The Comeback Kid

What’s good, everyone? Yes, it’s ANOTHER look into the fighting game genre. This time (and in an attempt to keep the subject interesting for you poor folks who would LOVE to read something interesting) I’d like to touch on one of the things being implemented into the newer games that seems to cause a large difference of opinion in the community. To the point, I’m going to be talking about the comeback mechanic and its impact on the genre and community overall.

The concept of the comeback mechanic isn’t a new one to fighting games. Historically speaking, they’ve been around for quite a while in various forms, be it either mashing out of a near-death state and doing higher damage like in Killer Instinct, the POW meter from the Samurai Shodown games or falling below a certain percentage of health and going into a flashing “super mode” like in Primal Rage.  Newer fighting games are a little less subtle with their inclusions of the comeback mechanic though, as it’s evolved from a “second wind” sort of thing into a tool that can be used like a special move.  In Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for example, this is conveyed via  the “X-Factor” option, wherein a player can interrupt any action by hitting all the action buttons to gain a sizable increase to their speed, damage and overall play style. Additionally, The X-Factor’ed character also does not take any block or “chip” damage, adding to the increased deadliness of the player and their character. All of this is accompanied by a distinctive red flash and decidedly ominous feeling of “sh*t getting real”.

Pictured: Sh*t getting real.

The upcoming Street Fighter x Tekken throws its own take on the concept into the mix with “Pandora Mode”. Rather than an overpowered, “get-out-of-a-loss-free” card,  this one is touted as more of an “all-or-nothing gamble” more than a traditional comeback mechanic. The mode can only be activated when at 25% or less health and will immediately kill your point character to bring in your secondary character who now has infinite super meter, an increase to their damage output and an altered appearance. Unlike X-Factor, which grants its user incredible amounts of power essentially for free, Pandora’s big upshot is that your character is now on a life timer and MUST defeat the opponent or they will lose the round. These balancing factors aside, many players still think that the power boost and meter gain is still a liability and that the option should be removed entirely.

As awesome as this looks, someone, somewhere, is likely making a plushie out of this image as we speak.

So with the basics laid out, it’s time to get to the split in opinions over the matter. The proponents of the comeback mechanic contend that their inclusion adds a heightened sense of urgency and drama to the atmosphere while also fostering the development of new technology as a countermeasure. On the other side of the coin, detractors insist that it is nothing more than a tool for less skilled players to have the playing field leveled and in the hands of skilled and higher level players, an easily abuse-able tool that all but ensures a victory against a lesser opponent. This also has a larger implication, as since the fighting game starts to grow, it brings with it a new generation of players who are accustomed to the comeback mechanic and will generally speaking, not have as much skill as the old school Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Street Figher III: Third Strike players  did. For example, would Evo moment #37 have been as epic and memorable if Daigo Umehara had first busted into “anime power-up time” that had (for example) made execution easier, did away with chip damage ,  made his Ken faster with infinite meter and restored his health? The New-School vs. Old-School mentalities and opinions make this an interesting controversy to watch. Although, that being said, the fighting game community has no shortage of controversies and arguments regarding changes to the genre. I mean, I’m fairly sure I can’t even say the word “gem” around fellow fighting gamers without getting at least ONE dirty look.

Gem_Hipsters

These guys were using gems BEFORE it was cool.

At this point, I’d like some audience participation, if I may. What’s your take on the idea of a comeback mechanic? Not just in fighting games either but in any game with a competitive aspect; like an FPS that would make you invincible after a set amount of deaths or a racing game that grants you an additional boost of some sort when you start to fall far enough behind? Let me know in the comments below and thanks again.

–Evo out.

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5 thoughts on “The Comeback Kid

  1. I personally like having some kind of system that can turn the tables in your favor if you are losing. As much as I enjoy fighting games I am still a very amateur player and it does help to have these “come-back” abilities if I’m in a pinch. So while I can understand how highly skilled players may scoff at the idea I feel it gives me and other low level players a fighting chance and thus makes the game more enjoyable overall.

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    • I agree that winning at games DEFINITELY makes them more fun to play. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I hate *INSERT GENRE HERE* games because I suck at them.” and I support that aspect of the concept, since it makes the games more accessible to a wider audience.

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  2. Comeback Mechanic… Rubberbanding, whatever you want to call it, is everywhere these days. Not that I mind, since I admit I am not amazing at every game I play. However, I put before you an idea: as you know there are different difficulty levels when playing games online (especially when it comes to FPS games), why not institute some means of disabling the comeback mechanic before entering gameplay? I mean that way, you could use it if you wanted or you can show your dominance by not even opting to have the comeback mechanic even turned on.

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  3. Pandora mode’s HUUUGE risk makes it not near as much of a looming threat as X-factor. The bottom line is there has yet to be a comeback factor that breaks any popular fighting game (that I’m aware of). The tools are available to both players so as long as any tool (comeback mechanic or not) is beatable it is completely fair.

    I’ve played many different genres competitively and in many of them there comes a certain point where you know 1 player just can’t do anything to win. It’s just not possible due to time remaining or whatever. Even without the comeback mechanic any match is never over in a fighting game. With it, however, it often leads to more exciting and close matches. As long as you are aware of what tools the other player has it’s your own fault for getting caught with it.

    X-factor is probably the most powerful comeback mechanic due to its amount of utility and buffs but the marvel series has always thrived on ridiculous BS. Even without it a character can die in 1 combo. All it takes is 1 mistake and you’re done.

    I know people who even whine about ultras in SF4 as being too much of a comeback mechanic but these are the same people who also say throwing is cheap. These are the people who refuse to embrace a game’s mechanics and will never improve beyond a certain level.

    http://www.sirlin.net/articles/slippery-slope-and-perpetual-comeback.html
    This article talks about comebacks and the opposite of that which the writer calls the slippery slope.

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  4. This is an interesting topic. I have no problem with a comeback mechanic as long as that mechanic has a fair risk vs. reward. On one hand, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 arguably has the cheesiest comeback mechanic, which offers a large reward with little risk. On the other hand, there’s Street Fighter X Tekken, where I’ve heard that so far, the risk far outweighs the reward, which makes it useless. In the new Mortal Kombat, X-Ray movs look cool and do good damage, but most of those are rendered useless when in most matches, burning 2 bars for a combo breaker is more useful than burning 3 for an X-Ray.

    While the community was up in arms about it at first, I think that the Street Fighter IV series finds a good risk vs. reward for supers and ultras. Both are high risk yet high reward maneuvers in most cases that take skill to connect. Now that the community has had time with that particular mechanic, you almost never see random ultras among skilled players because the reward for herp derp tactics isn’t there.

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