The cramp in my thumb is finally subsiding and my voice returning (after shouting abuse at all the scrubby Ryus) so I can now write a little about my first forays into the competitive world of Street Fighter II HD Remix
Well let me give you a quick Navan Daughn history lesson of Street Fighters. I started back in the days of yore on my trusty Sinclair Spectrum 128k. I vaguely remember playing a poorman’s Street Fighter port but chose Spy Hunter instead. Just think if I’d continued my SF training from back then! I’d be invincible!
But due to my poor choice back when I was 8 years old, I haven’t really touched Street Fighter until HDR came out. I’ve been playing for about a year now (on and off) and am still only scratching the surface. The beauty and pleasure of this game, surprisingly for me, is not the first thing you see: the fighting. But the huge number of meta-games that underlie the whole mechanic of the game. I’ll expand further.
Meta-game 1: The Choice
The first choice that you are confronted with is which character to play. As I’ve come to find out, SF2 HDR doesn’t have that much of a choice compared to other comparable fighting games. But still, the 17 characters in this game are so variable and specific (with the exception of Ryu and Ken. But that’s probably just the way that those players play :P) that it’s such a huge part of the game from step 1. Just looking for information on tier listings on Google shows the sheer amount of complexity behind this. At the beginning I discussed this at length a number of times with Remy as to the best character to pick. I didn’t realise that a year later I still haven’t settled on a primary character to play as! Essentially it comes down to play style, personality (mine that is…not the characters) and feeling. As a fiero gamer, I immediately discounted the tier rankings as I would be determined to win regardless of supposed character strength. Although arguably a true fiero player would choose the weakest and learn to dominate with it to get the strongest fiero reaction as possible. However, a juggernaut style player would more likely pick their character dependent solely on those same rankings. Hence the number of Akuma players still pratting around and ruining my day.
I played a bit with all the characters and quickly found the few that I had an affinity for. Fei Long, Deejay and Dhalsim. The only reason I can think for this is that I used to play badminton at a high level (national) and these characters gave me such a strong feeling of the same sort of mindset needed for the singles match games on the court. Strategies, reactions, positioning and forcing errors.
Another reason for using Fei Long was that it was the only character I could identify as being close to something that I already knew.
I haven’t even started playing the game yet and it’s already comparable to a true 1 vs 1 sports game.
Metagame 2: The Matchup
As most hardened SF2 players know, the character balance is very much a game of rock-paper-scissors for any 2 players of similar skill. So now I’ve made my short list of characters I want to play as, which one to pick in what situation? Again, my play style has come to decide this for me. I love playing Fei Long just for the fact that he sucks in so many matchups, that when I win, I really feel like I have achieved something.
So as for the meta-game, this is where actual character strength/weakness vs skill vs opponent strength/weakness plays it’s part. I still don’t know the matchups but with a short google you’ll find the professional opinions. At my level it doesn’t matter that much as the skill aspect is far more apparent. If I play someone of similar skill to me, the moment by moment play decides the winner, not the character matchup as we are both using the characters at about 25% efficiency. A much higher level player will be playing the character at 95%+ and such the actual characters strengths/weaknesses come into play.
Metagame 3: Moves and strategies
I’ll first say that I suck at executing special moves. Even with my stick (kindly sold to me by Remy) I only get about 50% success at the most basic moves (ie, quarter-circle punch)! However, I still win my fair share of fights (1 out of 5 more or less) as the game mechanic rewards you for thinking cleverly, good positioning and having good reactions. Shown by the following vid:
Also proving it is Remy playing with his un-configured joystick that only had medium punch working, and he still won. See his last blog post for much more details about this aspect of the SF metagame.
Metagame 4: To Super or Not to Super, that is the question
There are actually a few issues in this metagame:
- The first blow. How many times do we sit there as the countdown to start the match counts down and we agonise over what should be the first move? This is a huge part to the fighting game play. It can often mean the difference between winning and losing. A successful hit and followup combo can devastate an opponent’s moral. Or at least skew their perception. Many times I have had a lucky opening and forced a much better opponent onto the backfoot before they can realise how much worse I am than them. Often this means taking a round off someone who I shouldn’t ever have the chance to take any rounds off!
- Yomi. i.e. reading your opponent’s mind is arguably the largest most complex part of a well designed fighting game (just read Sirlin’s linked article to understand what I mean). This requires the most amount of noodle juice (brain power) and often gets me into such a tangle that I forget which move I was trying to stop from happening in the first place and get my arse handed to me as a result. It is extremely fun once you have the skills to start to play this metagame as the depth and complexity of the game starts to surface.
I have been completely hooked into playing fighting games again now that I have rediscovered them and have started to learn about the few things I have written about in this article. If you are still on the fence about if you would enjoy a fighting game, I hope I have swayed you into trying it out or getting back into it again. I have still only scratched the surface of the whole experience and I’m thoroughly looking forward into what else I have left to discover.
(Hopefully I’ll be able to write less rambling post about the subject as well once I get more experience with SF2 and IV! :D)