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While I’m nowhere near the level of the best fighting-game players in the world, I’d like to believe that I am a somewhat knowledgeable and decent competitor. I enjoy going into training mode and trying different techniques out. I wrote a four-page article about the history of Street Fighter IV. I can't dispatch players with the ease of Ricky Ortiz or break a game apart like the combo- and glitch-finding monster Desk, but being able to discuss these highly technical titles in a way that people can understand has to count for something right?
I feared the day when people would find out I suck would come, and it only took a game with two buttons.
One of the nice surprises this year was the indie project Divekick. Created by One True Game Studios and Adam "Keits" Heart of Shoryuken.com, Divekick ignores traditional staples like move lists and combos by giving all five characters only one attack: an instant-death jump kick. While Divekick was originally only playable at Heart's Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament 8 (UFGT8), Heart was able to bring it to Community Effort Orlando 2012, the largest event for virtual pugilists in my home state of Florida.
Eager participants lined up to play on a customized computer setup throughout the weekend despite having to compete against a congested playing area and enter a wrestling ring where high-profile matches took place. And instead of writing about what I saw through an online stream, I attented to be able to try Divekick out myself.
Divekick's controls are so simple that Heart prepared custom input devices with two giant buttons, like the ones you would see on a novelty arcade machine. The left button is for jumping while pressing the right button activates the titular attack. On the ground, the right button will also make your character hop backward. Kicking enough times will activate a "Kick Factor" that improves your character’s speed and attack angle while landing a strike on your opponent’s cranium gives you a "headshot" that slows him down the next round.
The first person who wins five rounds is the victor.
My first match went well enough. I picked Dive, a math whiz and all-around combatant who already has a reputation for being the best in the game. Since I watched the UFGT8 stream, I already knew basic strategies like building your meter with low-to-the-ground kicks and avoiding situations where jumping first will open you up to an easy counterattack. I played patiently and got the victory, but then my troubles began.
One of the characters whom I didn’t see much of on the stream was Kung Pao, a cross between Mortal Kombat’s Kung Lao and Street Fighter’s Cammy who shouts gibberish when she attacks. She is also a girl in a fighting game, and therefore, wears a fetishized outfit. I used her a lot during the event, but I quickly found out why I hadn't seen her much: Unlike everyone else, Kung Pao can only hop very low off the ground, and her divekick is slow and travels at a nearly horizontal angle.
I like playstyles that make you think differently, but as an attendant told me, she is not for beginners. Divekick lets you customize your high flier with gems — a concept borrowed from current genre black sheep Street Fighter X Tekken. I tried increasing Kung Pao’s kicking speed to keep her from becoming a free target, but other players still cornered and bullied me easily.
Things got worse the next day. I decided to try Kick, Dive's Will Smith-quoting training partner who excels at building the Kick Factor meter. But I made a heaping number of mistakes. A red line will appear onscreen in timeout situations, and the person closest to it wins. When it appears right next to me, however, I'd jump away like an idiot. Sometimes, I would use the right button to retreat but press the left button instead when I had a chance to escape death. I lost five rounds in a row, activating the Fraud Detection System that lets everyone know how garbage your playing is.
Being a stubborn person, I went to the back of the line to try again. I returned to Kung Pao, but my new opponent also exposed me as a phony. The worst part is that the final round in these situations will have a warning siren that puts even more pressure on you. I tried again and got a few KOs but still lost the match. In the next game, I won four in a row but lost the following five. I'd lose to a friend who had previously beat Heart — an outcome that makes sense — but then I'd screw up against another buddy in his first time playing the game.
The ordeal reminded me of my last match at the event’s Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition tournament. In my first game, I beat a Zangief player using Rose fairly quickly, considering that I lost to him badly in a casual session the night before. In the second match, I put him on the brink of elimination and only needed one more combo to win. Instead, the wrestler took the round. My mind broke down as I did stupid things that I already knew not to do from our previous battles, and soon enough, I was sitting outside a Popeye's recounting every mistake I made.
As was mentioned on the UFGT8 stream, Divekick recreates the moment where both players are low on health and one wrong move will cost you the match. You can also build momentum and defeat your foes quickly if you use Kick Factor or land consecutive headshots. It is a game of nerves, and dealing with pressure situations is still one of my weaknesses.
Despite this, I was never mad at the game itself, as Heart's team filled it with jokes, such as pointless prematch advice like "Shoot offscreen to reload ammo" and goofy voiceovers.
I did eventually redeem myself on Sunday night when I beat a top player who was trying the game for the first time and "frauded" him twice. Discussing that, however, would make me feel like I'm boasting about beating Michael Jordan at Calvinball. I'm hoping that someone can give Divekick a widescale release one day so that I can prove my worth in two-button combat.
Update: Divekick is now on Kickstarter. You can check out the donation page here, which also has over 20 minutes of video footage from CEO 2012.