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A Noob's 2D Fighters' Guide Written by a 2D Fighter Noob


If you've been following my Qposts and weekly updates on "Whatcha Been Playing?" you'll know that I've been stepping out of my comfort zone and have taken an interest in 2D fighters. If you haven't been following my Qposts and weekly updates, I've been stepping out of my comfort zone and have taken an interest in 2D fighters. It's been about two months since I've taken the dive and I'm hooked hard. I thought I'd ramble nostalgic about Mortal Kombat as well as share a couple tips that seem to be helping me enjoy the very diffiuclt to get into genre and games for newcomers to check out.

I can't really say I'm a fighter newcomer. I'm a product of the 80s and 90s and vividly remember being in the boardwalk arcade walking past a red and gold arcade cabinet surrounded by cheering teenagers. I peeked in to see what was up and saw Sub-Zero ripping the head of Sonya with the spine dangling. Maybe it was the photo-realistic graphics or my steady diet of wholesome Nintendo games but seeing that made me queasy. It was disgusting and I wanted to see more! So, I coughed up all the quarters remaining in my pocket and proceeded to let the group of peers have their way with me mutilating my dying body in a variety of ways. I eventually got pretty decent at MK spending the bulk of my allowance playing it. My twisted metal head mind loved how brutal it was and there is no greater satisfaction than performing a fatality after a particularly challenging bout.

Then, the home console version released and Midway made a very smart decision to release a censored version for the SNES. Had my mom seen the uncensored version her conniption fit would rival that of the Ten Plagues of Egypt. Fortunately, my best buddy had a Sega Genesis (ABACABB, still remember it!!!) so we could satiate our ravaging bloodthirst. We also played some Street Fighter II but that was nothing compared to Mortal Kombat. I became quite a force when I went down to the boardwalk to blow my allowance flexing my Sub-Zero and Johnny Cage skills and teaching others how to do the fatalities. Oh, nostalgia!!!!

And then Mortal Kombat II. Oh, my deer good lord!!! Remember back in the 90s when a sequel game was a massive upgrade over the previous? Boy oh boy did MKII deliver the way sequels should! Bloodier, gorier, more twisted, better graphics, more fatalities, more characters, Liu Kang actually fun to play (and stupid dummy cheese with the dragon kick followed by bicycle kick). It was everything a 13-year-old could ever want. And then Tipper Gore happened… you know the story, so I’ll spare you. My mom did catch wind of what this Mortal Kombat game was, and it became more and more difficult to play it as much as I wanted to. My friend’s mom also figured out the ludo-barbarity her son had been subjected to. So that was nipped.  I still got decent on arcade trips alone but not as much as MKI and its increased popularity also meant it costed twice as many quarters and it had more players and players that were way better than me.

When Mortal Kombat III came out I did get myself to the local bowling alley to play it (the arcade stopped hosting the cabinet during the height of the controversy, so the bowling alley was the only option). It was awesome but the lane’s rules of you had to bowl at least one game to get access to the arcade room put a damper on how much I could play it. Still living under my mother’s roof also meant no console version. I guess it was for the best in retrospect. I was starting high school and finding more interesting ways to get into trouble and piss my mother off.

And with that I rarely played fighting games again as I veered more to narrative driven games and anything Nintendo sent my way. I did and do play Smash but never like I did back in the Mortal Kombat days.

Anyhoo, if you’re still with me, congrats and condolences. Now to get to the main reason I started writing this blog before waxing nostalgic.

Fighters became more and more complex and players’ skill levels went up and up. The skill and knowledge to start playing them again was just too daunting and anytime I did try to play one I just got embarrassed, and I went back to my regularly scheduled gaming. What is all this talk of move canceling, hit confirming, frame data? Why do I have to hit the buttons so fucking fast? I just want to have fun and punch things. Years and years passed before one day last month I saw Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate on sale for PS5 for a cool twenty-two doubloons. I was curious to see how much it had changed over ten iterations and I had heard it had a great single player component and tutorials. And, it does!!!

After just a few hours and a lot of bitching about how difficult it is to hit buttons so fast these days I really started having fun with it like I did back in the day and asking around Dtoid got some recommendations for other 2D fighters to check out that would be good for noob (Saibot)s. I’d like to share which of the few I played I think are a great entry point for newcomers or those getting back into it. But first a handful of tips that helped me:

  1. Move cancelling just means entering combo string really, really fast so the next move starts before the current one finishes. Don’t worry yourself with it.
  2. Hit confirming just means knowing if you hit your opponent and if you should continue a combo string. Don’t worry yourself with it.
  3. Frame data just means you shouldn’t worry yourself with it. Learn which are your fast moves and which are your slow, powerful moves.
  4. Any fancy term or anything people run on about on YouTube videos and what not, guess what? Don’t worry yourself with it!
  5. Do play with a variety of characters and see which one gels with you. Soon as you find one that makes you smile jump into the practice mode and learn a combo and a couple special moves. Play a few arcade mode sets at the easiest difficulty increasing it when you feel more confident.
  6. I find the analog stick is easier to use for fighters like Street Fighter or Guilty Gear (anything with circular inputs), the d-pad is way easier for Mortal Kombat since that game doesn’t have circular inputs and everything is based on up, down, left, right with little diagonal usage (for beginners). Play with them both and find what feels best with you.
  7. Do practice pressing a single time per needed button entry. Like if the button combo string is A A X X Y Y B, don’t mash AAA AAA XXX XXXXX YYYYYYYYYYYYYY BBBBBBBBBBBBB. Focusing on this made a massive improvement in my play (which is still shit, mind 😊). You may think the combos need to be entered too fast; the correct answer is they need to be entered cleanly!
  8. Practice your quarter circles and half circles so that you don’t overshoot them and hit up to go into a jump. Your muscle memory works faster than you may think!
  9. Don’t under-utilize nor underestimate throws.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the art, music, and vibe of the game! Know that you’re gonna get whooped a lot at first. Don’t get discouraged and keep at it! Just keep rolling with that single combo and couple special moves you can pull off. The rest will come.

And now, three 2D fighters I think novices should play:

I think MK11 great for newcomers because of how well put together the tutorials are. They really teach you the mechanics of the game and fighters in general. Sometimes it’s a little too technical but like I said above: Don’t worry yourself with it. There’s also special move and combo tutorials for each individual character that does explain the ins and outs, risks and rewards of the different moves.

Then there’s an insane amount of single player content to play so you can improve and have fun doing it instead of punching a dull dummy or countless arcade mode sets. My favorite is the Towers of Time where you have to beat a series of bouts with a variety of special conditions like punches light your opponent on fire, blocking disabled, fight in the dark and use only sound to guide you. It’s hella addicting. And the more you play the more Mortal Kombat Koins you can earn to spend in the Krypt which is basically a glorified gatcha disguised as an exploration game. I’ve earned plenty of Kurrency to not feel compelled to use real money to buy it. You can unlock skins, extra fatalities, brutalities (violent finishers executed when special conditions are met during a bout), consumable items to use in the Tower of Time, etc. It’s pretty fun even if I abhor the predatory gatcha shit.

The online portion I was very nervous to go into at first and when I did, I got my ass beat bad by a player who had Twitch in his name so I imagine that a bunch of people watched my embarrassment. I went back to playing single player and after a week tried online again with much better results. The large player pool means that not only do I find a bout quickly but also the difficulty curve of opponents at my level is matched well. There were some lag issues in matches here and there but nothing consistently bad. Very smooth overall and good fun!

This is the number one game I’d recommend to a newcomer to the genre. It’s fun, smooth, over the top, has a hilarious movie (aka story mode), and teaches well! Shame there isn’t cross-save because I’d double dip for the Switch version in a still beating ripped out heartbeat (I’ve read it hits 60fps on the portable!!!).


Oh boy oh boy oh boy do I love this one!!! I’ve heard of the series and knew there was a character with a paper bag over his head and a gigantic scalpel as a weapon but that was the extent of my knowledge. The Dtoid community recommended this the most and I found it at a very fair price (25 schmeckles for the physical version, which is considerably less expensive than the digital one). The presentation of the game is absolutely beautiful and it’s overflowing with personality and loud, in-your-face heavy metal! Each character has a memorable design and interesting move set. Above all I like the flow of the game. There’s a strong sense of rhythm to it that I really jive with.

On top of that there’s a very good tutorial mode. It’s not as deep or large as Mortal Kombat’s but it explains the game’s unique mechanics well and most importantly it requires you execute a lesson at least three times before moving onto the next one. Some lessons will frustrate the shit out of you, but you’ll get there.

The single player mode is kinda bare bones with the usual arcade mode and a survival mode (which I like for improving my usage with a character). It’s enough though because the moment-to-moment gameplay is just so engaging!

Online, GGS uses rollback netcode which means that playing some chap in Japan is as smooth at playing with a buddy sitting right next to you. It’s insanely smooth and a marvel how the performed whatever black magic they need to. Sadly, GGS isn’t as popular as MK11 so there isn’t a huge player pool and it can take a while to find a match. Fortunately, you can practice while the system searches for an opponent. I’m also playing on a PS5 which I imagine has the smallest player pool. There’s supposed to be cross-play between Playstation 4 and 5 and PC being added soon, so I can’t wait for that.

The online ranking system does work well and fairly when it pits me against a player at my rank or one higher. I feel challenged, understand why I lost or won, and have fun. Sometimes it’ll match me with a player two or more ranks higher and yeah…..

But, yeah, totally get this game! It’s newbie friendly and has a lot of depth I can’t wait to grow into!


Recently re-released for current consoles I snagged this on Switch because I like Persona 4 and its characters. If you’re a fan of the RPGs and are interested in trying a fighter that’s overflowing with that trademark Persona vibe, this delivers. And it runs buttery smooth 60fps without a single hitch on Switch. Fast load times to boot!

I think this is a great fighter for new players or to have on hand for when you want to play a fighter with someone not versed in the genre because there’s this auto-combo system. Basically, you can mash, say the A button repeatedly and the character will perform a complex combo. This lets anyone of any skill level immediately start with a usable arsenal. However, should you take the time to learn more you’ll have a bigger arsenal to choose from and you’ll have better control over your special move MP to have it to use at better times. Still, with just a couple auto-combos both the novice and the more experienced player can play together and have fun without the novice getting whooped into frustration.

There’s a fully voiced visual novel single player portion and… the protagonist speaks!!! It really freaks me out!!! Persona protagonists don’t speak!!!! Anyhoo, it’s fun to spend more time with the cast of P4 which is one of my all-time favorite JRPG casts. There are also characters from Persona 3 but I haven’t played that yet but they seem fun (can’t wait for it to finally hit consoles!!! Fingers crossed for a Switch port!!!). I like Junpei and his baseball themed moves!

There’s also kinda survival mode where you fight bout after bout and earn exp to put into a character’s stats for the mode and learn passive bonuses. It’s good fun and addicting.

Unfortunately, the online mode on Switch lacks that sexy rollback netcode the other consoles get. I played a few matches online and they ran smooth enough, but there isn’t much of a pool so finding an opponent took a while. Not a game I’d recommend for online play. But there’s a lot of single player content and amazing presentation to make worth adding to your collection.


So, that’s that. I did play a few more fighters but these three really stood out as the best to recommend to newcomers or those getting back to it after a very long hiatus. I’m sure all you guys will have tons of recommendations and tips to add in the comments and I look forward to checking them out. I will say, as a newcomer, avoid Street Fighter 5. I don’t want to talk shit, but it was not newbie friendly in the slightest trying to get me to buy something at every screen and a mess of a UI that I couldn’t even tell you if there was a good tutorial. Would scare a lot of players away in my opinion. Get one of the classic collections instead. (Seriously though, SF6 is looking to be a very interesting game! Hope they can be newbie freindly like Capcom did with Monster Hunter Rise)

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About RiffRaff one of us since 10:06 AM on 05.23.2013

I like video games. Nintendo, RPG, Adventure, basically anything that doesn't involve other people games. I like other stuff too. I don't pee on the carpet.

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