This isn’t a regular post, not my regular politically charged or socially themed, so if you are looking for the latest information on the latest ACORN scandal, or more Joe Biden gaffe coverage, Michelle Malkin has everything you are looking for. If you still want to read…
I will admit that I was one of the “lucky” ones who had pre-reserved a copy of the Collector’s Edition of Street Fighter IV for the Playstation 3. I have been an avid gamer for years, especially Street Fighter, and the release of this new title was a “must have” for me. One of my fondest childhood memories is waiting in the car outside of the Toys “R” Us in the West End of Ottawa with my mother and brothers as my father ran inside to pick up Super Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo. I can remember the hours my twin and I spent battling in versus mode, perfecting strategies and practicing moves. I spent many more hours playing the dozens of sequels with friends and family members, even spending a fair bit of my earlier years at the University of Ottawa in the games room playing its Street Fighter games. My love for this series was the reason I had gotten a Sega Dreamcast a few years back, it was the only console with Street Fighter III Third Strike and Capcom vs SNK. I just love Street Fighter, simple as that, and anyone who knows me can testify to that.
I can’t count the hours I have spent over the years practicing combos for Ken Masters, Ryu’s rival and a consistent member of the Street Fighter roster, and I don’t see that changing with the release of this new game. I have already spent a few practicing jump-in combos, standing combos, trying my best to work in his “target combo” (the stand MP,HP from SFIII has returned, now under a “proper” name), but I will admit that my skills aren’t up to par with some of the more persistent fighters online. Already I have been beaten by a few “professionals”, but I have been lucky enough to bump into a few again and school them, most recently this morning with an over aggressive Cammy White player who couldn’t find a way around a player who would block pop-up attacks. I can go on about the kind of fighters you will find, but let’s try addressing two issues in particular which have begun to bother me; Professional fighters and working against online issues.
Kotaku reported the other day that a British boy had set a Guinness World Record for most consecutive wins in the game with 108 victories. While this does sound impressive to the uninformed, it doesn’t mean much to someone who has spent serious time around the series, especially in the arcades. After a day of economics classes, I would blow off steam in the University’s games room on both human and computer opponents. These expert street fighter players do seem intimidating with their combo skills, the way they seem to use even the most awkward characters effectively, but if you paid enough attention, you would see they weren’t as impressive as once thought. Anyone who has played a fighting game knows that certain strategies will not work against computer opponents, although they are extreme effective against humans, and vice versa. Standing over a pool table, holding my cue, I could see that after scaring off other students, these professionals would be put to shame by a computer opponent with relative ease.
It isn’t simply computer opponents though. My success in the arcade was due to not having any real ‘arcade experience’. I have brought in an “foreign” strategy, something they hadn’t seen before. Taking my quarter and my pride, I would pick characters they hadn’t seen other players use, characters they thought inferior, and yet I would win, at least for a while. Take Capcom vs SNK 2, one of the more popular titles in the games room. When I first started playing, most other players would use Hoahmaru, Hibiki, Rugal Bernstein, M. Bison and/or Ryu. Each character only being used in a particular way, using only certain moves and strategies which were similar to other players. Watching these repetitive mirror matches really sucked the fun out of the game. Each fighter is trying to out do his opponent with the same plan of attack, resulting in a victory to whoever could pull off the moves the fastest. My pick of Sagat, Ken, Terry Bogard and/ or Iori Yagami seemed to confuse my opponents, and not having fought these characters or my strategy before, many were taken down with relative ease. My success with the “poking” strategy, as well as combos I had perfected with the home version, worked so well that in the following weeks and months, my opponents would adopt my strategy, switching their roster of characters to match my better ones. Even then, switching one of my characters with another would offset them, confusing them enough for me to win a few fights. While I was laughed at, my use of Balrog against some of the better players in the games room proved effective as the boxer’s reach extended far beyond that of Sagat’s. They laughed until they began getting frustrated and confused.
SFIV online right now is very much the same thing, seeing as the majority of fighters will pick Sagat or Akuma, abusing a single plan of attack with relative success. While I was first taken back by this, spending sometime in the game’s training mode, facing off against a computer Akuma had revealed to me an “Akilies Heel” to the “Raging Demon’s” attacks (a hint for those being bogged down by his multi-hitting Shakunetsu Hadoken, remember “rock, paper, scissors” of the Hadoken, Shoryuken and Tatsumaki Senpukyaku). Sagat is another matter, but strategies against him vary depending on whether your opponent is aggressive or defensive. You will see the occasional fighter picking an odd ball character, someone like the Sumo Wrestler Edmund Honda, but the majority of the online ranking battles are done with only a handful of the game’s twenty-five characters. I find this rather disgusting, but then again, as new strategies are discovered, some people will choose different characters to adapt to the changing online competition, which allows for more variety in who you fight.
Another problem I am seeing is the simple abuse of the game being online. Having played games over the internet for years, I know a lot of the tricks myself, having seen many of my opponents use them against me. I call recall my days playing Counter-Strike online with my friends, fighting opponents who would “teleport” around the map, striking in ways we couldn’t defend against. I could swear to God that I had unloaded an entire clip on an opponent who was running in place, only to find that he vanished as I mysteriously died. You see the same thing in SFIV since the Playstation Network (PSN) doesn’t weed out those with bad connections. Over the PSN, you will find many of these fighters using their slow speed and your fast one to their advantage.
The idea is that when your connection sends signals to them, telling their system what your character is doing, their system sends information back at a much slower rate, giving them an unfair advantage. Your opponent jumps, and the game freezes, and by the time it unfreezes, you have just been dealt serious damage, unable to even block the undetectable assault. It isn’t even that hard to do yourself, especially if you are sharing an internet connection with a computer using a peer-to-peer (P2P) program, giving you that “winning edge” through abusing lag. I have had the displeasure of fighting a few of these fighters already, and I will say it really sucks the fun out of the game. You feel more like a training dummy, and I didn’t drop serious money on a game to go through that. Just like in the days of Counter-Strike, when some of these cheaters would use slower modems to maintain this advantage, it is almost as if they know exactly what they are doing, not caring that it isn’t a fair fight. If I wanted to feel that used, I would have been an Obama campaign worker.
It isn’t just that though, some players will cheat you out of a hard earned win by quitting out of a fight right before you can claim victory. This morning I was fighting a Gouken player in a best of five, and while he was a bit frustrating in the first round, by the time the second round was over, I had nailed down his strategy and begun to easily turn the tables on him. Nearing the end of the third round, with already two in the bag, onto my third win and victory, I see that he stops fighting. At fifteen percent health I assumed he was taking the ‘samurai’ way out, letting me finish him since he had realized I was too much. Well I was in for a surprise when I found out he was taking the cowards way out by quitting the match before my win. This has happened a few times already, one fighter quit after being decimated in the first round of a best of three, while another had run off when he saw that even using Akuma wasn’t enough to fight me. It is understandable if it is a drop in connection, or if there is understandable circumstances (I had bailed when fighting two of the “lag masters” mentioned above this morning), but this was done to preserve their battle ranking. Pathetic, and it is downright disgusting when you yourself aren’t playing this game. When you see enough of these players, it gets to the point when one’s ranking is meaningless. Who knows how many of those high ranking players crawled their way up the ladder by using such dishonourable means. Downright pathetic.
Aside from these issues, I could discuss the fact that the game doesn’t allow you the ability to have a rematch. Almost as bad as Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe where some fighters would run around, get their quick win and run off. I have been beaten by players who I didn’t feel were my equal, but without the ability for a rematch in ranked battle, it becomes one frustration after another. It would have been nice to have that chance to take another swing, even at the cost of ranking, just to make sure it wasn’t simply dumb luck that did you in. Many a time already I have been bested by players who simply lucked out, having a moment of lag which has given them the time to defend against my attack, damage which has been stolen from me by an unstable connection. I was beaten by a Gen player simply because of a “lag burst” which had turned my hard practiced Shoryureppa into a simple Shoryuken. Not having landed that Super Combo cost me momentum, turning the tide of the fight due to a missed attack, resulting in me losing the match. Dumb luck is all it was.
And to those players reading this, trying to figure out why they do lose those nail-biters, why sometimes things never go right when they spend hours practicing only to keep losing, a lot of it has to do with luck. It is true that no matter how good you are, there is always someone better, but sometimes it is just simple chance. Anyone who remembers Golden Eye 007 for the Nintendo 64, and Perfect Dark which followed shortly after, sometimes the match was decided by where you spawned, what weapons you were closest too, what areas could be properly defended, etc This was even more important if you were playing “Licensed to Kill” mode, where one shot is it, especially since an assault rifle is far more effective then a semi-automatic pistol. Sure there is a fair bit of skill involved, but in my long experience in gaming, even with all the practice, even with your fingers moving around the control pad faster than your opponent, sometimes a lucky shot, a missed attack, running out of ammo at a crucial moment, a game glitch, or another unforeseen circumstance leads you to defeat. Luck does play a significant part in whether you win or lose, and those who deny it are either inexperienced or simply lying to themselves. I could go on and on about the errors in some of these games, but I am sure we all have our stories.
I know it can be a hassle, and I know that sometimes the game is more frustrating than fun, but remember that you aren’t the only one going through it. And after all, it is only a game right?