(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!!!!!!

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.

Trails of blood in Sekiro and wondering about Monster Hunter style weapon swapping in Soulsborne

Blood Splatter

There’s a lot of blood in Sekiro. For the most part it’s inside of people. But there are times it will shoot out of them as a high-pressure jet stream and leaves a nice red stain where it lands. It’s an homage to old pulpy Samurai films that Sekiro takes some of its inspiration from. This video from Polygon does an excellent job of explaining this. (I should start watching Chambara.)

One night, while fighting Genichiro for what felt like the 200th time – still an absolute banger of a boss fight – I noticed the blood on the floor. And on the doors. Sometimes there is blood on the ceiling – Sakura Dance is responsible for that. I’ve noticed the blood before, but this was the first time that I realised I could track the progress of the fight by the blood on the ground. Like a Sengoku-era police procedural. It’s a fun way of looking back at the fight just happened, and how and when parts of it transpired.

The fight in question. The fight started in the middle of the arena. That’s where Genichiro tried to rush down Sekiro. Genichiro was then pushed into a corner – hence the blood splatter on the door. The third phase started and Genichiro got pinned down just off the centre of the arena, and that is where he fell. You can see the push and pull of a fight, the give and take solely from the blood stains on the floor. That’s pretty cool.

Violent business

RPG Lite

Recently, the Bloodborne to PC rumour reared up – last year or last week, sometime – it comes up a lot. It amounted to nothing. Again. Maybe one day the PC dream will happen. Regarding a possible Bloodborne port, DangitJM made a video about how a simple port for Bloodborne would not be enough. It’s a long video but it’s worth a watch.

Of all the video, the bit that interested me the most was the discussion regarding Bloodborne’s RPG systems and would the game benefit from those not being in the game, ala Sekiro. It’s an interesting idea, and it made me remember an old idea had about From Software games and weapons and builds – what if it was more like Monster Hunter?

Some people did get cranky about this – if you rip out the RPG mechanics the variety would go with it is what was said. Which in Sekiro’s case is true – but you can do away with stats and still have different builds.

Using weapons in From Software games – Sekiro aside – is governed by stats. Weapons have statistical requirements that have to be met. As an example, the Cross Naginata in Elden Ring requires 16 Strength and 20 Dexterity to use. If those stats aren’t met, the weapon cannot be used effectively. If you were to stumble upon this weapon and not have those stats, to use it there would have be a re-spec.

Better have the stats for that

At least there is the option of that – Dark Souls and Bloodborne don’t have re-spec options – if you found a new weapon and the build was finished, make a new character or grind for new stats in a NG plus play through. Bloodborne was particularly rough for this – Dark Souls 3 and Elden Ring at least let you use the weapon to see how it feels. You can’t even hold weapons you don’t have the stats for in Bloodborne. It’s a little annoying. You could hold them in Dark Souls but you could not use them – they would bounce off enemies. Also a little annoying.

In Monster Hunter, while you need parts to make weapons you are free to switch between weapon types freely. There’s always a basic model which takes no effort to make. If your character is a Switch Axe user, and they suddenly want to run with Longsword they can. They can pick up a Longsword and use it – combos and everything. It probably won’t be the strongest model – all the parts would have been diverted to Switch Axes – but there’s no need to re-spec or start a new play through. Might need to shift around a few charms though.

Having fun.

As to how it would work in a Souls context – (at least in my head) – there would still be stats, only three of them – health, stamina and a magic meter. All of the weapons would simply upgrade as per usual with titanite (or game equivalent) – except weapons would be interchangeable. All the damage and damage type would come from the weapons themselves – certain weapons would do strength damage, magic damage – you get the idea. I guess staffs, staves and incantation tools could be equipped with spells – like different ammo for a bow gun.

These gifs don’t really need to be here – I’m just having fun remembering Monster Hunter combat

Aside from the how it would work, the why is a little more complicated. I did this was a half-baked idea. As far as I know (bearing in mind I’ve only played World), people don’t make multiple characters in Monster Hunter. You make one character and switch weapons as and when. In part because monsters are hunted as and when. You can hunt the same monster over and over again. Whereas in Souls titles, a boss stays dead – so switching weapons doesn’t have the same effect.

I should play Monster hunter again

That being said… I would like to see a Souls like where weapon switching wasn’t so tied to stats. As a one off at least. Just want to see how it would play out.

Baiken and Sekiro and their similarities

I have been continuing my efforts with Strive and continuing to play with Baiken. There are a few reasons to like Baiken, one of those being her similarities with the main character of my favourite game, Sekiro. There are a few surface level similarities – they both use a Katana, for example – but the more I thought about it, the more I realised there are some similarities between the characters that went a little deeper. It makes me appreciate the two of them even more.

They both lost an arm and have weapons associated with that: Sekiro loses his arm not long into the game. However the first encounter with Genichiro ends, his arm will be separated from his body. Not long after this the Sculptor finds and rescues Sekiro, providing him with a prosthetic arm. Baiken also has a missing arm, lost during an attack on her home village (more on that later).

Both Baiken and Sekiro adapt to this and use it for offence. Sekiro’s prosthetic, as well as having a grapple hook can be outfitted with many different offensive tools. 10 in total, with three being equipped at any given time. Baiken makes do with missing an arm by equipping a bunch of hidden weapons where the arm used to be. She has a gun, a cannon, two types of chains and a fan sword. That’s a lot of stuff.

While Sekiro never uses his grapple hook in the manner that Baiken uses Kabari, he can use a spear in a similar manner, at least on smaller enemies. He can grapple hook towards bigger enemies though. And while Sekiro doesn’t have a gun like Baiken, he does have a flame barrel, which is a little similar. Both Baiken and Sekiro have a fan styled weapon – Baiken with the Ryosanzen, and Sekiro with the Umbrellas. Both are extremely effective.

They both have a life event that gave them PTSD: Sekiro the game begins with Sekiro the character stuck in hole, both metaphorically and literally. He has been captured and in being held prisoner… in a hole. His confidence is shot to pieces, in addition to his combat prowess being the lowest it could be (his fumbling of his sword in the Genichiro cutscene). All of this goes back to Sekiro being betrayed and being stabbed in the back by his Foster Father and left for dead. A portion of the game is Sekiro dealing with and overcoming this, climaxing with the fight against Owl Father in the Hirata Estate memory. While we are here, Sekiro’s upbringing is also incredibly tragic. He’s an orphan, and the from the opening cutscene it seems Sekiro wanders battlefields in order to collect swords, probably to sell them. A battlefield is no place for a child – he must have been exposed to some utterly horrific sights, sounds and smells. His Foster Father, Owl’s parenting skills are also… terrible. Neglect and abuse where his calling cards. It’s beautiful when Sekiro finally fells him.

An impressive video essay that talks about Sekiro and his PTSD. Pretty long (about 35 minutes) but worth a watch if the time can be spared.

Baiken lost both her arm and her eye (Sekiro has two working eyes so has that going for him) in an attack on her home. She also lost her family and friends, making her an orphan (that’s another similarity.) Baiken then spends the majority of her life looking for revenge against the perpetrator of the attack. Having done some reading about the Guilty Gear story, and Baiken’s place within that story, it appears that it is only around Xrd (the game before Strive) that Baiken’s personality begins to mellow – in Baiken terms. Prior to Xrd, it’s debateable if she is even a functional human being. Her one friend… person she tolerates is Anji Mito. Otherwise, she struggles (or doesn’t want to) to form anything resembling a friendship or a relationship. Everything is focused on revenge. It’s only Anji who can get through to her, and it’s only with Anji she will have extended conversations. And again, sometimes that’s grudgingly. Everyone else is ignored in favour of getting her vengeance. Xrd sees her relax a little (only a little) before she gets a new perspective in Strive. And that takes a little while, and a little help from Anji. 

Both of them are Buddhists: Sekiro the game takes places in Sengoku Japan, where Buddhism would have been the dominant religion. The dominant religion in Ashina is Buddhism, headed up by Senpou Temple on mount Kongou. Sekiro being a Buddhist is more a formality than anything else. Also, when he rests at a Sculptors Idol he does a Buddhist prayer gesture. It would seem, based on Senpou Temple Shingon Buddhism is the Buddhism practiced in Ashina.

Baiken in Strive has a few connections to Buddhism. Her theme, Mirror of the World has the Buddhist Chant the Mantra of Light weaved into it. It is also known as the Mantra of the Unfailing Rope Snare – a perfect choice for Baiken. Incidentally, the mantra is used by Shingon Buddhism.

Baiken, in her pre-match quotes says a whole bunch of Buddhist stuff. Also, Baiken’s default stage is the Seventh Heaven District – with all the Buddhist Rocket Ships. I think that counts for something.

They both get a change of perspective thanks to children: In Sekiro’s case it’s two children. One is Kuro, the lord he is sworn to protect, and the other is the Divine Child of Rejuvenation, the remaining child of the experiments at Senpou Temple. Kuro, in addition to giving Sekiro something to strive for – curing his immortality – also teaches Sekiro a few life lessons. He teaches him to cook rice properly as an example – something Owl never bothered with. The Divine Child, as well as guiding Sekiro through the process of making sure that he and Kuro make it out of this alive, also gets out of Sekiro one of his first, honest human interactions. The Divine Child gets sick at one point, and Sekiro asks if she is all right and if she needs anything. Sekiro when talking to people isn’t particularly conversational – talking is difficult. I guess having the one strong relationship in your life end in betrayal doesn’t bode well for making connections with other people. In this instance though, he makes a breakthrough, and it’s great to see.

Baiken, in Strive’s second story mode is given a child to take care of by Anji – in his forever quest to keep Baiken from utterly ruining her life – and she reacts as Baiken does. Anji calls the child a mirror. The child in question is Delilah, the sister of character from Xrd, called Bedman. Bedman was killed by the same person who raided Baiken’s village and Delilah is aiming for the same thing as Baiken. Delilah gets stuck in a situation where in a quest for vengeance innocent lives are at stake, and when helping to resolve this, Baiken realises why Anji calls the child a mirror. Baiken sees that if Delilah keeps this up, not only are other people effected, but Delilah herself won’t have a life. There will be no friends, no family, no experiences. Just a lot of anger and a lot of sorrow. And in that moment Baiken decides to rather than push on with this, she’s going to be there for Delilah, and help to give her the life that Baiken didn’t have. Everything coming full circle. 

They both have an alternative ending that sees them lose themselves: There are four endings in Sekiro. Two would be classed as good endings (give or take), one is the cycle continues ending and the last one is the bad ending. Sekiro sides with his foster father, becoming a Shura – a being who kills for the sake of killing, insatiably so – resulting in a genocide. The DLC brought a new skin that shows Sekiro in this state, as well as a poem that recites his reign of terror. It’s a far cry from the Shinobi that does anything and everything to save his lord.

Older Guilty Gear games had arcade modes with different paths. In Accent Core Plus R, Baiken has two paths. One ending sees her wandering around with Anji and the other ending sees her turn into a serial killer. The second ending plays out what would happen if Baiken ever slipped. She’s been on the cusp for a while, and her hunt for revenge sees her torture a character to death for information. This awakens something in Baiken, and at a later date Ky Kiske tries to apprehend her, only for a crazed Baiken to force a fight to the death.

A nice ending.
A not so nice ending.

Both characters haven’t been that far from falling from grace, and these two endings take a look at that frightful possibility.

Notes and Asides

There are a few times in this post that I simplified things. For example, talking about the attack on Baiken’s village and her friendship with Anji. I have provided wiki links, because I feel like I got the general outline and that felt enough for this post. If I went the whole hog I would have to explain That Man, what a Gear is and Anji’s entire character and the post would balloon (it’s already pretty hefty). I also did the same thing with Sekiro – hit the general points. Also, that game is four years old – a lot of it has been laid bare.

Regarding the section about Buddhism. I said that the Buddhist school in Ashina would be Shingon. I feel relatively confident stating that for the following reasons. Here are the Monks from Sekiro and here are some Shingon Buddhist Monks – the robe colours match up. In addition, these wood carvings from Senpou Temple are of the Four Celestial Kings.

There is normally a fifth king in the middle but in Shingon he is replaced by a deity called Kongo Yaksha – as is the case in Sekiro. Also, Fudo is venerated in Shingon Buddhism and here again, this applies to Senpou Temple. I hope all that stacks up.

Regarding the Seventh Heaven District Stage – it is also the default stage of Anji Mito, Nagoriyuki and Chip Zanuff.

The Fighting Game Diaries: Things I Have (Not) Learned

Since resuming playing fighting games with Granblue Fantasy Vs after a long break (years long) from fighting games, and my continuing efforts with Guilty Gear Strive (a year into it’s life), I have picked up a few things. Some things mechanical and some things relating to opinions I read about fighting games. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to round up a few of these. This is not exhaustive – there are more things but this post has gotten pretty chunky already.

Also, most of this relates to Strive, with a smidgen about Granblue (begins with R and rhymes with hack). So, here are a few things I have learned (or not) about fighting games.

They aren’t that scary, and not all that different from other games: Some people will say “fighting games are too hard to play”. I’ve said that to myself, I listened as other people espoused that opinion. Because those opinions are based off fighting games at a high level. There is a difference between learning a fighting game and playing a fighting game.

A fun time.

Learning a fighting game is an intimidating process. That requires a lot of effort and dedication. Playing a fighting game is simply picking up a controller and pressing buttons. Anyone can play a fighting game. It’s fun. It’s exciting – buttons are pressed and cool things happen. Everyone can dig that. Granted, at some point higher level players will be run into and difficulty curve goes up, but that applies to any game. Even in single player – the level of challenge goes up. Playing Strive hasn’t felt that different to any other game I’ve played – progress is made then roadblocks are encountered and practiced and the process repeats. I will admit that unlike most games fighting games don’t have a difficulty ceiling – the curve goes as high as players can push it, whereas AI in games definitely has ceiling which can be reached. When starting out, those levels are but distant dreams. Anyone can press buttons and have fun.

That being said, this does require a fighting game that has…

Rollback is a must (Crossplay helps as well): And well implemented rollback at that. A good, steady connection goes along way. Both for playing the game and the games longevity. Much easier to have a good match when delays and player teleports are kept to a minimum. And as the game grows old and people leave, rollback lets players find other players in farther flung regions because the net code allows such matches to occur. Let’s tell the story of Granblue Fantasy Vs and Guilty Gear Strive, from the viewpoint of a late comer.

Granblue has delay based netcode, not rollback. I played it for the first time this year. When I stepped into Granblue, I was waiting like 5 – 10 minutes to find folks in ranked. The net code couldn’t go that far, so European matches all the time. Sometimes I would find folks on my level, but a common occurrence was the game giving up and finding whoever was around, from ranks B, A and S. That went well. I know I ended up with 9 wins, and probably like 70 losses.

This is fine.

Strive on the other hand, a year into the game, rollback and cross play (Cross Play Beta was the first time I played), there’s multiple people in ranked, there’s plenty of people in the park – all cross multiple levels. I’ve had time to learn and not get comboed into oblivion from the get-go. Except when I try to fight higher levelled people in the park. But that’s on me, and I’m cool with that.

Luckily more and more fighting games are getting rollback, both old and new. Some have cross play, but some don’t, but again, I think that’s becoming more common also.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Blocks and punishes go a long way: The Tower in Strive is 10 floors. I’ve made it to the point I bounce between 7 and 6. So, not great but pretty decent. I’ve made it that far by blocking some of the time, spacing some of the time and punishing some of the time. Hold back some of the time (for blocking), and attack some of the time (basic combos will do – like slash, slash, heavy slash) and progress will come.

In retrospect I should have used meter to defend, but alls well that ends well.

Turns out, there are a bunch of people who buy fighting games, and they refuse to block because they… bought a fighting game and not a blocking game? I don’t know, but they won’t block. Blocking ensures you live longer and by living longer more chances to do damage present themselves. By not blocking, there are more chances to get hit, and some those hits will be counter attacks. They hurt.

At some point offence will need to be diversified (that’s where I am – I will admit though the wall that comes with opponents who know better combos, spacing and offence in general – also better defence – is pretty solid – but again, it’s not like that at the start – assuming rollback is there), but to make a start massive combos aren’t needed. The basics go a long way.

We’re not in Limgrave anymore: What I’m about to write is going to sound stupid so bear with me. But, years of playing Souls games may have warped my brain. I main Baiken. I get in trouble when I fight May because in my head, May has an Anchor and that’s a heavy weapon. Baiken has a Katana which is a light weapon. I sometimes think my slashes are going to beat May’s slashes and they don’t because sometimes I default to Souls logic where big weapon is slow and small weapon is quick. It’s probably lost me more fights than I would like to admit.

It’s something I have to work on. Another thing I have to work on (also a carryover from Souls) is being aware of all the buttons and meters. I can and do forget about stuff. In Souls, I have to keep an eye on health and stamina. Sometimes I have a magic meter. My attack buttons are R1 and R2. I will occasionally press L2.

Either thats a light anchor or May has the strength of Elden Lord Godfrey. Also the only May fight I have on deck is with Testament. Sorry about that.

Meanwhile, in Strive I have 5 attack buttons. I have a special meter, a burst meter and a risc guage. That special meter helps with special attacks and roman cancels. It’s a lot to keep track of. Sometimes I rely too much on the slash buttons (because they are the sword buttons and in Souls you use a sword a lot). I have to remind myself to try and use the roman cancel button. I’m getting there, but there is a lot to learn.

As a reminder, none of this mattered when I was getting started. This is only mattering as I advance through the game. Which is fine – advancing means meeting more challenges. Again, getting started in Strive wasn’t that hard at all, even with my limited experience.

My brain and my hands (don’t) talk to each other: I have moments when I know something I’ve tried before does not work. It’s been blocked and punished before. It will be blocked and punished again. Sometimes it doesn’t even combo. My brain is saying all of this. Practically yelling all of this. Yet, my hands are like “what’s that now? Let’s do it again. Damn, didn’t work.” Brain says the same thing, and yet the hands do the same thing too. It’s amazing how I can call out how it’s not going to work (again) when I’m halfway through it (again.)

I’m getting a little better at it now. There are a few things I’ve more or less stopped doing, and there are some things I have to stop doing. Still, there are moments when the wires get crossed and my brain and my hands do it all over again. This also applies to what opponents do to me – I can see what’s coming, know what I have to do… and then don’t do it. Or do something that makes the whole thing worse.

Gotta keep working at it. It’ll happen still, because of human nature. But I can work at reducing it as much as possible.

It’s beyond winning and losing: This is something that has taken some getting used to. I’m not fully there, but I’m trying to get there. It’s hard because almost everything and everyone conveys the idea that winning is the best and losing is the worst. You don’t want to be a loser; you want to be a winner.

I can’t always win though. That’s an impossible goal. And at some point there will be a lot of losses. Whether that’s because the opponent is better than me, or I’m trying new things, or I’m messing around with a new character – there will be losses. They don’t have to be a bad thing though. Pulling off that new thing, learning something (either from the opponent or yourself) – all that’s good. And a match can be fun and end in a loss. Getting hung up on wins and feeling the urge to constantly win is probably going to lead to some bad feelings. It’s best to (try and and) let go and have fun and learn. 

Like Baiken says, “There’s no winning or losing. Just knowing yourself.” It’s a constant journey to figure things out. I wonder when I’ll get there fully.

Notes and Asides:

I have mentioned on this blog how much I dig Third Strike. I only have access to Third Strike through the 30th Anniversary Edition of Street Fighter on PS4. I tried going online once, with an ethernet cable.

I lost. That’s fine. That netcode isn’t fine though. I don’t want to slog through that.

Never again. The character select screen lagged. The whole thing is… after Strive, I don’t care how good a game is – I’m not playing it if it looks like that.

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.