Where Do Combo Videos Fit In?
Last month, i said that combo videos and combos in general comprise a relatively small piece of the complete fighting game puzzle. How exactly do they factor into the overall picture?
Tactically speaking, executing a combo is a lot like finishing a traditional three-point play in basketball. As a reward for driving past a perimiter defender and baiting an interior defensive mistake, the player is granted an additional free throw after the made basket. The two primary components of free throw shooting are technical ability and maintaining composure.
Can free throws decide games? Absolutely. Does anyone consider free throws a core strategic aspect of the game? No. They serve a clear purpose, but there’s much more to the game on a fundamental level: spacing, timing, footwork, adaptation, defense, etc.
In fighting games, landing a combo involves recognizing an opportunity, evaluating damage options, having the technical ability to perform the combo, and maintaining enough composure to pull it off under pressure. Anyone who drops a combo during tournament play should absolutely be penalized for failing to complete a simple task that they can ice ninety-nine times out of a hundred in practice. That’s a perfectly valid part of the game.
However, most veterans are more impressed by a player’s ability to set up a combo in match play, over the ability to execute it – and for good reason. The only consistent way to create openings is to mentally outplay the opposition. It takes a broad skill set and a strong mastery of the game to bait an opponent into committing a major mistake, while ending up in the right place at the right time to capitalize on it.
Continuing the basketball analogy, combo videos are akin to slam dunk contests and other such exhibitions. They’re very exciting to watch as a spectacle, but they transform an inherently multi-player game into a single-player activity. Of course slam dunk contests and combo videos can be competitive as well, but they essentially remove the concept of defense from the equation.
On a technical level, combo videos always play a crucial role in advancing the community’s understanding of game engines and combo systems. Obviously, elaborate combos involving complex trade setups don’t usually pay immediate dividends to tournament players seeking a competitive edge. It takes a long time to process those technical discoveries into practical applications. Nevertheless, there have been times when a combo video has changed the way a game is played in tournaments.
It’s worth noting that combo videos are a poor indicator of character balance and tier rankings. Even the weakest character in a game can look utterly broken without the need to play defense or produce reliable mixups.
However, combo videos are a great indicator of what’s cool in a game. If you have five minutes and you want to see a certain character produce fireworks, watch a combo video. You’ll get a good sense of what the game engine allows and how characters can maneuver within it.
Lastly, combo videos are great for shaking up the status quo. When you feel like you’ve seen everything there is to see in a game, or everything your character can do, watch a combovid. It might inspire you to look in a new direction.