Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS X – Practice Methods I

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Before I begin, I have a quick but very exciting announcement! Sage of Unrivaled Tournaments and I are starting a new video series called “Better Buttons”! It will be a video series aimed at improving in Smash 4. We’ve already got a few episodes recorded and just need to be edited, and will be featured on Unrivaled Tournament’s YouTube Channel. I’m really excited for this because this is a great way to not only help Unrivaled Tournaments grow their content base, but also get this information out there.

I’ll be linking Unrivaled Tournaments stuff at the end, so be sure to check them out 🙂

Okay, onto the post!

Practice makes perfect, right? Not if your practice the wrong way. In this little mini-series, “Practice Methods”, I’ll be going over ways to practice and train. This’ll be about 3-4 entries, so get hype!

In order to improve, you need to do more than just play – you need to be aware of how you’re playing and dedicate time to improving your play and not just playing the game. However, we all can’t just grab a friend at our convenience and play. Sometimes, you have to practice on your own. So let’s learn how to do that!

There are a couple things you can practice – Match-Up knowledge, your technical ability, and your fundamentals. You need to practice all 3 to be a great player. While I went over how to practice them very briefly in my post about creating a Training Regimen, this post will expand on those concepts.

Let’s start with MU knowledge.

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MU’s

Here, you want to practice the more objective aspects of a Match-Up – KO %’s, moves that trade, moves that lose, moves that win, range differences, etc…

You can practice bad DI/no DI KO %’s in Training Mode. You don’t need to play a human to know when Back Throw KOs at center stage or either side of the stage. If you need good DI, either enlist the help of a friend or just grab a second controller and do the DI yourself. Write these %’s down and remember them.

When you’re recording these, I would record with and without rage, and with and without staling. The point here is to create a KO % range that you can then reference as you play. That way you don’t run into situations where your opponent is living insanely long and draining your patience.

For move interactions, this can be accomplished through playing a CPU or a human player. If you’re looking for a very specific move to test against, you’re better off grabbing a friend. Otherwise, just take notes when fighting CPU’s of the results of the move interactions you notice.

For range differences, I suggest you shadow box against a standing opponent or a CPU. Shadow boxing is a style of training where you visualize a standing opponent to be moving. The goal is not to hit your opponent, but rather pretend they’re attacking you and you responding to that. For example, go into training mode and visualize an MK dash attack and try and space around it. What’s a good range to be at to react safely, what’s not? Then go fight a MK CPU and stay at the maximum ‘safe’ range you have for Dash Attack. Is there anything else you’re feeling safe from or threatened by at that range? Do you feel you can punish effectively by always staying at that range?

Technical Ability

This is something I feel you need to practice by yourself before you start practicing with others. Like performing a choreographed dance, when you first start attempting these techniques you’re going to find yourself thinking about the inputs you’re making. If you attempt to use a new technique mid-match, you’ll most likely fail it and you’ll probably stop thinking about what’s currently going on in the match.

You need to commit all movements and inputs to memory, to the point that it feels like second nature and you can perform the technique flawlessly without error under stress.

So, there are three phases to perfecting a technique.

First Phase

Training Mode only. You should spend more time practicing the technique and starting to commit it to muscle memory. Don’t use it in friendlies. Don’t use it in a tournament set.

Once you can perform it near-flawlessly in Training Mode, it’s time to move onto the next phase.

Second Phase

Play against a CPU opponent. CPU opponents allow you to simulate an actual match and practice utilizing the technique as you move around in a relatively stress-free environment. This allows you to use it against moving opponents without feeling the pressure to win/impress/etc… and you can be fully concentrated on finding spots to use it most effectively. Once you can do this almost flawlessly, you move onto the final phase.

Third Phase

Play friendlies. Now that you’ve basically mastered this technique’s execution, it’s time to use it in friendlies. Friendlies incur at least a little bit of stress, which is what you now need to practice executing the technique under. I recommend playing a few higher-stakes money matches to help you even more. Again, the goal is to be able to do this almost flawlessly.

Once you’re feeling comfortable in friendlies and ONLY then should you start using the technique in tournament. You’ll find your use of it to be incredibly consistent utilizing this method, and you’ll be able to summon it in very stressful situations when you need it the most.

Fundamentals

If you need a refresher on what fundamentals are, go check out my very first post on improving in Smash 4.

Fundamentals are tricky by yourself. A lot of it you can’t practice without a human opponent, but before we get to those let’s get to the two facets of fundamentals you can practice by yourself: Reactions and Punishes and Option Coverage.

To practice Reactions and Punishes, fight a CPU and focus on reacting, not preemptively striking, the CPU. No reading, no throwing out moves to cover space. Just try and react to what the CPU does. If they’re in a knockdown, try and react to how they get up. Same as when they air dodge, roll, spot dodge, or do anything from the ledge. CPU’s have been coded to be perfect defense machines (in most close-range combat situations), so take advantage of this.

To practice Option Coverage, play a CPU and try and cover as many getup and ledge options as possible when they arise. Try and frame trap their air dodging. Throw out moves to cover space and see what option the CPU uses successfully and unsuccessfully. What’s nice about these two is you can combine practicing them. I wouldn’t recommend doing this until you’re a little proficient at both, but it’s quite effective.

As for the others, I recommend watching videos with a specific fundamental in mind. Watch, say, ZeRo vs. Dabuz Grand Finals at Genesis 3. First, watch it focusing on how the two space. Then watch it again and focus on how they position themselves. Then watch it again and focus on how they adapt. Watch it one more time and watch how they combine all the components of fundamentals into their neutral game.

Once you’re more proficient, try analyzing every component with just one viewing. If you watch it and found yourself lost while analyzing, watch it again.

This can take some time, but it will not only help you become a better player, this has the added bonus of helping you become a more analytical commentator (which we have very few of in the Chicago Smash 4 scene).

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As you can see, there’s a lot you can do on your own. Next time, I’ll be covering how to practice these methods with a human opponent!

Just Sayin’

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Check out the rest of the series!

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

 

 

Improvement in Smash 4 BONUS IX – The Plateau

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

If you’ve read my improvement series, then hopefully you’ve been, well, improving! Unfortunately, you might be hitting something that every level of player hits while improving – The Plateau.

The Plateau is a place where you start winning and losing against the same players. You don’t ever feel anything involving your level of play changing, and more often than not others around you can look like they’re leaping forward and suddenly beating a ton of players, including you. You can’t seem to find any answers to getting better, and it can be an incredibly frustrating experience, especially if it drags on for a long period of time.

Now, I’ve been seeing a lot of players talking about this lately in Chicago’s scene, and that’s good. Unfortunately, most of it (to me) looks like some players getting frustrated and not knowing what to do next. They’re sick of playing all the time and not seeing any visible improvement.

So, it’s time to dive deeper into the art of improvement and talk about ways you can plateau, and how to get back on track!

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So, how does one plateau? There are a lot of ways that one can start to slip, and many of these can be combined. In fact, most of them do. Here are the most common I see and how to deal with them:

You’re not practicing every day

Whether you’ve become busier due to outside factors (work, school, kids, significant other, etc…) or playing is starting to feel like a chore, you’re not practicing every day. Someone will tell you that doing something every day will make you better at it, and Smash is no exception. If you start slipping on practice, you’ll be as good as you are right now with no visible room for improvement.

I’m a perfect example of this. When I went to the first Mashfest, I took out a few notable players and my only losses were to top 10 players since I had started playing. Granted, I’ve only been to 4 or 5 tournaments, but the top players have generally remained the same. Fast forward to now, and I recently went to a weekly at Ignite Gaming Lounge, where I lost to two players I had never played before. Many of Chicago’s players that I probably could’ve handle 6 months ago have now accelerated to my level because I haven’t been practicing every day.

Now, practicing doesn’t necessarily mean playing – watching videos and theory-crafting can also be practice, especially if they’re videos of your own play. As a rule of thumb, actively play the game 4 days out of the week.

If you’re practicing for a long period of time and can’t fit that in your schedule anymore, try slimming the time you play down. I think 30 minutes is perfect – it’s enough to get something out of practicing, and it’s more time-efficient. You can squeeze in a quick 30 minutes in the morning before work/school, as a break to doing homework, or right before you go to bed.

You’re autopiloting

Autopiloting is a term that’s used to refer to the state of mind where you’re not cognitively thinking about what you’re doing while playing – you’re just playing. This leads to easily read habits that can be swiftly dealt with, and suddenly you’re down a stock without really knowing what adjustments you need to make mid-match.

There are a million reasons why you could be autopiloting, so there’s no easy fix for this. You need to work on being more cognitive of what you’re doing while playing. If the audience distracts you, try music. If you just suddenly feel drained, see what’s causing that and work to fix it. If you’re getting bored or frustrated, try and reset to neutral or take those whole 4-5 seconds of invincibility after losing a stock to recompose yourself.

You’re comfortable

This is a really big one. You go from top 25 to top 10. You’ve finally broken that barrier, and now you’re happy with how good you’ve gotten. You still want to get to top 5 and eventually be the best, but after all that work you’ve put in, you’re thinking, “I probably don’t need to practice today,” or, “tonight I just want to relax at the weekly. I’m gonna make top 10 anyway.”

These are not good thoughts. Being happy with where you are is great, but don’t let it stop you from improving. If you’re truly happy with top 10 and don’t have a burning desire to go all the way to #1, then great – you’ve accomplished your goal. But if you still want to get better, don’t slack off once you hit major milestones.

You’re cocky

Now that you’re a big hotshot player, you walk around like you own the place. You give advice that’s (probably) unwarranted, you talk smack to all the players you used to respect but are now better than, and you get really, really frustrated when people below your rank beat you. You belittle those wins as much as possible, and belittle wins of those that are ranked higher than you. You get angry when a new PR is released and you’re not where you thought you should be – why is Player X above me again? You play off your losses like it couldn’t’ve been your fault you lost. Well, it is – go humble yourself and show some respect. I’m all for a little edge and smack talk, but let’s not think we’re all that, okay? I suffered from this myself back in the Brawl days, when I finally hit the PR for the first time I got pretty angry when I lost, thinking that I should’ve been better and should be winning. I never bothered to reflect on why I was losing, I was just blinded by my own pride.

Clear your head and realize that you’re not some special celebrity. You’re good, sure, but you’ll never be great with that attitude.

You’re losing motivation

You had a reason why you wanted to be the best, but maybe that reason has changed or is invalid now. You don’t really know why you’re putting so much time into this game, so you put in less and less time.

There’s no easy fix for this one, either. This is all on you. Find a reason to reignite that fire, or just accept that this is where you’re going to be until you get that time back.

You’re just playing

Whether you don’t really know where to start or you’re not really focusing when practicing, you can play as much as you want, but at some point you’re going to fall flat when it comes to improvement. Yes, doing something every day will help you be better at it, but consciously thinking about what you’re doing and trying to understand all the finer details will help you even more.

When practicing, take the time to pause and think. Analyze different situations, try and visualize different options, and then execute on them when practicing. Don’t just play.

Also, don’t think you can substitute thoughtful play for playing every day. Do both.

You’re burnt out

A lot of players in Chicago play for many hours a day or binge on Super Smash Bros. a couple times a week. This can cause them to grow tired of the game, especially if they don’t see immediate results after playing for so long. Or, after playing so much they become bored and want to take a break. This can kill all motivation and your training regimen/habits. Don’t let burning out stop you.

If you feel like you’re growing tired of the game but still want to get better, take a small 1-2 week break. No tournaments, no playing (not even casually). All you should do is watch videos and streams to practice every day. If you do go to tournaments, don’t play friendlies – just socialize and watch. Actively play and enter tournaments once your break is over.

Practice can feel like a chore sometimes, and this is just one way to reignite the passion to play every day again. If you don’t want to watch videos or streams too, then so be it. Just. Don’t. Play. Do not touch the game for the time you’ve allotted yourself for a break.

And don’t let it be longer than a month. You want to be relatively fresh when you jump back in, and in my opinion, a month is too long for a break.

Your mentality is holding you back

I’ve written very briefly about some of the aspects of the mental game of Super Smash Bros., but in any competition, having a strong grip on your mental composure is crucial to your improvement and success as a player. I’m not going to get too into it here, but if you’re getting too frustrated from losing, too cocky from winning, or feeling hopeless mid-match after being combo’d, killed, etc… then you’re not going to improve. If you can’t calm your nerves when you need to perform something easy and mess it up, then you’re probably going to lose. If you raise top players onto a pedestal, you’re never going to beat them.

The hardest part for this specific example is that you might be in denial because your attitude is how you think and feel, and that doesn’t change easily. If people are talking about how you act during certain situations, how you complain/rant all the time, or about your negative attitude, it’s time to humble yourself and ask if your mentality is holding you back from being truly great.

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There are many, many more reasons as to why a player plateaus – these are just some common ones. I’ve gone through a couple of these myself, and I guarantee you will too.

Take a breath, work to fix the problem, and get yourself back out there. Just don’t be discouraged if it takes a while. Sometimes, it’s a slow ride back to improving. Other times, you’ll be back on track and improving after one small session.

Just Sayin’

Check out the rest of the series!

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

 

Improvement in Smash 4 VIII – Character Loyalty

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

This will be my last official post on improving in Smash 4. It’s been quite the journey, but I’ve had fun writing these for you guys, and I hope you’ve taken something from them and improved because of it. While this will be my last official post, fret not! I still have plenty of content aimed at improving in Super Smash Bros.: there are a few collaborative posts in the works, I’ve got some topics I received from the Chicago Smash 4 community after asking about topics they’d like me to cover that aren’t necessarily improvement-focused, and I’ll be starting a video series aimed at improvement to supplement this series. This will all be coming in the following months, so stay tuned for that!

And now, without further adieu, let’s talk about character loyalty!

Character Loyalty is a term generally used for a player that will stick with their character, no matter what. Maybe they love the character’s franchise, the character themselves, or the style of play the character provides. Either way, the player has their reasons for sticking with them. I’m going to go over another kind of character loyalty: the kind that will improve your play.

Your Main

The character that you eventually choose as your main is the character you’ll be spending the most time playing, watching, studying, and experimenting with. After all, you’re trying to win tournaments with this character. Now, while Smash 4 is a game that benefits from playing at least one other character (having a secondary), it’s a good idea to master your main before you even think about picking up a secondary. While a veteran can adapt to new character MU’s and player MU’s on the fly, it’s hard to stay consistent if you keep switching characters. Even veterans can become inconsistent if they keep switching for months because they’re struggling.

Let me lay this out for you plainly: you have not mastered your character until you’ve been playing for at least a year.

If you’re playing as many different people as possible, traveling out of state, and attending whenever out of state competition comes, it takes about a year to accumulate all the knowledge you’ve gained as a player to master your main, and that’s assuming you’ve only been using your main in tournament.

All the research, techniques, and intricacies of your character that you need to learn for every single character MU and to adapt well to players takes a long time. Add onto that the general techniques you need to learn to execute if they help your character, and you’ve got quite a lot on your plate to practice. And then, you need to be able to utilize all of those techniques and information in a tournament settings. Being able to do it in Training Mode alone isn’t enough. And that’s why it can take so long to master your character.

If you switch your characters, you’ve effectively barred your progress. And no, playing another character isn’t going to transfer over to your main. Smash 4 is in a stage where learning new things is still very possible and currently happening. When you return, you’re not suddenly going to be performing better because you don’t know every nook and cranny of the character to begin with: how can you possibly transfer skills from another character over when it might not even be effective?

You could transfer over play style knowledge, but be wary that you might start playing the character in a way that’s really not efficient. For all the efficient ways to play character X, there’s also very inefficient ways.

Now, most of these rules apply to new players who have picked up Super Smash Bros. when Smash 4 came out. Veterans, generally, have the fundamental know-how to switch a character and still perform decently, although they, too, will have to put some practice in before they achieve mastery, although it will take them a significantly less time to do so.

My bottom line is this: if you’re new to the scene, stick to character loyalty before making the switch. At least master your character. You’ll gain valuable knowledge that will help you when you finally decide it’s time to pick up a secondary or change your main entirely. If you really can’t stand using your main now and want to switch, then you switch and you don’t look back. Do NOT use your old main in tournament. You’ll run into the same problems.

Be loyal to your character, and you’ll succeed far more than juggling characters.

Just Sayin’

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Improvement in Smash 4 VI – Preparing for a Tournament

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

In a stroke of a luck, I actually have a tournament I’ll be attending this weekend! All of you who read this series and find it insightful can now meet me in person (if you haven’t already). Don’t worry, I’ll have a pen ready to sign autographs!

But blissful dreams aside, preparing for a tournament is a crucial part to how you’re going to play the day of. You need to be prepared if you want to maximize your chances of succeeding. With that in mind, let’s jump right in!

Research

The first thing you want to do is research. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local*/monthly/regional/national – you need to do your research. Are Miis allowed? Customs on or off? What about stage list?

*Obviously, if this is a local that you’re a regular at, you should know the rules

Next, research the players. Who’s attending? Any top names? Also try and find prominent local members of that area’s community. Are other players from different areas in the stage going? Who’s in the top 15 of the state/region/area?

What characters do all of those players use? What’s the area/state’s most popular character? Chicago, for example, is heavy on Mario and Sheik.

If you’re traveling, make sure you’ve got stuff planned. The more stress you can reduce before the tournament, the more you can focus on training and health.

Where are you going to eat? See the food options available at the venue.

Training

Here’s where you take your research and apply it to your training. When it comes to a monthly/regional/national, you need to change your regiment. Play a little more and narrow down your training. If you’re from State Y and you’re coming to a Chicago monthly, you’re going to want to practice a little more against Sheik and Mario. Obviously, don’t neglect any characters, but your focus should be more on the popular characters and top players in the region and those characters. Is someone Out of State coming that’s a top player? Prepare for them too.

When you’re watching videos, study the top players to get a feel for how they play.

For stages, make sure you practice all the stages legal for that tournament. Give special attention to stages that aren’t legal in your local scene.

Remember when I said play for 30 minutes a day? Bump that up to 45 minutes to an hour. Try and attend as many locals as you can. If you want to win, you need to put in the time and effort, and you wanna ramp up before a tournament to maximize how well you’re playing.

A Few Other Things

SLEEP – You may want to play into the night before a tournament, but believe me you want to be alert, and coffee ain’t gonna do it for you. Get proper rest. If you’re staying up hella late you’re cutting your chances of winning.

SHOWER – And let me be clear, this doesn’t just benefit everyone. Cleaning yourself gives you a better chance of warding off being sick. You play worse when you’re sick.

EAT WELL – Don’t get a goddamn McGriddle before you play. You want sustainable energy that’ll help keep you alert and not exhausted. So, seriously, try and eat better the day of. Get chicken instead of a burger. Get a salad instead of fries. Eat a meal bar or a protein bar.

WATER – Drink it. Love it. Be it. Don’t drink poison *coughsodaenergydrinksanythingnotwatercough* Stay hydrated.

At the Tournament

Play friendlies!!! I can’t stress this enough. Play as many friendlies with as many different people as possible, preferably with either your main or a very comfortable secondary. The goal here is to attain as much knowledge as possible about your prospective opponents. Even if it means throwing down a little cash, get in those games with top players and talk to them. Most top players are actually pretty nice, and should be more than happy to offer you some tips.

Also, friendlies are a very good way to learn without going through the stress of a tournament match, which helps you conserve energy. You’ll want to make sure you don’t burn out over the course of the day, so make sure you do whatever it takes to stay in tip top form all day.

Most Importantly

When you’re at a tournament, have fun. Your mood is crucial to how well you’re going to be playing that day, so make sure you’re not focused solely on winning and stressing yourself out. Enjoy yourself! Plenty of times you’ll read articles from top players where they play insanely well because they were just enjoying themselves and somehow ended up winning the biggest tournament of their life.

——

Seriously, come say hi to me if you’ll be at Mashfest this Saturday, September 5th, if you haven’t already met me in person. I’ll be there, available for questions, chatting, friendlies, etc… you’ll know it’s me because I’m super loud and I’ll be wearing a gray Fedora with a Paper Mario pin on it.

Also, one more blog post before I wrap up the improvement series!

Just Sayin’

The tournament I’m going to is called Mashfest. Check out the FB page for it! Go to it! Y’know…to get my autograph 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/events/724406491038862/

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Improvement in Smash 4 V – Stages

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Let’s talk about stages.

Stages are tricky. They change how you play, how a match-up can work. Suddenly that low ceiling makes character X more adept at KO’ing from the top, and you panic more when above them. Maybe you get drained as you fire off another Smash attack and your opponent is living to 200%+ thanks to bigger blast zones. Whatever it may be, stages are the most dynamic part of Smash Bros, and one of the most important things to consider while practicing.

When it comes to stages, you’re at the mercy of the TO. They decide to use Halberd? You can’t say no. Delfino? Castle Siege? Tough luck, buddy. They’re gonna be there, and you may have to play on it.

But because of the unique way stage banning works, there are things you can do to practice efficiently (I’m assuming that you know how the stage banning process works. If you don’t, feel free to reach out to me personally or to someone else in the Chicago community. We can all help you with that).

Look at the Counter Pick list. Then look at your MU’s – is there a stage that doesn’t benefit you in any of your MU’s that you just don’t like? You don’t need to practice on it. If you’re going to be banning this stage almost every time and never take anyone there, there is zero reason to practice on it. Don’t waste your time. Likewise, if there’s a character you know you’ll never take a certain character to and always ban a certain stage for, don’t bother practicing that MU on that stage. If you happen to not have a stage that you’ll never play on – you practice every. Single. Stage. (that’s on the legal list of your tournament’s stages, of course).

Move around the stage. Execute a couple moves and look at your positioning. Make sure you practice every MU you think you’ll be playing on the stage, too. Look for spots on the stage where you see a positional advantage and make a note of it. See where your opponent will have the best advantage of your character.

Becoming comfortable with the stages you’ll be playing on will allow you to play better: you’re more comfortable with your character’s spacing there, you know the in’s and out’s of the stage, and you just feel better while playing on it. That can be the difference between a win and a loss sometimes, and it’s something you shouldn’t brush aside.

The bottom line about stages is this: Don’t let it be the stage that’s winning/losing when you’re counter picking/being counter picked.

Just Sayin’.

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Tales of Xillia: 4-man Co-op (first impressions)

So, for anyone who doesn’t know, I stream myself playing games pretty much every Saturday night. Usually, I do single-player games with a commentator or two. This time, after talking to a friend, I decided that I would tackle a game from the Tales series of games. These games are known for supporting 4-player combat, although most people just play by themselves or with one other person. Now, each Tales game generally has a gimmick that they can use to enhance combat.

However, Tales of Xillia’s is a little odd. It actually “hampers” 4-man combat. When you link with another character, the one being linked to is automatically taken over by an AI, and only unlinking will restore the ability to control that character. It’s basically a way to make playing by yourself easier and more fun because it makes the AI much smarter.

Now, at first, I didn’t like it. I didn’t think my group would need it. But then I started doing some research after a very painful 1st boss, and after doing some research and really thinking about it, 4-man combat with linking is starting to grow on me.

Let me explain linking really quick. Linking allows characters to beef themselves up, share skills, and use “Link Artes”, more powerful versions of normal Artes. With 4 players, linking isn’t really an option if everyone wants to participate in 100% of the combat. So, you’re basically gimping yourself for bosses, which is the problem (normal battles are completely fine with no linking). How can my group utilize linking effectively while not feeling like we can’t play during boss battles?

The easy way is to have two people allow themselves to be linked from time-to-time. I played a lot of Tales of Symphonia – it was my first ever Tales game! I played it so much I’d go through the whole game just having the CPU’s fight during boss battles and managing them through items. So, really, I’m okay with being linked and just sitting there sometimes, but even I’ll want to play sometimes, so I’m set on finding a way to utilize linking differently than the game intends you to (which is have it up basically all the time).

My strategies going in are not to try and fill the Link Gauge, which is filled through normal attacks while linked and using Artes while linked.

We could link for different things quickly. For example, if one of us is knocked down, we link with Jude, get picked up, and then unlink. We could link to position someone from behind quickly since the AI is programmed to take the best route to the back of an enemy. These are the kinds of small optimizations I think we could use with linking to utilize it while still basically playing the whole time.

We could also link just to spam more powerful artes if the boss is knocked down/stunned, and then unlink. It’d be a quick link to unleash a couple powerful attacks.

Those are all I’ve got right now though. If we wanted to fill the Link Gauge effectively we could go in waves of 2 players being linked and switching off every “tier” (I think there’s 4) of the Link Gauge. Again, I personally am okay with letting myself be linked, but this is a final resort kind of option if the boss is really hard and we need over limit.

I’m actually pretty excited to try and master linking with 4 people. Sure, it’s not the standard Tales 4-player experience, but to be honest it’s kind of refreshing and I think it can be a lot of fun. It’s obviously poorly designed (it feels like the multiplayer for Xillia was shoe’d in), but I’m the kind of guy who tries to make something work, and I think linking could be a really cool way to play this game with 4 people, even if it’s generally seen as bad. I think there’s a lot of strategy to be had with this sort of linking; unfortunately, no one’s really experimented with it and just bash it, so I think there’s a lot of untapped potential here.

There’s got to be a way to make this work. I think people just focus on filling the Link Gauge too much and not on the little optimizations you can make regardless of the Link Gauge.

Just Sayin’.