Tag Archives: fighting games

The Power of Shazam – An Injustice Tutorial – Harnessing the Lightning

Billy Batson and Shazam
SHAZAM!

Shazam, Captain Marvel that was, is by far and away my favorite DC hero and when I heard that he was going to be a playable character in Injustice, well I was more than a little excited. I’ve played over a thousand matches using Earth’s Mightiest Mortal and I think I’ve got enough experience under my belt to help anyone out who wants to give the character a try.

I’m going to break this up into a series of posts, starting with an overview of the character, what I think makes him fun to play, and a breakdown of his strengths and weakness. Let’s get this party started, time to level up your game! SHAZAM!

Quick Overview
Billy Batson’s alter ego is all about the vortex. His skills are best put to use from two character lengths away and closer, that way he’s always in range for his unblockable, and unforunately crouchable, Herculian Rush. He’s a medium/high risk, medium reward character that relies on rushdown and great guesses to do the majority of his damage. If you can read your opponent and have a couple of meters stocked, he can do well over 70% damage in a flash. He’s got relatively easy combos and options to mixup opponents once he’s in close, but he’s at a serious disadvantage a screen away.

In short: Shazam is a mobile grappler/vortex character that requires quick reflexes and good reads to play effectively. Online it can be difficult to crank out victories because there’s no time to adjust to your opponents playstyle. But the wins are absolutely worth it.

Why Play Shazam?
First ask yourself a few questions. Do you like Shazam? Do you like putting people in a blender of pain? Hate zoning? Like unblockable command grabs? Like easy combos? Do you like resets? Do you despise the top tier? If you answered yes to any of the above then I think it’s pretty safe to say that you’ll enjoy playing as Earth’s Mightiest Mortal.

He is not an easy mode character by any stretch of the imagination, so if you’re looking for Superman’s F2,3 you should try someone else. Like I said above, he’s one of the more challenging characters to use, but oh so satisfying.

shazam_____colors___by_andre_vaz-d4wh7xeStrengths
Let’s talk about what makes Shazam a formidable fighting force that inspires fear when used to his full potential.

Impressive Mobility:
Shazam has a pretty decent forward and back dash that cover space quickly. He also has access to Advancing/Retreating Mercury, teleports that turn him completely intangible for a brief moment, allowing him to bypass projectiles and cross up opponents on the ground. His teleports are incredible on wakeup, capable of escaping most enemy’s jump-ins.

The Vortex: Shazam’s game revolves around getting up close and assaulting the opponent with his unblockable command grabs. Herculian Rush grabs standing opponents from surprising range, while Achilles Clutch grabs crouchers. He has all the tools he needs to start the pain, with an above average sweep, nice J1, ambiguous J2, and some exceptional overheads that lead into grabs. After a knockdown he has a host of options with which to plague his enemies, but keep in mind that the majority of them lose to wakeup attacks.

Useful Specials: All of Shazam’s special moves have a place in his game plan. None of them are useless. We’ll talk about them more in subsequent posts.

Great Ways to Punish Turtlers: Down back really isn’t an option against a good Shazam. He has his low-hitting Achilles Clutch grab, but also F1,2 – B2 – F3 and 2,2 which can be used to hide command grabs. Your opponents will soon realize that standing is a much better option, though that opens the door to Herculian Rushes and electrocution.

Decent Character Trait: Under the right circumstances, his trait can ratchet up his combo damage enormously, sometimes upwards of 10% even on longer combos. It powers up his punch attacks, adding more chip damage as well, and as long as you can turn it on and manage to land a hit, you’re in the money. It’s just that landing a hit part…

InfiniteCrisis4

Weaknesses
Unfortunately Shazam does have quite a few more weaknesses than he does strengths, but don’t let that deter you from picking him up. They are all more than manageable if you’re smart.

No Wakeup Game: One of the most glaring weaknesses pre-patch, Shazam now can use his teleports to get out of sticky wakeup situations. However, that’s really all he’s got. I suppose in a pinch you can do a wakeup Herculian Rush to kind of move you out of harms way, but stick to Advancing Mercury.

Loses at Range: Shazam stands no chance at range. His lightning bolt trades in the enemy’s favor at best. His dash is good enough that you can close the distance quickly, but you still have to be very, very patient. Also, while the teleport seems like a great way to get in fast, timing it so that Shazam dodges completely through projectiles is tricky in most cases and impossible in others.

No Low Threats: Honest to goodness, I think this is Shazam’s biggest weakness, there is virtually no reason why your opponent should be blocking low unless you’ve been beasting them with your command grab. He has a grand total of two, yes 2, low attacks: B 1,2,3 where the final hit is low, and his sweep. The first can be rolled out of and the second causes an untechable knockdown, but sweet Christmas, he has virtually no real high-low game. You need to make people FEAR the grab.

Normals Lack Range: Aside from 2,2 the Big Red Cheese needs to be right up in their face to hit people. He can’t poke in any real sense of the word, and aside from B2,3 which is duckable on the second hit, he has no attack that threatens more than a character length away. Unlike a majority of the cast whose B3 covers serious distance to wallop foes (Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman anyone?) Shazam sways back and punches right in front of his face, going nowhere.

No Easy Confirms: Unlike Superman and Batman, Shazam doesn’t have any easy confirms or strings that lead to big damage.

This fight is hard!
This fight is hard!

Meter Hungry: To do any real damage, you need meter. Badly. Even then, off of a raw meter burned Herculian Rush you’re only doing 37% with no trait. He needs to meter burn on all of his specials for damage and positioning, so in the second round meter management becomes much trickier depending on whether or not you want to save up for a wager.

In Conclusion
Hopefully you guys have some sort of idea about what Shazam is capable of, his playstyle, and his strengths and weaknesses. If you’re interested in picking up the character or you have any questions or comments, feel free to type them up below. Next time we’re going to be talking about strategy, his normals, and his specials, and what an ideal match looks like. Stay tuned!

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Why Fighting Game Stories Lack Substance: Round 3

Hello again fighting game folk.  I’m sorry it’s been so long but I’ve had a ton of crap to do and while I’ve been writing somewhat consistently, I haven’t had the time to sit down and commit it all to the blog.  No longer!  I’m happy to present the third installment of WFGSLS, and this time we’re focusing on what might just be the most sensitive issue in the series.  Let’s dive in!

Round 3 – The Game and Its Players

If you want to boil a fighting game down to its most pure component what do you get?  Give up?  The essence of a fighting game is the competition it fosters.  At their heart fighting games are all about facing and defeating opponents, digital or human, it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is the fight.  What matters is the victory!  I feel like I’m channeling a little Ryu here.

One of the most brilliant moments in fighting game history - Courtesy of Joe Madureira and Udonentertainment.com

I think of the fighting games of today like a game of pickup basketball.  To play and enjoy you don’t need any back story, character development, or an overarching narrative.  You need a ball, a net, and at least one other person.  There’s nearly infinite strategy and depth in a game of one-on-one basketball: a million ways to move and react depending on your opponent’s positioning, who has the ball, what you know about the other player, and so forth but it’s a very bare bones experience, that is to say, no frills attached.

And a majority of the community likes their fighting games this way.  In the heat of the moment no one cares that Liu Kang is fighting for the fate of Earth Realm or that Bison killed Charlie.  What matters is your spacing, the frame advantage on your attacks, whether or not you’re safe from punishment, and what your meter looks like.  Hardcore fighters are absolutely satisfied with that experience and that’s the inherent problem with fighting games and narrative: for many players, the competition and gameplay is enough.

The rise of the competitive arcade scene and the birth of home-grown tourneys and high-profile international tournaments like SBO and EVO undoubtedly adds credence here.  These guys and gals gather to test their might against the best in the world, not talk about the subtle intricacies of their character’s back story.  I’m pretty sure Mike Ross doesn’t play Honda to prove that sumo’s the strongest sport in the world, just like Justin Wong doesn’t use Rufus to get revenge on every Ken player he’s forced to fight against.  They fight to prove they’re the best, and that’s all they need.

Seth and Skisonic probably aren't talking about their favorite Street Fighter story moments - via Kotaku.com

Here’s a bit of proof I’ve sniped from the comments over at Shoryuken.com in response to my previous posts:

“From the day I picked up a controller to play X-men VS Street Fighter, and Street Fighter Alpha 3. I never cared for the story. Although it’s my personal opinion, all professional players should feel the same.  We didn’t come to hear stories. We came to fight.” ~ Odilon

“because no one really gives a damn. I would hope that the developer invests in the engine, balance, characters and extensive testing etc so my fighting game has the best possible gameplay. If the effort into the god damn story suffers, so be it.” ~ sebmaq

“With all the stuff there is to focus on in a fighting game, I actually prefer having less story so I can soak everything in.”  ~ ChapterB

“Why are people so obsessed with story in fighting games? It’s a fighting game. It’s about the mechanics not the dramatics. If you want a good story, go read a book.” ~ Jedah Doma

I just love that last one, “If you want a good story, go read a book.”  Anyway, so I’m leveling blame at the nature of fighting games, but also at the community that demands nothing more of them.  That might seem a little foolish, to blame poor narratives on players just because they enjoy what fighting games provide, but when their attitudes feed the continued development of fighters without adequate stories, it makes a little more sense.  Why should developers add story if the sales say they don’t matter?  Really, these two problems are connected and feed off of each other, a tale of souls and swords eternally retold.

Now keep in mind that I’m not trying to vilify anyone here.  If you love fighting games and could care less about the story, more power to you and it should be pretty apparent that you’re not alone.  Yet I think this mindset allows for the stagnation of the genre.  I remember reading a few comments saying that fighting games “can’t” tell good stories because it’s not in their nature, that they’re not built for it.

“Fighting games are not the stage for compelling story.” ~ bradlee289

That sort of thinking honestly saddens me and it insults the creativity and ingenuity of developers and designers while putting false limitations on the fighting game genre as a whole.  Just because we haven’t seen a great story or story mode in fighters doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it just means that we’ve become so familiar with “how fighting games should be” that we’ve stopped dreaming of the possibilities.

So what am I saying this time?  I’m saying that the narrative in fighting games suffers because when it comes down to actual competition, story isn’t necessary for victory.  I’m also saying that many players are satisfied with current fighting game tropes and don’t consider story intrinsic to the experience thus developers don’t spend time on narrative.

Yet there is hope!  Tons of commenters here at I Speak Comics and at Shoryuken.com recognize that storytelling could improve the depth of our favorite fighters and add a little something extra to our experience.  With the rise of console gaming, the decline of American arcades, and increased expectations for $60 games I think we’re in a very unique spot to see fighting game stories evolve in the next few years but only time will tell.

Why Fighting Game Stories Lack Substance: Round 2

The second installment of WFGSLS is here guys!  First off I want to thank everyone who commented here at I Speak Comics, Shoryuken.com, and at Eventhubs.com.  While some of your responses were pure trolling (heh, shame on you) I really appreciated the well-thought out rants, diatribes, and essays written by readers both supporting stories and not.

However, I wanted to point out that I’m not trying to force feed you the idea that fighting games NEED stories (after 20 successful years without them why would I try?), but rather I’m trying to explain why they don’t have them.  Do I believe fighting games might provide a more well-rounded experience for players if they did have a serviceable canon?  Absolutely, but that’s besides the point.  So without further ado, it’s on to part TWO!

Round 2 – Multiple Characters and Endings but a Want of Modes

SFII Character Select Screen from MobyGames.com

It’s safe to say that while Street Fighter put fighting games on the map, it was Street Fighter II that changed the game forever.  How?  By adding the character select screen.  Now what was once a single player/character experience exploded into a flurry of unique choices when deciding one’s combatant.  SFII featured 7 all-new fighters, from a bear-hugging wrestler straight out of the U.S.S.R., to a green mutated monster that somehow rolled out of Brazil’s darkest jungles.  Never before had such a whirlwind cast of freaks and fighters found their way into an arcade cabinet.  Add to that a Vs. mode which encouraged human competition and a rock solid gameplay system and you’ve got a game that people are still playing to this day.

However these unique new characters weren’t fighting in a vacuum.  In one bold and brilliant move Capcom took a huge step in sculpting the SF universe into something more tangible and gave each fighter an ending cutscene after defeating Bison, the dastardly dictator of Shadowloo and end game boss.  From that brief ending vignette you could sleep easy knowing that Chun-Li had avenged her father and that Guile had avenged Charlie, that Ryu had walked out on the awards ceremony and that Ken had finally married Eliza.  Wait, what?  And there we’ve stumbled upon our problem: Multiple characters with unique endings creates confusing canon.

Chun-Li defeats M. Bison to avenger her father by JcDizon:

Guile beats down Bison to avenge Charlie by JcDizon:

That needs some clarification, multiple characters with unique endings in which they all defeat the main boss separately, cause confusion.  Why?  Because the player doesn’t know what really happened at the end of the 2nd World Warrior Tournament.  At least not until a subsequent game comes out.  The same goes for Mortal Kombat and a whole host of other games, Samurai Showdown, Soul Calibur, Bloody Roar, the list goes on and on.

In the case of SF the character endings acted as a reward for players determined enough to battle through every warrior on their quest to defeat Bison.  So unless you beat the game, you wouldn’t know what your character was fighting for in the first place.  For some of us that doesn’t matter but it’s unquestionably poor storytelling.  Again, we can blame it on the arcade mentality.  No opening cutscenes meant the player got into the game quicker and unless they were familiar with the system, lost quicker, ensuring a constant stream of coins plinking into Capcom’s cabinets.  If a player did manage to reach the end, the minute long cutscenes probably wouldn’t have cut into Capcom’s bottom line.

Yet unbeknownst to the developer, this move set a very damaging precedent in terms of story development in fighters, as it was mimicked by almost every other fighting game at the time.  In an attempt to make every character a star in their own story, to empower the player, and foster a connection between the player and their digital avatar, they effectively retarded the development of narratives in fighting games for 20+ years.  Why?  Because very few games gave players a “true ending” in their mess of unique character-specific endings.

Mortal Kombat II Endings.  Which one is real? from samspir

Without a “true ending” game developers are forced to almost work backwards when they’re trying to set up the narrative for a new game.  They need to make it clear what happened in the previous game and then further the story from there.  If they don’t, well then you get things like retcons and developers resorting to different media sources to make canon understood, i.e. official SF sources telling info not found in-game.

So what do I want to say here?  I think that adding characters adds almost infinite depth to gameplay and creates chances for unique story developments, but because of a 20 year old tradition that gives every character their own unique story ending, in which they’ve “saved the day,” it’s very difficult to solidify canon and create a tangible, consistent story.  Not making the “true ending” clear immediately leaves players to imagine what happened and could possibly lead to extra expenses when developers release other media sources to confirm or deny story elements.  Yet that’s only half the problem.

Like I said before, these characters aren’t operating in a vacuum, and neither are their different endings.  Both of these items are inextricably connected to the second part of this post: Arcade Mode is generally the main way through which players glean each character’s story.

What I mean is that because the characters aren’t a part of a mode that distinctly supports storytelling, the developers are limited with what they can do.  Arcade Mode is immutable and constant, an intrinsic piece of every fighting game.  But if developers wanted to give the player a story, a meaningful story, they shouldn’t rely on the Arcade Mode to do it, but rather a Story Mode or maybe even go the route of Tekken 5 and give us an Adventure Mode.

We’ve been given the same host of modes since the beginning: Arcade, Vs., Online Vs., and Training make up the bare minimum when it comes to fighters.  Every once in a while you’ll get Story, Survival, Team Battle, and others to help liven up the experience but they rarely give the narrative more meat.

Standard Mode Select Screen of the Darkstalkers persuasion courtesy of GiantBomb.com

As many people in the comments have pointed out, there are exceptions.  BlazBlue has taken a big step when it comes to developing their unique universe by including a dedicated Story Mode (to some other commenter’s chagrin).  In it each character battles specific characters and the story changes given certain circumstances (win, lose, what have you) and not every character battles Hazama, the final boss.  Soul Calibur II had Weapon Master Mode which attempted to make the player the main character in their own unique narrative, while 3 & 4 tried a BlazBlue-ish route (though 3 came out before BB), with small choices between fights and even mini-games that affected your character’s health in the next match.

Then there are the Adventure Modes that never quite seem to fit, ala Tekken 5, but I suppose we can’t blame them for trying.  I think that the rise of console gaming has actually provided an outlet for more storytelling avenues in fighters and might help rope new players in for the long haul.  Instead of trying to get players in and out, players are encouraged to play for hours at a time and an Arcade Mode that you can beat in 30 minutes isn’t quite as interesting for a new player as a Story Mode that details the universe and its denizens, but I’ll get to that in a later post.

The KoF franchise actually does something interesting and has a sort of “true ending” feel throughout the series, as the story unfolds character’s gameplay actually changes occassionally (Iori losing his flames to Ash), but again, if you finish with any designated team they will have won the tournament and different plot points will be revealed, which may or may not be canon.  You don’t know until the next game.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Endings from KOF 2003 from FighterFan – Part. 1

In my eyes X-Men: Next Dimension, for the Gamecube, PS2 and XBox, has one of the best dedicated Story Modes out there.  While BlazBlue’s might be more in-depth and more interactive, it doesn’t have the same rigid style and concentration on pure storytelling.  It stands as a great example of what can be accomplished from a purely narrative point of view.  Though, having 40 years of established canon, well-known characters, and professional comics scribes working on the project is one heckuva crutch to lean on.

X-Men: Next Dimension Story Mode from vidfreak727

So this time around, why do fighting game stories lack substance?  Because a multitude of characters have their own unique endings resulting in questionable end game canon and because developers are still following a 20 year-old tradition, telling the story through the Arcade Mode without exploring the plethora of other options out there.  Teams are innovating and experimenting though, make no mistake about that, and if the depth of BlazBlue and others is any indicator, I’m excited for the future.

And that’s it for Round 2.  Hopefully this entry creates some more conversation and I’m sorry if I missed any of your own favorite examples of great Story Modes.  The sheer number of fighting games out there makes it impossible for me to catch every single gleaming exception to my aforementioned generalizations, so people with more knowledge than I are always welcome to drop some of it on me.  Stay tuned for Round 3!

Keep fighting,

Sumo out!

Why Fighting Game Stories Lack Substance: Round 1

I’m a sucker for a good story; I think most of us are.  A well-told tale transports you to a different world, a different universe, transforms you into someone you never thought you could be, and introduces you to people you never thought you could meet.  Stories terrify, inspire, inform, entertain and in the realm of video games add entirely new dimensions to the player experience.  We know that narrative in games is important (50+ hour long RPGs prove it), so after 20 years of fighting games why do the genre’s stories still suck?

Why don’t I have any idea what’s happening in Mortal Kombat?  What is going on in the Mishima Zaibatsu?  Does anyone know where the Alpha series fits into Street Fighter canon?  Welcome ye olde fighting game fanatics and storytelling strumpets to the first part of “Why Fighting Game Stories Lack Substance.”

During this series of posts I’m going to attempt to break down the reasons for the lackluster narrative and plot development in the fighting games of today.  Some are historical, like the first point I’ll be making, and some are theoretical, but in the end I hope to shed some light on the legitimate failings of today’s 1 vs. 1 fighters, their causes, and how developers and designers might be able to avoid these pitfalls in the future.  Let’s get started!

Picture courtesy of the incomparable Kineda.com

Level 1 – The Arcade

If any developer, designer, player, or writer absolutely needs to blame the current sorry state of fighting game stories on any one thing, they can blame it on the arcades, the place where this whole mad scene started.  The early ancestors of our beloved Street Fighters, KoFs, and Mortal Kombats saw their genesis in the arcades way back in the 1970’s and 80’s.  That’s where Ryu scarred the King of Muay Thai in the first World Warrior Tournament and the rest, as they say, is history.

Street Fighter hit arcades in 1987 and became an incredibly popular cabinet.  Without any formal explanation of how to pull off Ryu’s soon to be iconic special moves, players were forced to spend their hard-earned quarters figuring out the joystick motions and button pushes needed to throw their very own hadokens and shoryukens.  From there they would pit their skills against a host of martial arts experts in a bid to become the world’s greatest street fighter.  There was no plot, just the seed of a story trapped within Ryu’s drive to become the best, which has become a central theme in the Street Fighter mythos.

Street Fighter’s ending provides only a hint of Ryu’s masochistic obsession.  Thanks to Sonichurricane.com

And therein lies the first piece of the problem: the first incarnation of the most influential fighting game ever had no discernible plot.  Yet this dilemma is two-fold, the rest of the blame sitting solidly on the entire arcade mentality: player in – player out.  Think about it, most arcade games are incredibly difficult to just pick up and play well, requiring hours and hours and dollars and dollars to master sufficiently.  Combine that with flashy screen-obscuring explosions and break-neck speeds and only the players with the fastest reflexes and the best memory could ever hope to beat them.  Put all these elements into a cabinet, toss it into a crowded, distracting, noisy arcade and give players a single, solitary life (or three) and you’ve insured that gamers hoping to master the system will throw heaps of currency into your game’s gaping vacuous maw.

Why would a developer write an engrossing narrative for a game that was only supposed to be played for a maximum of five minutes per person?  Capcom wasn’t trying to forge a connection between the characters and players, but rather make a butt-load of money in a very short amount of time. They just so happened to create a compelling gameplay system for people to experiment with and exploit.  They knew they didn’t have much time to rope players into the experience, so better to grab them with their system than with a story.

As the arcade scene developed, more and more games copied the initial format of the Street Fighter franchise and its predecessors.  The “fight past a host of character in 1 vs. 1 fights ’til you reach the boss” formula remains unchanged to this day.  While the gameplay blossomed to include a variable cornucopia of new player choices: super meters, advancing guard, guard cancels, custom combos, dashing, aerial raves, and what have you, the format stagnated and would surely smell if anyone stopped to take a sniff.

Why don’t we?  Because we don’t need a great story if we have great gameplay, varied character design, and a community of players that wants to play at the highest level.  That’s what Street Fighter bred; a new generation of battle hungry fighting gamers, a hardcore group determined to compete and become the best.  At that level it doesn’t matter if you’re playing as the despicable dictator or the virtuous hero so long as you win.  That’s always been the draw, the one-on-one competition, Capcom knows it, and storytelling fell to the wayside.

Thus ends Round 1 of “Why Fighting Game Stories Lack Substance.”  Now you know what started this heinous snafu of craptastic character cliches and negligible narratives.  You can blame it on the arcades.  But while the arcade scene may be the progenitor of this mess, there are other, more diverse reasons for the sorry state of things so be sure to check back often so you don’t miss the next installment of “WFGSLS.

PEACE,

Sumo

MVC3 Character Analysis: Amaterasu

The shining goddess, Amaterasu!

Amaterasu
She slices, she dices, she creates, and she destroys, she’s the golden wolf goddess Amaterasu!  I think Ammy is probably the most unusual addition to the MVC3 roster, bar none.  Way to think outside the box Capcom!

First impressions: Mad dangerous and crazy annoying.  Her hitbox is tiny, she has an entire screen hyper, a slow down hyper that enhances her combo options, deceptive range, a whole slew of normals, and solid OTG options.

Yeah, Ammy player are going to have a lot to work with.  NOW ON WITH THE SHOW!

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3 – Seth Killian Walkthrough

Normals
Unlike most other characters in MVC3 who only have one set of special moves, Amaterasu actually has three depending on which weapon she has equipped and all of them have different properties.  Also, the weapon she has equipped affects the special moves she has available to her at any given time.  Finally, you can switch move sets at any time allowing for INCREDIBLE combo ability.

Reflector
Gives Ammy her fastest move set, with the highest combo potential (Video 1 – :21).  She has absolutely sick air combo potential with these normals.  Because she attacks with the flaming disc on her back and not her actual body, some of her moves have strange hit boxes, allowing for some combos that might not seem immediately possible. Gives access to Counter Spinning Piledriver Special.

Glaive
This move set increases her range, damage, OTG possibilities, and allows for some incredibly meaty strikes that you can incorporate into block strings.  In the air she can charge up her downward sword strike which causes a downward wall bounce on hit which can lead into her Elements hyper for big damage (Video 1 – 1:00).  Lots of recovery on these strikes however.  Gives you access to her Sword Dash Strike.

Rosary
Gives Amaterasu sick range and lockdown capabilities.  She can do damage from nearly the entire screen away (Video 2 – :43).  However, the range boost is balanced by relatively weaker strikes and much decreased combo potential but it gives her access to her Cold Star (Ice Blast) special (Video 1 – :46).

Goddess vs. god, who will win?

Specials
8-Way Air Dash
Amaterasu launches a little vine to the other side of the screen and floats along it.  It looks incredibly slow and obvious (Video 3 – :44) but it is cancelable (Video 3 – :55) and that will make it much more dangerous and open up some great opportunities for mind game madness.

Cold Star
Only available when the Rosary is equipped, Amaterasu fires wicked-fast multi-shot projectiles that do heaps of damage and freeze the enemy on hit.  Can be utilized on the ground (Video 1 – :48), as an anti-air (Video 1 – :51), and from the air at a downward angle (Video 3 – 2:00).  This move is a spammers dream.  It has awesome lockdown potential, does great damage, has very little recovery, can punish jump-ins, and can even be cancelled into her Elements hyper (Video 1 – 1:15, however this may only be possible because of the effects of her Slow Down hyper at the time)!

Paper Cut
Amaterasu calls a little piece of paper onto the screen that slowly floats downward from either a high, medium, or low height and damages players if they run into it (Video 3 – 3:11).  The light version falls from a low height and far away, medium falls from a medium height at medium range, and hard falls from nearly right above her from high up.

I keep talking about lockdown potential and this move only adds to her keep away game.  You can combo into it, sure (Video 3 – 3:15), but really you’re going to want to use them as land-mines, forcing your opponents slow their rushdown game and think about how they’re going to approach you.  It’s not clear whether or not you can have more than one paper cut on the screen at a time, probably not, but if you could?  Wowza.

She has such a cute little air dash, am I right?

Counter Spinning Piledriver
This move is only available when Ammy has her Reflector equipped.  Basically it counters a physical attack and the wolf goddess piledrives her enemy, causing what looks like a downward wall bounce (Video 1 – :21).  She might be able to use her airborne Cold Star attack, Elements hyper, or maybe an assist to combo her enemy further.  Fun stuff!

Dash Charge
Can be done on the ground (Video 3 – 2:53) and in the air at a horizontal angle, upward 45 degree, and downward 45 degree angle which cause a horizontal wall bounce (Video 3 – 2:09).  It is available with all of her weapons and opens up some nice OTG combos followed by her charged Glaive strike (Video 1 – :36) followed by the Elements hyper for some mean damage (Video 1 – :57).  If you don’t feel like using her 8-way Air Dash you this might be a decent substitute if you’re going on the offensive.

Sword Dash Strike
I am assuming this is only available with the Glaive equipped.  Amaterasu charges either horizontally (Video 3 – 3:20), or vertically (Video 3 – 3:08) slicing her enemy with her electrified sword.  It can probably be done at a 45 degree angle as well.  It causes electrocution and a hearty amount of stun and you’ll probably be able to use it within combos and as an anti-air.

Cold enough for you?

Hypers
Elements
This hyper is sick.  It does great damage, can be done on the ground and in the air, comes out instantly, and hits full screen (Video 1 – 1:01).  This is her go-to hyper, no exceptions.  It can be comboed off of the OTG charged Glaive strike (Video 1 – 1:01), canceled into from her Cold Star projectiles (Video 1 – 1:15), and looks incredibly safe on block.  Honestly, you see a whiffed attack, throw this out!  Even if they block it you get great chip damage.  If only every character had a hyper this great…

Slow Down
It looks much less useful than her Elements hyper, but we haven’t seen it used much.  Basically, Amaterasu howls and the enemy’s movement speed is reduced drastically.  It looks like this hyper hits regardless if the enemy is blocking or not (Video 2 – 2:05).  It lasts for about 5 seconds, so unless you can get in quick and do some damage, I don’t see it being used very often.  One thing to note however, Seth Killian says that with the enemy slowed, new combo options open up for Amaterasu so we will need to keep an eye out for that (Video 3 – 2:55).

Level 3
Serious damage and some very cool looks make this a Level 3 you’ll want to use whenever you can (Video 3 – 2:29).  You can combo into it as you can see in the video below at 2:08, so that increases its usefulness.  So yeah… It looks awesome, has great vertical range (almost looks like it could anti-air), and does great damage.  USE IT!

Video 4 – Seth Killian Walkthrough 2

Miscellaneous
The fact that grass grows where she walks is amazing and the way her disk, rosary, and sword orbit around her looks great.  Her model is by far and away the most visually stunning in the game.

Final Thoughts
Ammy has the tools to play a mean keep away game with her Cold Star and Paper Cut specials combined with her Rosary normals.  Plan on totally control the playing field with her normals, specials, and full-screen hyper.  If she wants to get in close she has some great quick normals that can change into some deathly dangerous aerial raves coupled with wicked OTG possibilities with the Glaive.  Also, despite her tiny hit box, her moves have some deceptive range.

She can duck under bullet and beam hypers, dish out great damage, spam for chip, and gosh she just looks amazing.  She is going to be dangerous, really dangerous.  For those of you that are still angry that Clover Studios went under, this is your chance to make the mainstream intellectual properties pay!

p.s. Thanks to the fine gentlemen at the Shoryuken forums for getting the names of some of these specials and figuring out which specials are unique to the weapons: Syke1, yah yaahh b*tch, Windsagio, Jet Set Dizzy, Jnana.