Carefully lift the plastic-wrapped corners by sneaking a thumbnail beneath their neatly-pressed creases, gently curl the newly torn transparent shield around the outer neon green coffer, pierce the sealing sticker and click open the case, loosing a wealth of mephitic vapor and revealing the glorious contents residing therein: a new fighting game! Oh, to the true fighting fan, the initial insertion of a new disc into the Xbox tray presents us with a blank page–a clean slate. All of our victories, all of our losses, every habit good or bad that we’ve accumulated over years of fighting within various other media wash away as a new title screen flashes across our televisions.
Though to passersby, every fighting game appears pretty similar: brightly-clad lads and lasses tossing flashes of light at one another in front of… is that a giant fetus?
Once you’ve played one at a moderate to high level, though, you begin to feel the minute differences between titles that casual brawlers may not notice. Things like jump and dash recovery frames, throw ranges, throw tech timings and wakeup attack windows to name a few. All of these things, while fairly minor alone, combine to allow each fighting game to exist as its own unique entity.
I enjoy spending my first evening with a new fighter picking every member of the cast and using them to beat up, or be beaten up in a local beer-infused showdown. This allows me not only to get a feel for how every character moves and the kind of ranges their buttons cover, but it also allows me to acclimate to the game’s engine without worrying about high-level play concepts, or even landing combos.
After I’ve gotten a very general feel for the characters, I head to the training room with any of them that felt particularly interesting or suitable to my play style. Injustice offers a host of appealing characters, but the ones who posess the tools which I most enjoy–high speed, mix up potential and okizeme setups–are The Joker, Raven and Killer Frost. Those tools, though, often come at the price of low damage output, mediocre pokes and other subpar abilities to compensate for their superior mobility. Characters like this often prove frustrating to learn early on in a game’s life, before an appropriate level of understanding of the game’s engine is reached due to their innate, complex nature.
To avoid frustration, especially in a game engine that feels foreign, much can be said about first learning a basic character. Basic characters have a little bit of everything. Certainly, these characters have just as much potential as any other character in their chosen title, but they also have a very broad tool set that caters to easing new players into their game. If given a stat spread in D&D, they’d be that Fighter with a 13 in everything. And every series has a few of them: Street Fighter has Ryu and Ken; Blazblue has Ragna and Jin; Tekken has the Mishima boys; Persona 4 Arena has Chie and Yu; Injustice has Batman, Superman and Aquaman.
To get started down the road to ultimate understanding of any new title, choose a character through any method which you see fit. Everyone has their own method and I have just shared mine, but if you just like how Harley looks, go for it. Next, hit up Event Hubs, Shoryuken and YouTube for combo videos and tutorials on how that character works. Watch match footage. Watch live tournaments. Take notes. Then, go to training mode and try to apply the basics of what you’ve seen. Don’t worry about being fancy, that comes later.
One of the most basic and most important things in any fighting game is the ability to confirm into a simple combo. This cannot be stressed enough. When I say confirm, I mean the ability to get into and finish an entire combo from any successful hit. Any. Successful. Hit. But before worrying too much about landing a combo, let’s look deeper into the combo system of Injustice and how to construct a simple combo within such a system.
From what I can tell so far, the Injustice combo system completely lacks links of any form outside of strings or specials connected after a juggle has been performed. In a system like this, crafting combos is fairly simple. Do a string, end it with a special, if the opponent becomes airborne, do another string and another special, repeat as long as able without the opponent hitting the ground or being knocked too far away, then end with another string or special.
The easiest way to think about combos when attempting to learn them, or even create them, is to break them into small bits. Each bit can then be committed to memory as a separate entity, thus allowing you to follow a sort of mental flowchart when any move connects, ideally letting you to follow the path from that hit through the combo’s midsection and onward to an end that yields the most favorable results.
Combos have three basic pieces:
Opener: The opener often consists of an couple of attacks that are safe, easy to connect, work well within the chosen character’s effective range, or a combination of these three qualities. The opener should be performed as a means of cracking the opponent’s defenses and can come from any of the game’s avaiable angles of attack. The more openers available to a specific combo string, the more practical applications the combo posesses.
Middle: The middle part of the combo contains the bulk of the combo’s damage and often involves flashes of plasma or other pyrotechnics. The middle represents the combo’s heart and often remains unchanged, while the combo’s opener and finisher alter depending on the situation at hand.
Finisher: The finisher, like the opener, should be varied depending on exactly what the combo aims to do to the opponent. Damage, sure, but finishers also decide where the damaged opponent falls after the combo completes and can be used to corner the opponent or to set up okizeme.
As an example of an effective way to break down combos, I will use a very simple Aquaman bnb that I shamelessly stole from Arturo Sanchez’ brief Aquaman tutorial. The combo has several potential openers and finisher that I’ve worked out in practice, but the most practical version of the complete combo looks like this in text form:
Opener: b.1, 2
Middle: qcb 1, s.2, s.2 xx qcb 2 (meterburn)
Finisher: f.2, 1+3
I claim b.1, 2 as the most practical opener for this combo because it allows for a near-midscreen, fast, low hit confirmation. Since Aquaman greatly enjoys spending his time dancing around a couple of character lengths from his opponent, he should spend a great deal of time within this opener’s effective range. That said, practical combo openers, such as this one, often scale damage down, but one must consider that reliably landing a moderately damaging combo multiple times in a match holds far more value than landing a high-damage jump-in combo once every few matches.
low: b.1, 2
- hits low from a decent range
mid: s.2, s.2
- hits from close range, but with notably less damage scaling than the low opener
mid: d.1, d.1 (ad nauseam)
- pushes the opponent back if blocked
- can be used to move opponent into tip range of low and overhead openers
- can cancel directly into Trident Scoop to lead into the rest of the combo on a hit
- hits overhead and ground bounces the opponent
- threatens from a slightly longer range than the low opener, allowing for a fairly long-ranged mix up game
- stuffs nearly any jump-in attack and allows for full combo follow up
- big damage
- incredibly easy to hit with, probably needs a hitbox nerf
air-to-air: j.2, land, d.2
- covers an insane amount of aerial space safely
jump-in: j.1, land, s.2, s.2
- risky, as jump-ins tend to be
- can easily cross-up at the correct range
qcb 1, s.2, s.2 xx qcb 2 (meter burn)
- for this mini-tutorial, this section will contain only one possible series of inputs
- moves the opponent back to the side on which they stood at the combo’s initiation
- gives aquaman room to breathe
- a forward dash immediately after recovery will place Aquaman just inside throw range on his opponent’s wakeup
- places Aquaman in tip-range for his overhead, which leads right back into the combo
From The Deep (qcb 2)
- places the opponent in perfect range for an ambiguous cross-up setup with j.1; no movement after From the Deep results in a cross-up, while a slight step back yields a front hit
Trident Scoop (qcb 1)
- sends the opponent flying accross the screen
- great for cornering opponents
- consider using this when Aquaman stands near an interactive object, then use said object once the opponent has been tossed
Other specials can be used as finishers, but they do not, so far as I can see, offer the damage or setup potential presented by these three options.
In the event that your opponent blocks any of the openers listed above, cancel into Trident Rush (qcf 1). This move deals a lot of chip damage and moves the opponent toward the corner quite a bit, not quite so good as a combo, but much better than nothing. If meter burn is used, these effects are amplified quite a bit.
Here is the part where I should include a video detailing the information that I’ve just put forth in an easier-to-digest form. I, sadly, do not have a means to capture video aside from holding my phone in front of my TV like some sort of living room tourist. If you would like to see a low-quality video of the information presented in this post, let me know in the comments section and I’ll make the shoddiest little video that you ever did see.
Also, if you would like to see a similar text-based tutorial (and potentially a shitty video) detailing mix up or combo options for a character, let me know who in the comments!