast, activated when an attack hits, blows the opponent back and locks their burst for the next attack or can be used to make an attack safe. And finally Escape Blast, activated while in hitstun or blockstun, allows you to escape a combo but is significantly more punishable, like a traditional burst.
Tech Chasers put out a wonderful guide for learning all about DFCI's mechanics, like how pushblock does not cost meter for the player who is down on life.
Mayhaps the crowning achievement for developer 8ing, as it is truly a culmination of their body of work. Making a fighting game on an established IP? Check. Working with the backing of a large company? Check. Wild jump cancel tech? Check. Somewhat controversial because it feels like it was made for Sickos Dot Jpg? Oh yeah baby, that's a Check. The only thing this game is missing is the classic 8ing Juggle Animation (it shows up in multiple of their fighting games). This fighting game based on the long-running Dungeon Fighter Online MMO is still very fresh, so while we look to have the game starting to take form (wow Swiftmaster is good), I wouldn't be surprised if by the time this article is published someone finds an omega-level galaxy brain piece of tech that shakes the game's foundation.
When a character's health goes under 30%, then enter a state called Awakening. During this they get access to a character-unique passive buff as well as an Awakening Skill, an attack that is very powerful but can only be done once per round and removes your passive buff after performing. This can turn some characters into nightmares, specifically Hitman, to the point where it's advantageous to try and kill off a Hitman without ever letting them see their Awakening.
As DNF Duel did not come out in time for Combo Breaker or Evo registration, Vortex Gallery is going to be the big coming out party for it as an offline tournament. Thankfully with its rollback netcode we have multiple online tournaments to glean information from, like the Can Opener series linked above. You may place me in front of the firing squad for casually linking nearly 6 hours of DNF Duel footage if you must, but don't ever say I'm skimping out on you.
With the original E's Laf coming out in 2007, this sequel to the seasoned doujin fighter has taken up the task in significantly updating it's previous work. New 3D models for characters, simplified input commands, dash macro, and a more lenient buffer all serve to establish E's Laf++ as a sequel with its own identity. This airdasher takes heavy inspiration from Guilty Gear, specifically Xrd, while adding some fun wrinkles of its own flavor to the mix.
E's Laf++ has its own form of Negative Penalty to punish players who are overly defensive. The Risk Bar works as a standard guard bar, but is also segmented into four parts that are resources for backdashing on either the ground or air. In fact, if you have less than one bar of Risk you actually will not be able to do any form of backdashing. Keeping in line with Xrd, you can spend 25% of your total meter for a Fatal Shift, basically a YRC. Fatal Shift gives some additional benefits, such as forcing Counter Hit on an opponent when hit in neutral or removing a bar of Risk Bar from the opponent on hit or block.
I wasn't kidding when I said it's influenced by Xrd, YouTube keeps thinking E's Laf++ is Xrd footage. This game is still in development so this CMV might be outdated by now, but it's still a rippin' piece of work. I hope the art of CMVs never goes away.
If the artstyle didn't clue you in, this game comes from a different era. Originally released in 2001, EFZ is a doujin game based on the then-current popularity of visual novels by Tactics (Moon and One ~To The Radiant Season~) and the company that spawned afterwards, Key (Kanon and Air). If the chibi character style looks familiar, the developers, Twilight Frontier, went on to make the Touhou fighting games (one of which we will see later!)
Hot off the heels of Guilty Gear X, EFZ is also an airdasher with its own form of Roman Canceling called Instant Charge. While able to cancel out of a move on hit or block, like Roman Cancels, if you IC while your meter is light blue, you get a Blue Instant Charge that adds more juggle potential, allowing for extended combos. EFZ also has Flicker Instant Charge, an IC for certain whiffing or projectile attacks, just like False Roman Cancels.
The Eternal Fighter Zero YouTube page is a well-kept collection of tournaments, casuals, combo videos and other goodies for the game, including this old Japanese system tutorial which has been subtitled for English fans to use.
Don't let your memes be dreams. Fight of Animals is an indie fighting game where all the characters are based on humorously misconstrued pictures of anime, such as the absolutely yoked beluga whale or that weird egg dog I keep seeing in uncanny 3D animations. But let not its simplicity or comedic premise convince you it is just a game made on a lark, Fight of Animals is quite the real deal and with online lobbies and rollback netcode it was made to be played competitively.
Fight Of Animals does away with one of the most hardwired tenets of fighting games; throws. You cannot throw your opponent in this game, so Strike/Throw mixups are off the table (which is only fair, Egg Dog doesn't have arms to throw with anyways). Instead you must utilize left/right and high/low mixups to crack your opponents' defense. To help facilitate this, overheads are a universal attack and the startup for them is standardized across the cast, so no one character has a better standing overhead than the rest.
Vortex Gallery and SuperCombo cornerstone Shiburizu rocks the mic for this grand finals showdown at AnimEvo 2020. Hopefully homeboy won't be too busy during Vortex Gallery and can work his way into that grand finals spot as a player. I believe in you, chief.
The return of the king. For those who do not remember, the latter years of the 2000s were wracked with fear that we might not get another Guilty Gear. Due to the Sammy/SEGA merger, the IP rights to Guilty Gear had been lost in the process and BlazBlue stepped in to act as a bit of a Guilty Gear replacement. After a handful of years ArcSys was able to get the rights back, and Guilty Gear fans were treated to a new watermark for how beautiful fighting games could be with the release of Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-. Xrd REV 2 is the final revision of the series, giving us years of amazing tournaments, hype sets, and Johnny being Top 1.
Xrd focuses heavily on the new Yellow Roman Cancel. Whereas a normal (Red) Roman Cancel can cancel an attack on hit or block for 50% meter, a Yellow Roman Cancel can cancel the startup of an attack for 25%. This becomes a cornerstone for characters' moves as it replaces many False Roman Cancels from +R and operates the same way for canceling the rest of a projectile animation but allowing the projectile to exist. Less applicable, more of a band-aid for when you make a boo-boo really, is the Purple Roman Cancel, which allows you to cancel the whiff of an attack for 50% meter.
There is a small, but not impossible, chance you see two attacks clash and the entire game freeze for something called Danger Time. This mechanical evolution of Chance Time from Mario Party can upend an entire round, as when it happens both players receive some free meter, deal 20% more damage, and any strike will cause an adrenaline-jacked version of a counter hit called Mortal Counter. These instances are rare, but when they happen the possibility of characters being exploded with even the slightest touch becomes real.
I can't overstate how groundbreaking this trailer was. After years of wondering if we would even get another mainline Guilty Gear just seeing confirmation that it was real was mind-blowing, but when the first clash happens and the camera pans around to show that these aren't sprites, they are 3D models that perfectly look like the old sprite work, jaws had to be picked up off the floor. I'm certain someone out there cried when the trailer showed Sol doing Dustloops.
The King. Without a doubt the most influential anime game to ever be made. You can see just in other doujin games within this article how Guilty Gear's touch was felt across the genre, becoming the poster child for high-speed, airdash-heavy fighting game action and creating the Roman Cancel system which countless games have iterated on for their own uses. With years of revisions, +R is the final version of the game and what a belter of a way to end, packed to the gills with mechanics, almost every character absolutely juiced up, and a recent addition of rollback netcode alongside some of the snappiest UX and trailblazing assets like the ability to go into replays and resume the game from any point makes +R still the cream of the crop in this genre.
The hallmark of this era of Guilty Gear is the Force Roman Cancel. This allows certain moves to be canceled in places they normally couldn't for less meter cost. The timing on it is strict however, usually within the 2-4 frame range. While some of these FRCs can be quite difficult, seasoned players have grinded out the timings to make sure they don't leave damage on the table.
I really want to post the Team Mahouko vs Team ElvenShadow 25v25 exhibition from 2020 but that's literally a four and a half hour long video, so I will instead drop a svelte, easily digestible, 2 hour video of this wicked stacked Team USA vs Team Japan 10v10 from last month. +R will never die, the game is simply too amazing to lose steam.
As language grows and evolves, sometimes its meaning can erode. Nowadays terms like “poverty” and “kusoge” are used with frequency, but when looking back at Jackie Chan In Fists of Fire you can see where we would need a term for an endearing game that has obvious flaws. Let's not get it twisted, it takes about 5 minutes of play time to see why people still play this game because it absolutely rules. This digitized fighter has an addictive pace of play, where grounded movement is so powerful and non-committal that neutral is highly chaotic and explosive. However, for as fast as it is on the ground it is absolutely glacial in the air, making the mistake of jumping in Fists of Fire can end the round for you. There's not much out there like Fists of Fire, but the way it shakes out makes it so much more competitive than anyone would have ever thought.
No jumping. Legitimately jumping is such a horrible option that it's not unwise to unbind the up direction to make sure you don't accidentally jump and throw away everything. What you will do instead is dash, as forward dashing can be canceled by almost any action (attacks, throws, blocking) and backdashing is invincible on startup all the way through recovery (unless you're Kim-Maree). With how high damage and momentum is, one wrong move or one correct whiff punish can be all it takes to send someone to the Shadow Realm.
Fists of Fire was run at the last Vortex Gallery, as it is easily playable on Fightcade 2. In proper Protagonist Armor style, there are three Jackie Chan's in this game and all of them are very good.
Kill La Kill IF is a 3D arena fighter released by ArcSys and Team Red, but maybe that last word in the title is tripping you up. Restitched is not a revised release of the game, but instead a very recent community rebalancing patch. On release KLK IF was pushed competitively by ArcSys and has picked up a community of players, but with no form of official support for the game they have taken it into their own hands to refine for a better competitive experience. While this version is still very fresh and only a couple of patches have come out, work has already been done to help elevate the bottom tiers (Nui and Ragyo) in the game. With this being the first major offline event for the game, Restitched could be the spark to breathe new life into this scene.
Under the health bar is a four segment bar called the SP bar, this controls performing specials, bursts, and Fiber Lost. You get two types of bursts in the game. The first is a common interpretation of bursting, the Counter Burst which can be performed out of hitstun or blockstun and knocks the opponent back. Bursting in neutral is a Valor Burst which deals damage and starts Bloody Valor, a rock-paper-scissors cut-in where the burster can deal damage, regain health, or regain SP with a correct choice. With every win the burster gets, they get a Valor level and Bloody Valor continues until Valor level 3 is reached or there is a tie or loss to the defender. At Valor Level 1, you gain a character-specific buff (more damage on normals, reduced cooldown time for the SP gauge, etc), at Valor level 2, one of your specials becomes enhanced, and at Valor level 3 you unlock the ability to use Fiber Lost, a instant kill that can be comboed into.
The KLK IF community has a dedicated YouTube (and Twitter) for their tournament series, here we can find footage of Restitched in action. The current version of the game and for the Vortex Gallery bracket will be v1.2, which has its patch notes as a video on IronFoxfire's personal YT channel.
It's interesting to think that we had a bit of a console war in the post-Street Fighter 4. While I was permanently salted because I was silly enough to own a Playstation Triple and thus a Playstation Triple fightstick, the Xbox 360 was the dominant choice for running fighting game tournaments. As we entered the next generation of consoles, the Playstation 4 was now the slam dunk option for running events, but Microsoft had one trick up their sleeve.
With the Xbox One came the revival of Killer Instinct, originally a popular fighting game from the early 90s boom. While this was not enough to sway the FGC into adopting the Xbox One as the default within tournament structure, over the years Killer Instinct was built on and updated to become not only a fantastic example of a revival, but also an incredibly successful tournament-level game (especially when considering the disadvantages of not being on the tournament standard platform).
Since coming to PC, Killer Instinct is more available than ever and with a style of play that retains what made the original so memorable while adding in new mechanics to bolster its competitive edge.
Is Combo Breaker one of the most famous fighting game mechanics ever? Probably, we don't have a major event named after it for nothing. But let's actually break down how it works. When in a combo, you can press the Punch and Kick buttons to Combo Breaker your opponent's combo if the Punch and Kick you pressed match the Punch and Kick strength they are hitting you with.
What type of move being used in a combo can determine how easy it is to break, Manuals (what you would call “Links” in most other games) and Linkers (Specials) have tighter windows or less obvious tells on what strength they are, whereas Auto Doubles (a canned sequence of two punches or kicks of the same strength) have longer windows for Combo Breakers, including into hitstun. The heavier of strength the attack is the more damage it deals obviously, but also the easier it could be broken, meaning that combo theory is about playing your cards close to your chest to not make obvious Breaker points and saving your hardest hitters for when your opponent Breakers wrong in a combo and has to just sit there and take it.
The Combo Breaker rules are different for Shadow Linkers (basically EX Specials). All Shadow Linkers are 5 hits long and you must input Punch+Kick of any strength on 3 of those hits to Combo Breaker out. However, with both regular combos and Shadow Linkers, if you are being too obvious with what you are trying to break, your opponent can Counter Breaker your Combo Breaker, snatch your motherfucking birthday, have open season on doing the beefiest combo they have, and make you feel the way anime players do when they get their Burst's stolen.
In 2017, Combo Breaker grand finals for Killer Instinct would go down in history as being the set where Wheels made the comeback round people only see in movies and dreams when fighting Valoraxe. Sadly, as much as that round is what is remembered, Wheels ended up losing the set and tournament to Valoraxe in the end. However in 2019, once again on the Combo Breaker stage, Wheels and Valoraxe found each other again in grand finals. And this time, things would go differently.
It's almost impossible to introduce MvC2, truly it stands as one of the most iconic fighting games ever made and has a rich competitive history that is still felt to this day. The game made legends out of players like Justin Wong, Clockw0rk, IFC Yipes, Sanford, and numerous others in its historic ten year competitive run. While Street Fighter will likely always represent the idea of fighting games, Marvel vs Capcom 2 should represent the idea of the fighting game community.
For how iconic MvC2 is, it's quite hard to describe in an all-encompassing manner as there are many different playstyles depending on team composition. Typically what you will see is two strong characters (Magneto, Storm, Sentinel, Iron Man, Cable) and a significantly less good character who has an invaluable assist (Cyclops, Psylocke, Captain Commando). Protecting/sniping the assist character becomes a priority as properly breaking a full team can drastically change the momentum of the match.
In 2011 I stayed late at work one night, using my office computer to stream the event of the lifetime to make sure I didn't miss anything on the commute home. Clockw0rk and GoldenBoyNeo were having a high stakes FT15 money match to send off MvC2, as MvC3 was soon releasing. What took place is one of the greatest sets in all of FGC history, not only because of how good the play was, but by the rawness of the then-burgeoning streaming technology. The audio felt like it was constantly redlining, the commentators screaming their lungs out, and the audience blowing the roof off the ballroom with every hype comeback. It's hard to request you spend an hour and a half of your day to watch something, but if you've never seen it before you owe it to yourself to watch it.
The game that put French Bread on the map and the flagship release that their community still supports to this day. A fighting game based on (but also a sequel to?) the Tsukihime visual novel by Type Moon, it has seen multiple versions in the 20 years since its first release. While Current Code has been the end of the game's life for many a year, Melty Blood continues to be updated in a sense through community work as netplay and matchmaking have been integrated through clients like CCcaster and Concerto.
There are three versions of each character, broken up by what style of Moon you choose. These Moons (Full, Half, and Crescent) come with their own sets of universal mechanics, such as Crescent and Half Moons being able to Rebeat (the act of chaining normals from heavy to light instead of the standard light to heavy) and Full Moon being unable to. This is not the only difference between different versions of the same character, as different Moon versions will have different specials and normals, creating three unique toolkits for each character. As overwhelming as the sound of nearly 100 different characters is, in practice the amount of relevantly played characters is lower than that.
Typically, I try to add videos that are relevant to learning the game or recent tournament footage. But this time around I just want to make sure people see some classic history, as this Winners Semis match between Brandino and Jiyuna at NEC9 in 2008 is really good but is remembered for HyperHal's drunken academic commentary. Someone run Arcana Heart so I eventually have a reason to post “Get Hype For AH3”
Despite the "Arcana" in the name, MAAB is a non-Arcana Heart game from Team Arcana. It is instead based on the Million Arthur franchise, a fantastical world filled with Arthurian legends of knights and swordplay. Originally starting as a card game, this aspect translates into MAAB in the form of assist cards you pick three of before the match. It also has Iori from King Of Fighters and his sweep is cancelable. Eat shit StopUsingSweep.gif.
Assists are a big part of this game, they can cost anywhere from 1 to 3 mana to call. Your assist meter fills back up at a quick pace, but if you cancel into an assist your meter will be locked out for that amount until it recovers. Assists also have elemental attributes, a mechanic across the game. There are three elements; Fire (deals damage over time), Ice (extra hitstun), and Wind (regens health). Elements interact in interesting ways, if you have multiple successive hits of one element the combo will gain bonus damage. However, if you hit with one element and then hit with its counter-element (for example: a Fire attack followed by an Ice attack) it will force counter hit, even when in the middle of a combo!
Ebonic Plague does a fantastic job giving game information while doing commentary for this Evo 2019 Top 8. MAAB hasn't had a chance to showcase itself offline since 2019, so Vortex Gallery 2022 will be a much-needed return to offline.
Hey you might have heard about this Gundam anime thing, it's a pretty big deal. There's only an uncountable amount of games based on the series out there. One series in particular, Extreme Vs, has been picking up steam over the years stateside since the release of the aptly-named-to-serve-as-an-onboarding-point Gundam Versus.
The next release after that is what fellow space war criminals find themselves playing now, Extreme VS Maxiboost ON (or just Maxiboost for simplicity's sake). This series is unique among fighting games as being a 2v2 team game, all four players being active at the same time means that how neutral works in a 3D space is wildly different. This, alongside the almost unfathomably large roster, makes for a game that can be daunting to approach, but if you get past the learning curve Maxiboost is a deeply rewarding game that offers something unlike anything else in the scene.
Gameplay is determined by team composition. In Maxiboost you have a total cost of 6000, consider this your team life points. Different mobile suits have different associated costs, from as high as 3000 to as low as 1500, with the higher cost suits having more power and better stats.
This leads to a system called Fronting and Backing, you want a strong (typically 3000 cost) suit as the Front, as they are the most powerful member of the team, have the most health, and can overall better engage the enemy.
The Back player (typically 2500 cost or less) is the supporting role, assisting the Front by covering for them, creating advantageous lines of approach, or interrupting the opponent when they have your Front in a combo. Bringing this back to the 6000 total cost, the game ends when one team goes over cost. Because your Front is the more expensive and more powerful suit, you want your Front to die first so they have the spare cost to come back (if the Front and Back were both 3000, both of them dying would end in a loss, but with a team composition less than 6000 total, you can have it so your Front dies twice and your back dies once as long as the Front dies first). Because of this, it is a lucrative strategy to try and snipe the Back player to force a disadvantageous cost on the other team, but doing so is risky and you can start to see the intense nuance that this 2v2 structure brings to the table.
It took a lot of effort not to just post the video from Frosty Faustings 2019 where I am drunk on the floor yelling at the top of my lungs about how nice my Sinanju is, but in the name of professionalism I offer you this instead. The Top 8 for Frosty Faustings 2022 is a great way to introduce yourself to the game as it has something that makes spectating this game so much easier; multiple capture cards. Sadly Maxiboost doesn't have a spectator mode or anything where you can get perspective on each player, so for large tournaments like this the community gets additional capture devices so we can see the game through the eyes of more than just one player.
I don't think there has been a bigger success story in riding the post-Street Fighter 4 wave than the reemergence of the Mortal Kombat series. Netherrealm Studios struck gold when making Mortal Kombat 9 and proved it wasn't a fluke when they created the DC superhero fighting game series Injustice afterwards. Mortal Kombat X came next and walked in the path of what worked with those two games while remixing some older Mortal Kombat ideas with newer ones. What came out the other side is a blisteringly aggressive game where both neutral and reversal situations can become explosive with only a bar of meter needed. While the newest version of a game in a series understandably takes center stage, MKX is so beloved that it is still seeing tournament play alongside its more recent entry.
Armor is the name of the game. Many specials can be upgraded by spending a bar of meter and gain a hit of armor. While obviously applicable for reversals, this also creates a volatile neutral as you or your opponent can rip through an attack if they have armor and declare the neutral state is over, thank you. What also ties in to making this game so aggressive is the return of Sprinting. Much like how you could run back in classic favorite Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, you can once again hoof it across the stage (as long as you have enough Stamina meter), making for more opportunities to punish, pressure, or convert combos.
Yeah baby this is from this year, MKX is still going strong and when you see how violent the pace of play is you can easily see why players still cling to it.
A fresh face to the Platform Fighter genre, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is actually the 7th game in its series but the first to ever make it to consoles. Nickelodeon's website has hosted multiple browser-based fighting games in the Brawl series alongside a Brawl release for the mobile, with Super Brawl 3 garnering millions of plays and winning a Webby award for Best Web Game that year. So All-Star Brawl isn't exactly coming out of nowhere, this series has seen a surprising amount of popularity over the past decade plus.
Movement is not likely radically different from your standard Smash Bros inspired Platform Fighter, but there are some fun quirks. Instead of just an evasive move in the air, NASB gives you full on airdashes. However this are not purely horizontal movements, you can airdash downwards and doing so gives you different abilities. Airdashes are standardized, you have to wait 15 frames before you can perform an action out of them. But downward airdashes do not have this restriction, allowing you to act during the 15 frames. Between this and the speed of downward airdashes you can do more than just wavedash, like fast fall during combos to extend them by quickly getting to the platform and jumping again.
Here is grand finals for NASB's coming out party at Combo Breaker 2022. April O'Neil is a wicked sick character as she has a unique resource that builds anytime she lands an attack with a camera flash. She can cash this out with her Breaking News special, a devastating kill move with super armor frame 1 if she has enough resources.
Much like Aquapazza, Nitroplus Blasterz is a Main Character + Assist Partner fighter featuring characters from the Nitroplus catalog of works. These similarities should come as little surprise as developer EXAMU worked on both titles. Nitroplus Blasterz has a shockingly long history to it, able to be traced back to a doujin fighter from 2007 called Nitro Royale: Heroines Duel. Releasing in 2015 with HD 2D sprite work, you can look back to Nitro Royale and see so much of the cast from that game make it to the big time in Nitroplus Blasterz (and many who didn't become playable characters still show up as Partners)
Similar to other games like DFCI, Nitroplus Blasterz has a multi-use burst mechanic called Infinite Blast. What is different is that after you use your Infinite Blast you will temporarily go into a Blast state where various buffs become active. While in Blast state you slowly regain health and meter, attacks do slightly more hitstun, specials can be canceled into Evasive Actions, and most importantly, it locks out the ability for your opponent to activate their Infinite Blast while in hitstun. The duration of these effects is determined by what type of Infinite Blast you perform, if you Blast in neutral the duration is the longest, Blasting during your own combo has average length, and Blasting when in hitstun is the shortest.
Lolokoa put together a video tutorial explaining all the system mechanics behind Nitroplus Blasterz, including more that what we mentioned here like Vanishing Guard or Evasive Actions
Yet another step in Atlus' complete global saturation, this fighting game spinoff of Persona 4 saw multiple years of play and updates until a rather unfortunate split in the timeline happened. The most recent update had made it to Japanese arcades but was never going to come stateside, causing us to unfortunately be stuck in the past. However, thanks to the new Persona 4 Ultimax port we are all back on a level playing field and duking it out with our favorite (or least favorite, Ken I'm looking at you) Persona 4 and 3 characters.
True to its JRPG lineage, P4U has status effects that players can be afflicted with. Effects like Rage makes a player unable to block but gives 20% added damage, Panic reverses their left and right inputs, Silence disables Persona-related actions, and so on. Speaking of Personas, if you strike a player's Persona while it is out it will take 1 card of damage. If you remove all the Persona's cards, and each character has a different amount of cards for their Persona, they are Persona Broken and cannot use any actions relating to their Persona until their cards refill.
Persona being played offline again, nature is healing. This Top 8 features many of my favorite anime players from the Vancouver area like Psykotik, Drunk Suika, and Jive Turkey.
After 10,000 years it's finally here. Originally supposed to come out stateside in April 2011, it was delayed until July 2011, and then to Q1 2012, and then it just plain didn't happen. So Omnia, the 4th version of Phantom Breaker, finally being released outside of Japan is a very big deal because back in the early 2010's people were waiting in anticipation for a North American release. This 2D anime fighter is somewhat of a spiritual successor to the Asuka 120% series, as after developers Fill-in-Cafe closed shop, series creator Masatoshi Imaizumi and Masaki Ukyo (of Guardian Heroes fame) teamed up to create Phantom Breaker. While crafty players have been able to get their hands on previous region-free versions, publisher Rocket Panda Games put in the effort to make sure Phantom Breaker Omnia
You choose one of three Styles with your character, Quick, Hard, or Omnia. Quick style is the more agile suite of mechanics, allowing for extended combo routes, additional air movement, and faster dash speeds. Hard style lacks the pizzaz of Quick, but also lacks Quick's downsides, offering a better Guard Gauge, better Tension bonus, and better defensive attributes like having a parry instead of a spot dodge. Omnia style is the most limited style in so far as offering very few bells and whistles, but doubles the amount of meter that can be held. Mechanics can also change between styles, which the video below does a great job explaining.
This official mechanics primer from Rocket Panda Games is the easiest way to figure out the universal mechanics to this game, of which there are many. Good to see the lady inside my GPS is still finding work after I set it to “mute”.
It's not Marvel (baybee), it's Saban (baybee). Power Rangers BFTG wears its influences proudly on its sleeve as this 3v3 fighter solidly works within the foundation of Capcom's Versus series. No surprise to that, as Marvel vs Capcom legends like Clockw0rk, Shady K, and Justin Wong were brought in to help work on the game. Long combos that often lead to a dead character, incoming mixups that lesser mortals stand no chance against, this is a grimey Marvel game through and through.
Combos in BFTG are long processes, but the way they end is the most important thing to look for. If a combo hits one of its many (many) hard limits, the next attack of that type will cause a flipout. Flipout can also be caused universally by hitting someone with 5L during a combo. This is an important ender as the opponent will flash as they flip back to the ground, fully invincible but unable to reversal when they land. This means you can strategically flipout your opponent and then run a mix on them without the fear of a reversal stopping you from your fun.
This combo guide is a couple years old, but the information it has is still worthwhile for understanding how combo limitations in BFTG work. And it's important to recognize those limits because combos will be a majority of what you see.
Another popular Capcom IP that has sadly fallen by the wayside, Project Justice is the sequel to the first Rival Schools game, a 3 on 3 team fighter set in a highschool setting. While it hasn't seen much in terms of life since we entered the new Willenium, it remains a cult classic from Capcom's backlog and occasionally gets nods in modern games, like Batsu being in Tatsunoko vs Capcom or Akira being in Street Fighter V. There is still a scene for the game as it gets played in Japan and, with its more recent addition to Fightcade 2, has cropped up online a lot more often.
There are some preconceived notions about team games that don't happen in Project Justice. Your characters are not eliminated from the team with defeat and both the winner and the loser can change characters between rounds. This is because the team itself is more of a character as a whole, whoever your assists are can be used in Team-Up attacks that grant buffs to the point character. However the opponent can Team-Up Counter during this, which briefly has the two assist characters square off in a sudden death 5 second mini game. Both characters lose on a single hit and if it goes to time the Counter fails.
AnimEvo 2019's Project Justice tournament ruled as not only did many Japanese players make it over to compete but しゃむ showed up cosplaying her character, Hinata, which is a total boss move.
I've used the term “doujin” a lot in this article, it's a Japanese term to describe independent releases, usually from a fandom. This is not a term specific to games as it can be applied to music, manga, etc, but we see it a lot with fan-made fighting games of established Japanese works. But not all of our indie fighters come from Japan, Punch Planet is an indie fighter from 3-person North American developers Sector-K. This sci-fi Street Fighter styled release is still under development, but has been building a name for itself with constant tournament appearances.
Punch Planet's primary mechanic is Time Cancel and its various permutations. Double Time Cancel operates like a Roman Cancel, allowing you to return to neutral after an attack connects. Absorb Time Cancel operates like 3rd Strike parry, negating the hitstun of an attack that strikes it. Finally, Jump Time Cancel is a universal overhead that can be held to become an empty jump instead. All of these Time Cancels cost meter to perform but Absorb and Jump Time Cancels do not require meter. If you have the meter stored up then it will deplete when used, but these can still be activated even if you do not have enough meter in that moment.
As Punch Planet is still in development, footage from 2019 is going to be outdated. But it's worth showing that Punch Planet is no stranger to the Evo weekend festivities.
From developer Vortex Games? At Vortex Gallery? I smell collusion. Jokes aside, Rushdown Revolt is a free-to-play platform fighter birthed from the shell of a former game; Icons: Combat Arena. While characters from Icons are returning, visually and mechanically this is a total rehaul with characters being reworked as well. While it is undeniable that every game in this genre is walking a path carved by Smash Bros, Rushdown Revolt front ends a lot of differences in gameplay. Instead of the standard damage percentage, it works on a health bar with even the smallest attacks causing huge knockback when at zero HP. Shielding is only front-facing, so you are defenseless if facing the wrong way or if your opponent gets behind you. One of the best innovations it has to offer however, is its emphasis on combos.
Like most platform fighters, wavedashing is integrated into the game. In Rushdown Revolt's case it is called Rush and it is bound to its own button. Of course this is used the way all other games of its ilk use it, but Rush has some additional movement tech unique to this game. By doing up-forward or up-back and Rush you get a wide arcing but low height hyperhop (or “Jop”). You can also combine Rush with Spark to get Super Jumps, a much higher jump that allows you to dynamically control your momentum, so much so that you can arc back in on yourself within the Super Jump. Spark, the second half of that equation, is a resource that allows you to cancel actions into other actions, such as canceling into attacks, specials, and various forms of movement. The use of the Spark system, alongside a once-per-round Red Burst, can allow for massive combo chains that push the opponent far outside the safety of the stage.
There is a staggering amount of tech to Rushdown Revolt and my brief description cannot do it justice (including the ability to bait and punish bursts like in anime games). Thankfully the developers put out a quick 5 part video series going over all the mechanics of the game. Those competing at Vortex Gallery should sharpen their skills to a point as it was recently announced that a $10,000 prize pool has been added to the tournament. And that's real money, not some Fartcoin nonsense.
The beauty of cold steel leads to the sorrow of death. This reboot of the classic SNK Samurai Shodown series is a game of careful play, lest you be chopped to bits with the press of a button. While many of the movement options of past games have been scaled back to create a slower and more methodical system of play, the foundation of being punished greatly for your mistakes still rings true. Issen, Weapon Flipping Technique, and Super Special Moves are all highly damaging attacks that can melt the opponent's health bar with the blink of an eye, but also just getting caught by a st.C will deal so much damage that the hitstop is increased to let you sit there and think about what you did to lead to this situation. While hampered by its lack of acceptable netcode, this revival of a beloved franchise continues to show up offline where its game of inches can be played to maximum effectiveness.
When a weapon strike is blocked in this game, the attacker enters a recoil animation. Depending on how strong of an attack it was (A button strikes being quick and weak, C button strikes being lumbering and deadly) will determine how long the attacker is stuck in recoil and able to be punished. Act carefully though, as the attacker may not be able to defend while recoiling, but they can special cancel out of the recoil into one of their special moves. This creates a game of chicken, where each side may be looking for the other to act during a recoil as special moves are not likely going to be all that safe if blocked or whiffed. What circumvents this is that non-weapon attacks (typically attacks with the D button) do not incur recoil. However, outside of an earlier patch of this game where Haoh's 66A running punch was very powerful, bringing a fist to a swordfight might not have you with the advantage.
The always-excellent SNK destination tournament Lunar Bout one again killed it when it came to Samurai Shodown, having a top 8 that was stuffed to the gills with some of the best players in the game today.
The soul still burns, but with this being summer in Vegas maybe it could turn it down a notch or two. Just saying. The most recent release in the 3D weapon fighter series, it eschews some of the more radical design changes made in Soulcalibur V (SCV can be hit or miss and I absolutely find it a hit) while introducing its own radical design changes. While much has been said about the Rock-Paper-Scissors stylings of Reversal Edge, I think the far more interesting mechanic is Lethal Hits.
Lethal Hits are a series of unique interactions that grant you a combo opportunity when successfully hit, kind of like an even more specific counter hit. For example, Nightmare's While Standing B becomes Lethal Hit on counter hit, giving him a combo extension WS B wouldn't otherwise have. But these are not exclusive to just some hand-picked counter hits. Groh's 22/88B Lethal Hits on whiff punish and Kilik's Monument A Lethal Hits after successfully Guard Impacting an opponent. There are many different variables that lead to Lethal Hits across the cast, meaning that it is important to study what LHs your character can capitalize on, but also what LHs an opponent's character may be looking for as well.
With Combo Breaker 2022 just wrapping, we have a very recent look into the competitive landscape of Soulcalibur VI. Its main game status is a testament to its continued popularity, but Evo only has so many slots so Vortex Gallery is happy to give them a place to play in Vegas.
Without being too blasphemous to the next entry, Alpha 2 is the standout release from the Alpha series (at least in America). The Alpha games are signified by their universal defensive mechanic, the Alpha Counter, a defensive moved used out of blockstun that became the brand name for such blockstun techniques moving forward. While it costs one bar of meter, it can turn the tables from defense to offense by knocking the opponent down and not allowing them to tech roll it. But if there is one thing Alpha 2 is remembered for (other than Rose being stupidly good) it would be the Valle CC.
Do you realize how good you have to be to have a technique named after you? In 1996, Alex Valle showed up to Battle of the Bay 3 (the event series that would become Evolution) and won the tournament over John Choi with liberal use of a technique soon to be known as the Valle CC. In Alpha 2 you can spend all your meter to enter a Custom Combo, where you get a brief amount of time to string together attacks almost free from restriction. It is in the activation of the Custom Combo where the Valle CC is found, as if your opponent is standing when you activate Custom Combo they cannot switch to blocking low for about 8-10 frames. This greatly changes footsies as with the right meter and spacing a Valle CC can unblockable any standing opponent.
Forgive the cheesecloth video, but this is 1996 we are dealing with. Regardless of graininess, you can see both Valle and Choi using the Valle CC to unblockable the standing opponent throughout the match. Also this is just a masterclass of footsies to watch.
The final in the Alpha line of Street Fighter games, Alpha 3 has in and of itself seen numerous updates and revisions, from its original vanilla arcade release, to a feature-packed PSP port with all the bells, whistles, and additional characters created along the way. Not only do you choose your character, but you choose what type of mechanics you want to be playing with as well, creating a deep roster of possibilities.
Alpha 3 has the precursor to Grooves in CvS2, called Isms. These three Isms not only offer different mechanics, but can sometimes even change the way characters normals and specials work. In execution however, there is only one choice. X-Ism blows, no air blocking, no Alpha Counters, only one super in the form of your level 3, it's just big damage and big guard bar. A-Ism is better, giving you the mechanics X-Ism is missing and segmenting the meter for more possible Supers. But all of this pales in comparison to V-Ism, which retains the mechanics A-Ism has but the almighty Custom Combo and only comes at the cost of doing less damage than the other Isms. If you find tournament footage for Alpha 3 you will see predominantly V-Ism usage because of how powerful access to Custom Combos are.
This Alex Valle guy is really good at fighting games, if you didn't know. This broadcast recaps Daigo's 1998 trip to America where he ends up competing against Valle in Alpha 3. While the original SRK links to the event comments are dead, the video description includes Valle's comments from the tournament. Remember, you used to save your best tech for Nationals.
Yeah, That Makes Sense. The final revision to the Street Fighter 3 series is one of the Mount Rushmore of fighting games; maintaining incredible popularity since release and still being one of the biggest tournament played games within Street Fighter as a whole. Between iconic moments from the past like Daigo's full parry on Justin Wong's super to current day tournament destination Cooperation Cup and its 5v5 team format, 3rd Strike has one of the richest histories in the FGC and I cannot imagine a world where it one day loses its steam.
The defining trait of not just 3rd Strike, but Street Fighter 3 as a whole, is the Parry. Instead of holding back to block an attack, you can tap forward (or down for a low Parry) on the stick to risk it for the biscuit and Parry an incoming attack. This high-risk/high-reward mechanic will remove blockstun and chip damage, keeping you alive and getting a punish depending on the situation. This radically changes how neutral is played, overly obvious pressure strings can be blown up if repeated too many times and sometimes you will see people just crouching a lot in an attempt to Parry any low pokes.
The 3rd Strike Film Room is one of the coolest FGC series out there, going in depth on a selection of Japan's greatest 3rd Strike players and breaking down their techniques and decision-making. As someone who has been a Q player for over 15 years now, I am selfishly asking you to watch this breakdown of one of my favorite players ever; TM.
In 2010, it was announced that two of the most recognizable faces in the fighting game genre were teaming up; Street Fighter and Tekken were not only making a crossover fighter but they were making TWO crossover fighters. The first of them was made by Capcom, called Street Fighter x Tekken, took much of the Tekken cast and put them in a 2D Street Fighter styled game. There was supposed to be a flip and reverse to this, as Bandai Namco was to make Tekken x Street Fighter where the Street Fighter cast would have to learn how to sidestep in 3D but that ended up not happening. Getting back to real life, this 2v2 tag fighter is one of the more juggle-heavy games to feature Street Fighter in the title, with the action being predicated on constant tagging in and out between your team as only one character needs to be KO'd for the round to end.
Let's talk about Gems. Originally a mechanic where you select a combination of three Gems that offer the benefits you would want the most while playing, seeing how the number of possible Gems is immense this is obviously unwieldy for competitive play and instead competitors pick from the default offered sets. Each Gem has an activation condition for its effect, such as getting 20% more Cross Gauge meter gain rate when your attack is blocked 4 times or getting 20% more damage when you tech a throw. These Gem activations all have time limits (usually 10 sec - 20 sec) and you can see them be activated by a swirling gemstone animation around the character followed by them having a colored outline for the duration of the effect.
Psychoblue is the champion of continued SFxT support and hosts multiple online events for the game as well as assisting in competitive information as he (alongside contributions from other players) has put out the massive 203-page Complete Dossier 5th Edition. This gargantuan work goes over every character in the game, briefly describing their strengths and weaknesses, while also giving combos and frame data.
You didn't read that wrong, this is a different DBZ game from FighterZ. Released in 2005 for arcades and expanded with some new characters and mechanics in 2006 for Ps2, this is a more traditional 2D fighter in the sense that you have motion inputs for specials and some dial-a-combo strings for attacks. With dedicated communities in both Japan and America, don't be surprised if you see people crowded around a different Dragon Ball Z fighter than what you were expecting.
The most defining aspect of SDBZ happens on the character select screen, the Skill system. Each character has a Skill Tree of Skills that can be unlocked and rearranged for your character loadout. This can be special attacks you perform in battle or passive buffs that upgrade your stats or bestow additional mechanical benefits. With this aspect of the game being heavily personalized, gpbear4 will be at Vortex Gallery with sample memory cards and can be reached for personal save files.
Gpbear4 is an incredibly good mascot for Super Dragon Ball Z in America and I would like to publicly apologize for being so busy at Combo Breaker 2022 that I couldn't run casuals with them. Here's some nasty combos from Japanese SDBZ promoter Whitefreeza.
If you can believe this, there was once a time in history where Super Turbo was described to be the “honest footsies and fundamentals” Street Fighter. That is obviously horseshit, Super Turbo is a game made for and played by depraved mad-people and that's why it rules. ST is the final (kinda) revision based on the original Street Fighter 2 and comes with it the advancements made along the way. Faster speed of play, Super meter for a highly damaging tool at your disposal, and the ability to pick old versions of the cast which doubles the roster. Super Turbo is where the foundational work that Street Fighter 2 laid shows up as juiced-up, jacked behemoths imposing their will against each other until someone crashes. Don't want to be stuck in a throw loop from Boxer? Consider not getting thrown then.
While the roster is doubled thanks to old versions being selectable, the most relevant old characters are O.Sagat, O.Ken, and O.Hawk. Old characters lose their super meter, so they need to be able to have substantial benefits to offset this. O.Sagat gets the best fireballs in the game with his Tiger Shots, O.Ken gets a DP that is invincible for a full calendar year, and O.Hawk gets a command grab with no whiff animation meaning he can tick throw OS by negative edging the command grab. The other characters you should expect to see are Boxer, who we already talked about with that whole throw loop nonsense (he's also just all around amazing), Dhalsim, who newer players may not realize can be a rushdown beast in this game with his tick throws and air drills, and Claw, who's walldive is incredibly hard to contest and has a walk speed that could outpace most Tour de France cyclists. There are many other relevant powerhouses in this game, like Chun, Dee Jay, or Ryu, but if we wanted to talk about what makes so much of this roster cool we would be here all day and I need to finish this article.
As much as I was goofing at the beginning of this entry, there is still a large amount of fundamentals at play within Super Turbo. David Sirlin's beginner tutorial to Super Turbo is an amazing video that helps onboard anyone to the core ideas of what makes fighting games truly tick under the hood. This video is at least 15 years old so you might have to uh, squint. The compression is from the Before Times.
Another stellar release from my favorite fighting game developer; Eighting. TvC is the black sheep of Capcom's Versus series, eschewing the Western appeal of Marvel comics for the Eastern appeal of Tatsunoko anime as well as only coming home to consoles on the Wii. While more of a cult classic, TvC has a very dedicated community behind it and is used to showing up in Chicago as TvC is frequently played at Frosty Faustings.
This is going to have to be split into two parts:
What To Expect Normally: TvC is a 2-on-2 team game and if you are used to any Marvel game it will look very familiar, just instead of Magneto you will see dudes with visors. The signature mechanic is called Baroque, a Roman Cancel-esque ability that spends your red health for more damage and combo extensions. You also can burst out of combos in this game, which costs two meters and a little bit of health. That said, the health it leaves is red health, so if you have no red health for Baroque, you can burst to get yourself the ability to Baroque again.
What To Expect When A Giant Is On The Screen: Well, PTX-40A to be specific. TvC has two characters designated as Giants. These characters are multiple times larger than normal, are chosen as a single-entry character, and dramatically change how the game plays. They prominently feature armor, making them hard to hit but also very easy to counterpick with characters like Tekkaman who have hit grab attacks that ignore armor. Gold Lightan honestly blows so you won't see him, but PTX-40A has a chance of showing up.
I HAVE INFORMATION THAT WILL LEAD TO THE ARREST OF DOCTOR "#BILLSWEEP" SC1ENCE FOR HIS CRIMES OF RACKETEERING, TAX EVASION, AND RIGGING THE BRACKET SO I WAS HIS FIRST OPPONENT IN LOSERS AT COMBO BREAKER 2022.
There is some serious gold on the SNES when it comes to fighting games. Gundam Wing Endless Duel, Bishoujo Senhi Sailor Moon S, the system is not just where to find a good home version of Street Fighter 2. TMNT Tournament Fighters stands in line with those releases, being a fighting game well crafted enough to still be worth playing in the current years. It also was able to beat Street Fighter 2 to the idea of a Super meter, coming out a year before Super Turbo would introduce it to Street Fighter.
This is more of a What Not To Expect, as what makes TMNT Tournament Fighters stand out is just how solid it is. Not to decry other popular SNES fighters, but the aforementioned examples of Endless Duel and Sailor Moon S do have some more, kusoge elements let's say. Deathscythe infinite or incredibly broken tier Sailor Uranus by no means ruin those games, but they are things you need to accept. Tournament Fighters on the other hand is mostly jank-free, it has its top (Armaggon) and bottom (War) tiers like any game but otherwise it is just an incredibly well put together game in the Street Fighter 2 mold. Something you won't see too many of is different stages, as only a small handful are tournament legal due to the majority of stage backgrounds causing additional lag.
Combo Breaker likes to rotate in a niche game to its main tournament lineup every year, so for Combo Breaker 2019 we were graced with a TMNT Tournament Fighters bracket. And what a bracket it was.
Tekken 4 was…a rather different game. Nerfed backdash, increased juggle pushback, environmental interactions, position switch throws, uneven terrain, and Jin was decidedly Top 1 (Steve and Nina were relevant too). This was a huge departure after the golden years of Tekken 3 and Tag 1, so when Tekken 5 released it sought to be a return to form. Better movement, better juggle potential, and with the release of the Dark Resurrection update, better balance all combine to make this one of the most fondly remembered competitive Tekken releases.
This game is FAST. The pace of play is lightning quick in T5DR for a couple reasons. Movement is speedy and buttery smooth, allowing players to act both offensively and defensively in short manner. Juggles, while improved from T4, are so much shorter than future games where mechanics like Bound and Screw would be introduced. Throws are very fast, making them harder to break. This makes rounds cruise by in a breeze as once someone makes a connection, the damage is racked up in no time flat.
For recent T5DR footage, peep this Top 4 from Electric Cancel. But make sure not to blink because it doesn't take long for Devil Jin to deplete a life bar.
We just saw TMNT Tournament Fighters a couple entries ago and it was hard to not bury the lede on what it's popularity spawned. A spiritual successor to TMNT Tournament Fighters for SNES and Justice League Task Force for the Genesis, TMNT x JL Turbo is an independent work made in I.K.E.M.E.N. GO (A engine similar to and able to work with M.U.G.E.N.) that has far surpassed what any other fan work has been able to complete. Not only is the game just incredibly good, but it has featured collaborations from the original works, such as pixel artist Yoshiki Akasaka or old-school illustrators Tom duBois, Mick McGinty, and Jim Lawson creating a collaborative illustration for the game. The amount of love and detail that has gone into TMNT x JL Turbo is astonishing and the end result is an unbelievably good game styled after the 16bit classic fighters of the past.
There is a system at play called Omega Factor. The little Ω marker next to the life bar keeps track of how much Omega Factor you have. Omega Factor is gained by either getting the first hit of the round or not being hit for four in-game seconds. When you have Omega Factor (up to three levels can be stocked) you can expend it to perform Omega Specials, which are an incredibly important tool because Omega Specials do not count towards a combo's juggle limit. Proper use of Omega Factor can allow for combo extensions far beyond what is normally allowed and because Omega Factor is its own resource, you can still have your Super Attack armed and at the ready to be used as well.
There is a lot I wanted to put here. The Phil Nolan documentary about TMNTxJL Turbo and the Top 8 from Combo Breaker 2022 where TMNTxJL Turbo was a main game were both in contention, but in the end I wanted to make sure people saw Plasmasword's incredible work with the It's Not M.U.G.E.N. CMV. She brings TMNTxJL Turbo to life, showcasing just how far you can (sometimes artificially) push the juggle system in this game.
If you know any Touhou fighting game, chances are it's Immaterial and Missing Power. Created in partnership with Twilight Frontier, the creators of Eternal Fighter Zero, it was the first but not the only Touhou fighting game they made together. The 12.3rd Touhou game, Hisoutensoku, is the 3rd fighting game made in the series and still holds a lot of the Shoot Em Up influences from the mainline bullet hell Touhou game, repackaged into fighting game interactions. Unlike games that are Shoot Em Ups first and Fighting Games second (like Senko no Ronde or Maiden & Spell), Hisoutensoku is a fighting game first and foremost and builds out from there with its Shoot Em up lineage.
Lots and lots of bullets. Hisoutensoku characters have ways to pump out ordinarily-obnoxious projectiles in a variety of patterns, but there is an easy way around them. Like in Shumps, you can “graze” through bullets by dashing, meaning that zoning is less of a lockdown of projectiles and more of a movement test for your opponent to pass if they want to get in. A vital mechanic you will see on occasion at the top of the screen is the changing of the weather. Weather states grant different effects to both characters equally. Sometimes these weather effects are minor, like Spellcard damage increased by 25% or all attacks getting 50% lifesteal, but some weather effects radically change the game, like both characters getting super armor and losing the ability to block. Weather changes every so often so the shape of the match can be dynamically changed depending on what weather effect is active.
Hisoutensoku has had a good run of tournament appearances in the past couple years, showing up at Quarantined Rapport, Frosty Faustings 2022, and most recently Combo Breaker 2022. There is lots of tournament footage to graze (I have repeated this joke to see if my editor will laugh at it a second time) to get you prepared for its return to Vortex Gallery.
I'll stop yelling about 8ing when they stop making the best fighters. After their work on Tastunoko vs Capcom, 8ing took their experience (and their juggle animation) and were tasked with making the sequel to one of the most heralded games in FGC history. And they pulled it off. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is one of the most successful sequels in my eyes as it both retains the groundwork as a natural expansion of MvC2 but also is able to form its own identity in a way that makes it unique. Much like how the rallying cry behind MvC2 was “Ten More Years”, UMvC3 dominated the landscape alongside Street Fighter 4 and was able to successfully pass the decade mark of popular tournament play. What a beautiful game.
Outside of common picks, like Zero and Vergil shells or Dr Doom with Hidden Missiles assist, one of UmvC3's defining traits is the TAC infinite. After a successful Team Aerial Combo (an air juggle attack that the opponent must guess one of 3 ways to counter), the game stops hitstun deterioration until someone touches the ground. However it is possible to get a combo route going where you touch the ground and jump again before the game successfully checks for you having briefly landed, meaning you can loop this combo infinitely as the hitstun never decreases and the game never sees you touching the ground.
While there are incredibly stacked top tiers in UMvC3, even this many years into the game's life you still see outlier teams put up huge results. KaneBlueRiver's Big Body team, RyanLV's point Chun-li, and at Evo 2019 we got maybe the biggest outlier of them all, Sacktap running Ghost Rider/Haggar/Arthur. Ten More Years, baby.
To the untrained eye this may look like some MS Paint shitpost fueled by cocaine, and maybe you are not entirely wrong but Kyanta 2 is a far more competitively-played game than its nonsensical sound effects may imply. A 3v3 game with a ratio system for those who wish to play less characters, Kyanta 2 is an incredibly fast game with simple controls and a wealth of system mechanics to play with. It may not look like it, but this game is very easy to pick up and with a price of $free.99 and rollback netcode on the way it's worth your time to try out. We are Kinoko, yes even you, you just may not know it yet.
Across the cast there are many instances of unique air mobility, almost universally tied to air attacks. This creates a dynamic and vertical approach to neutral as there is no air blocking in this game either. Speaking of things missing, characters do not have pushboxes on them, meaning you can walk right through an opponent (this is more applicable when they are knocked down). As much as it may sound like this is setting up diabolical left/right mixes, Kyanta 2 has 3rd Strike parry so you can properly OS a parry/block situation. Honestly other than that just buckle up, this game goes fast and nutty real quick.
I have to give it up to the AnimEvo 2019 run of Kyanta 2 for not only being a great watch, but having the power couple of Ryyudo and MiniMatt on commentary dressed as Blues and Robo-Azuma respectively.
Not the Ultra Street Fighter you were probably expecting, that one is up next. Ultra Street Fighter II is a Switch-exclusive revision to the game with a small amount of changes that place it somewhere between Super Turbo and HD Remix. It also brings out some old hidden characters from Street Fighter's past in the form of Evil Ryu and Violent Ken, and according to the rules page on the Vortex Gallery website they are not banned.
Without being too terse, Ultra Street Fighter 2 is still very much just Street Fighter 2. Your expectations should be primarily no different than when we discussed Super Turbo. However there is one very prevalent change made in Ultra; you can tech throws. Traditionally in Street Fighter 2 the best you could do was soften the damage from a throw, but you were still getting grabbed. Now you can properly deny a throw from happening with the correct timing, meaning that strategies like Boxer's headbutt throw loop are gone.
Honestly this was the only tournament footage of Ultra Street Fighter 2 I could find, but it's worth looking at because it shows Valle putting the boots to people with Violent Ken and Evil Ryu.
The final installation of the game that kicked off the second Golden Age. Street Fighter IV's importance upon the genre cannot be overstated as it was the dominant force in fighting games for years after its release and brought new light into the competitive community. Ultra Street Fighter IV, the last revision of the game, caps off a run of tournaments and top 8s so legendary that few games will ever be able to compete. With over 40 characters, each of which have two Ultra attacks to choose from, USF4 is a highly entertaining end to an era that still gets revisited to this day.
The core mechanic to USF4 is the Focus Attack, this chargable state can absorb an attack and becomes unblockable when fully charged. However it has another, meter costing, form as well, a Red Focus Attack has endless armor meaning you can absorb even the largest of attack strings. These both can be used in combo structure as FADC's (Focus Attack Dash Cancels), where you cancel an attack into a Focus Attack, then dash cancel the Focus Attack to continue your combo. A normal FADC costs 2 meter but usually ends with a powerful Ultra cash out combo and a Red FADC costs 3 meter but forces a crumble state on the opponent, allowing for different combo routes.
Much like the Melty Blood entry, I'd rather showcase an old classic that newer players may be unaware of. Way back, all the way back in Vanilla SF4, Sagat was easily Top 1 in the game and during this 3 on 3 team battle there was a Sagat player named Ironfist with nothing more than a dream in his heart and a dragon punch buffered on every knockdown.
Developer French Bread has had a long history with fighting games. From their earliest doujin titles like the Queen of Heart and Glove on Fight to the landmark anime fighter classic Melty Blood we discussed earlier, they have been making multiple releases based on existing IPs and characters. But in 2012, French Bread put out its first original work, Under Night In-Birth. While maybe not a smash hit on release (Linne time out infinites are particularly memorable), by the time it had gotten to Exe:Late [st] it had grown into a wildfire thanks to the groundswell from a dedicated community willing to sing its praises to anyone that would listen. With its most recent release, [clr], that community is still as ready to show up and show out for Under Night.
While the tug of war that happens with the Vorpal meter (Grind Grid or GRD), a universal mechanic that rewards whichever player has more GRD at the end of its time cycle, is easily the most signature mechanic in Under Night, it may be more worthwhile to dig into how Shield works. Shielding is a risky venture, as if you Shield a mixup incorrectly or are thrown while Shield is active your GRD breaks and you're almost guaranteed to lose the next Vorpal cycle. However, a successful Shield can get you one of two benefits depending on the type of Shield performed. Holding the Shield input gets you Blue Shield, which acts as a sort of limited parry by increasing the recovery of any opponent's attack that hits it. Tapping the Shield button gets you Green Shield, which only adds additional pushblock but can be activated during an attack's active frames and allows the Shielder to switch blocking positions (whereas they are locked in either high or low with a Blue Shield).
When it comes to French Bread and French Bread accessories, no tournament is more relevant than Climax Of Night. This French Bread-specific event has become a major destination for DFCI, MBAACC, and of course, UNICLR. Long live the night.
Arguably the peak of Capcom's 2D sprite era of fighting games, competing with Third Strike. VSAV is a beautifully fluid and fast-paced fighting game where classic horror monsters fight under the gaze of the moon's light (or a screaming unholy fetus, take your pick). With a healthy amount of modern console re-releases bolstered by rollback netcode, the VSAV community is constantly being revitalized by new blood and spotlights at events. With intense levels of competition being shown both in Japan and stateside, Capcom never knew how right they were when they said “Darkstalkers Is Not Dead”.
In a weird way, VSAV should be easy to follow. Being one of the first games with chain normals, characters are looking to chain into knockdown to set up oki or confirm into a big metered attack combo. However all the supplementary mechanics surrounding the game makes for a play experience that is rarely the same between sets. When blocking you can piano the attack buttons to push back the opponent with Tech Hit (cackle), activating your character-specific Dark Force can be used for quick invincibility to escape a set up, and so much of the cast have unique movement tech that neutral becomes so diverse in ways it can be approached. All this combined with the game's speed makes for sets that are so fast-paced and explosive that it looks like Beyblades bouncing off each other until one gets the right hit and the other explodes to pieces.
Vampire Arcadia is the premiere team for Vampire Savior, not only are they the backbone of the community when it comes to events and streaming but their team roster contains some of the most talented players in the states. And you get YetiGhettoSlang on commentary, the king of kings.
A recent remastering of the previous Virtua Fighter game, VF5 Final Showdown, Ultimate Showdown does not introduce any sort of balancing patch meaning that we have a decade of tournament action to gleam from. With the pedigree of one of the most important 3D fighters ever made, Virtua Fighter continues to create phenomenal tournament play with its high level of play.
VF5US is an incredibly structured game, which is not very apparent to those watching who do not also play. The way mechanics interact creates game states where there are hardlined answers to situations. The most prevalent of these is "Nitaku", Japanese for "two choice". When the attacker is at frame advantage, typically +6 or +7, the opponent is put into Nitaku, wherein Virtua Fighter's vast amount of defensive options are reduced to a 50/50. The attacker can either throw or put out a mid and the defender's options will lose to either one or the other. VF5US may not have a lot in flashy, eye-grabbing mechanics, but what goes on under the hood is some of the most fascinating system work in all of fighting games.
I say this not to be some pompous trumpeter of the series, but I cannot overstate how mechanically dense Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is. This A-to-Z guide may be long, but it explains many vital concepts that help playing, let alone watching, the game.
After 28 years, one of the greatest games of the arcade era gets a sequel. The power discs are flying again as Windjammers 2 hit the ground running after years of anticipation, already seeing tournament play thanks to being released in close proximity to this year's Frosty Faustings. With the same Windjammers action we have come to know and love plus a new layer of mechanics, Windjammers 2 has proven to be able to live up to the nearly three decade legacy of the original.
While primarily the same as Windjammers 1, there are some additional systems to be aware of. You get an extra suite of ways to interact with the disc, like jumping to dunk it, slapping it to return volleys in new directions, and a new Super meter system. The most important function of the Super meter is the ability to do a defensive super; which creates an area around the player that will pick up any missed disc. With a more advanced verb set, Windjammers 2 leads to a lot of interesting volleys.
With WarpWhistles winning both the Frosty Faustings 2022 and Combo Breaker 2022, team bWo has started the competitive life of WJ2 with strength. Will someone be able to rise up and take the flying power disc to victory or will another trophy come home for the Bumper World Order?