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Rising Thunder - How We Learn Fighting Games and Why It's a Problem

Angelo M. D'Argenio | 1 Sep 2015 15:30
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Round 2: Combos

Needed to play, hard to learn, hidden from the player

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Let's take a look at another non-transparent aspect of fighting games: combos. To the newbie, fighting games appear to be exchanges of single moves, but in actuality the majority of your damage is scored by stringing moves together. Think of it this way. Any time you manage to hit the opponent you have won a mind game. Combos, make your mind game wins worth more because they convert a single hit into greater damage by adding on additional hits. A player with combos will have to out-think your opponent less over the course of a match, and thus gives the opponent fewer chances to win mind games of their own.

We have come a long way in making combos easier to understand. Games like Marvel vs. Capcom and Blazblue feature simple "chain" mechanics that allow normal moves of lesser strength to combo into moves of greater strength. You know as long as you are pressing light, medium, heavy, in that order, you usually will get a combo. Games like Under Night In-Birth take this one step further and allow any normal attack to cancel into any other.

Persona 4 Arena started popularizing the "auto combo" button, which makes repeated presses of light attack perform a pre-programmed series of moves. If you are new, all you have to do is score a hit and hammer on light attack to get a decent amount of combo damage. You can always learn your own combos , but the game starts you with one to make the learning process easier. This also gives you example of how moves cancel into each other, and with small iterations on the auto-combo you will quickly learn better combos that do greater damage.

Rising Thunder does none of this. There is no simple universal cancel system. Instead, specific normals can only combo into very specific other normals via Street Fighter style "target combos." These target combos aren't told to the player in any way. Instead, they have to be learned in training mode. Outside of target combos, normals have to be "linked" together by timing them very precisely, sometimes within only a few frames. You can cancel normals into special moves and super moves, but only on hit or block. Even then, certain normal moves can't be special canceled at all... and the game doesn't tell you which ones. Meanwhile, games like Skullgirls allow you to cancel any normal you have, even when whiffed.

Cancel windows are also very short and early in the move's execution in Rising Thunder, just as they are in Street Fighter. Since the cancel properties of moves are never told to you, it's hard to tell whether the move you are using cannot be canceled, or if you are simply canceling it too late.

Killian says that nobody wants to grind in training for six months to learn how to throw a fireball, but grinding in training for six months to learn your combos isn't much better.

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