Friday, 26 September 2014

Let's Learn Guilty Gear! Part 3: Understanding Throws

Guilty Gear's design is an interesting melting pot of systems and ideas. Guilty Gear X was released in 2000. In other words, near the very end of the 2D fighting game boom. Its sequel and updates then carried on through the relative drought of 2D games, making it a bridging point between old and new design philosophies. On the older side of things you have situational combos based on your positioning and late-90s systems like Instant Blocking. On the newer side you have a variety of ways to use meter depending on the situation and a great deal of movement options. Xrd most definitely carries this mixture of old and new by allowing Roman Cancels to slow down time while also including a mechanic where if moves clash they will sometimes cause the situation to return completely to neutral but the first hit of any combo has like quadruple the hitstun for the next 8 or so seconds. The director, Daisuke Ishiwatari even remarked that he put that system in so new players can become accustomed to dealing with strange little situations that make you play differently due to chance. He likened it to Samurai Shodown's weapon clashes.

The most oldschool design decision in Guilty Gear is the throw. Do you remember that post about fighting game basics I wrote where I encouraged people to learn the genre with Fritz mirrors? Let's look at that core Rock/Paper/Scissors I said offense and defense starts with again:

Paper (Blocking) beats Rock (Attacking)
Rock (Attacking) beats Scissors (Throwing)
Scissors (Throwing)  beats Paper (Blocking)

Guilty Gear's scissors came from the same factory as Street Fighter 2's. This factory made damn good scissors. Scissors so fast that they can cut rocks in half. Silly metaphors aside, throws are 0f attacks. If you press forward/backward and Heavy Slash (6H or 4H) and are in throw range, your throw will be whatever the other guy's pushing. In offense this means that every character has an effective attack/throw guessing game they can put the opponent in. On defense it means that if the opponent is overextending themselves while pressuring, you can completely turn the tides by knocking them down and starting your own pressure. Guilty Gear throws are an incredible tool that will frustrate every single newcomer to the game until they learn how to use them, and how to fight them.

1. Using Throws Defensively
  As I said, throws come out instantly. If someone's on the ground hitting a button and you're not in blockstun, you can throw them. Here's a situation where people are often thrown by a defender.

Only jump Dusts have recovery frames upon landing (which means you can absolutely throw them if you block it). However, if a jumping normal comes out too early or too high in the jump arc, then you'll be out of blockstun before they can jab you to lay on the pressure. This is a good time to throw people. Likewise, if you ever see a jumping normal miss because of bad timing or poor positioning (such as it whiffing you as they try to cross you up), then that's a perfect time to throw them.

Working out when to throw is very much something you'll learn by playing the game more. You'll start to see when people are getting way too close to you and when you're coming out of blockstun in a prime time to throw. There is one very important rule to understand when doing this though: know what the range of your throw is. You should be absolutely sure they're close enough to be thrown because if they're not, a Heavy Slash is going to come out. It's going to be slow. It's going to get counterhit by their jab or correctly spaced Slash and it's going to hurt.

2. How to Stop Defensive Throws
"Well that's great" you're thinking as an attacker. "I can understand getting throw because I'm running right next to them like an idiot, but are you saying I can't even jump in on my opponent without being thrown? How am I supposed to open people up?" Fear not, brave attacker. There are things you can do to stop people mashing throw all the time. Especially after knockdowns!

 - Stand outside their throw range and toss a normal or fireball at them. You can't throw Ky's sword, and you sure as hell can't throw Stunedge. This isn't SF2 Hyper Fighting Zangief you're fighting.
 - If they're mashing throw all the time, run up and then jump! If a 5H or 6H comes out, you bet your life they were mashing throw. If not then hey, you've got ample time to come with a properly timed normal or double jump and see if they do something stupid to try and catch you.

There's an even niftier tool in some characters' arsenals though: throw-invincible normals. You can check out which moves have this in AC+R by looking up your character on the Dustloop wiki.. The application here should be pretty obvious: if a move's immune to throws, stick it out when you think someone's mashing throw. Here's an example of this in action using my buddy Baiken's forwards Kick (6K).

You hear that sweet, sweet counterhit message? If that's coming out when you toss a throw invul move on someone's wakeup, you bet your life they were mashing throw. If it just hits them raw, they were probably trying to jump away. Pretty much every throw-invincible move can either be chained into other normals or cancelled into a special move that's safe, so they're a good go-to way of continuing pressure when you're fighting an opponent whose habits you aren't familiar with yet. Here's some games I played last week with a mate.

PlatonicSolid is extremely fond of wakeup throw, so I spend a lot of time just using May's 5K on his wakeup. He's started to mash that throw less often now, so I can start going for the actual tricks like crossup Dolphin, overhead Restive Rolling or going for a throw myself. I most definitely do that last option at the end of the vid.

3. Using Throws Offensively
The beauty of throws being so fast is that they're not only a good way to make attackers stay smart when approaching, but that attackers can also open up strong defenders with them. If you're pressuring someone and no matter how many times you jump cancel a slash into an airdash or use a fast standing low attack or try to wear at someone's patience by jabbing a few times, taking some steps forward and jabbing again they just won't budge, go a head and throw them. The sheer speed of throws doesn't just mean defenders can use them. Offense can still use them in that traditional scissors-beats-paper way! Here's some classic examples of using throws on offense.

Throwing someone just as they're ending blockstun's known as a tickthrow. Jumping in with something that has much less blockstun so you can throw them is a classic trick. Jumping or airdashing in and doing nothing on the way down then throwing is a great indicator that you're completely inside someone's head and have them scared witless of your pressure. Using roman cancels to work throws into places where you wouldn't expect is most certainly a way to play. This ridiculous play by Kusoru comes to mind when I think of crazy ways to work throws into your offense.

So basically, use throws when people are respecting your pressure too much to keep them on edge. Throwing a cautious player a few times can really rattle them and lead to them hitting buttons in a panic or doing something really stupid that'll let them fall on your sword that much more easily.

4. How to Escape Offensive Throws
In just about every fighting game made after Street Fighter 2 or Karnov's Revenge, both players inputting throw at the same time will cause the situation to return to neutral. This is known as teching a throw. In modern games the window in which this will happen is rather lenient (14 frames for green throws in Blazblue and UNIEL for example). However, do you remember that I said Guilty Gear has an odd mix of old and new ideas?

In GGX through to Slash, as well as Xrd, there are no throw techs. Even in Accent Core and Accent Core +R, the window to tech throws was so tiny that it was incredibly rare. "Well, that's stupid." You might think. "What am I supposed to do if someone's throwing me?" There's two answers to this.

1. Use a throw-invulnerable move. If timed right, it'll make a 5H or 6H come out and you'll get that sweet counterhit. Just like when you're trying to stop a defensive throw.
2. Get the hell out of there. Backdash. Jump. Don't be next to the guy if they're going to throw. If you jump and Faultless Defense then you'll block their H attack and can probably airdash/double jump away or just hit them if they don't do anything after since they expected the throw to connect.

In other words, treat regular throws in Guilty Gear like you would Zangief's pile driver. When any character is looking for a throw, let's keep it simple and just jump away from it at this point.

5. Pichy You Moron You Forgot About Airthrows
You're right, subconscious. I did. Obviously if you, say, block someone airdashing at you in the air and mashing Punch, they're probably looking for an aerial tickthrow. In that case, your best bet is probably to instant block then mash Punch back at them, but I'll save that for whenever I talk about advanced concepts like Instant Blocking. I'll talk about throwing bursts when I get onto bursts if you're someone eager to point out that I never mentioned it in this piece.

There are two main situations airthrows are used in that are distinct from throwing in the ground. These are to punish chicken blocking (airblocking as soon as there's a gap in a string so you don't have to guess high or low) and for combo resets.

The first of these is pretty simple to grasp. As you're pressuring someone, they're going to look for chances to jump away and either get out, or safely FD without having to worry about high or low blocking and push you away. Whenever you're pressuring someone, consider leaving intentional gaps for people to jump then simply following them into the air and throwing them back into that corner. It's a good way of forcing even more respect from an opponent.

The other is the practice of creating intentionally sloppy ends to combos so people will airtech into your face and get airthrown. I-no and Bridget are exceptionally good at this (Bridget almost has to do this since none of his air combos knock down) and in Accent Core their airthrows both start combos anew to boot! In Xrd I-no has an aerial command throw for this exact reason.

The other way to create resets is to hit people off the ground (OTG) after a knockdown. In Guilty Gear after you knock someone down you can keep hitting them with any move whose hitbox can reach the downed opponent. If you do so, you can continue to combo but every hit does one quarter of the usual damage and hitstun. This is used a lot by Sol in Xrd so he can make his fireballs hit the opponent on their wakeup with more advantage. It can also be used to catch people that always like to airtech forwards since they're going to be popping out  at a time they don't usually expect to. Here's a straightforward demonstration of this concept.

That's where I'll leave things for today. To summarise:

 - If someone's standing next to you and you're not in blockstun, throw that fool!
 - If you think a throw is coming, jump!
 - If you're pressuring and want to stop people mashing throw, use a throw-invul move!
 - Throw people on offense when they don't expect!
 - If people like to jump away, throw!
 - Make sure you know your throw's reach or you'll get hurt!
 - Watch out for gimmicks that'll lead to air throws!

Tune in next time when I discuss... something. Most likely Bursts and Dead Angles. If there's questions about the game you want to ask, go ahead! There's a comments box underneath, after all.

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