### Bomb Games

"Bombs Part 2; Rock-Paper-Scissors, anticipation and reaction".

The concept of the child's game "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is very simple; It is an anticipation based guessing game. Both players select from one of the three options, depending on what both player picked the result is either a win, loss, or tie (draw game).

To simplify the concept of anticipation even more we can use the analogy of a single playing card; if someone places a card face-down and asked you to guess which suit it is you would need to guess in anticipation to the card being flipped and the answer being revealed. Since there's four suits and you only get one guess we can assume you'd have roughly a twenty five percent chance of getting it right (unless you were psychic or something). Which is entirely different than if you were allowed to answer a few seconds after the card was flipped, since then you can react after the card has been flipped and can clearly see what the answer is, therefor we can assume you'd have a one hundred percent chance of success (unless you were blind or something). However, if we reduce the amount of time you were allowed to answer to a fraction of a second, let's say one sixtieths (1/60th) of a second, then it becomes a great deal more difficult to do on reaction to the card being flipped because you simply do not have enough time to clearly see the card before making your answer -- and so we are back to an anticipatory guessing game and your odds of success are reduced again. However, it's not completely reduced back to twenty five percent like in the no-reaction example because two of the suits are colored black and two of the suits are colored red. Even with just one sixtieth of a second you still can recognize the difference between colors, which increases your chances (unless you're colorblind or daft or something).

What does all that have to do with bombs? Well, in the situations where you would use D-bombs in particular you are at a disadvantage. Against a decent opponent, you're not actually sure if your opponent is going to attack or not, and because a great deal of attacks are fractions of a second you have to anticipate whether or not your opponent will attack. And that brings us back to the card game. If you guess wrong and your opponent blocks you will most likely be punished and eat a combo. If you guess right you score a knockdown against your opponent. This is very clearly a big risk; guessing wrong means a huge loss, and guessing right means a minor gain.

The important thing to understand about the risk, however, is that it's relative to what the results would have been if you hadn't taken the risk in the first place. In other words, if you had chose to try and block instead of trying to bomb. Remember that by bombing you are actively attempting an offensive action, which is a risk, to try and escape from being pressured. In reality, blocking is a much safer option. Particularly in IaMP where blocking wrong doesn't immediately break your guard. The opponent must first crush your spirit before they can break your guard, and even after your spirit is crushed some mixups will only cause stagger instead of a guard break -- so you get two or more chances instead of just one (unlike most other 2D fighters).

Bellreisa says: "Do you wish to be the cherry blossom, fluttering uncertainly beneath the breeze that commands and compels you? Does your tenacious dance quiver with uncertainty, fear, or harmony?"

### Bomb Types

"Bombs Part 1; What are they".

Bombs are a universal tool in IaMP, and they pretty much work just as you'd think they would; an explosion occurs around the player. Of course, there's a lot more to in than just that. The explosion will not interact with the opponent's projectiles (unlike a lot of shmup games), but rather the explosion will only interact with the opponent's hittable area (opponent's body). While the explosion can not be grazed, it can be blocked.

Each player has two bomb stocks that start filled at the beginning of a match. These stocks can be used by inputting a universal input (22C or 11C), however there are three types of bombs: Neutral Bomb (N-bomb), Offensive Bomb (O-bomb), and Defensive Bomb (D-bomb).

Due to the fact that all three are executed the same way, and partially due to their names, one might suspect that the only difference is when or how you use them; but in actuality all three bombs have different properties and effects when used in different situations. One major difference that should be noted is that N-Bombs and D-bombs have start-up invulnerability frames, while O-Bombs have no invulnerable frames. N-bomb and D-bomb's invulnerability starts on the first frame and lasts to either the thirteenth or fourteenth frame depending on your character.

Generally speaking: O-Bombs are useful for extending combos or making unsafe attacks safe on block, D-Bombs are useful for canceling blockstun and knocking your opponent out of a string, and N-Bombs are useful for recharging spirit while gaining a knockdown which opens an opportunity for rushdown (okizeme).

N-Bombs: Neutral Bombs occur when you perform a bomb while you're not attacking or defending. If you cancel an attack or a blocking state into a bomb it will either be an O-Bomb or D-Bomb (respectively), not a N-Bomb; which is performed without canceling anything into the bomb. These bombs have invulnerable start up from first frame to thirteenth or fourteenth frame depending on character. These types of bombs are often likened to Gold Bursting in Guilty Gear, since they have a very similar functionality. If this type of bomb hits the opponent it will restore all your spirit and knock the enemy down, but it deals no damage on hit/block. It can be punished if blocked, though the frame disadvantage is character specific -- generally somewhere between -8 to -11, with Alice's and Remilia's having the fastest recovery. The primary times you would use this is when you see a blatantly obvious attack coming your way that you can't necessarily beat with a anything other than a bomb. While this can be effectively used on anticipation when you read your opponents patterns, it's generally better to use on reaction to situations where you're likely to succeed (such as against an obvious jump-in).

O-Bombs: Offensive Bombs occur when you cancel an attack into a bomb. These bombs will also restore your spirit to full when they successfully hit the opponent. A major difference with this bomb type is that it has no invulnerability frames, but is also less punishable on block. They are a little disadvantageous on block (-3F for most characters, and -4F for Alice), but not technically punishable on block. Another major difference with these bombs is that it will lunch the opponent vertically, which allows for a follow up juggle combo. The primary uses for this is to extend combos, since you are able to cancel normal moves, command normals, graze attacks, and special moves into bombs, and then continue the combo after the bomb hits. Another use is to make some moves safe on block by canceling into the bomb, such as a special move that you can't cancel with a high jump that leaves you vulnerable to punishment on block. This can also be used as a bait, since some characters have attacks with extremely long recovery periods, the attack can be canceled right before the opponent's retaliation connects. If the attack was canceling into the bomb the result will be an O-bomb, which has the potential to hit the opponent when the opponent was trying to punish. A common example of this is a blocked Remilia's 22B canceled into an O-bomb very late into the move. The opponent may try to punish Remilia's 22B, only to eat the O-bomb while trying to perform their attack. Keep in mind that baits like this are risky though due to O-bombs not having any invulnerability frames.

D-Bombs: Defensive Bombs occur when you cancel blockstun into a bomb (meaning, when you bomb while blocking). These bombs have invulnerable start up from first frame to thirteenth or fourteenth frame depending on character. These bombs are even more punishable on block, though the disadvantage is character dependent ranging from -24F to -31F depending on character -- with Alice and Remilia having the fastest recovery once again. While these types may sound good for breaking the opponents attack strings, they often fail to bullet strings and can be easily punished on block if properly baited. Many novice or lazy players will abuse D-Bombs on block or as a reversal, thinking that it's an easy escape, only to get baited and punished. Therefor, it's important to use these bombs very sparingly (perhaps it's a good thing you only get two stocks at a time).

To regain used bomb stocks you need to collect point items. A description of this point system can be read on the Bomb Section of the IaMP Wiki.

### Rushdown (Okizeme)

If you've read my previous posts you may have wondered why I keep relating this game to Guilty Gear. Well, aside from the aforementioned reasons in my previous posts, IaMP also has a Rushdown (okizeme) game that is very similar to Guilty Gear as well. And as said before; it's also got a lot to do with controlling space and zoning, which is heavily seen in both games.

In Guilty Gear, once a player scores a knockdown they generally have a projectile attack or projectile based attack that they can use as a meaty. The projectile itself is a hitbox, but contains no hittable box. And for the most part, projectiles in Guilty Gear either leave quite a bit of frame advantage or move slowly enough to leave an advantage on hit or block. Therefor this makes for a splendid meaty attack because if the defender performs an invulnerable reversal the reversal can then be blocked by the aggressor and then punished, but since the projectile connects meaty there is no other options that to either block it or eat it. Once blocked (generally speaking) the aggressor can take advantage and perform a long string of attacks in order to try and break the opponents guard with mixups. And the same holds true for IaMP.

In IaMP most characters have a projectile that gives enough advantage for them to use in the same fashion. The projectiles themselves can land meaty and can not be wake-up grazed. Therefor, the opponent must either reversal or block (or eat it), and in the case of reversals those can be baited and punished with proper blocking and timing, especially if the aggressor's projectiles have a very delayed hit.

Here we have Alice kicking Youmu down with her boot, then using 236A "spinner" to throw a projectile over the fallen Youmu. This projectile lasts for a while and is worth four hits. Youmu can't graze this projectile when getting up off the ground, so the player has little choice but to block it. Once blocked, Alice can take advantage of this by hitting Youmu before Youmu leaves blockstun. Mainly because the projectile's active frames begin at roughly the same time Alice recovers from tossing it. However, that brings us to our next point:

Some characters have special moves that award graze frames on the first frame they are executed at. Even though Youmu can't use a ground dash or high jump to graze as soon as she gets up off the ground, she can instead do a special move that has first-frame graze; in this case it's Youmu's 623B uppercut. However, because Alice had already long since recovered by the time the "spinner" would have connected with Youmu, and that means she is free to block whatever Youmu does in return. So, what we see in the above images is Youmu using 623B to graze through Alice's spinner, but Alice simply blocks Youmu's uppercut. This leaves Youmu very open for punishment since the uppercut has a great deal of recovery time. If you're familiar with Guilty Gear; This is basically on par with I-No's Music Note or Dizzy's Ice-Bit -- even though some characters can reversal through them, by the time the reversal begins the aggressor can block the reversal anyway. This leaves no choice but to block the meaty, which allows the aggressor to continue with an attack string while the defender is still in block-stun.

However, this game does have "Tech-Recovery" on the ground and in the air, which is sometimes called "Tech-Rolling" or simply "Tech". It refers to the act of moving your character either forwards or backwards by a character-specific distance after being knocked down, or not moving at all. However, due to the fact that ground bullets can be canceled into high jumps and air bullets canceled by air dashes; what this leads to is "tech-trapping" which is basically covering two or more spots that your opponent could stand up at.

Here we see Patchouli has knocked down an opponent Youmu into the corner and has done a 2B to throw a Bubble near-by, then canceled the Bubble into 236C Water Sprout. If the Youmu player decides not to tech forward then they will have to block the Water Sprout when getting up. If Youmu decides to tech forward then the Youmu player will roll right into the Bubble and again be forced to block. This is an example of covering multiple areas with projectiles where the opponent could tech to. However, it really only works effectively in the corner, since if done midscreen then the Youmu player could tech backwards away from both the Sprout and the Bubble.

Some characters don't really have the arsenal to cover multiple spaces at once, but they can still cover at least one spot while guarding another spot at point-blank range and risk planting a meaty melee attack. This is generally a good idea, but it should be noted that doing so will leave the aggressor open to being hit with a reversal from the defender. On the other hand, this also gives an opportunity to the aggressor to play meaty crossup games. Because you can switch sides with a tech-rolling opponent simply by walking through them, if the opponent techs in the aggressor's direction they can position themselves on either side of the opponent very quickly and hit from either side (either ground or air).

* Note: Holding D and a direction input to graze meaty bullets when getting up off the ground will cause the graze to fail. However, there is a 1F gap where inputting the dash command (tapping D or pushing the final direction) will allow you to graze through meaty bullets. What this means is that you can not normally graze meaty bullets by simply holding inputs, the only way to graze meaty bullets is to use reversal (1F) timing.

- Bellreisa says: "And when you reach the higher level of understanding you will see that indeed, a droplet of water falls only from the cherry blossom if it wishes so, not because it is compelled by gravity".

### Overwhelming and Zones

"Defense Part 2; Overwhelming, Zoning, and Controlling".

Due to the nature of bullets in IaMP, mid-range bullet wars become inevitable. However, because not all graze attacks are all-purpose it's sometimes necessary to rely on bullets in order to either limit your opponents options or defend yourself. It almost becomes a mathematical battle, since each projectile can clash with and negate with an enemy projectile, therefor bullets that have more projectiles and are more densely packed tend to "overwhelm" enemy bullets.

Here we see Alice Margatroid firing some bullets with her f.5A. In response, Sakuya fires 5C which fires many more bullets than Alice's f.5A. Thus the knives begin to trade with the shots, and after all the shots from Alice's f.5A are subtracted from the field we are still left with some knives that continue firing past the point of impact. This is a very basic example of "Overwhelming", and probably wouldn't occur much in battle anyway since Alice has better bullet attacks in her arsenal.

One advantage to this technique, as you might guess, is the option of dealing with bullet+melee combinations that your opponent uses. Rather than relying entirely on Graze Attacks or avoiding your opponent's setups, you can try overwhelming them. Which takes us back to Sakuya:

As you can see, Sakuya airdash canceled the j.2C rather quickly, so there's only six knives on the screen. Rather than attempting a graze or an air-to-air beat, it stands to reason that a bullet attack that fires more than six projectiles would overwhelm Sakuya's knives. Once the bullets pass through Sakuya's knives, Sakuya is forced to either block or graze the opponent's overwhelming projectiles which grants a little more leeway to the defender. Unfortunately for Yukari, none of her bullets are well suited for this. But in the case of an opponent Sakuya, the defender Sakuya could use 2C to quickly overwhelm the knives.

As we see here, simple numbers aren't always the cause of bullets being overwhelmed. This is Yukari's fj.A knives against Yuyuko's j.C butterflies. Both attacks send of three waves, and five projectiles in each wave. Thus, because of numbers, we could assume that they would simply collide and break even; canceling each other out. This is not the case though, because Yuyuko's butterfly bullets actually have rather large hit areas (like the fat cow herself), and that leads to multiple butterflies trading with a single knife. The end result is that there are some knives that did not collide with anything, and therefor persisted through the waves.

Here we see the opposite happen. This is Yukari's fj.A against Yuyuko's fj.A fired at slightly different heights. The hit areas of both types of bullets is quite small, so what ends up happening is they pass by one another without collision. Despite Yuyuko's fj.A not firing as many bullets, the end result is actually more in Yuyuko's favor than if she had used j.C in this situation. This is because if she had used j.C then all of her bullets would have been negated and nothing would have reached the opponent, and yet Yukari would still have succeeded in getting a few bullets past Yuyuko's waves. But with Yuyuko's fj.A, she is able to at least sneak some bullets past the enemy's bullets.

Here we have an interesting situation. Not all projectiles in IaMP can be overwhelmed -- some are indestructible like Patchouli's 236A (seen above), and some do not collide with enemy bullets such as: Youmu's far-A attacks (all three types), and Yuyuko's far-B (standing and jumping).

However, rather than trying to overwhelm Patchouli's fireball (because it can't be overwhelmed), we see Sakuya use the bypass method with a f.2A which sends knives slightly below the oncoming fireball. At this point, Patchouli has no choice but to high jump cancel the recovery animation for the fireball, otherwise the knives will impact before the recovery ends. The Sakuya player, knowing that Patchouli's only option for avoiding the ground knives is to high jump, sends off another set of knives with fj.A. This puts bullets in a horizontal area that Patchouli will eventually cross while moving upwards. Therefor, Patchouli can not stop in that particular area to fire more bullets, the Patchouli player will need to continue grazing higher into the air, or use an air dash to pass through the second set of knives.

While both sets of knives are likely to whiff an opponent that is paying any bit of attention, that does not mean the act of tossing the knives was worthless/pointless. In reality, the point of throwing the knives was for two reasons:
* First, to force Patchouli into the air. Because Patchouli's arsenal is reduced once in the air, Sakuya will have an easier time advancing on the opponent than against a grounded Patchouli.
* Second, to "buy time" to move forward against Patchouli. Because Patchouli will be busy grazing the knives, Sakuya is free to either throw more bullets or move freely while Patchouli is grazing. After all, if Patchouli is busy grazing then she can't very well be firing bullets.

This is essentially the same as limiting your opponents options through the use of "zoning". By forcing them into the air, and then forcing them higher, you have both limited what they can do and "purchased" time to take initiative by "controlling" specific areas where you know your opponent is likely to move.

### Mixups and Spirit

Once you've gained advantage on your opponent by forcing your opponent into a disadvantageous position; next comes the question of how to hit them. The answer is quite simple if your opponent simply allows you to hit them, however, most competent players will not simply allow themselves to be hit. Rather, competent players will tend to block correctly against your attacks, making it difficult for you to do any real harm.

Thus, in order to deal damage you must apply mixups. In order to mixup, you must unpredictably select an attack from a set of moves that must be defended against in different ways than each other. In IaMP, there's universally four kinds of mixups, and in the case of Youmu Konpaku there is also a fifth. But first, we must understand how the "Spirit" gauge system works in order to understand the virtues of mixups.

First of all, the spirit gauge is what allows you to fire bullets and perform special moves. However, it also allows you to air block and auto-block. So, what is auto-blocking? Well, in IaMP, blocking an attack incorrectly -- such as blocking a low attack with a standing block, or blocking low against a high attack -- will not immediately result in damage to your life and your guard being broken. Instead, blocking an attack incorrectly drains a chunk of your spirit. There are also guard crush attacks that are done with a 22A/B input that hit either high or low and will instantly drain all of your spirit if blocked incorrectly.

When the spirit gauge is drained it turns red, and this is called a "drained state". During this state, a few critical things change:
- You can not fire any bullets or special moves.
- You you can not air block any attack.
- You can not autoblock. Blocking an attack incorrectly will result in a hit or stagger.
- Your spirit recovers half as fast.

Most experienced players will manage their spirit gauge rather well so that they don't accidentally drain their own spirit. Therefor, it's in your best interest to forcefully drain your opponent so that you have an opportunity to land hits. And so that takes up back to mixups.

So, let's see what kind of mixups we have:
- High / Low
- Left / Right
- Melee / Bullet
- Attack / Defend

And in the special case of Youmu Konpaku we also have: Throw / Attack

However, it is very important to note that blocking is a very critical and ever-present third option in all of these mixups.

Here we see Sakuya performing her 2A and then canceling into either 22A, which hits high -- or canceling into 22B, which hits low. If either of these 22* attacks are blocked wrong then the opponents spirit gauge will be instantly drained. The concept of unpredictably selecting either 22A or 22B after another attack is a basic High/Low mixup that most characters are able to use (with a few exceptions).

Here we have Yuyuko Saigyouji performing a Left / Right mixup using her j.A, which is called a Cross-up. This attack has quite a huge range and hits from both sides of Yuyuko's body, making it an ideal crossup. In this picture, the image on the left shows Yuyuko timing her j.A a little late while above the opponents head, it hits from the left side (so the opponent must block right). And on the image to the right we have Yuyuko timing the attack a little early which causes a crossup, therefor it hits from the right side (so the opponent must block left). Crossups are universally familiar concepts for many 2D fighting games. However, it should be noted that a lot of crossups can be performed in this game using bullets: bullets can be fired at the opponent, then while the bullets are about to hit your opponent you can perform a crossup so that when the bullets connect the opponent must either block left or right, depending on where you are.

Here we have Sakuya performing a 5B in the first image. Next, Sakuya chooses between a 5C bullet string, which we see up top, or a 22A melee attack which we see on the bottom. This is a mixup because in between 5B and 5C there is a gap, which means the bullets don't connect quickly enough before the blockstun ends from the 5B. Technically, Sakuya could do a 2C instead and then the bullets would connect fast enough, but leaving a gap in between 5B and 5C is intentional. This is because it allows the opponent to graze through the bullets with either a high jump or dash. However, this is when it becomes a mixup. If the opponent attempts to high jump or dash after the 5B, and Sakuya did a 22A instead, the opponent would be hit by the 22A. The method to prevent getting hit with Sakuya's 22A is generally block, but the action of blocking allows Sakuya to continue the string by high jump canceling the 5C and then immediately performing an instant air dash into a j.B, which then allows her to continue the string further leading into more chip damage, spirit damage, and another mixup.

So, this is what the permutations would look like:
• Opponent grazes : Sakuya 5B 22A -> opponent is hit, opens up a combo
• Opponent blocks : Sakuya 5B 22A -> Safe on block, neutral position
• Opponent grazes : Sakuya 5B 5C -> Opponent grazes, Sakuya chases with j.A or j.B
• Opponent Blocks : Sakuya 5B 5C -> Sakuya IAD j.B j.C D6 j.B 2B/5B -> etc. Opponent takes spirit damage, chip damage, and must face another mixup when Sakuya lands.

And the final type of universal mixup is a mixup based on anticipation. Or rather, it exploits anticipation. Basically, it is taking advantage of an opponents poor reaction, or takes advantage of moments where it's impossible to react in time even with really good reaction. In other games, this is generally referred to as somewhat of a "Mindgame" moreso than a "Mixup". The well experienced player Bellreisa has dubbed the concept in regards to IaMP as "equity". To quote Bellreisa: "Basically, I use it to mean training the opponent" - "You're basically investing in using a certain action that gives you match equity in the form of reducing their potential reactions, giving you more freedom to work with". Sounds complicated, but it is actually quite simple and makes perfect sense. Let's take a look at a simple example:

Here we see Yuyuko performing her 66B, and then either performing a 6B or 2A. Yuyuko's 6B may not look like much, but it's one of the more feared attacks in the game and is dubbed "The Flip". But before we get into that, the thing about 66B is that it is actually -7F on block, making it a disadvantageous move to use on block. However, the opponent Alice Margatroid's fastest move has a 7F startup, which is her 5B. So, in this situation Alice can not actually punish Yuyuko's 66B because the recovery ends fast enough for Yuyuko to block Alice's fastest retaliation. However, Alice is technically at an advantage here, if Alice performs a 5B it will technically beat almost anything that Yuyuko does, simply because the hit frame of Alice's 5B will connect on the first frame that Yuyuko recovers. Therefor, if Yuyuko performs any action then Alice's 5B will connect during that start-up of that action (including 2A).

That's where 6B comes in. Technically Yuyuko's 6B has invulnerability frames, including the first frame. Thus, if Yuyuko performs a 6B immediately after a 66B and Alice sticks out a 5B, then Yuyuko's 6B invulnerability will allow her to pass through Alice's 5B.

However, this is not particularly useful on it's own because if the opponent Alice simply blocks then Yuyuko's 6B will whiff, and Alice can punish the 6B with 6A. And that's where the mixup begins. Because if Alice anticipates that Yuyuko will perform a 6B, then she will block. If Yuyuko instead performs a 2A, then it will connect against the blocking Alice. On the other hand, Alice's 5B will beat Yuyuko's 2A after Yuyuko's 66B, but keep in mind that if Yuyuko does 6B instead then it will beat Alice's 5B.

So, labeling Yuyuko's 6B "The Flip" the permutations would look like this:
• Yuyuko 66B, Alice Blocks, Yuyuko 2A -> 2A is blocked, Yuyuko continues attack string.
• Yuyuko 66B, Alice Attacks, Yuyuko 2A -> Alice connects an attack.
• Yuyuko 66B, Alice Blocks, Yuyuko 6B -> Yuyuko's Flip whiffs and Alice can punish with 6A
• Yuyuko 66B, Alice Attacks, Yuyuko 6B -> Yuyuko's Flip counters Alice's Attack due to invulnerability frames.

As you can see, it's technically a disadvantageous situation for Yuyuko. However, if Alice always attempts an attack then Yuyuko can always beat this attack with 6B. Therefor, if Alice understands that her attacks will lose to 6B, she can instead choose to block, which is more advantageous because in every situation blocking doesn't result in failure for Alice, it only potentially results in blocking Yuyuko's 2A which leads into a blockstring and potential mixup.

Keep in mind though, that Yuyuko also has the option of simply blocking after the 66B, much as Alice does too. If Yuyuko chooses to block after the 66B she isn't technically vulnerable to a hit, although she is vulnerable to a mixup from Alice.

However, knowing this, Yuyuko can still take advantage of Alice's blocking by continuing the block string. And this is what Bellreisa refers to as "equity". But constantly using 6B after 66B, you "train" the opponent into blocking because you force them to fear/expect/respect/anticipate the 6B Flip, which they can not beat with a melee. And once you have gotten your opponent to fear/expect/respect/anticipate the 6B, you can take advantage of this by instead using 2A and continuing with a block string. To put it simply: Yuyuko's 6B can and should be used as a "threat", and not as an actual "weapon" (Such as: "All bark, no bite").

This concept in particular is nearly as old as the Fighting Game genre itself, or at least as old as Street Fighter 2.

### Defense and Graze Attacks

"Defense Part 1; Melee, Graze Attacks, and Cover"

Defending yourself in IaMP is somewhat like defense in other games. But once again, the bullet and graze systems existing in IaMP modify a lot of how players perform even the simplest of actions.

Here we see Yukari Yakumo performing her 2B and 6B (respectively). As you can see from the approximate (now exact) hitboxes placed in the pictures, these attacks appear to be incredibly good. In the case of the 2B the slash is the hitbox, and it extends very far vertically into the air, which seems to make for a wonderful anti-air attack. Likewise, Yukari's 6B appears to be an anti-ground attack because the majority of her body sinks into the ground so that her hittable box becomes very small, while she extends some signs that have no hittable box, but are actually just solid hitboxes. These hitboxes are quite large and start right in front of Yukari and extend a large distance forward in a sweeping fashion. These attacks might well be considered on the same level as Cammy c.HP / s.RH (of Capcom's CvS2 fame), and Chun c.HK / s.HP (of Capcom's 3S fame). But in this game, these moves alone don't quite cut it due to bullets and Cover.

Here we see a couple pictures (scaled 50%) of instances where Yukari is at a disadvantage due to the bullets that Sakuya has placed on the screen. In the first picture we see Sakuya performing j.2C then air dash canceling; this sends off some knives diagonally downward and lets Sakuya follow closely behind. Against this, Yukari can not use her 2B for anti-air against Sakuya because the knives already on the screen will hit Yukari out of her 2B. If Yukari instead tries to graze with a high jump then Sakuya can hit with her j.A, and if Yukari tries to graze forward then Sakuya can hit with j.B.

In the second picture we see a rain of knives from Sakuya's 214B. In this instance Yukari can not use 6B to keep Sakuya away on the ground due to the knives that would hit Yukari out of the 6B. And again, if Yukari tries to graze by high jumping then Sakuya can hit with her j.A, and if Yukari tries to graze forward then Sakuya can hit with whatever melee she likes.

This is where Graze Attacks can become useful. They are attacks that are performed while ground dashing forward and the attacks themselves are able to graze while their hitbox is extended. Thus, you are able to attack while grazing. Every character except Remilia Scarlet comes equipped with four dash attacks, although some graze while attacking and others do not, therefor some are certainly more useful for grazing than others.

Here we have Patchouli Knowledge performing her 33B and 66B (respectively). Despite how they look they are both technically melee because they can not be grazed. But these are also graze attacks which means they can pass harmlessly through bullets while active.

As you can see, Patchouli's 33B is angled diagonally upward, making it a rather good anti-air for situations outlined previously, such as Sakuya's j.C airdash cancel:

In that situation, Patchouli's 33B can pass through Sakuya's knives while attacking at an upward angle and hit Sakuya out of the air.

However, Patchouli's 33B is angled upward and isn't particularly effective against grounded opponnets. So in the case of Sakuya on the ground; Patchouli could instead use 66B to attack in a horizontal path.

These types of attacks aren't all-purpose though and can be baited. In the situation of Patchouli using 33B, Sakuya could simply air block the 33B and punish, or airdash out of it's hit area and punish from a different angle. On the ground Patchouli's 66B has a fairly sized hitbox, but it's not large enough to beat all of Sakuya's moves. If Sakuya predicts Patchouli's 66B then Sakuya can counter with her own 66B or 6B, or some other move that directly counters Patchouli's melee hit area.

Thus, baiting becomes part of the game. It is important for players to be aware of their opponents potential reactions to each movement. When you're aware of their potentiality, you can take steps to bait these reactions and punish. Such as in the Patchouli vs Sakuya example; one might expect Patchouli to anti-air with the 33B, but knowing that Patchouli is capable of this the Sakuya player can take steps to avoid being hit by it and punish it.

As outlined in my previous post, there is an interesting dynamic involving the "first step" for advancing in on your opponent successfully in IaMP. In most older 2D fighters; every action is a short, deliberate, and generally direct action. Although the game of footsies can sometimes seem indirect because you are pushing your opponent into the corner and advancing on your opponent slowly, but after a certain amount of experience the concept becomes more obvious and and seemingly more direct.

The fact is; if a movement doesn't immediately lead to you punching your in the face, that doesn't mean the movement was a failure or worthless. In most older Fighting games, it is more ideal to control the area around yourself with hitboxes and potential hitboxes, while slowly advancing forward and forcing the hit-area "bubble" more and more toward your opponent, thus pushing your opponent further into the corner -- because obviously they don't want to be inside your bubble unless they can guarantee an ideal outcome (countering/beating your attack). Yes, it seems indirect to the untrained player, but in reality it is brute force and very direct -- the aggressor is pushing and shoving their opponent into a very bad spot where they have less options.

IaMP, however, can at times feel even more indirect due to the movement system that allows characters a large range of motion. However, deep down it's really quite the same, it just doesn't appear that way superficially. In order to advance on your opponent you must purchase a particular area in order to own that area, and once that area is owned you must react to your opponent in order to gain advantage. In IaMP this is called "Cover", though in other games it's generally referred to as "Zoning" and "Controlling Space".

In short: there's multiple steps that you have to take before you can hit your opponent without fail, you can't just go from point (A) to point (Z) without stopping at all the other points first.

Here we see Sakuya performing her 236C bullet attack, scaled at 50% size. Another particularly strong bullet move. The bullets fired spread out rather erratically by shooting in a random direction angled forwards, and thus it becomes a swarm of knives that travels gradually horizontally. By spending some of her meter she has partially purchased the area in front of her. The projectiles move horizontally slow enough for Sakuya to dash into them either from the air or ground. And now that area, plus the area she is able to cover with melee, is "owned".

At this point, with Sakuya you can choose what to do depending on what your opponent is doing. If the opponent attempts to overwhelm your bullets with their own bullets then you can graze or graze-attack through the opponents bullets. If the opponent attacks from the ground (generally with a graze attack), then you can attack from the air. If the opponent goes into the air, then you can chase them with a jumping melee such as with her j.A. And if the opponents gets hit or simply blocks, then you now have momentum.

As you can see from these two pictures (scaled 50% again), Sakuya has purchased a great deal of vertical and horizontal space by firing her 236C (in these pictures, a j.236C). But she does not control that space with the bullets (knives) alone, since the opponent can simply graze through the bullets. However the opponent can't graze forward against Sakuya's j.B because they will run right into the j.B hitbox. They also can't high jump graze or they will run into Sakuya's j.A hitbox. They also can not attack with melee because the bullets will hit them out of the melee. And they can not use bullets because Sakuya's bullets will trade with them, leaving her melee to smack the opponent in the face.

The correct answer for this trap is to either block, or avoid it in the first place by using your own bullets and melee to control the space that Sakuya would normally try to perform this string in. Basically, push comes to shove, much like in other 2D Fighters.

### Bullets, Graze, and Cover

One thing that makes IaMP very unique in comparison to other 2D Fighting games is the bullet and "graze" systems.

Each character has the ability to throw a variety of projectiles (called Bullets or Danmaku) with a wide range of properties at the opponent, at the cost of some meter (called spirit) -- which recharges on it's own. These projectiles will dissipate if they collide with enemy projectiles.

All characters also have the ability to pass through these bullets with a dash or high jump which is called "Graze". There are also ground-based graze attacks that all characters posses that allow the character to transition from a dash into an attack that also has graze properties.

What's more, most projectile attacks can be high jump canceled after firing on the ground, or air dash canceled if fired in the air. Due to this, characters are generally able to perform melee attacks (which cannot be grazed) while their projectiles are still on the screen. What develops from this is a very dynamic and deep controlling, zoning, baiting, and trapping game. To put it simply, each character can fill specific areas with their bullets in order to control that area and force the opponent into some kind of reaction. Once this reaction takes place, the aggressor can take advantage of this by using projectile and melee attacks. However, it's not as clean-cut as simply that and there's much more to it.

This is Sakuya Izayoi and she is performing her jumping C bullet attack. As you can see, she is firing multiple knives. Three per set, and five sets, making it a total of fifteen knives. That's quite a lot of projectiles. This is one of the better (and easier to use) bullets in the game. The main reason is because it's so fast and so dense. Because there's so many bullets fired and because they are so densely packed, it's difficult for the opponent to overwhelm these bullets with their own. Meaning, if you only fire one or two bullets of your own they will quickly be destroyed by Sakuya's j.C, and more knives will continue to fly past your projectiles and at you.

There is the option to just block it, but that means that Sakuya gains direct advantage and can begin trying to use attacks to break your guard or chip away at your life. There is the option of grazing, but while you graze you can not block which leaves you vulnerable to melee. And thus, the trap becomes apparent:

Again we see some knives on the screen from Sakuya's j.C. But now we also see that Sakuya has thrown some knives, air dash canceled the knife toss, and the performed a j.B melee. Kind of a puny looking kick, isn't it? In most games we have attacks that could easily beat it with superior hitboxes, either with anti-airs or air-to-airs. Most fighting game players are use to this sort of concept of using the correct hitbox to counter the opponents hitbox, which is called a "Beat".

But wait, there's projectiles. Thus, the game changes. You can't use a melee attack on the ground or air to beat Sakuya's j.B because the bullets directly in front of her will hit you. You will also have a lot of trouble passing through her bullets with a ground Graze dash because as soon as you pass through her bullets you will run right into her j.B. You simply do not have enough time after passing through her bullets to perform your attack because you will be far too close and your attack will have too much start-up. You will also have trouble with air-to-air for the same reasons, if you try to high jump Graze through the bullets then you will immediately run into Sakuya's j.B. Your air attacks will be simply too slow to beat Sakuya's because hers is already out, and yours has start-up frames that it needs to go through before the hitbox comes out.

So how to beat this attack. Well, there's a couple ways, but for the most part it's situational (like almost everything else in IaMP). There is the option of Graze Attacks which are ground-based attacks that can pass through bullets. Sounds pretty good, but it's character-specific and can be baited. Again, because Sakuya's j.B is already out you have to begin your attack early while inside the bullet wave in order to really have a chance at beating her j.B, but if she faked and did not do the j.B attack she can instead punish your attempt with her own action like another bullet wave or special move or even another airdash to avoid your graze attack. The other thing is that a lot of graze attacks are very specific (character specific, at that) and the attacks that you get might not beat Sakuya's j.B. Or rather, Sakuya may place herself in the air at the correct height to avoid your graze attacks knowing what your character is capable of. Another option that some characters have is to overwhelm the bullets with their own, if they have an attack that is simply more dense or persists through bullets.

However, the final option is to simply avoid both attacks with proper movement. Since you have attacks of your own, you can control specific areas and make these areas "safe zones", which allows you to move into a position of your desire safely. Therefor, if Sakuya is high in the air you can pass below her, or if she is low to the ground you can pass above her and use attacks to ensure your safety while moving. Doesn't sound like it achieves much, but it does; you avoid Sakuya's trap.

You see, in most 2D Fighters you can't simply run up and punch your opponent in the face. In these games the opponents will be using their own attacks to prevent you from advancing close enough to "punch them in the face". IaMP isn't much different, you can't simply run up and punch the opponent in the face. However, it's a lot less of a question of using the correct hitbox to counter your opponent's hitbox, and more of a question of dominating specific areas and forcing your opponent into making bad choices. Sounds kind of familiar actually, sounds a lot like MvC2 and the mindgames that exist in ST -- I know that's a bold statement, but in reality it's very very similar.

An example of what I mean is to say Sakura c.HP, Cammy c.HP, and Chun-Li c.HK (of Capcom fame) are all good hitboxes for countering a jump-in attack. However, even if such attacks existed in IaMP you could only use these attacks as anti-air against an opponents melee-only jump-in. However, the players in IaMP would not simply come at you with a plain melee attack and allow you to beat them with a superior hitbox. Instead, the players will use a combination of bullets and melee to ensure that you can not directly beat their melee so easily, such as the Sakuya example. This is called "Cover", and what it means is that the c.HP's and c.HK's anti-airs will fail to the bullets.

And that takes us back to how to beat such an attack as Sakuya's j.C airdash cancel j.B. And once again, you can not directly beat it with a simple melee -- in order to beat it you have to indirectly beat it with stratagem. You can not simply run up and punch her in the face.

### Immaterial and Missing Power

Immaterial and Missing Power is a PC doujin 2D Fighter that supports online netplay. Based on the Touhou series, it was created by Tasogare Frontier and developed by ZUN of Shanghai Alice, which is a doujinshi game circle.

The game generally plays like a cross between Guilty Gear and Marvel, except without all the ridiculously long dial-a-combos. However, the strong emphasis on controlling space, zoning, trapping, baiting, and momentum exists in IaMP.

The game aesthetics are rather deceptive. At first glance it appears that a bunch of chibi lolita girls "farts rainbows and sneezes pixie dust" at each other, then "shit out stars and spin around like crazy bitches on counter hits" (quotes taken from Bellreisa and Lovely_K, respectively). However, there's quite a bit more to it than just the aesthetics, actually playing it is quite a different experience.

The purpose of this blog will be to depict some of what I've learned while playing and spectating other players, so that others may share and possibly benefit from my observations and analysis.

To learn some of the basics of IaMP, read the IaMP Basics and/or read the IaMP Wiki.