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The Fighter for the Average Joe

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I consider myself a hardcore gamer, I really do. Google Chrome has kindly reminded me that IGN is the 3rd most visited site on my computer behind Facebook and the University of Cincinnati homepage. I enjoy all types of games: Point and Click, First Person Shooter, RPG, Life Simulator, Real Time Strategy, etc.

Among those genres is the tenured, respected, and ultimately frustrating Fighting Game.

It’s not that I despise fighting games; I am the proud owner of Dead or Alive 4 as well as Street Fighter 4 and frequently play them with friends. But for some reason, fighting games always seemed to be reserved for the elite; true seamless kung-fu matrix action always seems to be reserved for someone who can interpret the gibberish that the programmers call the “command list”. And I know I’m not alone.

For example, in Street Fighter 4, our matches boiled down to inputting our special attack sequences and basically taking turns landing the same 2 – 3 moves over and over again until using an “ultra move” which would inevitably be telegraphed and blocked. It was dreadfully boring and slow paced and we sought a way to combo.

We read that, in order to juggle, we had to "cancel" our initial attack. Cancelling Ryu's signature uppercut into his ultra involved something called "Focus Dash Cancelling".

This involved performing the uppercut and before the attack animation could be completed, pressing Y and B together and dashing forward and inputting his ultra combo all in a short span of time (Btw, I don't even know if this is right. It's THAT confusing).

Have I lost anyone yet? I thought so. But that's what it feels like; trying to be elite in today's true fighting games seems to be out of reach for a lot of gamers. Button mashing can only take you so far; knowing that what your character IS doing and what your carpal-tunnel inducing hammering WANTS him/her to do kind of takes the wind out of your sails.

I had long resigned myself to the fact that unlike shooters or rpgs, fighting games would always be like the "test your strength" booth at a carnival; fun but with no real chance of reaching the top. I wanted a game that allowed me to strategize and pull of kickass combos without needing the reflexes of Bruce Lee. Sadly, that game seemed to exist only in legend.

Until now.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 suffered from the same problem as the other fighting games; it was really fun to play but to pull off "Delayed Hyper Combos" and the 64-hit combos that you see on Youtube needed you to devote countless hours to the game.

Enter Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

MvC 3 has simplified the entire system without taking the depth out of the game. The buttons have been remapped; instead of having the buttons correspond to punches and kicks they now correspond to light, medium, and heavy attacks. Light comes out the fastest but does the least damage while heavy is slow as hell but decimates opponents' health bars. So most combos were very easy to do; start out with your choice of light attack, then throw in one or two mediums and finish off with a heavy. Simple enough right?

The pot is further sweetened by the fact that 90% of special moves are hadokens. To non-fighting gamers, a hadoken is a quarter-turn of the control stick in any direction combined with a button press. It is a universally known and exceedingly simple input. By reducing most special attacks to variations of this input, it makes inserting special attacks into the middle of combos incredibly simple.

The cherry on top was this.

After devastating my friend with a combo, he managed to counter attack and launch me into the air and nail me for a 12 hit combo.

"How the hell did you do that?!" I asked incredulously, expecting some long winded explanation.

"Just press A and then jump".

"What?"

"Press A. It's your launcher." Press A. Initiating an aerial combo had been reduced to one button. I have hooked up with girls who didn't give me as much pleasure as that sentence did.

Don't get me wrong, you couldn't just walk up to someone and launch them; you had to do it in the midst of a combo. But the fact that you had to only press one button, jump, and then repeat the process you just did on the ground made juggling seem less like a science and more . . . well, FUN.

I don't want to give veteran fighters the impression that this game is excessively simple because it isn't. There's still truckloads of depth such as timing assists properly, "advanced guard", and finding teams that mesh well. But it feels like that level of play is much more obtainable now.

Getting good at fighting games used to be like attempting to ride a motorcycle on the freeway ten minutes after learning how to ride a tricycle.

But Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has made the transition from "competent" to "elite" much more manageable.

And let's be honest, isn't it about damn time some game did?


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