I’m really good at fighting games.
Like, REALLY good. I’ve been playing fighters since I was 11 years old, when I first got Tekken 2 on PS1, and started playing competitively at the arcade when I was 15 years old. At the time of writing, I’m 29, so it’s been 14 years.
Still, some people have played for longer, and haven’t achieved the success and glory that I have. Note: Sarcasm.
The question is, how did I do it? And why should you care?
Well, thanks to the Survey and $50 amazon gift card giveaway, I’ve discovered that lots of you peeps care, and want to know the secret to my success. So here it is.
How To Be Good At Tekken: The Basics
Basically, fighting games are an integral part of my life, and have also defined who I am as a person. I’ve learned so much through fighting games about patience, reading other people, control, momentum, and fun. As I mentioned before, it’s very similar stuff to what’s needed to meet women.
I’ve distilled my fighting game prowess into a couple of rules that I follow. Most of these will involve Tekken examples, but I’ve used them to be decent at UMVC3, and pretty good at SF4, Injustice, and Kof14.
Here they are:
1. Don’t take low tiers.
Seriously, don’t do it. You want to win, right? Take someone who’s at least mid tier, and can compete with the high tier characters that everyone and their mother is spamming. For example, if you’re playing Injustice right now, you’d better be playing someone that can go toe-to-toe with Superman and Black Adam, or you’re not getting anywhere near a win.
However, when selecting your character, don’t believe the preliminary tier lists. If a character is considered low, it’s possible that s(h)e hasn’t been explored enough, and you’ll be the one to find out what makes them amazing. A good example of this is ChrisG and Morrigan in UMVC3. She was considered garbage for ages, and is now the best character in the game, hands down, thanks to one guy putting her on the map.
In my case, I used to play Yoshimitsu in Tekken 3, and then Tekken Tag, when he was amazing. In all subsequent games, he was made progressively worse, and although I tried valiantly to win with him, it was just too difficult. I finally abandoned him in Tekken 6, switching to Baek and Miguel, and all of a sudden won every major in Canada for a year.
Thankfully, he’s a decent mid tier in Tekken Tag 2, so I’m playing him again!
Here’s an old match of me playing low tier Yoshi vs Justin Wong Feng in Tekken 5: DR
2. What’s my mix up?
Whatever the game, you need to know how to put pressure on your opponent. If you’re playing Tekken, the easiest example of this is Mishimas. The basic mixup is sweep (low), a safe mid or launcher mid, and Electric Wind God Fist for pressure and frame traps. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
With other characters, it’s more complicated. Do you want to do frame traps, and get your opponent on counter? Is your mixup more about putting your opponent in a 50/50 situation where he has to guess where to block? This is up to you to find out.
If you don’t know your mixup, you can’t win at Tekken.
3. How do I take control of this match?
When you lose a round, how do you come back? First, assess if you were being proactive or reactive. Were you putting pressure on your opponent? Or was he making you play his game, and putting you on the defensive?
Once you figure that out, you need to put a stop to it. If he’s constantly pressuring you, punish him for it. If all he does is block and punish, play super safe, and grab a lot. If you feel his movement is weak, do a tiny bit of damage to him, then run away and make him come to you.
Take control of the momentum. It’s your game, not his.
4. Practice ALL your combos
You need to know the combos that you get with each of your launchers. Start with the basic launchers, and work out the max damage. Then move on to counter hit launchers, wall combos, wall break/ground break combos, and finish with guaranteed damage.
The worst thing that can happen in a match is you land a hit on your opponent where you can kill him, but you’re unprepared because you don’t remember a combo. Don’t be that guy. Use this checklist to make sure you have them all:
5. Create a flowchart
Once I’ve mastered all the combos, I look at the regular hits. I specifically look for 3 types of moves: what knocks my opponent down, what gives me frame advantage, and what puts my opponent in an awkward position where I can dodge his move and punish. I then figure out all the options that spring from these hits.
For example, I do move A. Three things can happen:
It gets blocked, and I’m on slight negative frames. I know I can then do sidestep, or backdash, but I can’t attack.
It lands, and knocks down opponent. I know can do move B to hit grounded, move C that catches backroll or quick getup.
It lands on CH, and juggles. Thanks to the previous point, I know the juggle.
See? Flowchart. I’ll expound more on this in a future article, it’s a really important point.
6. Get yourself an archnemesis
This one’s tricky. You need to find a player who’s either better than you, or equally strong, and practice against them until you beat their ass down. Having one archnemesis gives you a goal to strive for, and also an opponent worthy of your efforts.
Additionally, if he’s good, he’ll learn all the perfect strategies to beat your characters, and won’t let you get away with unsafe moves or shenanigan strategies. This is great, because no matter who you play against at a tournament, they’re never going to know how to beat you as well as your archnemesis, meaning you’ll always feel like the match is a bit easier.
It’s similar to when I was training in Wing Chun, and would get punched a lot. I always knew that no matter how hard I would get hit if I got into a fight, it would never be as bad as my training partner punching me full force square in the face because I lowered my guard for a fraction of a second.
At Tekken, my archnemesis is a player by the name of Howling. He learned all the punishes for my characters, and made sure I felt pain every time he blocked something unsafe. That led to me altering my game, and become a safer, better player overall, so when I played in tournaments, I felt nearly no pressure from opponents.
Here’s a match from January of me vs Howling. His controller broke while playing, so he didn’t do quite as well as he should have.
7. Practice movement
This one isn’t as important for a game like Street Fighter, where movement is restricted to jump, dash, or walk, but it’s the single most important skill to learn at Tekken or UMVC3. I always explain it to n00bs like this: in Tekken, if your movement sucks, you’ll be subjected to your opponent’s mixups all the time.
If, however, your movement is good, you can backdash and sidestep forever, and never actually interact with your opponent’s mixup. You’ll also be able to go in and out of his range as you please, putting you firmly in control of the match. He can’t pressure you if he can’t touch you.
Here’s a tournament match of me and Neorussell of Toronto Top Tiers. Watch the first game, where I basically spaced out his team for most of the rounds, and forced him to change characters. You want to be good at Tekken? Move like this.
8. Learn to block
Last but most certainly not least, the skill that any fighting gamer worth his salt must have, is the ability to block properly.
As Howling puts it, sometimes you just gotta “block like a man”. If you don’t, you die. So, learn to defend properly against your opponents’ mixups, by knowing which moves are mid, low and high. In 2D games, learn to block on wakeup, so you don’t eat random moves by pressing buttons.
Having played Injustice online for the last few weeks, I’ve realized that many players at that game tend to wake up with an attack constantly, rather than just getting up and blocking. This has led to me stealing tons of victories, solely on my ability to knock them down, wait for an unsafe wakeup move, and punish.
Trust me, when you’re not sure of what to do, choose block. It’s the safest option.
Well folks, hopefully this little guide made sense and gave you some insight into how a top fighting game player runs his game. There are many other points I haven’t touched upon, like punishing, frame traps, conditioning, and so on. I’ll cover these in future articles.
For now, any questions?