I hate the word ‘cheap’. In the world of fighting games, ‘cheap’ is most overused and misused word in the vernacular. It is a word that does more damage to the fighting game community than most people think. When someone takes a loss, many are quick to dismiss their own mistakes and learning opportunities by using the word as a flimsy crutch. With that mentality, most players will never get anywhere in a fighting game.
Losing to something ‘cheap’ isn’t the problem. Odds are, what you lost to wasn’t cheap at all. Heck, if you were willing to put in the time and effort to actually improve your abilities, you probably could have a viable counter ready for any tactic that is perceived as cheap. In this edition of the Universal Fighting Game Guide, we’ll talk about the word cheap, what it means and why you should stop using it immediately for the sake of your growth as a fighting game player.
What is Cheap?
The definition of cheap will vary from person-to-person, but I am of the school of thought that virtually nothing is cheap. If it’s in the game, it’s in the game. My only exceptions to that definition are game-breaking glitches, the most heinous infinite combos, and to a much lesser extent, the most severely overpowered characters in a game. The classic example is Akuma in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Due to how overpowered he is in relation to the rest of the cast in that particular game, he is banned in tournament play.
What Isn’t Cheap?
Pretty much anything else. Every other incarnation of Akuma is allowed in tournaments. Heck, almost every character is allowed in every modern fighting game, save for console-exclusive characters such as Kratos in Mortal Kombat. Throws are viewed as a highly valuable maneuver. Even some glitch-based tactics and infinites are allowed. With that said, we as a community are quick to call everything cheap. In my opinion, the problem stems from the difference between ‘powerful’ and ‘cheap’.
The Difference Between Powerful and Cheap
What sets these two words apart is the aspect of options. Something that is powerful may be strong, but the word itself does not mean unbeatable. Cheap on the other hand, greatly implies that the strategy or tactic at play is unfair and devoid of any counters. People most often use cheap in a sentence like this: “Spamming X is cheap because that’s all you need to do to win!”
The reality is, the vast majority of strategies and tactics at play in virtually every fighting game ever are powerful, NOT cheap. While these tactics may work very well, odds are there is a viable counter out there for it. Even before the era of patches, this logic holds true. If you lost to a particular strategy or tactic, your immediate reaction shouldn’t be to send hate messages to your opponent and cry on the developer’s message board for a patch. Instead, you should make an honest effort into figuring out a solution for next time.
Examples of Supposedly Cheap Tactics That Aren’t Cheap At All
The original ‘cheap’ tactic. Back in the day, someone using throws was bound to get beat up in real-life by an unappreciative opponent. To this day, I receive no shortage of hate messages from opponents who feel that throws are cheap. Guess what? They’re not cheap and they never were cheap.
If we’re going to use the aspect of options as our barometer for measuring cheapness, then let’s use it on throws. Are there ways to counter a throw? Absolutely. Here’s a few examples.
- Most throws require your opponent to be very close to you. Simply keep your distance and they won’t be able to throw you.
- Pretty much every modern fighting game has some sort of ‘throw tech’ mechanic. When you input a throw at the same time as your opponent, they’ll cancel each other out. Anticipate your opponent’s throw attempt and stop it.
- Most throws require you to be on the ground. Take to the skies instead.
- There are numerous situations where a throw can backfire. If you can trick your opponent into going for one, they’ll be open to an attack as they unsuccessfully attempt to grab you.
You always have a number of options at your disposal to prevent, stop or counter a throw. While throws may be powerful, they are not cheap due to the number of different ways you can deal with them.
I can’t stand it when people call blocking cheap. What are they supposed to do, just sit there and let you hit them? Of course not. Are there people out there who will try and hit you once and spend the rest of the match trying to block all of your attacks? Yes. In that case, throw them!
Throws are the fundamental counter to blocking. Because you can’t block most throws, an overzealous blocker opponent is bound to get scooped. With a healthy mix of attacks and throws, your opponent will have a much harder time stopping your offense. In particular, grapple-based characters such as Zangief in Street Fighter, Tina in Dead or Alive and Solomon Grundy in Injustice: Gods Among Us can really punish blocking with their special grapple moves. Personally, I love fighting against overzealous blockers, as I’ll simply throw them repeatedly until they figure out how to stop it. They usually never figure it out in time.
Another viable tactic against blocking opponents is to confuse them with hard-to-block attacks or setups. Cross-ups and their many variations are a classic example of this, as they mess with your perception of which way to block. You can also cause confusion with a healthy mix of overhead attacks that must be blocked high, and low attacks that must be crouch blocked. If you are creative in your approach, you can create offensive sequences that will be very hard for anyone to block.
Blocking isn’t cheap because blocking can be broken by many means. The above are just two examples, but if you want to delve into the world of guard breaks and unblockables, be my guest.
Injustice: Gods Among Us and Deathstroke in particular have brought this common complaint back to the forefront. With his myriad of gun attacks at his disposal, some players are finding it very difficult to close the gap. If you’ve ever played a fighting game before, odds are you have run into someone who will leverage this play style.
Deathstroke, like all characters of this archetype, fall apart if you make this an up-close affair. Also, just like any other projectile-based fighter, he’s prone to the same pitfalls. I cover this in greater detail in my specific How To Beat Deathstroke guide, but the principles carry over to virtually every fighting game. When an opponent commits to a projectile, you have a number of movement options at your disposal as they unleash their attack. By creatively walking, jumping, dashing and blocking, you can quickly nullify the projectile advantage and pound their faces in with your fists.
When There’s A Will, There’s A Way
Regardless of what powerful or ‘cheap’ tactics your opponent has in store for you, odds are it’s nothing you can’t counteract with a bit of knowledge and skill. Resources such as strategy guides, video tutorials and fighting game message boards make for a great tool in this regard. Better yet, replay the offending strategy or tactic in training mode and try to solve it yourself. While that Deathstroke player was too busy whining about my Stay Down string, he failed to realize that I had prepared counters for everything he was going to want to do, from his projectile spam, to his sword flip. In particular, I discovered that his sword flip was unsafe on block and I could punish it with virtually any of my Batman combos when he did it. Therefore, I’d simply get into a range where he’d want to do it, block it, then punish accordingly.
You can’t be a good fighting game player if you’re unwilling to learn and evolve. Relying on the ‘cheap’ excuse is prohibitive to your own growth, as it’s an easy alternative to actually putting in the time and effort to get better. Instead, take the time to learn the ins-and-outs of every powerful strategy or tactic. Figure out what makes them good. Then figure out how to break them.