I’ve been playing fighting games ever since Street Fighter II came out in arcades more than 25 years ago. Even then, it was pretty complex with six attack buttons to manage, the need to block high and low, performing combos and special moves and more. Now, pretty much all fighting games have gotten even more complicated with Super Meters, hitboxes, 10-string combos, just frame attacks, etc. It’s gotten to a point where I fear the casual gamer will look at all of those things and just raise their hands up in surrender.
The thing is those things are not really needed to really be good in competitive fighting games. Most, if not all fighting game experts know that the fundamentals and basics are actually more important. But, with all of the bells and whistles included in fighting games these days, how can a newbie actually learn these fundamentals?
Well, thankfully, there is a “fighting” game that was just released that strips it all down to pretty much the basics. And the name of that game? It’s Divekick!
Divekick is actually more of a parody of fighting games. Instead of having to memorize complicated motions to perform special attacks, Divekick strips down the controls to just two buttons. The first button is the Dive button because you… dive into the air, I guess? And the second is the Kick button which is used to… well, you know. You can’t block. You can’t move forward unless you perform a divekick. You can jump back by pressing the Kick button while on the ground. But basically, that’s it.
So, how can this help a newcomer to fighting games learn the fundamentals? Well, first, let’s talk about the first thing you need to know about fighting games…
1) Learn how each character moves and attacks
Even though each character in Divekick only has a few moves, they are all pretty unique. Dive and Kick’s attack will always be aimed at a sharp downward angle while Jefailey’s kick will hit opponents directly in front of him.
Redacted (yes, that’s how you’re supposed to spell her name) has an incredibly high jump while Kung Pao’s leap is extremely low.
All characters in all fighting games are distinct from each other. It may be how fast they move, how big or small they are, how high they jump and even the angles of their attacks are all going to be different. It’s actually advised to try using all available characters before selecting your main one.
Speaking of which…
2) Create your own fight style
After you selected your main character, you can start fighting, right? Well, yes. But I don’t think that’s how to get really good in a fighting game. There’s actually a reason why you gravitated toward a particular character in the game. It could be their look. Or maybe you like their attacks. Or you understand how to use their moves. But, even so, you’ll need to combine all of that knowledge into making your distinct way of playing.
In Divekick and in every other fighting game, you are going to encounter human opponents different playstyles. There will be people who’ll just rush you down with a myriad attacks, keeping the pressure on and trying to get through your defenses. These guys are known as “rushdown” players. There will also be guys who’ll be the exact opposite and just hang back, blocking all attacks until their opponent gives them an opening. These guys are known as “turtlers.”
There are more but those are pretty much the most common ones. Anyway, all of them are valid playstyles, no matter what a lot of people say. The trick is finding your own way of playing. You have to be able to play the way you want. If you want to rushdown, do it! If you wanna turtle, go ahead!
You’ll need to be comfortable since you’re going to…
3) Control space. Control pace.
Once you’ve found your own way of playing the game, you can now get into the meat of any fighting game. That is controlling the match. In order to do this, you will need to be in control of two things: the space between you and your opponent and how fast (or slow) the game goes.
Controlling space means you have to get your character in their optimal position where you can attack but they cannot defend and vice versa. Controlling the pace entails you forcing your opponent to lose their pace. You will be jockeying with your opponent all the time. And Divekick actually does an excellent job in these aspects.
For example, while Kung Pao has a lousy vertical jump, the angle of her kick goes out at a better horizontal angle than, say, Mr. N. However, Mr. N’s vertical jump goes pretty high, so his aim is to reach a jump height that Kung Pao cannot reach because of her poor jumping ability. So, there are certain ranges where Kung Pao will be better at attacking and Mr. N will also need to be in a different range that will triumph over Kung Pao’s attacks.
Here’s an example:
While controlling space and the pace is important, that’s not as critical as…
Basically, you can beat anyone in a fighting game as long as you can beat them mentally. Even experts in the fighting game community will make mistakes. You have to get in their head somehow and force them to make mistakes (without hitting them for real, of course).
In fact, mindgames is the most important factor in a fighting game. It’s like a basketball player who’s taking two free throws and all he needs to do is sink both. But, this guy will be under a lot of pressure. So, even though he’s great at doing free throws, the pressure can make him miss.
Finally, we have the last, and most important thing when you do want to get good at fighting games…
5) Practice, practice, practice
You’ll only get better once you really gain a lot of experience in a fighting game. You need to face off against a myriad of people. This is the only way you’ll actually learn the tricks of other characters, how to prevail against different playstyles, how to control space under different situations, causing your rival to crack while not succuming to pressure as well.
Hope you got all of that. Ready?
Are you interested in fighting games? Have any other tips and tricks you’d like to add for beginners to get good at them? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!