Play to win, never play not to lose; a few tips on handling incredibly tense 'last hit' situations in fighting games

You won't find victory every time but at least you'll avoid one of the worst feelings in the world

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • July 22, 2018 at 7:56 p.m. PDT

It's last game, last round and you can't even see the remaining pixel of health in your life bar, what do you do?

At earlier levels you may buckle under the pressure and just toss out moves as though you were Taz from Looney Tunes, chaotically swinging away in anxious hope that things will go your way — or at least the tension of the moment will be over.

That approach is ill-advised for obvious reasons and the next logical step in the progression here is to convert from crazy to calm and collected. Don't expose yourself at all and let your opponent hang themselves should they enter into that Tasmanian Devil mode.

It's here that I found myself going on the regular, but it seemed that more often than not I would come out of these exchanges as the loser. My problem? I was too cautious. Instead of playing to win I was playing not to lose. Don't ever play not to lose.

If you're serious about your fighting game development then there's a good chance you've made it through step one in this progression but are stuck in the over correction of step two. I'd argue the best place to be mentally in last-hit situations is at happy medium between both — perhaps with a slight favor towards the caution end of the spectrum.

The problem with playing not to lose is that it almost always comes with a tendency toward hesitation and predictability. It's not too hard to predict what someone will do when you know they're terrified to expose themselves to being hit at all.

It's incredibly important to remember that offensive movements such as walking forward hold great power of manipulation especially in tense situations. That said, it's still important to take your opponent's tendencies into account here, noting and acting appropriately if they're the flailing type.

Still, as safe as simply holding down back may seem in the moment, it'll often get you killed. Not only that but you'll feel extra terrible/salty because you did nothing to try to stop your loss. You more or less just sat there and let death come to you. It's one of the worst ways to lose.

Instead of turtling up to the nth degree, be active without taking as many risks. Stay mobile via walking as it keeps you unpredictable and a potential threat but brings a smaller amount of risk compared to jumping or dashing.

Remind your opponent that they still have to worry about your attacks by sticking a few out at safe ranges. This helps to keep them on their toes and stops them from essentially smelling blood in the water and confidently going in for the KO.

Be ready for forward-moving, low risk moves too. Street Fighter 5 players, for instance, will know that if they're on their last hit and facing a Birdie or a Urien that an EX Bull Rush or EX Chariot Tackle is virtually inevitable.

Let these kinds of moves come, block them and see your opponent's spending of meter as a small victory on your part. You'll be mainly concerned with blocking here, but still don't simply hold down back. Instead wiggle about and maybe walk backwards with occasional ducks to keep yourself mobile while still in a position to block.

Remember that it's very possible things won't go your way, as the idea here is to make the most of an already bad situation. You most certainly won't score the last hit or the comeback every time, but your chances are much better if you're willing to continue to be a real threat as opposed to simply curling up and waiting for your demise.

Best case scenario sees you come out on top, but even if you don't you won't lose feeling like you left anything on the table. That's a victory in and of itself.

Load comments (24)