Rant: Comeback mechanics in fighting games

So you’re playing a salt-free match of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 in a tournament match with your team of Crimson Viper/Spencer/Magneto vs Zero/Trish/Wesker and so far your high-execution, extremely stylish Crimson Viper has taken out the first two characters on your opponent’s team. Your point character is at 50% health but still somewhat healthy, healthy enough to take a few gunshots from Wesker. The enemy Wesker blocks your mixup attempt and activates X-factor, thus becoming Dark Wesker, and lands a jab on Viper and confirms into a combo ending with Phantom Dance that gets the kill and boosts Wesker’s speed and damage up (because true gangstas are too cool for sunglasses). Dark Wesker gets a mixup attempt on your Spencer and yet again lands the hit and confirms into a combo for an easy 1 million damage into a kill. Your last character, Magneto, then enters the battle and you successfully block Dark Wesker’s mixup attempt. Knowing that you cannot fight Dark Wesker easily you try to lame him out by activating  your own X-factor and escaping into the top corners of the screen to avoid Dark Wesker. Unfortunately, you eventually have to come down, Wesker ends up crossing you up multiple times and eventually lands a hit with his blinding speed and kills your last character. This all happened within a time span of 15 Marvel seconds, and now you’re salty.

That, or Wesker enjoys eating Phoenixes for Sunday Brunch

(Image courtesy of Shoryuken.com)

This is a very common occurrence in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3: a comeback is made by a character in level 3 X-factor, effectively making all of your previous efforts meaningless and rewarding your opponent for, well, losing through the usage of comeback mechanics. Rage and salt are saturating the air because you and various spectators feel that the win made with Dark Wesker was undeserved. So what do you do about this? Well, you either play another fighting game, or you deal with it.

Comeback mechanics in fighting games have been appearing more and more over the past few years. Actually, I guess it would be more accurate to say that they are becoming more integrated into core gameplay mechanics, especially for Capcom fighters.

Side story: Now, I’m going to be honest, I’m not the best fighting game player out there, in fact, I kind of suck at them. I am what some people would call an ’09er (someone that started playing fighting games in 2009 with the release of Street Fighter 4, though I personally hated Street Fighter 4 and made Blazblue my first fighting game that I actually attempted to get good at). I also spend more time being a stream monster in various fighting game community streams than actually playing, but am I still very passionate about fighting games and the fighting game community? Hell to the yes.

I’m so scrubby that I don’t even know how to grip my arcade stick

Back to the main issue about comeback mechanics in fighting games. . . I personally think that comeback mechanics can either be a good or a bad thing, but whenever I hear about a current fighter having some sort of comeback factor being implemented *coughCapcomcough* I get extremely worried. Why is this? It’s because the way that these comeback mechanics tend to function makes it so that a player is awarded with amazing benefits for losing. I’m mainly talking about X-factor in Marvel vs Capcom 3. If you’re reading this article then you most likely already know all about X-factor, but for those that don’t: X-factor definitely isn’t a “press to win” button, but it sure makes the task of winning a hell of a lot easier. I’m not going to say that X-factor completely factors skill out of the game because it doesn’t, but it does make for situations that are nearly impossible for players to react to. Which leads me to my main gripe about certain comeback mechanics. . . .

IF THERE ARE NO REAL COUNTERS FOR A COMEBACK MECHANIC, OR IF THE COMEBACK MECHANIC DOES NOT PROMOTE INTELLIGENT PLAY, THEN IT’S PROBABLY A BAD COMEBACK MECHANIC. 

People oftentimes try to defend X-factor by saying “Well, you also have X-factor yourself, so that makes it fair.” Not. . . exactly. X-factoring during an opponent’s X-factor does not serve as a counter, it only makes the match faster and increases the possibility of something stupid happening such as a random jab that was mashed out converting into a kill combo, or a random beam super eating away at your health. It dumbs down smart play and allows players to, for the most part, go buck-wild. That’s not a good thing, needless to say.

I’m going to hop off of X-factor for now and go into the concept of ultras in Street Fighter 4. Quite honestly, I think that ultras are fine for the most part because they promote intelligent play. Aside from characters like Viper and Balrog, most characters need specific setups in order to land their ultras (wake up ultras are not legit set-ups unless you’re playing EG_Floe a.k.a. The Guy). If you see that your opponent has an ultra ready to blow, you have to change up your playstyle a bit order to not get into a situation where you can get hit by said ultra, and even if you do, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just a hefty amount of damage. Ultras more or less promote intelligent play, and while it does greatly award players for getting hit, it does not exactly make their job of winning easier; you still have to land the hit or make the perfect guess (dat Yomi).

Once upon a time while doing my typical stream monstering, I saw another fellow stream monster claim that “Bursting”, a mechanic in Guilty Gear and Blazblue (and Tatsunoko vs Capcom to some extent) that was limited in use and blew an opponent off of you mid-combo, is a sort of comeback mechanic. I can sort of see the logic with that. Bursting is more or less a sort of “get out of combo free card” with a lot more emphasis on the lesser part of it. While bursts can save your ass in a pinch, there’s something quite interesting about them. . . you can bait bursts if you, the attacker, anticipates them. This all loops back to the part about intelligent play. If you have your opponent in mid-combo and see that they are going to burst, you can end your combo RIGHT before the burst, block the burst, and trap your opponent into another combo because they are now completely vulnerable. The act of anticipating the burst acts as a sort of counter, and the attacker is awarded for intelligent play. If the attacker is lousy in their guessing then they get knocked away and lose all momentum. THAT is a good comeback mechanic.

Unfortunately, Blazblue cannot seem to make its own comeback into the American fighting game scene.

Some people believe that comeback mechanics such as X-factor make matches more hype and bring the intensity. I can kind of see that. Seeing a level 3 X-factor Arthur making a comeback in a 1v3 situation is pretty hype. Do you know what’s more hype, however? REAL.HONEST.COMEBACKS.

I rest my case.

*Also, the “rage” mechanic in Tekken 6 is easily avoidable, so I didn’t bother mentioning it. And Pandora mode in Street Fighter x Tekken is, so far, garbage. Sorry, Tekken players.*

 

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