Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Excessive νdity – 08.11.09

As expected, Blazblue has taken over my life. Hardly a day goes by without a visit to the 13th hierarchical kingdom of Kagutsuchi, whether for a half hour beat down courtesy of Pkadden or an extended training mode session to practice my abysmal execution. Hell, even story mode sees play. Say what you will about the throw mechanics, burst system, jump frames or lack of variation in character strategies, the game has captured my attention as few before.

The most common complaint leveled against BB is invariably its balance issues, which, while often overstated, are undeniably present. I barely understand Arakune and could not play him if my life depended on it, but even I get how terrible it must be for Tager to face down the Crimson Swarm. Ara, nu, Rachel and, to a slightly lesser extent, Jin rule the roost, if general opinion and SBO qualification counts are any indication. With this in mind, and with no small trepidation, I must admit playing nu.

Now, before punching me in the face, let it be known that my choice was made upon watching the first videos of her unlocking, before her placement on the “Cosmic T-Rex” tier was known. Something about her Zone of the Enders-inspired design and Dizzy-reminiscent gameplay style sealed the deal before I had a chance to protest. Really, corny as it sounds, she chose me.

This is not to say nu never gives me pause. She’s rarely my first choice, and often does not make an appearance at all, given her ability to make many opponents leave lobbies, rage-quit mid-match and punch walls (true story). This, despite the fact that I do not even play her remotely well; my poor reflexes and tendency to fall back on simple, predictable tactics when under pressure are particularly large obstacles to advancing. However, even my meager skill with the phantom swords is enough to overcome seemingly competent players online.

The internet, admittedly a place no sane person should ever go, tells me I should be ashamed for playing such a “cheap,” “over-powered,” character. Apparently, being “too easy to learn” is a cardinal sin and “scrubs” are ruining the game with her. (Then again, Jin, Hakumen, Noel and Arakune are supposedly doing the same thing, so at least she is in good company.) Random, anonymous strangers have deemed the damage output too high, her mobility too good and her zoning too impenetrable given her escape options. Questionable credentials aside, they are probably right.

I feel guilty playing nu. Even knowing that apologizing for character choice is unnecessary and counter-productive, it bothers me in a way that no amount of Playing To Win can alleviate. Being at such a serious disadvantage at 2/3 of a screen is a foreign concept to most players and I do not always push that strength for fear of driving them away (pun intended). No one likes feeling powerless and being safely zoned from so far is the fastest way to make that happen. Though characters like Dhalsim are also most comfortable in similar positions, they cannot pressure as effectively or punish a mistake for 40%+.

In the grand scheme of top-tier characters, there are certainly more dominating, arguably broken fighters that were still accepted by their communities: 3rd Strike Chun, #Reload Eddie, SFIV Sagat, MvC2 Magneto/Psylocke/Sentinel, etc. Yet in my endless quest to improve, there is a strong desire for legitimacy and the respect of my opponents. I do not want to receive messages saying “I lost to nu, not to you” or to leave a trail of ill will for my friend’s PSN account (who is kind enough to let me play).

Perhaps to compensate, my two sub characters are currently Hakumen and Tager, arguably the worst in the game. I greatly enjoy their simple combos and punishing range, surprising unsuspecting opponents with sudden bursts of activity. Yet, as much fun as hitting 360 grabs and super counters is, it feels like time that could be better spent with nu practicing throw-dash timing and Tiger Knee Crescent Sabers.

The inevitable, and greatly anticipated, patch/revision/sequel is sure to tone down my main squeeze, perhaps even to the point of respectability, or at least fewer snide remarks. Coupled with buffs for the less capable members of the cast and a smaller, more dedicated player base that comes with iterating a fighting game, this will probably alleviate my tier shame. Hopefully. However, I really just need to get over the guilt; it is just another obstacle to getting better. Whatever changes Arc System Works deem fit, I will keep playing nu, only maybe less frequently than I should.

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