(Trying) to compare Enlightenment and Sekiro, Corrupted Monk becomes a Helicopter and a look at the Riven Cave

Enlightenment and Sekiro and Deflecting: Sekiro is a game with some overt Buddhist themes and imagery, so let’s try applying a Buddhist quote to the game play. I’m going to use footage of the Corrupted Monk – in part because it’s one of my favourite boss fights, and she’s a Monk. She fits right in with this topic. A quick tangent – why isn’t she the Corrupted Nun? There are Buddhist Nun’s. The original Japanese uses the character for Monk, so there’s no mistranslation. So, yeah,

“Before one studies Zen, mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after a first glimpse into the truth of Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and waters are no longer waters; after enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters once again waters.”

Dogen Zenji.

So, how is any of that applicable to Sekiro? I guess on the surface there might not be much there. But I’ve been thinking about it more and more after I saw someone mention it in a comment section for a fighting game video. I think it can be applied in a similar manner to Sekiro.

I do love Sajam’s videos.

“Before one studies Zen, mountains are mountains and waters are waters;

When I first played Sekiro, a weapon swung towards to me was a weapon swung towards me. It was nothing more, and nothing less. I saw it coming, I hit L1 and a block came out. If I timed it right I got a deflect. In any case I reacted all the same. I stopped a weapon headed towards me. Sometimes. Sometimes I just missed it. In which case it was just a weapon hitting me. Nothing more and nothing less.

“after a first glimpse into the truth of Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and waters are no longer waters;”

The more I played Sekiro, the more I learned about it. I learned that weapons swung towards me were different. They came at different speeds and different angles. I had to pay attention to these things. Identify which attack was being used, account for me position relating to these attacks and alter my timing for each individual attack. I had to think about these things. The game became more complex, and rather than simply reacting I was thinking and processing. Sometimes this was good, sometimes it could lead to bad results – overthinking can happen.

“after enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters once again waters.”

And finally, here we are. It turns out, all along, it was always a weapon being swung at me. Nothing more and nothing less. I am still engaging with the thought processes from the second part of the quote, but it has all been internalised. I don’t think about it, I just do it. An attack comes in, and without thinking I press L1 as it needs to be. The Corrupted Monk has her attacks and combos, they all have the individual properties – but it’s of no concern. They get deflected without much thought. Because all along, she’s swinging a weapon at me, and I need to deflect it. Nothing more, nothing less. 

It’s been a wonderful journey getting to this point with the game.

She did the thing: A while back I wrote a series of posts about the Corrupted Monk. One of those posts talked about all her attacks and combos. It turns out I missed one because I confused two jump attacks. She has one that is straight jump in the air and a slam down:

And she has this one:

I knew that this move existed, but I had not seen it in so long that I mistook it for the other attacks. This attack is a much more expansive move – the Monk swings her Naginata/Nagamaki (still haven’t figured it out) in a flat arc, intent on clipping everything around her. She’ll hit Sekiro somehow. It’s one of the games most spectacular attacks – she turns into a Sengoku era helicopter for a precious few seconds. There aren’t many other attacks that have same scale or expansiveness.

I’m pretty sure it’s a move that is meant to clear players out of trees. And I think sometimes, when the player is in the air near the trees the AI thinks that a person is in the trees, and then uses tree clearing moves to get them down. Very rarely, at least for me, it picks this one. I think I’ve only seen this move 2 or 3 times (including this instance) – it’s super cool when she brings it out.

A weird obsession with Riven Cave: Riven Cave is one of the rest points in Sekiro. In all honestly there’s not much too it. It’s pretty much just a cave. A stopping off point before heading off to Bodhisattva Valley. For the vast majority of folks (I’m guessing), the Riven Cave is simply a rest point before the rest of the game unfolds, and nothing more.

I sometimes get weirdly obsessed with stuff. The Riven Cave is one of those obsessions. There a few things that got me interested. The elements of human habitation – I am fond of things human beings have left behind. There are lanterns leading up to the entrance. There’s a half ruin rope ladder hanging from a ledge – I always take a little gander at it. There are ropes hanging across the ceiling and there are some Jizo sculptures. I dig all of it.

And while it is a rest stop, it is the rest stop that comes right after being hounded by a giant snake, so it’s a good chance to get one’s bearings and regain composure, after escaping the attentions of a colossus. Right outside, there is a skeleton of a monkey. A sign of things to come. It’s a neat bit of visual story telling.

In the games story, Bodhisattva Valley is where the Sculptor and King Fisher lived and practiced. It would make sense for Riven Cave to be one of their refuges. Prior to King Fishers disappearance it is pleasant to imagine the pair of them living in this cave with one another, honing their skills and sharing each other’s company. It’s nice to think about.

Notes and Asides:

Gfycat is still not playing ball. So, no gifs. Hopefully it will work soon. Hopefully. I miss making gifs.

The Fighting Game Diaries: Me and My Friend Learn Mashing Does(n’t) Work

My friend, who has made a previous appearance on the fighting game dairies appears once more. Always cause for celebration. This time she came to my house to play fighting games, so no taking the PS4 to work. Not that that happened anyway.

This time around, owing to the extended time we had we played a whole bunch of stuff. As always Xrd Rev (2) lead off, and then we headed off to Street Fighter (a medley of Third Strike, II Turbo and one match of Alpha III). We then stopped off at Granblue Fantasy Vs. And as before, thoughts were vocalised, and things where learned.

Giving Technical Controls a go: Xrd always makes for a good start. She likes Xrd, and the stylish controls let her do a lot of stuff and have a lot of fun. This time around we did one match – she played Sol and I played Johnny. She did some mashing, did some cool combos and won the first round. I adjusted, used slash and far slash more to out space the mash and took it from there.

She has mentioned that she would like to try the technical controls. I showed her training mode and combo practice with Sol in Xrd and let her have a go. She managed to pull off Gun Flame successfully – yay! Then she got a bit bored. I mean, I do sometimes forget that these controls can be tricky for newcomers. But the fact she can pull of Gun Flame means she can do Bandit Bringer and Bandit Revolver – it’s the same quarter circle but with kick instead of punch.

One thing she did bring up – on the screen the buttons say P, K, S and HS. And D is there to. On the controller its square, cross, triangle and circle. And R1. That is a little confusing now I think about it. There is an option to switch it to the latter in the game – I might do that for next time.

Street Fighting: We then checked out Street Fighter. Thanks to the 30th Anniversary Edition, there is a whole bunch of Street Fighter games in one place. The most time was spent with Third Strike and Street Fighter II. We pretty much ran through every character in both games – I think that speaks to how much fun we had. Aside from Alpha 3. It turns out, the Alpha III character selection screen has a hidden timer. It’s frustrating for anyone who has not seen the cast before and wants to see who’s who. Although the same applies to Third Strike, except Third Strike has a visible timer. I’m not in an arcade anymore – let me take my time.

Compared to the matches in Guilty Gear, and later Granblue the matches in Street Fighter where a lot more even. I edged Third Strike. In Street Fighter II though, and this is not an exaggeration she kicked the shit out of me. I got to like 9 – 2 in her favour. I got bodied.

Getting Yun’ed.

In Third Strike my friend finally started to block with some consistency. This time I gave a more detailed explanation of blocking and how it functions – certainly more detailed than just hold back. It worked – she blocked out extended attacks – high and low. Didn’t her long to get used to it either – one or two matches and she had it. And in her mashing she managed to parry a few times as well. I managed some parries as well – by the by, parrying in Third Strike feels so good to do. She also threw me a good few times – I can’t throw people in Third Strike (I should look it up) but she can. She doesn’t know how she can but she can. She also managed, with Necro to throw me as Yun whilst I was in the middle of Gen’ei Jin. Won the match too. She’s a god.

(Gif of Hugo Super should be here – see note at the end.)

And for the first time in any game, she did supers. She hit me with Hugo’s super – the one with two 360 inputs – I can’t even do those. It was amazing – I had my own will it kill moment in my head before the final hit. And we both found out Chun Li has amazing buttons that go 17 miles – just stand in neutral and poke people to death. My friend digs supers – even when I was winning matches with them. She thinks they look cool – I agree. Super moves a pretty great – satisfying to pull off and visually pleasing. It’s a good combination.

Where I find out Chun Li has good buttons.

Thanks to Makoto I managed to pull ahead – but the whole thing was a close-run thing. My friend did say whether it was her or me she liked seeing a match end on a super. Super’s are pretty cool.

Mashers Paradise: Not Street Fighter II. Not even remotely close. A shit kicking is what it was. It’s possibly the most one sided one of these sessions have been. What was interesting about this was her reasoning for this. Now, bear in mind I’m not the best player of Street Fighter II (clearly) – so what follows is skewed by that. But also bear in mind up until this point my friend has played Strive, Xrd (Revelator and Rev 2), Third Strike and (after this) Granblue. And she is a self-admitted masher.

Paraphrasing her, she said of all those games Street Fighter II was the easiest one to play because… it rewards her mashing more than any other game. I mentioned to her that this surprised me. If you play fighting games, particularly modern ones you might be familiar with some opinions of some people who play older fighting games. They can harp on about how the new games are too simple and they can be solved by mashing. By contrast, the old games are too complex to mash – you had to precise all the time, due to the complexity, which apparently all modern fighting games have binned.

This happened a lot. Also, she discovered the joy of the double KO.

Then there’s my friend, with her limited experience mashing away to her hearts content and winning at Street Fighter II. I was trying to do spacing and all that good stuff, and she just mashed and ran me over. It was fun to see. It was a lot of fun.

Also, while I am on Street Fighter II. When people complain about Strive damage – after Street Fighter II I don’t want to hear it. I’ve never seen a throw in Strive take half a health bar. Sometimes more. There are times in Street Fighter II when even Season 1 Sol Badguy would be saying “guys, that’s too much damage. Y’all gotta turn that down.”

I think my favourite moment was when she told me – as she was crouching in the corner, and I had low health – don’t come near me – I’m going to hit you. I went near her, and she hit me low. She won. Yeah, she said she would, and she did it. And she did the same again in another match. I should have listened.    

It got to the point where I stopped recording her wins – normally I record her wins, but she was just winning so many. You love to see it.

Looking the part: And finally, we come to Granblue Fantasy Vs. For the most part this was one sided – I got out to 9 – 0 match lead. My friend was enjoying herself though (again, ran through most of the characters) and was pleased whenever there was a close round. Then came the final match. I played with Ladiva and she played with Zeta.

I forgot how much fun Granblue can be. Hooray for Rollback (when it arrives). Also, my friends corner pressure – good stuff.

Out of all our play time, I think this was the most excited and happy I heard and saw her. She was downright ecstatic at points. I think I’ve mentioned she mashes. We watched the replay back. This time around, she said there where points and moments where she looked like a fighting game player. Not someone mashing – someone playing the game. She had a combo of 12 hits – she’s down 3, 4, 5 hits – never 12! She got so excited when she saw the 12 come up – there was an audible noise of glee. Specials were happening with some consistency – fireballs, Zeta’s thrust attacks – all that good stuff. Granblue has a dedicated block button. She liked that. She had some consistent blocking. She liked that. She commented on the replay how pleased she was with some of her blocks.

You love to see it. You truly do. I’m getting a little emotional writing this. We’ve been playing for a while; she’s been trying to do more and more stuff and she saw all of that come together. She was so happy that she did that, and I was so happy for her too.

You love to see it.

Notes and Asides:

This post is launching without Gifs because Gfycat is having a moment. Once it starts working again I’ll put them in.

The Fighting Game Diaries: I did (not) climb a mountain

Last week in Strive I got to 500 wins with Baiken. I don’t know how I got there. I don’t know. 500 is a big number (relatively). I’m a little confused that I’ve made it this far. I’m a little scared. 500 is a lot, but it’s also a reminder of how far there is to go. In many ways this journey has barely begun. A mountain has been climbed. Many taller, more treacherous mountains are in the distance. I guess I should be able to climb those too (in theory – foreshadowing).

500th win. It’s pretty good.

I’ve been thinking about the journey – where and when it started, how it’s going and where and when (if) it’s going to finish. I’ve had this realisation before, but now it has become clearer. I cannot look at this like a, let’s call it a traditional sports journey. Those journey’s end with someone winning and being number one. And in some cases, unless that happens the whole thing is a failure. An unfair and harsh viewpoint, but it’s out there. In all honesty, for 99% of fighting game players (me included) – that win isn’t coming. That would be winning EVO, and I’m not saying you reading this cannot do it (go for it, why not) but odds on for most of us, it’s not happening. The skill and luck to get that far is… it’s hard to process.

The way I have to look at this journey (and sorry if this is pretentious) is akin to a Monk seeking enlightenment (wonder why I vibe with Baiken). It’s not a competition – well, it is but it’s not. It’s a quest to learn new things, be a little better than I was before and come to a realisation – whether that’s a level I’m aiming for, studying and mastering a new combo and simply learning how to counter a move. If I look at this only in terms of winning and losing – I’ll lose myself. I’ve lost so much – I went 0 – 20 Vs a Testament a few days ago (I try so hard but that match up for me is incredibly difficult) – that if I reduced this to such a binary level I’d have quit so long ago. The winning and losing is secondary to learning – about the game, the character and myself.

I should probably stop conceding so much space and start dash blocking. And timing jump in better. I can be done, but with Testament’s 6P covering an area about the size of the Pacific Ocean, it’s tricky.
That said I can get wins here and there. Still, this set ended 14 – 3 to the Testament. Still, better than 20 – 0. Also, after this I went to training, set up a Testament to 6P and spent half an hour practicing with it. Felt good.

All of that being said, as much as I try to maintain that way of thinking I can find myself slipping. I still get anxious fighting other people – both in the park and tower. It’s more pronounced in the tower but I can still feel it in the park. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the tower. I can even feel it in wins, and after successes. I suspect it’s always going to be there – something I’m going to have to deal with. To live with and to mitigate. I’m the sort of person that would be in Celestial and still I’d wonder if I’m good. I’ll never be sure of it. You can tell me I’m good, and I’m going to do my best to deflect and downplay.

On the plus side, finally didn’t fall for the raw super. Progress.

The game says I’m on floor 8 but I don’t buy it. That’s affecting me. I need to stop thinking in terms of numbers and ranks and I need to look at it sorely as that learning process. Once the numbers and ranks lose their meanings, then the anxiety should lessen. It’s just taking a while to get to that point. It’s hard – years of education and society have reinforced the idea that the higher number is better, and if you aren’t the higher number…well, that’s terrible. You should be the higher number. I need to get past it.

I know all of that makes it seems like I’m not having fun. But I am. Sort of. It’s complicated. There are times things are really enjoyable, even in the losses. I’m learning and cool stuff happens. That’s great. There are other times where from match 2 or 3 I’m cranky. I’m getting a little scrubby, then I’m flubbing inputs and then the whole thing feels like a wash out. One night this week I went 7 – 12 vs a I-no. It should have been fun. But by match 2 I was already mumbling about bullshit. It wasn’t bullshit – I wasn’t doing good. But in the moment that perspective wasn’t there and I probably, by my mentality, ruined what should have been a lot of fun. And the rest of the night was losing 38 matches whilst winning 11. That’s… not great.

I sometimes feel like I’ve peaked, and this it all I’ll ever be. An (apparently) floor 8 that gets wins here and there but nothing more. I don’t know how good or bad that is. I mean, I’ve made it further than I ever thought I would (it’s 500 wins – that’s not the worst in the world) but getting beyond feels like something else. It’s a struggle – I’m struggling. I know it – I struggle to vary my offence – I try and practice more advanced combos and stuff but I have trouble executing them and I default to my basic stuff that I can do. I hold out on defence but eventually it crumbles. A saving grace is I can beat people I’m (in theory) meant to beat. Floors 6’s and 7’s I’m normally good against – so there’s a base line. I need to figure out how to raise it.

I guess I should still celebrate doing cool stuff.

You can tell I’m focusing on the numbers. This is now a quest to escape the tyranny of numbers. Ignore the wins, ignore the losses – just keep playing the game, keep learning, don’t get too up or too down about it. It’s going to take some time. I’m going have to stop checking the win column. I’m going to have to stop getting invested in the little win loss tabs at the end of matches. I’m going to have to stop focusing on other people’s levels and progress – judge myself against myself and how I’m getting better or going to get better.

Not the cleanest, but I like the determination I showed. I should carry that forward.

To go back to the Monk and Enlightenment metaphor – for some monks that take a while to get there. In some cases 60+ years. It’s going to take a while. Hopefully not that long, but there’s going to be some adjustment. Both in terms of inputs and skill, and mind set.

Better get to it.

The Fighting Game Diaries: With(out) a little help from my friends

I don’t play video games with other people much. In person at least. Even with someone on the other end of a connection, my gaming is a mostly solitary experience. For the most part it still is. Last week though, I managed to play games with another person in the room. My friend, who is amazing (love her) is someone who I work with. She’s left for a new job, but she comes back to cover sometimes. I dig those days. Now, depending on who reads this – we came to work early so we could play on my PS4 I was bringing from home. We’ve been playing Guilty Gear. If my manager reads this – of course that has not been happening that’s a silly idea what a preposterous suggestion never ever why even suggest it. 

Anyhow we played Guilty Gear. We played both Strive and Xrd Revelator (later Rev 2). Strive first and Rev second. I knew what I was doing (to a degree – I got a long way to go still – more so in Strive than Xrd). She on the other hand had never played a fighting game before. Everything was brand new. I think in total we played for 4 – 5 hours across a few days. Seeing her play these games was a lot of fun. And I learned a few things along the way.

We mostly played Xrd Revelator and Rev 2 (went on sale at the right time). For a time, I wondered if I was being pushy and making her play these games. She said no and straight up admitted she was having a lot of fun. That was nice to hear. I suggested this in the first place because we are both feeling down. She isn’t feeling her new job at all, and I’ve been miserable since she has gone. So, I figured fighting games might help. Turns out they do.

All the matches in this post come from our last session. Unfortunately, silly me forgot to record her earlier wins (something I’m still annoyed about) but at least I got some of them.
The winning moment. Nice combo.

Flailing has its benefits, to a point: Since it was her first time playing these games, I kept things pretty simple. I talked her through the basic controls (using Baiken in training mode) – what the attacking buttons did, how to move and how to block (more on this later). I decided against explaining things like Burst and Roman Cancels – it felt like a lot to take in. And in the interest of fairness, I didn’t use those either. When it came to picking a character I said pick whoever you think looks cool and roll with it.

She’s a self-admitted masher. Turns out this helped more in Xrd (more on that later). And she switched characters a lot. All good though – we both had a lot of fun. I’ve only dealt with button mashers once before and that was in From Software PVP (mainly Dark Souls III) – turns out the counters are pretty similar. Her first character was Testament, cause Testament looks cool. I picked May – because I figured picking my main, Baiken and just bullying her would not be fun. She won with Testament – standing there mashing slash and heavy slash and I struggled to get in.

To a point. Once I got the timing down I could get in and do damage, while she couldn’t stop me doing that. I could also outspace and hit once I got that down to. I also remembered that May can throw a giant whale at people – so I did that once or twice. I tried teaching her Testaments fireballs and arbiter sign but she went back to mashing. Like in Souls PVP, if somebodies mashing let them do and catch them with pokes or let them burn themselves out. None of this stopped her enjoying it – anytime she hit me she got a kick out it. There was some trash talk. I dug it.

That being said she did beat me when I used Sin 2 -1 with Sol mainly hammering 6P. That happened.

Xrd is pretty fun. I dig it.
The winning moment. Look at that spacing for the final hit.

Things aren’t that simple: When we were playing Strive, my friend asked me how to block. I said you just hold back. She asked me what that meant – she didn’t get it. It was a sudden realisation – what might be understood by me might not be by others – particularly they are new to all of this. I’ve thought about it a fair bit since we played. Depending on what side of the screen you are on back will change direction. Also, how long would you back for? A few seconds, longer, just one? Me simply saying hold back really didn’t explain blocking. And it certainly didn’t explain blocking high and blocking low. A bad job on my part. This is something to remember for the future. A little definition will go a long way. After playing a few Strive matches, we headed off to Xrd, and found something rather cool.

I have to recognise that for everyone at some point, all of this new. Even the seemingly simplest stuff.

Stylish Controls work wonders: For all the things that can be said about Strive and its complexity (not doing that now), Strive still has controls that for brand new folks to fighting games can be a little tricky to work around. Things like quarter circles, half circles, pretzel motions – all that good stuff.

Revelator (is that a real word by the by?) and Rev 2 have two different control settings. Technical, which means moves have to inputted as standard and Stylish. What are Stylish controls? Stylish controls take out blocking – standing still makes blocking automatic and it takes out the motion inputs – just pressing buttons makes combos happen. As an example, with Johnny pressing X four times will get you a combo that ends in his That’s My Name Super – it’s pretty tight.

I’ve seen some folks online grumble about these types of controls – takes the skill out of the game, means people don’t have to learn and they should learn. I guess I can see those points of view (well, not really anymore), but when you see someone laugh and smile and get stupidly excited about all the cool stuff happening on screen, you get them. Like when my friend did so much cool shit. She was flipping and dipping with Sol Badguy doing dragon punch air combos. The best was when she played Potemkin and I played Slayer. She hit me with the Heavenly Potemkin Buster. I jumped in and she got me. Straight up. Just the coolest thing. I lost, and I was so fine with it. Heavenly Potemkin Busters are to be cherished. I dug all of it. It was so awesome seeing her excited at the cool shit happening on screen. I even started saying “damn she’s good” whenever something awesome happened.

Talking about these types of controls – they don’t stop someone from learning regular controls later on. And if people never learn regular controls? So, what… I guess? It’s folks having fun with video games. Just roll with it.

Potemkin got some big limbs.
The winning moment. Damn she’s good.

We take those: Initially,when my friend won, she would apologise and say she was just mashing and got lucky. That’s not a problem I said. You won; a win is a win. And as is said in fighting games, no matter the nature of the win, we take those. I have some incredibly scruffy and scuffed wins in Strive that while lucky, I’m taking them. And she should take her wins. If someone can’t get past the mash, that’s their problem not her’s. She got those wins, and that’s to be celebrated.

We take those.

Sol Cooldude: My friend played a fair few characters. Even though she did best with Potemkin, the one she liked the most was Sol Badguy. Two main reasons – in Sol’s intro for Xrd, he loads his weapon by flipping a bullet from his mouth – it’s incredibly cool. It’s one of the few intros she would not skip purposely. And his second name is Badguy. It counts for a lot. His name is Sol Badguy – that’s cool. And he’s not the Badguy. That makes it cooler somehow.

So yeah, I guess if she ever picks up Guilty Gear proper she’ll be a Sol main. She also thinks Johnny is cool – she has said she wants to fight cowboy hat pirate man again. In fact, she liked Sol so much that if I lost when playing as Sol she wasn’t as happy – because Sol lost.

One of the main reasons I (and now my friend) dig Guilty Gear is the characters. From the visuals, to the names, to the animations, to the voice acting – the cast of Guilty Gear is always exemplary. And characters sell fighting games – both in a financial sense and in a garnering interest sense. It’s what got me to buy Strive over other fighting games. And it’s part of what got my friend excited and having fun.

I had honestly forgotten what it’s like to have someone else in a room when playing a video game – it’s been so long. It’s an incredible stupid amount of fun. Hearing another voice – wait, you can do that? How’d you do that? Aww c’mon now! Just one more hit! – hearing laughter and happiness, just the general vibe of doing something super awesome with a friend you love. Damn it’s good. Thank you – thank you for an excellent time. It’s truly appreciated.

The Fighting Game Diaries: Things I do(n’t) like

I’ve found a lot of things to like in fighting games. There are things to dislike, but the majority has been positive. Which is sort of amazing, considering how long it took me to commit to them and how anxious I can get when fighting other people (still). But the good stuff makes it all worth it. Here are somethings I like with one thing I’m not the biggest fan of. Fighting games are tight.

Long Sets: The long set is special. Due to match limits, it doesn’t happen in ranked. I don’t think there’s a comparison in other games – due to relatively short match times a large number of matches can be fit into a session – and the one-on-one nature of fighting games – leads to deeply personal experience.

It’s magic. In a short set one player can be overwhelmed early on and the set slips away. I’ve done it – I’ve been down 2 – 0 and finally got to grips at in the third match. I’ve done it to other people – I’m sure they would have caught onto to me if there were more matches. In the long set there is the chance to adjust and come back – you can be down 3 – 0 but then find yourself 3 – 4, 3 – 5. And then that can be reversed as the other person gets used to your tendencies. It’s a constant back and forth, constant problem solving and planning – just wonderful.

What’s also magic is the wordless communication that can occur. To expand on the tendencies point – because of the amount of matches played you begin to know what the other person is going to do and vice versa. Beyond stuff that effects the match, it can lead to some funny moments – like two Baiken’s parrying at the same time. Or two Baiken’s trying to finish a match with gun shots. Or two Baiken’s…Baiken mirrors are the definition of fighting over the last brain cell – there great.

A match from the Potemkin set. The last round was highway robbery which I can only apologise for.

I had a fun long set against a Potemkin player. I got out to a 5 -2 lead, then it became 8 – 6 because they caught onto my jumping with Baiken and started catching that. Then I worked around that to take the last 2 matches. It was an exhilarating experience – pretty much unmatched in any other game I’ve played.

Stuff done in fighting games is cooler than in other games: I would like to think I have done some cool stuff in video games. Felling a boss with a certain attack, doing some pretty neat platforming, or just being stylish – stuff like that. For some reason, doing cool stuff in a fighting game feels cooler than doing it in other games. I think it has something to do with it being against a human and not an AI. Or maybe it’s the inputs required for certain combo chains. Doing something cool in a fighting game feels great.

It can be a big combo, it could be a read or just some neat spacing – getting any of those to work in a fighting game is… so damn good. Even me, with my meagre comboing – nailing a 6 hitter is just wonderful. And those rare times I get higher, boy howdy.

It ain’t much but it feels mighty good.

Getting a read maybe the best though. I’m pretty slow when it comes to these games so I don’t do it too often but when it happens, damn. Like, in this gif for some reason I knew that the Axel player was going to swing on wake up. Nothing conscious, but I must have picked it up during the set. So, I take the shot and get Baiken’s gun ready and kablamo – there it is. Damn it’s good.

The match.
Had a hunch they would swing on wake up.

Learning Stuff: In one of the previous fighting game diaries I wrote that I could not figure out comboing, beyond the basic gatlings. Cancelling moves confused me, when to cancel moves confused me and timing button presses was a mystery. The whole thing confused me.

Well, things have gotten better. I’m still not fully confident I know how the timing works – I’m just used to certain things and I’m running with that. My combo skills are still limited in comparison to other folks, but despite that I’m still very happy. Incredibly happy. I’ve worked on this. I’ve practiced this. I’ve made progress with this. Tangible progress. Here is me playing with Baiken early on against a Bridget player –

That’s some scuffed corner pressure. And now if there’s bar its straight into super, or roman cancelling to maintain pressure. It’s nice to see. It’s nice to be able to do it. There’s room for improvement, as always but from where I was, I’m feeling pretty good.

How does this tower work again?: The Tower in Strive is where ranked game play exists. The actual fighting of people is not what stresses me out the most – it’s the nature of the promotions and demotions. I still haven’t figured out how and when they happen, or when to expect them. That’s why I’m not the biggest fan of ranked right now. And it goes both ways – getting demoted quickly means I don’t have time to adjust to the new level, and the same applies to getting promoted too quickly – I’m out of my depth. I’ve been demoted after losing a single set 3 – 0 and I’ve been promoted after winning 5 in a row – it all feels too sudden. I’d rather have a cumulative situation – say, 10 wins gets a promotion, and 10 losses gets a demotion. But, it is what is and I’m going to have to roll with it. Well, not right now. I’m sick as a dog so I’m sticking to the park until I’m feeling better.

New character shenanigans: No matter what happens, I always go back to Baiken. I dig her. But I do like, on occasion taking a new character to the Park and messing around with them. This time around I’ve been using Sin Kiske. Apparently, Sin’s not the best according to tier lists and what not. He is incredibly fun to use though, he looks cool and his moves look cool. That’s enough. Also, massive props to his voice actor – the guy goes all out.

This match (and the set) wasn’t exactly high quality GGST – look at all the counter hits. Mighty fun though. I think what I like the most is how much impact Sin’s moves have – he looks and feels like he hits like a truck. An incredibly quick and heavy truck. I’m tempted to spend a little more time with him – because now I know what his supers are (that’s why I was not using supers – didn’t know them – sometimes I should do more than a quick glance at the move list). Baiken’s still the main, but Sin is a lot of fun to play as.

Beak Drriiiivvveeeeeer!!!!!!

The Fighting Game Diaries: I’m (not) the one in charge

Depending on the opponent, when I play a long set in the Park I can get found out. Sometimes that happens early, sometimes it happens near the middle. In either case, the set snowballs and I wash out. It’s brutal. It’s something for me to improve – having a more developed and nuanced offence, that can respond to change when necessary. It’s a process.

In some cases, and cases that never cease to surprise me when a set happens and I’m the one who’s watching the other person wash out. I’ve figured the opponent out and I watched them not change much at all. It’s a bizarre thing to see from the other side. I’ve had a few 5 – 0’s, two 10 – 0’s and one 20 – 0. The latter three were eye opening.

In some way it’s nice to know that despite my constant talking down of myself, I’m not the worst at this game. There are people that (as of right now at least) that I know more than, can figure out and that I am better than. It’s kind of nice. And any type of ego boost I get from this is immediately checked by fighting a level 10 in the park and getting molly womped. It all comes together.

I’m not yet used to the concept of me trouncing someone. It feels weird. I have heard that eventually, in fighting games there will be a day where you are not the nail but the hammer. I didn’t that would happen based on my experiences. I mean, I have a bunch of 3 – 0’s in the Tower but 3 – 0 isn’t that bad of beat down. It’s not 10 – 0. 10 – 0 is something else – it can still be a good experience (more on this later) but it can be terrible. I’ve had one vs a Giovanna and one vs a Chipp. Let’s talk about the Chipp one.

Chipp Zanuff is one of those characters were the difference between an inexperienced and experienced player is colossal. If you don’t know, Chipps health bar isn’t exactly robust. Despite Chipp’s best efforts, he’s never going to tank hits. Some inexperienced players won’t block, and if they cannot run Chipp’s offensive in a way that keeps him out of harm’s way it can get real bad real quick. Experienced Chipp players on the other hand have strong defence and run an offense that is hard to stop – can’t hit what you can’t see.

The Chipp player in the set didn’t do much in the way of defence. For the life of me, I could not get the Chipp player to block Baiken’s 2HS consistently, no matter how hard I tried. It eventually got to the point I just wanted them to block it, even semi-consistently. Blocking that move is a good idea – it’s good to counter against. If it’s not followed with a tatami (not always guaranteed safety, but works a lot of the time), it leaves Baiken incredibly vulnerable. At this time, I was not always following up 2HS with tatami, so there would have been opportunities for counter hits. They maybe, blocked it 3 times. In a 10-match set. It was surreal after a while. Just kept on hitting.

The end of the set sticks with me. The Chipp player went for a massive super – except it was raw and I stood there with Baiken, blocked it, and wrapped up 10 – 0 kicking Chipp in the shin. An extravagant super, casually blocked, hit with a 2K and Chipp just slumps to the floor. It felt a little sad.

The 20 – 0 set (against a Bridget) was a little different to the Chipp set. While it was similarly one sided, the Bridget player did learn something. Through the course of this set, I had set myself a goal of after hitting jumping slash hit yozansen – it’s a guaranteed combo I don’t do nearly often enough and when I do my execution is spotty. So, I took to the air more than a few times. I kept on trying to do the combo. Eventually, I stopped getting chances to practice my move. Because the Bridget player, despite the lop-sided score figured out how to anti-air me. They learned something as the match developed. That’s awesome. That’s great.

So, while I did not get to freely practice my jumping slash yosanzen I did get to practice something else. I got to practice going into Supers. I’m bad at going into super from hits, I’m bad at Super’ing at what seem to be random moments, I’m bad with supers. It goes a long way towards explaining why I get caught out by people doing wake up super or a super out of the blue – I’m bad at doing it so I cannot see when other people are doing it to me. So, at some point in the Bridget set I decided to try and do supers outside of where I thought they should be done – not just at the end of huge combos or just for wall breaks. It turns out I can do this. I did it twice – but that’s more than I’ve done it before – progress.

The two I managed to hit where one off a 2D. I forced that one. I saw a Japanese player do it once (a player called Koto, I know nothing more about them than that – they are my favourite Baiken to watch) I charged in with the intent of hitting 2D and trying to super off it. Hence the counter hit. Super happy to pull it off.

The other one was from a close slash into 2S. I didn’t even know if it would work – figured I’d send it and see what happened. I was pleasantly surprised.

Getting all these wins… it’s a mixed bag. Winning does feel good – particularly after a run of bad form. After a bunch of losses, I’ll take some wins. But, fighting against someone who is more inexperienced, and that inexperience shows gets a little old (I’m aware of how not good I am, and I am saying this – I’ve been the inexperienced person in this scenario – I apologise for hypocrisy). I normally call those sets at 10, the Bridget one went to 20 because they kept on going and they were learning. In the Chipp set – nothing was changing. It gets a little old to pull the same thing off over and over again – I should have tried new stuff. It gets to the point I want competition. No matter how anxious I get when fighting people of my level and above (350 wins later – it’s still a little scary) I want to do it. That’s where the fun is. I lost to a Sol 10 – 5 and it was way more fun and exciting. Winning alone does not make fun. Winning with learning and competition – that’s were it’s at. Hell, learning and competition alone have value. A lost set where something new is learned can be more valuable than a winning set.

Notes and Asides:

My character level with Baiken (as of 05/02/2023) is 84. I remember at some point (about level 80) getting stressed about my level. I could see floor 10 folks on level 50, 60 and I felt terrible. How can I be that bad? I was languishing on floors 6 and 7 (floor 6.5 honestly). Then I fought the Chipp player. No offence to them – but seeing them being level 65 and being on floor 2 was like – you know what, I’m not that bad. Now I’m not concerned – this is my own journey and my own progress – the character level will take care of itself. But, like how can you be level 65 and floor 2? Tons of time spent in the park?

That being said, my first 30 levels with Baiken were gained by me wandering into the park, finding a level 1,000 Faust and losing 30 – 0. If I would have gone to the tower like a normal person and fought equal levelled players I’d probably be around the 50 level. Think I answered my own question about levels there. Ah well. All part of the journey. In retrospect I don’t mind it – I learned how to respond to losses a lot better.

Watching Third Strike

Like a lot of fans of Third Strike, I’ve barely played it. I do love watching the game though. The two fighting games that get most of my viewing time are Guilty Gear Strive and Third Strike. I play Strive the most, I like watching Strive and it’s always fun to see what the best players are doing. My only means of playing Third Strike is on the 30th Anniversary Edition and the netcode there is not the best. I’m think I’m being kind there. The offline options aren’t great. There’s training mode, arcade mode and that’s it. There is a versus option, but that’s limited to PVP. There is no ability to fight an AI opponent in a one-off fight. Now, I’m not a game developer so I don’t want to say if that would have been hard to put it but I’m pretty sure other fight games in 2018 had that option. So, that means a whole lot of watching.

The extent of my Third Strike skill… in training mode.
I can also do a Raging Demon. Not well camoflauged, but I can do it.

Luckily for me, there is YouTube channel called Gamer Newton. It’s a Japanese arcade that uploads it’s tournaments and special matches. Every Wednesday there is a one on one Third Strike Tournament – makes for good viewing after work. Occasionally there are first tens – these can either be incredibly close or train wrecks – both are fun for different reasons.

This weeks tournament. Fun stuff.

Third Strike is one of those games where I will go out of my way to watch it. It’s a special game. Even though I don’t play it a lot, when I do mess around on training mode I can tell how good it is. Everything is clean and responsive – it controls super nice.

My watching of Third Strike is not rooted in nostalgia. I know this because I have no nostalgia for Third Strike – it was never a childhood/teenagehood game of mine. The Street Fighter I have memories of is Alpha 3 and I don’t seek it out. I watch for a bit if YouTube throws up a recommendation but nothing much else and never for that long. The earliest memory I have of Third Strike is watching Evo Moment 37 (me and whole bunch of people) – I can’t remember when I saw it, and it did not lead to an instant Third Strike interest, awesome as it is.

This is a fun one to watch.

Parrying could get me interested though. After playing Sekiro. All roads lead to Sekiro for me. As a comparison, most parries in I’ve seen in fighting games are like those in say, Ghost of Tsushima – a big one-off moment where the game slows down. Third Strike’s parry operates more like Sekiro’s – truthfully Sekiro’s parry would be more like Third Strike – seamless and flowing into other moments. There is a little bit of hit stun and a sound that goes off but otherwise parries slip right into the next action. It makes for wonderful, flowing fights that I have not seen much of in other fighting games. Just look at the Daigo parry – parry after parry after parry – only ending after the super has finished. Consecutive parries are the best.

Historical significance.

Please bear in mind all of the following observations are based off watching the game. If I played the game more, perhaps things would change. They are based on the reputation of Third Strike (I guess older fighting games in general) in comparison to modern fighting games. More particularly, the criticisms that get levelled at modern fighting games, where sometimes, older fighting games get a more favourable looking at.

This video that got me to pay more attention to older games and how they work.

As a player Strive, I have read numerous comments regarding the damage in the game. The damage is too much, the damage is too high, makes the game too easy. These comments aren’t hard to find. I’ve since learned these comments are applied to a lot of modern fighting games. The damage is high across the board apparently. Now, not everyone in Third Strike has that sort of damage. But there are definitely characters on the roster that can do Strive damage. Hi Makoto. Hi Dudley. Hello Chun Li. And Urien. And Yun. And Gouki (read: Akuma). Okay there’s a few of them. Watching Makoto delete a health bar in 10 seconds is something to behold. Sometimes without a super even.

The games in the Street Fighter series are supposedly the pinnacle of footies, with Third Strike being right up there. Until Makoto launches herself halfway across the screen to punch your character straight in the sternum. That’s not counting Yun doing the same thing. That’s not counting Gouki (read: Akuma) teleporting across the screen. Or Urien doing full screen shoulder charges. Or Tatsu’s launching people like helicopters. All hail EX magic. Not bad for an honest based footsies game.

More one on one tournament action.

Finally, the balance of Third Strike in terms of characters. There are the have nots (Sean and 12) and the haves (Chun Li, Yun and Urien passed on my observations) and still have a lots but not everything (most people who aren’t Sean and 12) – people playing Sean and 12 have to work twice as hard as the middle group, and almost four times as hard as the top group. That being said when either of those two win, it’s pretty cool. But, when there’s a tournament and a Chun Li or Yun turns out, perhaps put some money on them being there at the end, or there abouts. I know in tier lists Urien never makes the top but based on what I’ve seen a well-played Urien in Third Strike is a particularly terrifying opponent. The mirror damage stacks up quickly. Chun Li matches are funny though. They start off as fun, free experiences. Then Chun Li gets a bar and then the fight suddenly becomes a terrifying game of don’t get kicked in the shin. Or chest. Or head. Or anywhere really. Chun Li can go into super from a whole bunch of hits. Chun Li’s Houyoku Sen (the multiple kicks) does so much damage, it’s particularly dangerous. If she makes it to the second round with two bars of meter – good luck I guess.

This is worth watching – but that in itself is a spoiler. If this fight goes as it normally would, it should be incredibly onesided – for the first part it is. Then the magic happens.

I don’t hold any of that against the game. The more I’ve played fighting games and watched them I’ve realised that from any time and any era, all fighting games have bullshit. The degree of bullshit differs from game to game, but its there. High damage has always been there, lopsided rosters have always been there and honest footsies have probably never been and never will be. Accepting all of this and rolling with it has been… a liberating experience. Might as revel in the shared experience of fighting games rather than pretending some are purer than others. Helps to make the game fun.


Beating someone with bullshit is fun. Triumphing against the bullshit is fun. It’s all fun. One day you’re the one being bullshitted, and one day you’re the bullshitter. These things go in cycles – the circle of life in every fighting game. Celebrate it – it’s beautiful.

The Fighting Game Diaries: It’s (not) the little things

While learning a fighting game, there will be pitfalls – like learning anything. These can be mastering a new move or combo, struggling against a character or player – a whole bunch of stuff. Sometimes these pitfalls end up being pretty deep. The sort of deep that induces the wondering of “what if I can’t do this?”, “is this beyond me?”, “what am I meant to do?”. It’s a dark place. It’s a little lonely, and a little scary. In some cases, downright terrifying (it can be applied to things other than video games). In that place I find myself clinging to anything positive, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

All of that is to say during my time with Strive I have been inside my head a good few times. But, I have, as of late accomplished a few things that I had done before. I have been trying to do. In some cases, I have not done things I have been trying to do – but I have been trying them. And that’s fine. The first step to doing is trying. With that there will be failing. I gotta keep trying. It’s all progress – no matter how small each individual step is.

I have finally made myself use the roman cancel system. I somehow gained over 200 wins while ignoring them. Well, ignoring is the wrong word. Forgetting they are there would be more appropriate. But I played enough people who are good at the game, and I realised they have to be used to unlock higher level stuff. Spending so much time not using them means I do have make myself do it. Sometimes that means saying it out loud. Recently, I managed to get a good one. Well, for me. I got a Faust in the corner and did a simple Baiken combo – close slash, heavy slash, kabari and follow up. A nice four hitter. However, this time I roman cancelled after the kabari follow up. Faust hung in the air, I got two or three more hits, the wall splat, and Fust went through the wall. I was very excited. It came after a rank down also – and I still enjoyed it. That might be the best part. Rank downs normally get me feeling cranky – here I got on with it and learned something new. That’s almost as much progress as the mechanical progress in the game.

I dig this.

I also managed to roman cancel, run under someone and then hit them back across to the other side I’d never managed it before, and I managed it here. Again, super excited.

Not massively impressive – but I’m trying new stuff and getting better her and there. I’ll take it.

I mean, I have messed up a few times. A roman cancel in the middle of nowhere, a roman cancel at the wrong time or a missed roman cancel. But the more I try the more I chance I have of improving with the system. It’s all good.

I made improvements in the combo department. It’s not like watching a master (not even close), but now I can actually string attacks together. It started in training mode and eventually it bled into matches. Right now, I have only 2 or 3 combo routes, none of them are aerial so there is lots of work to be done. But I can now string attacks together in a way I could not before. It feels pretty good. Much work to be done, but the work done so far feels pretty good.

In retrospect I could have cancelled after the kabari follow up – but progress is progress. Initally I would do slash – slash – far slash and that was that.

I have also incorporated punching and kicking more into my offence. I used to depend a lot on the slash buttons – I put that down to being a Souls player and seeing that Baiken has a sword, let’s use the sword a lot! But now I have been using punches and kicks. Mainly punches. It can help to get out of a jam, where a slash would take too long to warm up. However, I have encountered another problem – turns out punch can be mashed. I sometimes mash. A lot. It gets me out of a jam, but it means I can’t combo off it, and I am probably in another jam not long after. Something else to work on.

All of these little bits of progress did result in me getting back to floor 8 after a cycle of 7 – 6 – 7 – 6- 7 – 6 (repeat as necessary). Which should be good. Right? Progress is good. However, I know what happens when I fight 9 and 10’s in the park. It’s pretty obvious which of us is the floor 8 (or 7, or 6 – there’s a chance I’ll be back down there) and who isn’t. I can make a decent start, but then I get overwhelmed, my inputs get sloppy and it’s not hard to watch a set snowball to 0 – 5 and worse. Occasionally I sneak a win here and there – I went 3 – 5 in Baiken mirror match with a floor 9, which is okay but that’s the best it’s gotten.

Not many people read this blog. I mainly write these posts because I like writing. It’s a good place to express myself and my thoughts. Honestly, it scares me seeing how far away I am from the 9’s and the 10’s. Never mind the Celestials. It scares me because of how good they are, and it scares me because I don’t think I know (right now) how to get that good. I mean it shouldn’t – because it’s a video game, and that’s low on the list of things to be anxious about – but I know I feel it. I watch YouTube videos of people who are good at the game, and sometimes it feels like we are playing different games. It’s not just the mechanical skill – it’s the mental game. Knowing what’s coming, setting things up, conditioning someone – it’s so much more than I am capable of (right now).

That’s not counting the characters I struggle with (Hello Nagoriyuki, Ramlethal, Testament (post patch – we playing Ikaruga now) and Leo!) – all common at the higher levels.

I love Strive’s Soundtrack.

I guess all I can do is keep pushing on and figure this stuff out. And cling on to all the bits of progress I make.  Never stop just go – don’t care how many more scars I get. That’s cheesy I know but damn it, Ky’s theme is so good. And thematic for the post – I think it works.

The Fighting Game Diaries: I’m (Not) Having Fun

This blog is fast becoming the Strive blog. I’m meant to be doing the end of year list and all of that, but I keep playing Strive and I want to continue writing about Strive, so here we are. I’m still playing in the Tower with Baiken, and when I go to the Park I’m messing around with different characters. Let’s start with the Tower.

When I last talked about the Tower I had got to the eighth floor, which I thought was too high for me, and I had got a bit lucky. I think I was right as after that I went down to seven, and then down to six before returning to seven and then going back down to six before returning to seven. All of this is to say that I have plateaued.

I’m going to focus on the final fall from and return to seven. Because it encompasses the whole process. I got off to a good start – won like 7 out of 9 or something like that. Then I went on a skid and before I knew it I was on the verge of being demoted. And then I chose to fight a Nagoriyuki – good job me.

Back to six. After fighting another Baiken who was far, far better than me I wallowed for a bit. Then I did something – I got on with it. Yes, I’m back at six. But moping about being at six was not going to solve anything at all. I know that I can get past floor six so let’s do it. Again, I went on a tear and this time, I saw it through. I got the promotion and since then I’ve been thinking about what to do next. Bouncing between six and seven isn’t something I want to keep doing. Eventually, I would like to advance. So, what to do?

I do want to focus on the good thing – I encountered a setback, and I overcame it. That’s good – while I’m not where I want to be I did make sure that I did not moan and bitch and say so and so match up needs nerfing – I got on with it and achieved something. Good stuff.

Now though? I suspect it’s time to hit the replay booth and look at those matches that got me sent down. What went wrong? What didn’t I do? What should I have done? Where am I deficient? What did the opponent do that I did not counter? In the midst of this I should also point out things I do well – some positivity in what will be a sea of negativity won’t go amiss. I also think I’ll need to take notes – it’s going to be hard remembering everything otherwise.

I do want to reinforce that I am having fun amidst all of this. Learning new things and overcoming new challenges is fun. And when I do get better, all of this will have contributed to this.

Let’s head off to the park. Whenever I try a new character in Strive, I go to the park and start pressing buttons. I do take a look at the move list, but I try to get right in there and see what it feels like to fight people. I’ve done this with Baiken (now my main), Testament (only once but fun), Potemkin (didn’t go great, admittedly) Goldlewis Dickinson (lots of losing but fun – nailing a Behemoth Typhoon is one of gamings great satisfactions) and Bridget. Let’s focus on Bridget.

Bridget (level 1) fought a level 82 Testament (1 – 10), a level 72 Axel (3 – 8) and a level 32 Baiken (5 – 2) in one session. After this I went to bed. Except I could not sleep. Not because of anything bad, because I was so excited about playing as Bridget. It’s a long time since a game made me feel like that – so excited I could not sleep. Even running a bare bones Bridget move set was a blast.

A few days later I played against a level 1 Ramlethal and went 5 – 0. I’m pretty sure the other person was brand new – a level 1, floor 5 no badges. It was weird being the one in the park who was in control and winning. And seeing mistakes that I used to (okay, still do from time to time) make. Mashing on wake up, trying to mash out of pressure – when Bridget’s Yo-yo is shooting from two miles away that is tricky. Getting caught from the air a lot – seeing that stuff from the other side was eye opening. I hope that person keeps playing – the journey is rewarding, and towards the end of the set (I had to leave for Christmas dinner), they were picking up on stuff.

After glancing at the move set before I did all of this, and what I remembered over time were the basics (normals and command normals). In addition, I remembered how to throw the yo-yo forwards and upwards – I forgot which did damage on the way out and the way in though. Beyond that, I forgot how to Blanka ball. I forgot to Kick Start my Heart. At least consistently. It came out every once in a while. I forgot both Supers. I forgot to Dragon Punch. I essentially forgot most things aside from the basics. And I still had fun, and considering who I was up against, managed to sneak in wins and close rounds.

Bridget is different from Baiken in a lot of ways, both mechanically and stylistically. Bridget’s attack range is much longer than that of Baiken – Kabari can only dream of having the range of Bridget’s Yo-yo. Bridget (gender dysphoria crisis aside) is much more easier going than Baiken. Just look at the idle animations – Bridget’s vibing. Pure vibing. Baiken is forward facing, constantly expecting a scuffle. It’s fun seeing the difference between them – I’ve not got a proper second character, but I’m digging Bridget more and more. She feels like a good complement to Baiken. Also has an absolute banger of a song. That counts for a lot.

Also, her butt slam attack is hilarious.

The Fighting Game Diaries: There is (n’t) more to this than Fighting

The main reason people play fighting games is the fighting. I don’t think that is up for debate. When people talk about fighting games they talk about the hits, the combos, the special moves, in some cases the neutral and blocking. How often though has a fighting game conversation gone to “yeah, but how good is so and so’s theme”. Because, as good as the fighting can be, a fighting game that lingers in the memory has an excellent soundtrack, memorable artwork and characters – that final one maybe the most important.

Messing around with Goldlewis Dickinson – been a lot of fun. Lots of losing, but lots of fun. I lost this set 5 – 2, but I got this moment out of it.

For the majority of this post I will be focusing on Guilty Gear Strive and Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike because I dig those two games. I’m pretty sure everyone who plays fighting games has their own favourites based on music, art and other things.

Love the moon and the clouds. While this is the fighting part of the game look at the animation quality – so good. And the art work, and art direction and – everything. Everything is so good.

An Ensemble Effort

Perhaps the biggest reason I gravitated to Guilty Gear Strive was the characters. I toyed with playing other fighting games but I kept coming back to Strive – in large part because of the characters. It is a hard task to find a more memorable and brilliant group of characters. Each character is incredibly illustrated, astoundingly animated and there are just amazing. That’s a lot of superlatives but the Arc System Works art team has to be working out of their skulls.  Every character looks amazing in motion that it can hard to pick a main – every one looks that damn good.

I think this applies to all fighting game series that have endured. The legacies of Street Fighter, Tekken and Mortal Kombat are enshrined in large part because of their respective casts of characters. And as much as my Guilty Gear experience is mainly with Strive, I know from watching people play the older games, the early games also had wonderful casts of characters – some of those have characters have lasted, others are awaiting a second chance (Kliff looks pretty cool – but he’s canonically dead, so that’s a roadblock).

It’s probably a tough ask for fighting games to last without a strong cast of characters. Hi Marvel Infinite.

All the Worlds a Stage

Fights don’t take place in a void (unless we count training stages.) There is a background, an arena – a backdrop that catches the eye, has a little something going on. This backdrop can become a favourite – either by the quality of the artwork or the feelings it inspires. Two stages that I dig are Makoto’s Dojo from Third Strike, and Lap of the Kami from Strive.

The Dojo gives me feelings of nostalgia. It makes me imagine the place at 6.30am, where I’m outside sweeping the ground as the sun rises. I’ve never done that, but I get such a warm fuzzy feeling from looking at it. One of my favourite things about the stage is what cannot normally be seen. This is the case for a few Third Strike stages. To see the entire background what you need is a character that has a super that launches both characters sky high. Akuma has one, so I ran with him. Ryu also has one. Doing this on the Dojo reveals the Dojo’s beautifully illustrated thatch roof, and the rolling hills blanketed with trees it is built in front of. I love those hills – being in Japan and being of trains meant I saw a lot of hills like that. It evokes happy memories.

Noticing the little details on Third Strike stages is a fun game in a game. On Akuma’s stage, it took a me good bit of time to find the blinking owl. On Chun-Li’s stage there is a little sparrow that dances on the tables. There are others – I have fun spotting them.

The Lap of the Kami arrived with Baiken’s DLC release. Strive stages are cool because there is three parts to them – because of the wall break mechanic stages move to different places. The three parts to the Lap of the Kami are the first part which is a grand gate and bridge. The other two parts are a forest of maple trees and digital torii gates where computerized foxes frolic, and a cliff top overlooking a temple. I dig all of this.

My favourite part is the forest. It’s a unique coming together of ancient Japanese religion and modern technology. It reminds me of Richard Brautigan’s poem, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, and anytime anything reminds me of Richard Brautigan that’s cool.

It is worth noting there is a bunch of stages I like. Particularly the Buddhist District – giant rocket Buddha ships taking off is a sight to take in.

Buddhas rocket ships – I’d like to see those one day.

One last point – even though I have never played it and may never play it I would be remiss if I did not mention the stage artwork from King of the Fighters XIII. That games artwork is outstanding throughout – legendarily so but the stages are something else. The two that I’m partial to are the one with the elephants, and the Japanese Parade – both have so much going on, so many details, so much movement – they are mesmerizing works. 

Max encounters both of these stages on his KOF XIII play through.

The Sound of Music

This topic should perhaps be higher up. Fighting games and their music is a storied relationship. As much as game play trumps all, finding a great fighting game that doesn’t come with a beloved soundtrack seems like a tough ask.

It’s a running joke that each entry in the Guilty Gear series is half fighting game and half stealth album release. It’s great at being both. Guilty Gear has the sort of music that can convince someone to main a character based on that alone. Hell, it can convince people to buy the game based on the music alone. Part of the reason I ran with Baiken was her theme. Although going by that logic Zato main. Or a Goldlewis main. Or a Bridget main – you get the idea.

Music has always been a part of Street Fighter – the reverence for Guile’s theme continues to this day – even from folks that have not played a Street Fighter game. Hell, I don’t have many childhood memories of Street Fighter II and Guile’s theme still hits something inside of me. The music in Third Strike though – that’s something else. As someone who is not musically inclined, I can’t talk about it too technically but it’s clear there a whole bunch of influences from outside of video games – hip hop and jazz to account for two of them – that give it a different flavour.

Picking a theme from Third Strike, I think I’ll go with Akuma’s theme. But could easily go with Ryu’s theme, or Elena’s theme or you get the picture. Third Strike got a lot of good music.

Assorted Bits – Things I could not fit anywhere else

All fighting games have announcers – for round start, round finish and all that good stuff – the Third Strike announcer stands out. Round introductions hit different when it’s Enter the heat of battle… go for it. The announcer has plenty of great lines, but when a Perfect Round happens, I love hearing “All right that’s cool.”

Strive has a whole bunch of text on the screen at round start.

“The character you’ve chosen is brimming with countless possibility. Your input breathes life into the character and leads you to victory. If you put on your best performance, the character will definitely answer back in kind.”


“Are you ready? The battle with the opponent before you is about to start. However, there is nothing to fear. Have hope. As long as you move accordingly and without hesitation, it will bring you favourable results. Believe in victory.”

These pieces of text encapsulate everything that is so amazing about these games. Wonderful bits of writing.