I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but I play a lot of Guilty Gear Strive. Over the past 8 months, it has dominated the majority of my gaming time. Despite that, I haven’t made a conscious effort to share much about my time with the folks here reading my blog. However, after months of practice, I was finally able to achieve some short-term goals that I’d set for myself, so I thought it was high time I rectify my silence. While I don’t expect I’ll change anyone’s mind on the genre, hopefully sharing my experience will further illuminate why I find fighting games so enjoyable. Plus, this’ll give me an excuse to talk about all the cool stuff I can do with May now!
When last I left you, I’d only just recently picked up May. The first challenge I encountered, and wrote about, was how counterintuitive her special moves felt. May is a charge character, so some of her special moves require players to hold the control stick back to “charge” them before use. However, the moves in question send May flying forward. The idea of holding back to move forward was completely foreign, doubly so because I grew up playing a lot of platforming games. Eventually, I overcame my mental barrier though. Part of that came from practice, but I also started thinking about May’s charge attacks like a slingshot. She’s just building force to rocket into her opponent’s face. Totsugeki!
With my mental barrier on charging finally conquered, I moved straight into high damage combos. Experience should have told me that this was a bad idea. It should have, but didn’t. I’d lost one too many games coming up just short on damage, and my tiny goblin brain got very fixated on this. So I set straight to work on learning some high damage combos with May, instead of focusing on fundamentals. It didn’t matter how important the basics were because I’d already abandoned humanity and returned to monke.
While high damage combos shouldn’t have been my focus, consistently practicing them actually paid off. Everyone in the lower levels of Ranked skipped learning their fundamentals too, so being able to do a lot of damage was actually a huge boon. I absolutely tore through the lower ranks, sending most of my opposition to the moon in a body bag. The explosion of success shot me up to the second highest rank in the span of only a few weeks. It felt great seeing such an immediate reward for the practice I’d put in, but I was in for a rude awakening. I just didn’t know it yet.
Have you ever run at top speed while not paying attention to where you’re going, only to hit something? Perhaps a tree? You smash into it with such force, but the tree isn’t going anywhere, so you bounce back and land flat on your ass. That is the experience I had when I arrived on the tenth floor. This floor is the second highest in the ranked tower, and acts as the biggest roadblock in keeping the majority of players from reaching the top floor. If you’ve managed to arrive there without mastering the basics, like I did, then it’s where you need to start ironing them out. Without doing so, you’ll never enter the upper echelon of players on the Celestial Floor.
As I completely skipped learning fundamentals, I got slapped around a lot on Floor 10. I wanted to keep improving, but wasn’t sure how. I needed help. It was at this time that I discovered the Youtuber YomiFGC. His channel features a number of videos all focused on May. This allows him to cover a range of topics with insights for May players, making his videos more useful than the generalized content of other creators. He also covers high and low level techniques, so Yomi always has something useful to share regardless of your current skill level.
After watching a few of Yomi’s beginner videos, I took to work practicing what he’d explained. It wasn’t easy however. The biggest problem I have when learning new techniques is remembering to use them. I rely quite heavily on the part of my brain that autopilots decision making based on patterns when playing action games. Unfortunately, this means that I tend to repeat my habits, instead of making the conscious effort to use newly learned material. However, with a bit of effort from my side, I stopped using it as much, and started grinding out new knowledge.
While I was rewiring my brain, Yomi took it upon himself to set up a community Discord, referred to as Yomicord. I promptly joined with the hope of playing similarly skilled players who were also looking to improve. That wasn’t exactly what I found when I joined though. Much to my surprise, there were some extremely high level May players in the group. The journey to improve at fighting games is endless for some folks, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. As such, it made a lot of sense that they’d want to congregate, and hone their abilities just as much as I did. However, it was a little intimdating to be surrounded by people who were a lot better at the game, doubly so when you don’t want to look completely stupid asking questions.
That fear was misplaced however, as no one gets mad at someone asking for help to improve.
Over the next month or two, I’d ask countless questions in Yomicord that were answered by a variety of different higher level players. It didn’t matter how basic the question, someone always had an answer. I could also play these same folks, and seek guidance afterward. It can’t be understated how useful it is when someone points out areas you need to improve that you hadn’t considered. The community in Yomicord is the single biggest reason I was finally able to break through the barriers I faced, yielding some tangible progress.
Weeks of training in Yomicord came and went. Throws are now part of my offense, alongside high-low mixups, and frame traps. I’d also spent quite a bit of time learning to play neutral, instead of trying to force my offense on someone. I wasn’t landing those combos that got me to Floor 10 as often, but when I did, they usually ended the game. My defense had also improved, and I could pass a variety of character specific knowledge checks. All of those fundamentals I’d skipped in the beginning were finally there, alongside a bevy of other useful tidbits. It took a couple weeks of practice and firm guidance from a group of knowledgeable players, but I was finally ready.
After all those weeks of training, I achieved the first of the two goals that I’d set for myself by making it to the Celestial Floor. This was considerably challenging, as it has an additional blockade that players must overcome compared to the rest of Ranked. Normally you rank up during a win streak, and rank down on a loss streak. The same is true for entering Celestial from Floor 10. However, to retain access to Celestial you must win 5 of your next 6 matches. This means you need to earn a win streak playing against some of the best players in the game. If arriving on Floor 10 was like running into a tree, trying to complete the Celestial challenge was like running into a cement wall before falling into a pit of feral cats.
Over the next 3 weeks, I took the Celestial challenge daily. The players in Celestial were so much tougher than everything I’d dealt with up to this point. At times, I felt completely hopeless. Regardless, I continued forward through every failure with moral support from Yomicord, as well as advice when and where I needed it. Then it happened. One night while grinding through Celestial challenges for 5 hours, I did it. Finally. I won the prerequisite 5 times. Let me tell you, that last game was close as hell, but when I landed the combo starter for the finishing blow, I felt elated knowing I’d finally won my way into the top floor.
Immediately after making it into Celestial, I shared my accomplishment with the folks in Yomicord, and was greeted with thunderous congratulation. Seeing the same folks who’d helped me share in my victory made it a lot more special than it would have otherwise been. To me this felt like the culmination of a community effort. It wasn’t just my win – it was our win. Without their help, I’d have never had the resources I needed to reach a point where I could make it into Celestial. I don’t know if folks from Yomicord feel that way about it, but I’m glad that I had them supporting me along the way.
I also put their support to good use while achieving the second of my goals: going 2-2 in an online tournament with May. It’s been so long since I’ve had any good results from an online tourney. I know that someone always has to lose, but it’s nice to occasionally put up some decent results. In a recent Yomicord community tournament, I not only managed to win twice before getting eliminated, I actually won thrice and hit top 8. There’s still a lot of room to keep growing, but it was nice to demonstrate the improvements I’ve been making under everyone’s tutelage. Here’s hoping I can continue putting up good results.
With that, we’re finally caught up to the present day. My top 8 finish in Yomicord Tourney 4 is the last great achievement I have to report, as we’re preparing for a team tournament in June. I had originally set out to write about my time learning May and, in doing so, brought to light a big part of why I’ve continued to play Strive. I only know the folks in the Yomicord because of Strive, but they’ve helped to make my experience playing the game significantly better. Online communities can seem toxic, especially for fighters, but it’s been my experience that they’re full of people looking to get better. It’s through helping one another that we get to share the games we love, and improve at them ourselves.