Home > Strategy, Technical > Where Do Combo Videos Fit In?

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.

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  1. Carnoustie
    July 25th, 2010 at 01:16 | #1

    Hey Maj, I play Oro in third strike. I don’t know if you know much about him but all of Oro’s combo options stem off one move, his close strong (a launcher). In fact, his ground combos are an interesting situation. He has a grab that he can combo into, but other than that, he only has two ground combos. He has no rapid fire attacks and no chaining. He has standing short, standing forward, a sometimes-two-hit target combo that doesn’t cancel. This was given to him so he has at least one ground combo. He also has close jab linked to far short. This was an accident.

    Anyway because all his combos stem off a launch, you’ll never find a combo video for Oro, because all of his juggles are match-applicable and people only use the ones that do the most damage. Even his stun juggles are the easiest to set up of any character. Oro is a combo video made into a character; the only limit is your execution. The craziest stuff you can find for him, you can do mid match, which really lets you show off.

  2. d3v
    July 25th, 2010 at 02:35 | #2

    IMO, a better basketball analog would be like watching a slam dunk competition. Both are impressive to watch and show off alot of skill and creativity but in the end, what’s still important isn’t the dunk/combo but how it was set up.

  3. Pokey86
    July 25th, 2010 at 06:13 | #3

    Nice read, i feel strongly of the importance of to differentiate between live fighting & things such as combo videos. CV’s take one aspect of a game (Most often the “coolest” looking part) but gameplay takes the entirety in to account.

    You get alot of shows on TV displaying all the best goals ever scored in soccer. but you never see these shows for greatest “defense” or best “saves” by a keeper. etc. Same rule applies i guess.

  4. smoothjazz
    July 25th, 2010 at 07:56 | #4

    Great read, can you think of any combo videos like the ones you mentioned that altered how the game was played? It would be interesting to see in context.

  5. July 25th, 2010 at 12:50 | #5

    I’ve seen the flashiest saves before.

  6. July 25th, 2010 at 13:37 | #6

    Well, this is only my personal take on the issue. There’s still a lot of discussion about the role of combos in fighting games, but i think they serve a clear purpose in match play – even though they’re not what i would call core fundamentals.

    Combo videos are a little different because they’ve evolved into their own niche, but it’s still impossible to separate them from their roots in the fighting game community – as a means of exploring and understanding game engines.

    I basicallly went through the same process watching jchensor and NKI combovids back when i first found SRK. Once you go through that phase, it’s a lot easier to pick up new games because you build that technical foundation much quicker, and stuff begins to make sense sooner. So if nothing else, combo videos help build technical aptitude.

  7. July 25th, 2010 at 13:51 | #7

    Carnoustie: I hadn’t thought of Oro that way but that’s pretty cool now that you mention it. Although i’ve definitely seen ridiculously impractical Oro combos, and i think our impression would change if kysg had ever made an Oro combovid.

    Pokey86: Actually they do highlight saves in soccer and blocks in basketball, but neither of those are true fundamental defense. Real defense happens all over the field and involves reading opponents, playing mindgames, using formations, ball denial, getting in passing lanes, closing off space, etc. That’s the kind of stuff you don’t see in highlight reels. Every once in a while you see defensive shenanigans in tournament DVD trailers, but nobody ever shows highlights of pure blocking or walking backward.

    smoothjazz: Every Custom Combo system ever created started out as a combovid-only choice. I’m talking about SFA3 V-Ism, 3S Yun, CvS2 A-Groove, and so on. Then you have major discoveries like SFA3 crouch canceling which showed up in a Japanese combo video first, and revolutionized the way the game was played. There’s simpler ones too, like MvC2 Sentinel HSF loops, Iron Man’s normal jump infinite, Magneto’s Rom infinite, etc. which all showed up in combo vids first. In SF4, ultrafreeze unblockables were essentally discovered, developed, and popularized in combo videos before anyone started using them in match play. I could go on and on …

  8. July 25th, 2010 at 14:18 | #8

    Super armour cancels I first recall seeing in combo vids.

  9. ano
    July 26th, 2010 at 00:30 | #9

    old mvc2 combo videos by mike z show this.

    mike z mvc2 combos volume 1 includes:
    – magneto does hk hyper grab xx tempest, c lk c hk, hk hyper grab tempest.
    – magneto doing his hk throw into c.lk launcher magic series airdash magic series
    – shows cammy doing her basic bnb air combo into killer bee assault, then the otg into another killer bee assault after

    Mike Z’s mvc2 combos volume 2 includes:
    – war machine doing the basic every day any modern random mvc2 player knows about, j.hk into his rejump infinite, this kind of setup is so basic and bland and bad by today’s standards that you don’t even see it in match videos of anyone of a decent skill level
    – sent doing his basic mouthbeam rocket punch hyper sentinel force x N like maj mentioned! we still see this today in nearly every match vid including sentinel.

    Mike Z’s combos volume 3:
    – Dhalsim doing his flight mode infinite set up using magneto’s launcher assist, today any decent dhalsim player can do this combo w/ many solo setups not requiring the use of an outside assist (of course sim isn’t exactly a common character but yeah)

    volume 4 shows:
    – cyke doing magic series xx spin kicks xx super (i’m surprised this wasn’t known by then?)
    – blackheart comboing after an inferno on a super jumping opponent into another inferno into his super (blackheart players in tournaments do an infinite using the inferno which is essentially a much longer version of the setup in this vid)
    – cyke doing magic series xx gene splice xx super (again i’m surprised that this wasn’t widely known?)
    – a more extensive magneto double tempest combo that does than the one in volume 1 (still nothing compared to modern day magneto combos)
    – morrigan doing her sjc relaunch infinite with her butt move. any decent morrigan player uses this, look at videos of justin k gambit morrigan sonson or jwong’s low tier matches

    volume 5 shows:
    – rogue doing her speed-up infinite that is just pressing the lp button over and over
    – psylocke doing her corner psyshot infinite (this is done in matches today)
    – this one isn’t really done in matches but is a funny tidbit: the exact same jab jab repulsor blast infinite that ends Magnetro’s final video Variable Atmosphere 2
    – dr doom launcher into aircombo into his divekick airdash forward photon array, the airdash causes more hits of the photon array to hit. this is the basic bnb for dr doom today.

    MANY of these combos are so basic now in mvc2 that they basically don’t exist because we have more ridiculous combos to do IN THE ACTUAL MATCH but in this video they are novel and crazy enough to be part of a combo video

  10. July 26th, 2010 at 01:46 | #10

    Yeah, early MvC2 was very active on the combo video front because the Dreamcast version was released right after the arcade version. All kinds of people were making combovids back then.

    The first place i saw Sentinel’s HSF loop was in a fighters.net video made by gilley of all people. Even jchensor was making a series of MvC2 combovids back then, based on his roots as an XSF player.

    There were probably a dozen combovid makers contributing to early Marvel development. With 56 characters to choose from, it took like a year just to establish decent bread-and-butter combos for everyone. And of course combo videos were the frontier in that regard.

  11. July 26th, 2010 at 14:34 | #11

    I was getting a bit fed up of ssf4 recently so I decided to play some Tekken. It’s the first time I’ve really played Tekken while knowing what moves I’m using and I’m finding learning the combo system really fun.

  1. July 25th, 2010 at 02:11 | #1
  2. July 25th, 2010 at 02:13 | #2
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