Ultra Street Fighter IV Resource Guide

headerI originally posted this in /r/ps4 since the game is coming out for Playstation 4 today, but it will likely be useful for anyone who is interested in learning more about Street Fighter.

Street Fighter is hard. If you think you’ll be able to jump right into ranked and start winning matches, you’re going to likely be in for a rude awakening. It’s a harsh game that doesn’t do a lot of hand-holding and expects the players to learn most of the game on their own. However, there are many online resources for players just starting out as well as for veterans of the series. I’ve been playing Street Fighter for about 20 years and have participated in tournaments for about 12 years, and I still use all of the resources here on a regular basis to help me improve at the game.
From Masher to Master: The Educated Video Game Enthusiast’s Fighting Game Primer – The best starting resource for anyone who wants to learn the game from the ground up, written by Shoryuken contributor and redditor /u/pattheflip. If you don’t think you have the time to read a 135 page book, then unfortunately I have to let you know that Street Fighter may not be the game for you. Yes, that’s right. In order to have a fighting chance in this game, I am recommending you start by reading a book. Like Chess, Street Fighter players do as much reading about the game as they do playing it.

Basic Street Fighter Notation – Provides notations for the control scheme, what different buttons do, and how to perform different motions

Shoryuken’s Fighting Game Glossary – explains much of the jargon surrounding the fighting game genre

Sonic Hurricane’s Footsies Handbook – A great 10+ part look at “footsies” written by Maj; “Footsies” is oldschool slang for the mid-range ground-based aspect of fighting game strategy. The ultimate goal is to control the flow of the match, bait the opponent into committing errors, and punish everything.”

/r/streetfighter – Main subreddit for the game; recently replaced /r/sf4 since the announcement of Street Fighter V

/r/fighters – More general fighting game information and news

Shoryuken – The biggest and oldest Street Fighter website; has character discussions, guides, a great wiki, news, and forums

Capcom Unity – Official message board for Street Fighter

Capcom Pro Tour – Official site for the year-long tournament series that has $500k on the line spread out over various tournaments across the world, culminating in the Capcom Cup Finals which people have to qualify for by winning Premier events and/or gaining ranking points through Ranking events

Capcom Fighters – Official YouTube channel for Street Fighter; most Capcom Pro Tour matches are uploaded here

Playing to Win– Controversial 30+ part series written by former top player David Sirlin that explains the mindset of a Street Fighter player who plays solely to win

Advertisements

Short thoughts on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and why I love video games

Pacmansmashbroswiiu3dsmiiversewebpostthtehhgwgwgwYesterday is a perfect example of why I still play and love video games. There were twelve different people at my house coming and going over the course of nine hours covering more than a 20 year difference in ages between the youngest and oldest and representing multiple races, political leanings, belief systems, income levels, genders, and sexual orientations who were all able to have a great time laughing, shouting at each other, and playing a game together.

I will, for the rest of my life, enjoy games when they provide a shared experience, create lasting friendships, and bring people together who may have never otherwise even known each other.

Response to a question: “How revelant is the competive community to a fighting game’s performance?”

img_4401This question was asked by Master Havik in the Chicago Fighting Game Community Facebook group. Below is my response.

The competitive community is what keeps people playing games, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to more revenue for the company, which is (unfortunately) why it looks like there is going to be a shift to the F2P model, where revenue stream for a game is extended throughout its competitive life. Fighting games have always had a weird revenue model:

Arcade machines cost money for each play, and the companies kept them interesting by releasing a lot of different games and versions.

 

Console versions of fighters traditionally also got many versions of a game, which you would have to buy individually. This has been true from the SF2 days all the way up to SF4 and MvC3 for Capcom. Companies like Aksys take it to an extreme with so, so many versions of GGXX and BB.

Many fighting game series stagnated in the 2000s because arcades weren’t pulling in as much money over the course of the game’s lifespan, customers were tired of paying for a whole new version of a game every year or so, and consoles like the DC and PS2 weren’t quite ready for DLC and all that was to come in the PS3/360 era.

In the current console generation, there has been a move towards paid patches and updates as well as paid DLC characters, costumes, etc. While this model allows for companies to make money over the course of a game’s lifespan, the competitive community (who keep the games alive by playing them) complain about getting nickel and dimed. I still can’t believe that I paid $5 each for the 3 DLC characters in KOFXIII, when I picked up the game itself for $20 about six months after it released.

The performance of most AAA single player games (that may have a shoehorned in multiplayer mode) depends almost entirely upon the sales in the first week or so that it comes out, much like Hollywood movies. Sure, there are those who will pick up the game later at a discounted price or buy it used, but the company gets little to none of that money. It’s okay for those types of games because they generally have a 10-20 hour lifespan and little replayability.

A competitive game has a literally endless number of new and exciting hours of gameplay because you’re playing against other people and discovering new things to do against them. The games’ performance can be tied to how long people continue to play, but the company still needs to bring in revenue if they are going to continue to support those games through online play, patches, DLC, and all the other things that we competitors want from them but are unwilling to pay for.

New games are going to need a system of revenue generation that many competitors (myself included) are very wary of. Look at Tekken Revolution, where leveling and paying for in game bonuses gives your character an unfair leg up on the competition. League of Legends allows players to buy new characters that others might not have access to unless they grind for in-game currency just to be able to play them. Yes, they offer free heroes on a rotating basis, but one of the best aspects of most competitive games is that all characters/strategies/etc are available to all players at all times so that they can learn to use them or practice how to counter them.

The model of revenue generation that I’m hoping takes over is that of DOTA2, which allows for buying of tons of cosmetic upgrades and customization of the game and characters but has no effect on the competitive aspects because all of the characters are available to anyone playing from the very start. If something like this came to fighting games (as it sort of did with Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown), where the game is free or cheap to download and all characters are included and cannot be buffed by leveling up or “buying up”, then we could see the financial performance of fighting games become more tied to the competitive community or at least the hardcore fans who are willing to pay to make the game more customized or fun for themselves while still keeping the competitive aspects fair and in tact. That would lead to companies having money on hand all the time for balance patches, new DLC characters, sponsored tournaments, and other great stuff.

Dangan Ronpa (PSP Game) Review

Dangan Ronpa  Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no KoukouseiA few days ago, the incredibly fine folks over at Project Zetsubou released their fan translation of the 2010 PSP visual novel/mystery game Dangan Ronpa (developed and published by Spike) that has only been officially released in Japan. I had not heard of the game until a couple of months ago when my wife played through a Chinese fan translation. As a fan of the Ace Attorney series, I was intrigued by the gameplay and concept, so I’ve been waiting patiently for this fantastic game to finally be playable in a language I know. That all being said, here’s my quick review of the game.

Overview

Dangan Ronpa is a game that takes place inside of a school for the best and the brightest, with nearly every student excelling at a specific skill such as a sport, computer programming, or writing. The number of students admitted to the school is very small, just a bit more than a dozen. The main character has no particular skill and is only average in all school subjects, but one student is drawn randomly from a pool of average students from across Japan. Upon arriving, things are not what they seem from the very beginning, and you find yourself in a sort of twisted game in which the students are told by a remote-controlled teddy bear that only one of them can “graduate” and leave the school if that person is able to murder a fellow student and successfully trick the other students into placing the blame on someone else during the “Class Trial” that takes place after each murder. If someone does commit a murder and is found guilty, that person is executed, and the rest of the students can go on living in the “school”. If the Class Trial finds the wrong person guilty, then everyone but the murderer is executed, and he or she is free to leave.

Your task in the game is to get to know the other students, try to get them to work together, solve the murders, explore the locked-down school, and discover the mysteries behind the person or people running the twisted game.

Gameplay

While I’m sure there are tons of other great games that play out similarly to Ace Attorney and Dangan Ronpa, I have generally steered away from the “click on everything and talk to everyone in order to progress the story” visual novels that permeate the Japanese market, and I was worried that this might be the case with DR since it is basically a murder mystery game. However, the gameplay mixes things up enough that there are hardly any dull moments. Sometimes you are given a specific goal such as to find out where something or someone is hiding. Others you are free to roam about the school to building to build relationships with other students or just explore. Most of your time outside of the Class Trials will be spent, however, investigating murders and having informal meetings with the rest of the students.

This all takes place through a conventional first person perspective where clicking on another character will bring them into the foreground, and you can listen to what they have to say or ask them questions. Clicking on various objects around the school will add them to your “ammunition” which are used during the trials. After a dead body is found, you are given an amount of time to investigate and try to determine who the murderer is. There’s no actual time limit to the investigation, and there was never a time in which I simply didn’t know what to do. The pacing of the game allows for you to kind of learn the flow of the investigations as you go, and, while it doesn’t hold your hand all the time and always tell you where to go, it does occasionally give strong hints, and you usually can’t leave a room until you have examined everything there of importance.

After you have done a thorough investigation, the start of a Class Trial is announced. Coming from the Ace Attorney series, I expected the trials to play out as similarly to that series as the investigations do. While there are some elements that are borrowed, especially during the Nonstop Debate, the trials in Dangan Ronpa are a combination of several different gameplay types that mostly work. Nonstop Debates have you firing ammunition (in the form of evidence or testimonials) to contradict what people are saying. Machinegun Talk Battles act as very simple rhythm games in which you have to keep up with your opponent’s barrage of useless banter. Epiphany Anagrams have you spell out words by shooting the letters as they fly across the screen. Climax Logic has you put together a manga/comic that gives a rough timeline of the events of the murder. Of these, I feel like the MTBs were a bit too easy, and the Epiphany Anagrams probably work better in Japanese than they do in English. In one particular instance, the answer was an abbreviation of a longer phrase that was confusing at first.

As you go through the story and unlock more areas of the school to explore, the mysteries get more complicated and new elements are addded to the investigations and trials. The pacing of this is pretty spot-on, although I did feel like the 3rd chapter was more complicated and required a bit more work to piece together than the 4th. This is, of course, a very minor quibble, and there’s no particular reason other than general video game difficulty curves for the order of events to be so convenient.

The gameplay overall is solid, but there are a few questionable choices such as using the control stick to move around and the dpad to look around. Others, as mentioned earlier, are the less-than-stellar Machinegun Talk Battles and Epiphany Anagrams. These do not detract from the overall experience, however. If you are familiar and comfortable with the Ace Attorney games or even the daytime elements of Persona, then you should feel right at home, except this home is a bit more action-oriented.

Presentation

The music and art direction set this game apart from other murder mystery games which tend to be dark in tone, color, and atmosphere. Dangan Ronpa is full of upbeat music, funny dialogue, great character designs, and a high contrast color palette that is both creepy and cheerful. Every time you enter a room, the floors, ceiling, furniture, and characters fly onto the screen from every direction and form a pop-up book or diorama style 2D/3D hybrid that is truly unique. Even rooms I had gone into dozens of times still occasionally caught me off guard with plenty of little details and stuff to examine that I didn’t notice before.

During certain moments, the game shows still image close ups that let you admire the truly distinct characters and environments. At other times, there are full-blown CGI movies that play. Most of the time, you are looking at the different rooms throughout the school, which are all well-designed and distinct from each other, the hallways, which are a bit less exciting than the rest of the visual elements – especially since you’ll usually have your map overlaying the screen, or character art of the student you are talking to.

While I would never play a visual novel to be wowed by the presentation, I find little to complain about with this game. It’s got a style all of its own, and the characters are some of the best designed anime/manga style people I have ever seen in a game.The voice acting is fantastic, with each character’s personality really coming through the Japanese VO, and the translation by Project Zetsubou is nearly flawless. Add all of that with some great music (which can be played outside of the main game in the extras menu), and you have a game that bleeds style.

Story

I am keeping this as spoiler-free as possible (although my overview does admittedly spoil the premise), so this section will be short. To put it simply, the story is very hard to predict but is explained well enough that you never feel like it is using cheap tricks to justify the twists or surprises. Every new chapter brings more questions than answers, and I found myself staying up far later each night than the previous for the past three days as I could not wait to find out what happens next. Generally, I am very critical of the stories in video games, and I tend to play games in which the story is not the main draw, such as puzzle games, fighters, and platformers. That being said, I found the story of Dangan Ronpa to be a great mix of serious and whimsical. Every character is well developed (especially if you take the time to speak with them during “free time”), and the game does not have a single weak chapter. If you enjoy stories that combine mystery, deception, betrayal, diverse characters, and teddy bears, then I highly recommend the game.

Lasting Thoughts

Dangan Ronpa has unique story gameplay, story, and stylistic elements that set it apart from other games in the visual novel genre. I can’t say it’s better than my absolute favorite game of this type (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations), but it is the first game in a long time that has left me wanting more once I finished it. Often, I feel more of an obligation to finish out a story-based game once I’m about 2/3 of the way through because, by then, I’m probably tired of the gameplay or have already figured out the rest of the story. Dangan Ronpa has only made me wish I had waiting until the novel and sequel were already translated because I cannot stand to only know part of the story.

Thoughts on the “Big 3” at E3

6e201c5789e7be76f4271ffb2ba30af4For those who don’t know, E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but (despite the name implying that it’s for all kinds of entertainment) it’s essentially a video game trade show. It’s held every year in California mainly for the press and people in the industry, but the news that comes out of it is important to everyone from an average video game player to stock traders on Wall Street. The “Big 3” are Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo – the companies that make or have made the 6th, 7th, and 8th generations of home video game consoles. It’s a big year for E3 because 2013 marks the full transition from the 7th to the 8th generation. Technically, Nintendo released its 8th generation console, the Wii U, in late 2012, but Sony and Microsoft join with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this year. Each of these three companies gave press conferences about the futures of their respective consoles (and handhelds in the case of Sony and Nintendo), and I’m going to give my opinion on each in the order they occurred.

 

Microsoft – Xbox One

The Xbox One (which many are nicknaming Xbone) was announced a couple of weeks before E3 to nobody’s surprise, and it left many people with more questions than answers. They showed the actual console but did not do much else besides show some games and give out confusing details about some serious limitations on the the device. At E3, many thought that they would clarify some of these limitations and ease the minds and hearts of those interested in getting Microsoft’s new system. One of the biggest unanswered questions was what the price would be. Another was whether or not an Internet connection would be required to simply play games as had been stated before. Instead of taking these concerns to heart and surprising everyone with a low price and removing the online requirement, they announced it would cost $499 in the US and would be even more expensive elsewhere. They then solidified the fact that the console would have to “check in” to the Internet at least once every 24 hours, even if someone only wanted to play games that have no online components. Also, that “elsewhere” I mentioned is limited to only 21 countries. If you live anywhere else in the world, the Internet check-in won’t work, and you won’t be able to play your games. Effectively, they bombed their chance at making things right since the announcement of the console.

However, many people who play games are interested primarily in the games themselves, right? Microsoft had plenty of them to show, and they seem to have quite a few important exclusive games. The one of these I’m most interested in as primarily a fighting game player is the long-awaited third game in the Killer Instinct series, named Killer Instinct. As a side note, I have no idea why so many games and movies like to pretend they are not sequels by removing the numbering after the title once enough time has passed or if there have simply been too many in the series. There’s already a game called Killer Instinct, and, if they make a sequel to the new one, will they just call it Killer Instinct 2? That’s already the name of a game as well! The new Killer Instinct was announced as a free to play game, which concerns me, but then was later changed to be a free to play demo, which most fighting games already have, and that you could buy the full game separately. I understand why Microsoft made KI an exclusive title, but it saddens me as someone who isn’t planning on buying an Xbox One.

Overall, I feel like Microsoft dropped the ball. They had every chance to do this right as they did with the Xbox 360, but the limitations, the scarily invasive technologies, and the price have turned me (and many others I have spoken to) against even considering to buy the Xbox One. There’s very little chance I will ever own one unless it somehow becomes the standard for future fighting games as the 360 did in this generation. I don’t see that happening, however, due to many concerns that tournament organizers have voiced over how difficult it would be to run a tournament on a system which requires a Kinect and an Internet connection to work.

Sony – PlayStation 4 

The PlayStation 4 (PS4) was announced even earlier than the Xbox One, which gave Microsoft a chance to feel out the competition before announcing its console. However, the original announcement focused on system features and games but did not show the console itself, leading to questions to hopefully be answered at E3, much like with the Xbox One (although different questions). Unlike with the Xbox One, most of the answers to these questions were satisfying with regards to Sony’s PS4. First of all, the design of the console itself is very sleek and will look nice in my Sony-centric living room. Secondly, the price is also much more reasonable at $399. To top it all off, the system is much more open in regards to region-locking, DRM, game sharing, and indie game development.

Unfortunately, there was not a single fighting game shown for PS4. This is really disappointing considering all the features that make the PS4 the perfect system for the genre: video streaming and sharing, ability to use 3rd party USB controllers, no required online check, and automatic updates. On the other hand, two games which I am very excited for were shown as part of the press conference: Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3. Later, both were revealed to be released for Xbox One as well, but it was too late for Microsoft because I preordered the PS4 only a few hours after Sony’s show. FFXV looks particularly amazing, a great example of the difference between the current and next generation. As mentioned before, Sony also confirmed that there are quite a few indie games in development for the system, which will hopefully bolster the launch with some fun diversions before some of the bigger games come out. Oh, yeah, there were also a bunch of shooting and racing games, but I’m not terribly interested in any of those.

Sony didn’t walk away with flying colors, however. They were slightly underhanded in the way they “announced” one new aspect of the PS4 – that you would be required to subscribe to PlayStation Plus to be able to play most games online. One of the biggest selling points of the PS3 is that it has always been free to play online. I personally think PlayStation Plus is already a great deal, but the fact that we had to find out about it on the small print of an advertisement for something else entirely was pretty shady.

Overall, I agree with most of the rest of the Internet that Sony did a pretty good job at E3. It looks like they are winning the early game against the Xbox One with preorders, and I think that they are going to continue to dominate the next console generation. I just hope there are actually some games that come out for the system at launch that I want to play.

Sony also has a great handheld called the PS Vita which has been out for a while. There weren’t a ton of games mentioned for it in the main conference, but I assure you that they exist. The Vita has the most beautiful screen I’ve ever seen on a handheld device, and the upcoming remote play functionality is going to be great for those few of us who are going to own both a PS4 and PSV.

Nintendo – Wii U

The poorly named and poorly marketed Wii U launched late last year to fairly poor sales and a lot of confusion. To this day, many people I know just think it’s an overpriced Wii accessory rather than an entirely new console that is more powerful than a PS3 or 360. Nintendo’s main goal of this E3 was to clarify all of this and get people to buy a Wii U before the onslaught of XB1 and PS4 this holiday season. Rather than show a traditional press conference to people who couldn’t make it to E3, Nintendo created some pre-recorded videos that included clips and short explanations of a bunch of different upcoming games. Also, at a very limited number of Best Buy stores around the US this week, shoppers were treated to some swag and a chance to play some of the demos that would have otherwise been limited to people who were able to attend E3. Unfortunately, the closest one to where I live is about two hours away despite there being about 20 Best Buys between here and there, and I couldn’t justify the trip.

Of course and as always, the games shown by Nintendo were mostly first-party titles in long-running series. There was not a single surprise among them all as the only completely unannounced title was Super Mario 3D World, but people have been expecting a 3D Mario on Wii U since before it launched. There were a couple of really cool surprise characters announced for the new Super Smash Bros. game, which is very sadly the biggest fighting game news to come out of E3 entirely. Nintendo’s first-party games, such as Mario Kart 8, all generally look great and are the main reason that I continue to buy Nintendo consoles.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that Nintendo really accomplished its main goal. The Nintendo Direct video should have started out by explaining exactly what the Wii U was and announcing a price drop. Instead, it focused on games and gameplay, which is normally a great move. I still predict in a few months there will be people at stores all over buying Super Mario 3D World as Christmas presents for their kids that only own a Wii. The confusion that haunted last year’s holiday season isn’t going to go away until Nintendo faces facts and makes the differences more clear to the average consumer. If Mario Kart 8 or Smash Bros. were announced as coming out in 2013, I would say that Nintendo had a fighting chance this year. Because they weren’t, I expect the Wii U to get crushed this year but to come back with a serious vengeance in 2014.

The 3DS is going strong as Nintendo’s newest handheld. One of the coolest announcements from E3 regarding the successor to the greatest handheld of all time (Nintendo DS) is that it will also have its own version of Super Smash Bros which will include all of the characters (but strangely not all of the stages). I don’t know if this will affect the game competitively, but I would expect that tournaments will be run on the Wii U version.

Closing Thoughts

As someone who primarily plays fighting games and other games by Japanese developers, E3 isn’t where I expect to get blown away by game announcements. I hope that EVO and Tokyo Game Show have some surprises in store. That isn’t to say that E3 isn’t important to me as a fan of video games. The entire industry is focused on this event, and its aftermath determines which consoles people are going to buy and develop games for. From what it looks like, Sony has the ball and is running with it. The PS4 has the power, price, and features that make for a great console. It just needs more games. Nintendo of course has strong first party games but needs to get out the word better about its console. If I were them, I would also worry about getting left in the dust due to the huge difference in power between the Wii U and the other two consoles, but I guess that didn’t matter much with the Wii. So, I could be wrong. Microsoft has to do a lot between now and the Xbox One’s launch to get the attention off of its terrible policies, price, and limitations. There are some really strong games coming out for the system, but I’m not willing to deal with all the hoops I would have to jump through in order to play them.

Board Games in China (minipost)

JmAzhwkh

China is AWESOME for board gaming. They have board game cafes spread all over the major cities where you can pay to play any of the games they have in stock (usually around 200) by the hour and someone will even come over and teach you how to play a game or clarify rules for you if you’re not sure about something. It’s not a niche or “geeky” hobby there. It’s right up with going to the movies, going to KTV/Karaoke, or going to the mall as something very normal that a lot of young people do on a regular basis.

While in Harbin (my wife’s hometown in northern China – a city around the size of Chicago), we spent some time at one of these cool board game cafes. My Mandarin is a joke, so it was left up to my wife to translate most of what was going on when we arrived. The first game we played while we were waiting for some of the people there to finish up some matches of a popular Chinese TCG was DaVinci Code, a simple and fun bluffing, deduction, and guessing game. Afterwards, we found three guys willing to play a game with us, and we decided on Ticket to Ride since there aren’t any language skills needed. Playing in my basement at or at my local group is fun, but it’s hard to beat playing with some REALLY hilarious guys who were smoking and joking and shouting, even if I didn’t know exactly what they were always saying

I also managed to snag a copy of Dixit Odyssey 1+2+3 for less than $10 and Power Grid with English rules for about $12 while I was there. You can buy games all over China, at bookstores, magazine stands, toy stores, and of course board game stores. If you ever find yourself there, make sure to do some shopping. The prices for games are insanely low. The only reason I didn’t buy more was that I didn’t have room in my luggage.

Arcades in China (minipost)

IMG_1277 Arcades in America suck. We’re so incredibly lucky to live near some decent ones, but overall I now know why people say they’re dead in America. I visited about 10 different arcades in China, and nearly every one of them was better than any arcade I have been to in the US (with exceptions being GGA for old school and GameWorks Schaumburg for rhythm).

IMG_1274IMG_1279

In Harbin, China alone, there are 86 different arcades, each of which has a whole row of fighting games, a section for music games, a bunch of connected racers, and a ton of other awesome games. Best of all, there are ALWAYS people there playing stuff, so it’s really easy to walk up and get a match of Tekken 6 or KOF 97/98, or even SF4 (Vanilla, primarily). Also, some of the arcades gave two tokens for 1RMB (6RMB is a about $1.00). So, that’s 12 tokens for a dollar, and most of the games were only 2-3 tokens.

What’s really insane is that most of the arcades we went to were a bit run down but were still more up-to-date than ones here. I got to play against some really good players in KOF who beat me terribly, but I was able to hold my own in Tekken, and I was (sadly) the best at SF4 at most of the arcades I went to.

I also got to play a bunch of DJ Max Technika, JuBeat, Pump it Up, Taiko, and a Chinese music game called Muzibox that’s like Keyboardmania mixed with JuBeat. Somehow, I did not see a single DDR machine in any of the places we went, but there’s a really popular dancing game there that’s like a combination of Pump with Kinect-style motion controls.