Have you ever fought someone that seemed like they were psychic? Someone that seemed to have a counter for your next move the instant you did it? Some players may just have a read on you. Others might have been really good guessers. Or, in very specific circumstances, they may have leveraged an option select to improve their odds of success. In this edition of the Universal Fighting Game Guide, we talk about the concept of option selects. This is probably the most advanced concept in all of fighting games, though I’ll try my best to break it down and simplify things.
What is an option select?
An option select occurs when a player inputs a command that can have two different outcomes depending on the situation. In rare cases, an option select may cover more than two, though the vast majority of option selects have two different outcomes.
Example of an option select
The option select I use the most is crouch teching in the Street Fighter IV series. If you hold down back on the joystick or d-pad and press light punch and light kick buttons at the same time, you will input a command with two different outcomes. In the case of a crouch tech, if your opponent tries to throw you, you’ll stop your opponent by teching the throw. However, if they try to do anything else, your character will execute a crouching light kick.
Option selects exist in every fighting game. Here’s a few videos that detail some option select examples in different fighters:
The benefits of option selects
Option selects allow you to use one input to give you one of two different actions, of which the best one will come out. For example, in the case of the crouch tech, if they try to throw you, the throw part of your input will block it. If they try to attack you or move forward, the crouching light kick will nudge them away. By leveraging this option select, you become much harder to hit in close while having to think less about how to defend yourself. Other option selects can make you more of an offensive threat, as they give you two different ways to attack a specific situation depending on how your opponent reacts.
Why do option selects exist?
I’m not a developer, so I can’t speak to the nitty gritty. But from what I know, their existence is inevitable. Basically, when users make certain combinations of inputs, the game is going to have to make a hard call on what you were actually trying to do. In cases like this, it’ll pick the outcome that is most likely the best one for you. Yes, this sounds cheap, but you can’t just go in and remove option selects from any fighting game completely. They’re going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it.
How do I learn option selects?
The easiest thing to do is go online and Google the phrase “option select” for your game of choice. Odds are, you’ll find no shortage of videos that list a plethora of different option selects for use. If you want to be a fighting game mad scientist, you can go into training mode and think about specific scenarios where having more than one outcome would be handy. For example, the the crouch tech is great because it lets you grab a throw or lets you attack with a short kick if they try to do anything else. If you come up with two things you want to do, try and come up with an input that the game could read either way. In the case of crouch tech, the light punch and light kick part of it triggers the throw tech, while the down back and light kick part of it triggers the kick. Honestly, I’m not sure if this effort is going to be worth it for most players, so leeching off the knowledge of others is probably the best way to go.
How do I spot when someone is using an option select?
If I don’t already know what the option select is, then it takes a bit of trial and error. The key is to note a specific scenario where your opponent punishes you the exact same way at a speed that seems unnatural or at a consistency that seems unlikely. In the case of crouch tech, there’s no way a regular human being would be able to spot and stop every single one of your throw attempts, yet it’s not that hard with a crouch tech.
When you see this happening, take a mental note of how you got into that position and how your opponent responded. Then, try to put yourself in that situation again, but do something slightly different to see if they react differently. If they are in fact using an option select, then they’ll constantly respond with one of two different answers each time they’re in that position.
How do I counter an option select?
In order to beat an option select, it’s best that you figure out how the option select behaves first. Otherwise, you won’t have enough information to form a counter attack. The key though, with all option selects, is that they they only give your opponent two answers, not all of the answers.
Going back to the crouch tech example, the case where a crouching light kick comes out can be exploited if you know it’s coming. For instance, you can usually jump straight up and hit them on the way down as they wildly mash on light kick. You can also incorporate a frame trap, where the light kick will get snuffed out by your next attack. If you know how an option select is going to behave, you can anticipate one of those two behaviours happening and then counter that response accordingly.
Exercising your options
In the right hands, option selects are a very powerful tool. If fighting games were a series of multiple choice questions, option selects allow you to answer two questions at the same time while giving you credit for the actual correct answer. It can be easy to lean heavily on them, though a savvy player will put you in a situation that an option select can’t answer. Now that you know more about this, see if you can spot your opponents using them. Better yet, try and incorporate a few into your own game to make yourself a stronger fighter!