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.

Sakuya j.C

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:

Sakuya j.C

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.

- Copyright © Xenozip.


Maj said...

Interesting analysis, especially of the traditional 2D fighting game concepts of footsies and zoning. Some characters are a little bit more complicated though. For example, Rolento's objective at any given instant is not so easy to determine. Also, some players do things simply to set up patterns that they can take advantage of later on. This is useful for doing things such as baiting the opponent into jumping and getting the opponent to throw away their super meter.

It is really cool that you managed to break up a Marvel-esque game into traditional terms though. I think a lot of players do tend to overcomplicate things. Sometimes it really is about setting simple traps and taking advantage of opponents' mistakes. I mean, sometimes if you just give your opponents enough of an opportunity to die, they'll be happy to comply.

- Maj

Xenozip. said...

This game is also more complicated than just what's put here so far. I've only really scratched the basics right now.

Regarding Rolento example; there's actually even a couple characters in IaMP that don't abide by the same objectives as everyone else does as well. I certainly agree in regards to the "patterns" to take advantage of. This was covered in my latest post regarding mixups, and is what Bellreisa refers to as "equity". The act of training the opponent with obvious patters so you can break the patters later to screw your opponent up.

Also, IaMP is a lot slower than Marvel by comparison. Therefor, it's easier to actually analyze what's going on in IaMP, instead of being mesmerized by the pretty colors and fast-paced action that occurs in Marvel.

Likewise in both games, many players are content with running into traps and allowing themselves to die, as you suggested. But also in both games we find that more and more top players who consistently win are expert defenders who know how to block correctly very intimately.