Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Let's Learn Guilty Gear! Part 2: Not Getting Hit

Fighting games are often daunting with how much can be going on both on the field and in your heads. As a result, the best way to understand it all is to break things down into simple categories. After all, categorisation is something we humans do to form both an understanding of the world and communicate abstract concepts to each other through language. Here's the three broad categories I box all the components of a fighting game into:

1. Not getting hit.
2. Landing a hit.
3. Landing more hits.

I've written it out in that order because it's the order you should learn things in if you want to really get good at a game. Your life bar is the single most important resource in the game, so keeping it from depleting should be priority one. How do you not get hit? That in turn can be broken down into two more groups. In some games they are somewhat exclusive from each other, but in GG are connected. These are:

 - Movement (or being in a spot that the other guy can't reach)
 - Blocking (they can reach you but it's not taking away your health)

Guilty Gear has a lot of movement options. In addition to walking back and forth, most characters can also run (or dash in a short burst if you're Johnny or Slayer). You can dash backwards in a short burst (which is invincible if you're Potemkin, Slayer or Justice). You can dash forwards and backwards in a short burst in the air (twice if you're Milia or Dizzy). You can jump twice (or three times if you're Chipp). What does this all mean though?

Movement Part 1: Using your Movement Options

Let's watch a video one Pat Miller (long time game journo and fighting game fan) made for an Insert Credit article about Street Fighter.

Blogspot is a jerk when it comes to embedding videos by other people, so have a link.

Observe that first situation. Ryu throws a fireball. The opponent jumps forwards over the fireball and has wound up in a perfect situation to get smacked out of the air with an uppercut. It's a classic example of controlling space in Street Fighter. Let's do it in Guilty Gear.

When people first realise they can airdash in a game, their first response is usually to just go straight for the opponent's head. After all, you can reach them so quickly! What's far more important to this game is that you can airdash away from opponents. This creates a radically different environment for someone wanting to control space, as well as for how a defensive player can stay out of reach. This isn't to say that the game instantly makes any sort of zoning character weak. Let's look at what Axl does about all this airdash business.

So you need to understand what your opponent is going to do if you're advancing forwards then dashing away. Even when things might seem super fast and free form, there's consequences to actions.

The double or triple jump can change things up a lot as well. While airdashes adjust how people control horizontal space, jumping that second time can greatly change how you understand the vertical world. Here's a humorous situation that came up at a session last Friday.

The first time I opted to jump at Potemkin after a knockdown, I expected him to antiair me. If I airdashed backwards I'd lose all the ground and momentum I'd gained by putting him in the corner. Thus, I jumped a second time so I would be too high for the antiair to reach. The second and third times I figured he would be too scared to try antiairing since I'd jumped away the first time, so I just opted for a single jump. I could have stuck out a jumping normal those times to keep him scared and blocking, but was being silly since I had to go to dinner in a few minutes' time. Nevertheless, putting you way above an opponent who's looking to hit buttons to swat you out is a great example of what you can do with double jumps.

If you press down then up, you will jump much higher than normal. This is called a superjump. You can airdash after one of these, but not double jump. The uses vary depending on each character as the jumping arcs can vary wildly. The most famous superjump is Anji's. Let's take a quick look at it.

Fast and covers a wonky angle that not a lot of characters can immediately deal with. A pesky move on a character who can be somewhat irritating to fight if you've never seen him before. Don't worry, he's not in Xrd at this point.

Finally, let's talk about running. If you've played The King of Fighters or Under Night In-Birth, this is how you probably understanding this brand of movement:

The run takes some time to start moving. Once you've started running though, you can block immediately at any time.

 The idea is that you need to choose when to start running carefully, then reap the rewards for starting at the right time. This can be very important for a character like Daimon in KOF or Carmine in UNIEL as they have a lot of startup on their runs.

Let's see how running works in Guilty Gear.

Once I've reached the range of Ky's far Slash, I'm holding back. I'm still getting hit. In other words, running has a set amount of recovery when you want to stop. Well isn't that great? I get blown up for running. Is there anything I can do? Well, there is. Let's move onto the second half of this talk about not getting hit:

Movement Part 2: Using Faultless Defense
If you hold down two buttons that aren't Dust while blocking, a green ring will appear around you and steadily drain your tension gauge until you let go of the buttons or run out of tension. This is Faultless Defense, also known as "Green Block". This system has a wide range of uses that I'll talk about piece by piece.

As we established, running has a set amount of recovery time. If you Faultless Defense when holding back however, you stop running instantly! Let's get in on that Ky now!

This technique is known as FD Braking. You can do it in Blazblue as well. Sol's run speed is mighty fast, so you will often see smart Sol players start running, realise that a fireball or big normal or what have you is coming for them and FD brake shortly after their inputting the run. Airdashes, Johnny's dash and Slayer's dash cannot be stopped with FD.

Unless you're Faust or Chipp.

Input this by holding down-back and using Kick as one of your buttons for the FD. It works because they both have a down+kick (j.2K) attack in the air. The game decides to say that you're doing j.2K (thus you aren't airdashing) but thanks to input priorities winds up giving you FD. This is a mighty big boost to Faust's already impressive pokes.

There's another use for FD that ties into movement. You see, you can block in the air (unless you're dashing), but you can only block fireballs and aerial normals. If you try to block grounded normals or things like uppercuts you will get hit. However, FD lets you block everything in the air. This means if you've got meter you can hold up-back and block some tricks aiming to open you up, but not do it all the time forever like you can in something like Marvel vs Capcom or older Melty Blood versions.

This means you can use double jumping to bait uppercuts! Let's do it now!

You can incorporate this sort of thing into your offense game as well. If a move can be cancelled into jumping (for most characters they will be able to use close Slash at the very least), it can do so both on hit and if the opponent blocks the move. This is something most Arc System Works games have, but not other airdash games such as Marvel vs Capcom, Melty Blood or Chaos Code. I'll go into how to mount a solid offense in a later piece, but for now let's consider two things we can do off of a jump cancelled move based on what we know:
 - Airdash forwards for a speedy high attack.
 - Faultless Defense to block an attempt to swat you away because they think you'll airdash.

This in turn means that Faust can fake out an airdash in, FD to be safe and if you haven't hit a button, do a strong air-to-ground move such as jumping Kick (j.K). If you ever wonder why Faust seems to hit people with that move so much, this is part of the reason why.

Finally, here are the other functions of Faultless Defense that don't tie into movement.
 - You do not take chip damage or raise your guard bar. If you're really low on health and the opponent is trying to chip you to death, remember to FD if you've got the meter.
 - FD pushes the opponent back further than regular blocking. This means that if you can't find an opening in someone's offense, just make sure to block what they're doing and FD. It'll push them away far enough that you can gain some breathing room to swat them if they jump or airdash at you, or jump up and get out of pressure your own way.
 - FD keeps you blocking longer. Whenever you block a move in a fighter, you are put in blockstun, that state where you can't do anything but block for however long the move you blocked dictates. Faultless Defense increases the blockstun on moves. This means that you might not be able to catch moves that are only slightly unsafe, but it also means they can't throw you for as long. It has both strengths and weaknesses.

Faultless Defense is Great, but How do I Block?
As you likely already know, in 2D fighters you input blocking by holding backwards to block moves that hit mid or high, and down+backwards to block moves that hit mid or low. Low hits are far more common and a great deal faster than highs, so here's a simple rule to follow.
Whenever blocking on the ground, hold down+back to block low. React to moves that hit high when they appear and block them, then go back to blocking low. If you got hit and don't understand why, ask the other guy if it hits high, low or what have you. Learn your opponent's options!

So in conclusion, here is what we've talked about today:

 - Guilty Gear's mobility makes some things safer than other games, but still has pros and cons to each option.
 - You can either double jump or airdash once before you need to land.
 - You can jump after various normals on hit and on block.
 - Use Faultless Defense to recover from running instantly.
 - Use Faultless Defense to block in the air when you normally wouldn't be able to.
 - Use Faultless Defense to push people away if their pressure is relentless.

Next time, I'll talk about Throws.

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