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- 1 Introduction
- 2 Defensive Maneuvers
- 3 Offensive Maneuvers
It's no secret that Vampire Savior is a hard game to break into. It's extremely fast, requires a decent amount of technical prowess (though not nearly as much as it may seem), and has a ton of weird mechanics and subsystems that are not present or similar to any other fighting game that sees common play. Hell, even the things that might seem familiar to fighting game vets have completely different applications in VS compared to other games.
I haven't been playing VS for very long (maybe about two years?), but in that timespan I've seen several people try to jump in, play the game as if they were playing ST/Marvel/3S, completely fail, become overwhelmed and quit in a week. To make matters worse, the people who frequent the room have played the game for a long time. This creates a strange situation where we only see novice and advanced players; there are very few players at intermediate skill level, creating a disparity that adds insult to injury for a newcomer.
So, I'm writing this guide to explain everything I can about what's going on underneath the surface in this game. Naturally, I'll have to delve into some technical info, but the main purpose of this guide is to explain WHY things work the way they do, and HOW the things that seem familiar are DIFFERENT from other fighters. Hopefully, this information will set players on the right track and lower the number of new players who pick Morrigan, throw a fireball, and then try to Shoryuken their jumping opponents, fail miserably, and retire in shame.
This guide was intended mostly for people who have experience in other fighters and are on an intermediate or advanced level, who would like to break into Vampire Savior. That being said, I think it can still be of use for people who have played Vampire Savior for a while, too. Newcomers to Vampire Savior will get a lot out of reading how the mechanics work, and people more familiar with the game can garner something from the variety of mind-game discussion in this guide.
Blocking is the most basic defensive maneuver in a fighting game; it doesn't take any meter or life to do, and there's much less risk involved than defending against an attack by zoning with your own moves. Allowing blocking in the air is a pretty big deal, and it's quite a spell different from other games with Air Blocking. First off, here's a few big differences between Air Blocking in VS compared to, for example, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Capcom Vs. SNK 2:
1. There's no chance of any character not HAVING an Air Block (Street Fighter Alpha 3 could find you playing an opponent in X-Ism, and only C-Groove in Capcom Vs. SNK 2 could Air Block).
2. You can always Air Block "Shoryuken" type attacks, i.e any anti-air attack where your opponent rises from the ground. In A3 and CvS2, it was impossible to Air Block a SRK near the end of your descent; but in VS, there's no point where you're unable to Air Block against any attack that causes your opponent to leave the ground, with very few exceptions (more on that much later in the guide).
3. Block Stun in VS is extremely short; it's entirely possible to meet someone in the air, Air Block their attack, and counter attack with your own normal before hitting the ground.
Those last two points are extremely important. We'll hit more on point two later, but for the time being, just remember that you can't be anti-air'd by a Shoryuken-type attack if you're Air Blocking. More crucial to this section is point three. The short duration of blockstun in mid-air leads to its own huge mind-game in VS. We call it...
Here's how it works: if you're on defense, and you anticipate your opponent jumping in with an attack, jump toward them and hold block. After your opponent attacks, counter immediately, briefly stopping their offense and giving you a possible opportunity to turn it around.
If you're on offense, and you think your opponent is going to Chicken Guard you, there are a variety of things you can do as well:
1. Chicken Guard back.
Sometimes when you do this, defending opponents aren't sure what to do, and just attack first. You can then counter attack them and continue your rush. This can be air thrown, though, so it's far from being foolproof.
2. Air Throw.
If you think your opponent is going to jump in at you and do nothing, just throw 'em! How dare they even think of pulling that crap on you, right!?
3. Lengthen the number of hits in your air chain.
Since blockstun is so short that you can throw out an attack between any move in an air chain, one way to throw it back in the defender's face is to do a longer chain. Let's say you normally jump in with J.Mk -> J.Hk chain. Your opponent is used to this, and calmly waits for you to finish both attacks before pegging you in the face. Next time, try a longer chain, like J.Mp -> J.Mk -> J.Hk. Since they're ready for the two-hit string, they'll try to attack after the second hit and get stuffed by the third.
4. Reduce the number of hits in your air chain.
This works similarly to lengthening the number of hits. It relies on confusing your opponent into not attacking until their window of opportunity has passed. Be careful when using this one, though; if your opponent has an attack with long enough range, they can still counter-attack you if their reaction speed is fast enough. The point is, don't be predictable with the length of your air chains!
5. Guard Break.
'Guard Break' is a weird concept in VS. There's no actual Guard Meter, so what this actually refers to is, when you think your opponent is going to Chicken Guard, perform an air string so long that it keeps them airborne while you land, and then hit them with a ground normal (which will be unblockable of course, since they're in mid-air still).
For example, you can do J.Mp -> J.Mk - J.Hp -> J.Hk, then land and 'Guard Break' them with S.Lp, which resets them. Your 'Guard Break' attack should be a move with fast startup time; remember, they're still in the air, so their blockstun is still really short. If you do a move that takes too long to startup, they'll just peg you right back and you'll look like a dumbass. This maneuver is generally restricted to when the defending opponent is cornered, or else the 'Guard Break' attack might just whiff.
6. Don't even jump.
This is the best one, haha. Remember that if your opponent wants to Chicken Guard you, they still have to commit to a jump. So, bait 'em into jumping and then hit them out of the air! Just remember not to do it with a SRK-type attack.
As an offshoot of blocking and Air Blocking, we have Guard Cancels, which are similar to Alpha Counters in Street Fighter Alpha 2. When blocking, perform an SRK motion and press punch or kick, depending on the character and the GC. There's only one important thing to know about Guard Cancels compared to Alpha Counters (in A2, A3, Guilty Gear, or any other game with them), and that's the fact that GCs require no meter to perform (Unless you're playing as Anakaris). While you certainly CAN use meter to make a more damaging ES Guard Cancel, it's not necessary for the majority of the cast. So, any blocked attack can be GC'd.
If you're thinking, "Oh noes! That's imba, eff this game I quit!" Nope, not so fast, bro. Here's a few things to consider:
1. Realize that GCs are hard to do.
Can you consistently block a jab then perform an SRK before before your opponent even chains the jab into another attack? On reaction? If you can, you are Jesus. For all of us pedestrians, though, it requires a good amount of anticipation to Guard Cancel an attack, or an opponent crazy enough to always go for 4-5 hit chains, giving us ample time to buffer a GC. Guard Cancels rely a lot on the predictability of an opponent.
2. Realize that most GCs kinda suck.
Many GCs in this game whiff easily against crouching light attacks. Some GCs don't knock down at all. Some GCs aren't even attacks; just escape maneuvers. Even if your opponent can GC like Jesus, it's still not easy to find consistent opportunities to use them.
And finally, how to avoid getting GC'ed:
1. Know which attacks are good for baiting.
It will differ per character, and it will differ per matchup. But generally, go with something low, and something fast. Also, if you perform a jumping attack at the very end of your jump descent, you will almost certainly land before your opponent's Guard Cancel can hit you, allowing you to block the attack on the ground. Take caution when trying this against Demitri, though, as his ES Guard Cancel is unblockable.
2. Pressure your opponent with short chains.
It's very easy to GC someone when they always pressure with extremely long chains. The defender has all that time to GC, and they can wait until they're right in the middle of their string to dish out the pain. Avoid this by pressuring with shorter, more erratic block strings. Try not to ever do a long chain unless you've hit-confirmed it!
3. Just let 'em.
Think about it: a Guard Cancel requires an SRK motion, right? A lot of the characters in this game have special moves with DP motions. Thus, if they're not blocking an attack, they'll wind up just throwing out a random special move. If you are absolutely certain they're going to try and GC the next thing you do, just wait, watch them whiff their special move, and punish accordingly. Naturally, if your opponent doesn't have an SRK motion attack, this doesn't work.
Push Blocks (AG)
First of all...don't call this maneuver a 'Tech Hit'. No one will know what you're talking about. Call it a Push Block, or Advancing Guard (AG for short). This is the most important defensive maneuver in the entire game, mostly due to the fact that you CAN learn to AG a single attack on reaction, much unlike a Guard Cancels.
(FEEL FREE TO SKIP THE NEXT FEW PARAGRAPHS IF YOU UNDERSTAND THE TECHNICAL DETAILS OF HOW PUSH BLOCKS WORK)
The way Push Blocks work is that you press attack buttons during blockstun. You need to press at least three buttons to even have a chance to Push Block, after which it happens between the 3rd and 6th input. The distance your opponent is pushed back depends on the strength of attack pressed when the Push Block is initiated. Thus, you really want to initiate Push Block with a Fierce or Roundhouse (Hp or Hk). Simultaneous inputs don't count, so you need to become proficient in pianoing the entire set of attack buttons.
This leads us to the proper way to AG on a stick: Lk, Lp, Mp, Hp, Hk (then Mk). There are two main reasons for this. The first and most obvious reason is that it makes sense when you think about it ergonomically. If you place your hand over the attack buttons of an arcade stick, they'll very close to the buttons listed respectively, with the thumb being over Lk and the pinky over Hk.
The second reason is more important: Probability. The first two inputs can't initiate an AG. From that point on, your chance to AG shoots up by 25% with each following input (thus, a 25% chance that the third input will AG, and a 100% chance that the sixth input will AG.
I don't like to think of those percentages, though, because they're misleading. Showing the probability is more important, because we need to take into account the possibility of a Push Block NOT occurring on certain inputs. By using math, we can more exactly determine the likelihood of which inputs will initiate a Push Block. I refuse to lay out the math here unless a bunch of readers demand to understand how probability works, but here's the results:
- You have a 0/32 chance (0%) of AG'ing on the first and second inputs.
- You have a 8/32 chance (25%) of AG'ing on the third input.
- You have a 12/32 chance (37.5%) of AG'ing on the fourth input.
- You have a 9/32 chance of (28.125%) AG'ing on the fifth input.
- You have a 3/32 chance of (9.375%)AG'ing on the sixth input.
In other words, for the best results in AG'ing, use the Light Attacks first (you now have no chance to do a super wussy AG), and use Hard Attacks on the fourth and fifth input, because they have the highest probabilities of initiating the AG (you now have the best chance of doing the Totally Ultimate AG).
(TECHNICAL EXPLANATION OVER)
If your opponent can Push Block worth a crap, your rushdown will be that much harder to pull off. On the other hand, you should expect your opponent to be able to, or at least attempt it; if they're not, you're probably playing against another novice player (or an opponent who picked Anakaris because they hate themselves).
So, what can you do about AGs? Well...
1. Mix up your highs and lows.
No matter what, your opponent still has to block to AG. So, if your character has any sort of high/low mixup game to their normals, or even just a damn overhead - SOMETHING to make your opponent guess between high and low - use it to trip them up.
2. Empty Jumps.
Players who can AG will try to do so on reaction whenever they can, so if you mix up your jump-ins between jumping in with an attack, and a complete feint, you can then land right next to them and throw/command throw them. So, against AG-happy opponents, don't forget this trick!
3. Variable Blockstun Pressure.
This is the most important method of dealing with AGs. Using AG in close quarters can be dangerous. A lot of players will use it as they get up from a knockdown to stop someone's rush in its tracks, or they'll even just use it in close-quarters pressure situations. They will forego doing it on reaction, because there's plenty of benefits to simply TRYING to AG in close quarters:
- If their opponent attacks, they'll AG, forcing the opponent back.
- If their opponent tries to move in for a throw (or does anything to leave themselves open), The person AG'ing will throw out a light attack, which can be hit-confirmed into a chain. Even if they AG late, they'll probably still Tech the throw.
So, advanced players deal with this by using what's called 'Variable Blockstun Pressure'. What it means is, when you're pressuring an opponent in a close-quarters situation, instead of throwing our your (short, erratic) chains as quickly as possible, you'll want to leave a small window of time between one string and the next. It should be long enough that the person trying to AG will do it too early, throwing out an attack instead; but at the same time, it shouldn't be so long that they actually throw out the attack in time to hit you.
When knocked down, players can choose to simply get up where they were knocked down, or they can roll in either direction by holding a direction and pressing an attack. These are far more reminiscent of rolling wakeups in 3D Fighters compared to the rolls from the Street Fighter Alpha games, or even Street Fighter 3 and 4. In those games, there was no control over the direction or timing; rolls either went forward or backwards depending on the game, and players had to commit to roll wakeups as they were getting knocked down. Also, their function was primarily to change how quickly players got up from knockdowns by allowing them to get up and defend much quicker.
Comparably, a roll's primary function in VS is to change a character's position on the screen. Players can't alter how early or late the roll will come out, but they do have a split second to decide if they want to roll after getting knocked down. Most characters' rolling wakeups are about the same duration at their normal wakeups, but certain characters have significantly altered timing. If a character has begun their roll animation, they can no longer be hit by a Pursuit Attack.
In any case, this is mainly used in wakeup games to throw off the attacker's rush after a knockdown. Players can roll backwards and hopefully get enough space between them and their opponent to try and stave them off with their own footsies. If faced with the risk of being cornered, or against extremely aggressive opponents, we can roll towards our opponent. This can potentially cause you to switch sides with them, messing up any maneuver that depended on forward/back-directional inputs. With rolling wakeups at our disposal, even opting to use a normal wakeup can be a smart idea if it defies your opponent's expectations.
While it's true that on the offense, the best wakeup options are generally ones that require you to accurately predict their movements, sometimes it's simply more important to keep up the pressure in any way possible. So, here's a a few different techniques you can use which circumvent your opponent's Rolling Wakeup:
1. Use a late Pursuit Attack.
This is better with characters who have faster Pursuit Attacks, but it works for everyone. Even after your opponent has begun their roll animation, you can still perform a Pursuit Attack. While the attack itself will whiff, it will still track your opponent, preventing them from getting too far from you. While it's not always an optimal way of pressuring them as they get up, it can be pretty menacing to have someone stick to you no matter which way you go.
2. Use the corner.
When you knock someone down in the corner, the optimal place to be is not adjacent to them, but instead at the distance that their roll wakeup will travel. When cornered, the only way they can hope to escape is to roll towards you, and standing right where the roll will place them allows you to do a variety of wakeup techniques that are easy to do and tough to defend against. For example, if your opponent Rolls towards you, you can move back and forth a bit, making it hard to predict which side of you they'll wind up on. If you go for a meaty chain combo, they have about a 50/50 chance of blocking the right way. When doing this, you should hit-confirm the end of your Chain Combo: if they're still cornered, don't knock them down, but be sure to knock them down if they wind up on the other side of you. If your character has a good crossup, you can perform the same trick by starting with a neutral jump crossup. The direction they will have to block is ambiguous, and you can segue into a Chain Combo as you land.
This section is a bit strange, because while Dark Forces are technically offensive maneuvers, many of the things worth knowing about DFs deal with avoiding unnecessary risks and damage. I'll do my best not to make this section confusing.
All characters can active Dark Force by pressing the same strength punch and kick buttons simultaneously. Some characters have two or even three Dark Forces, set to a specific strength of punch and kick. Dark Forces all have an activation time where the character is rendered unable to move or attack, and a period of invulnerability that lasts just a few frames longer. Most Dark Forces have a deactivation time, where the character can't move or attack butis NOT invulnerable, and all last for a different amount of time.
Dark Forces are generally activated in only one instance, and that's as a 'reversal' (more specifically, you're using it to dodge an attack), rather than done cold turkey or after a knockdown. Players can active Dark Force almost immediately after getting up from a knockdown (or landing from a reset, of course). This is an effective way to take the wind out of an opponent's sails if they are getting too ballsy with meaty attacks, particularly if they're trying to bait Guard Cancels. Activating a DF will cause their attack to whiff, allowing a brief moment in which you can counter attack with a chain combo or any maneuver which would otherwise knockdown.
Once a Dark Force is activated, you will need to eventually deactivate it. Players need to know how to do this properly to escape, even if their Dark Force has no deactivation frames (or can be superseded). So, if you've used a Dark Force to evade an attack, here's what you should know in order to guide yourself to safety:
1. Know what you can (and should) do after activation.
As mentioned earlier, a common practice after DF activation is to use the opening to go for a chain combo that knocks down. Alternatively, many characters can use a command throw, which will come out much faster than even the fastest normals a character has in their repertoire. However, their range is much shorter than normals, so it's not advised to try this unless your opponent is at point blank range.
Also, consider the possibility that you will fail to land your counter-attack successfully. If you're not prepared for this, you can be in really big trouble. This leads to our second point...
2. Know your most efficient method of knocking down with your Dark Force.
Almost every DF alters the properties of a character's normals or alters their defense in a way that opens up newer, easier possibilities for knockdowns. For example, B.B Hood's Dark Force turns all her normals into her projectile attacks, allowing you to do things like use the air projectile during a jump (normally a charge down+up move), or dash forward while throwing a projectile. Take advantage of these unusual circumstances so you can trick your opponent into leaving an opening that would be safe in other instances.
3. Know the safest method of running away.
Without knocking down, we can create a safe window for deactivating the Dark Force by quickly putting distance between you and your opponent. For example, J. Talbain's Dark Force causes his moves to generate a lot more pushback. Thus, even if Talbain attempts a chain combo and it's blocked, he can almost always follow it up with a backdash and have enough space between him and his opponent to deactivate without fear of retribution.
4. Know when to deactivate.
After activating a DF, your ultimate goal should be to deactivate safely, no matter if you decide to knockdown and run away, or use it to rush someone down. If you don't like rushing down with your DF, deactivate after you knockdown or as soon as the coast is clear. If your opponent is able to get the offensive advantage again during your DF, don't be predictable when deactivating. It seems pragmatic to wait as long as you can before deactivating, but sometimes if your opponent is concentrating heavily on breaking your defenses, deactivating prematurely can be a big surprise, and not easy to punish on reaction.
5. Try to get the best screen position possible after deactivation.
Because almost every deactivation in the game renders the character immobile for about half a second, Dark Forces can rarely be used to put you on the offensive advantage (it's more like a temporary offensive advantage until the DF is over). Thus, deactivation resets the match advantage to neutral. In cases where you fail to knock down your opponent, you may even end a DF and still be on the defensive. So, while there are many factors out of your control in this situation, do your best not to be in a place on the screen that makes it easy for your opponent to simply start his rush over again.
Lifebar "Life" System
Dealing damage in Vampire Savior is quite different from most games. Each attack deals two types of damage:
- Red Damage, which can never be recovered, and
- White Damage, damage to an opponent's lifebar which can be gained back gradually after one second of not being attacked. Any hit, whether it connects for damage or is blocked, will stop White Damage from regenerating. Excluding throw & air-throws: https://twitter.com/VMP_KyleW/status/996527355127517184
Also very different about Vampire Savior are the rules of engagement. Instead of having a best 2/3 rounds, both players have two 'lives'. Both lives consist of equally long health bars, and when one player loses both lives, the round is over. When the first life is lost, it's called a 'Down', and during the Down period, the person standing (i.e the one who did not lose a life) can move, but can not attack until the Downed player gets up again. The Downed player can still do a tactical roll in any direction, as if they had been knocked down.
Here are some things to consider about damage and Downs:
1. Red/White Damage encourages offense in Vampire Savior.
If you attack someone with a sweet-ass combo and then back off, they're gonna gain a pretty good amount of that life back. If they're allowed to gain their life back enough times, it can really add up, meaning that you'll have to make that many more opportunities to finally take them down.
Consider J. Talbain's ES Beast Cannon. This move alone does about 45-50% damage to a lifebar, but the majority of it is dealt in White Damage. If Talbain lands an ES Beast Cannon, and then backs off, his opponent has a chance to gain all that life back. Thus, instead of running away like a pansy, it's more desirable for Talbain to stay on top of his opponent and keep the pressure up once he's started attacking. Likewise, any time any character lands an attack, they should think hard before deciding to finally back off.
2. 'Downs' can make any attack a knockdown.
When you or your opponent loses their first life, it doesn't matter what attack you get hit with; it will always knock you down. While it's true that the standing opponent can't attack right away, this does very little to inhibit the person on the offense (unless all you do on wakeup are meaty ground attacks. If that's the case, shoot yourself in the face cos they're just gonna GC you anyways). So, when you are about to Down an opponent, try to ensure that your position on the play field is as favorable as possible. Likewise, if it looks like you're going to lose a life, try not to to play into their hands, and die somewhere where it won't be easy for them to capitalize on the knockdown.
3. When an opponent is about to lose their first life, your offensive capabilities are neutered.
Consider this: When your opponent is Downed, they are knocked down, preventing any combo you start from doing additional damage to their second life bar. Also, the standing opponent can't attack for a short time, stopping any sort of move or combo in its tracks to begin with. And, if your opponent only has enough life remaining on their first life bar to withstand a jab, absolutely _nothing_ you do at this point is more powerful than a jab.
As you can see, having the first lifebar is a _*H_U_G_E*_ defensive advantage over your opponent. It's basically a ghetto way of scaling any damage they can deal down to an insignificant amount, and absolutely nothing your opponent does to you at that point can be the final nail in your coffin.
With that in mind, here's how I use Red/White Damage and the Lifebar system to psych the hell out of my opponents:
1. When you're in trouble, run away.
This is always good, because if you can stay away for long enough, you can recover your life and then try to mount your offense again when you're ready. This is always annoying for the person on the offense, but it's doubly frustrating when you're close to losing a life (either one). The closer you are to losing your first life or the match, the better this strategy gets, because it frustrates your opponent while also prolonging your life.
2. Make it very hard to lose your first life.
Here's a strategy that I feel like no one, not even advanced players, use often, if at all: when you're about to lose your first life, do whatever you can to not lose it. Even if your strategy doesn't involve hitting your opponent back, the more you can worm your way out of losing that life, the more agitated your opponent gets. They don't want to waste meter hitting their opponent for what will amount to very little damage, and they can't even deliver a killing blow to you until they get past that first barrier.
This is downright infuriating for an attacker, and it can agitate them to the point where they will take absurd risks just to try and Down you. Take advantage of this by running down the clock as much as you can (if you have a life lead), and capitalizing on their poor judgments by doing as much damage as you can. That'll teach 'em.
Against someone who's employing these strategies? Try this:
1. Don't allow them to get off the hook so easily.
So yeah, sometimes your opponent will escape your rush and run away. So what? Don't hang back when this happens! While it's true that your opponent may be trying to agitate you into making poor decisions, that doesn't mean that the right choice is to just let them run away and get their life back! Follow them, and keep pressure on them by ensuring that there's not a huge space between the two of you. Stay close and just keep applying your usual mid-range offensive pressure. This is a way for you to sort of puff up your chest and say "Yeah, your little trick isn't working, buddy"...even if, in truth, it is. By doing this, you may scare them out of their own strategy.
2. Within reason, do what it takes to Down your opponent.
Plain and simple: don't let the defender psych you out. They're employing these strats in the first place because THEY are in danger, so don't become frustrated; you've got them right where you want them. So, when your opponent tries to run away, don't feel like you can't spare some meter to take them down if you know it'll work. Don't feel like you have to take their life down right away. As long as they're not doing damage to you, you're not in a situation any worse than you were before, right? Take your time - as long as it takes to Down them without sacrificing your defense in the process.
This is a brief conclusion to the Defensive Maneuvers section. In general, there are no 'turtle' characters in Vampire Savior; Every character is rushdown-oriented. That isn't to say that good defense has no place in the game, but on the other hand, you will rarely win by just counter-poking someone to death. Since some damage is recoverable off of every single attack, it's unlikely that the damage you deal on defense will amount to much. Also the person on the offense only needs one opening to do double the damage (or more) that you've obtained by keeping them out with pokes. It's also virtually impossible to keep someone out for the entire match, too, so it's imperative to get on the offense as soon as you can do it safely.
There are two situations in which we 'turtle':
1. We're on the defensive, and are looking for a knockdown or reset to shift the offensive advantage to our favor, and
2. If you're still on your first life and your opponent is on their second, which is explained in detail above during the previous section.
The less life you have, the more important turtling strategies may become, but it's important to remember that even on your last leg, turtling is just about creating an opening to stop their rush and start your own. If you don't learn to convert these situations into opportunities where you can deal damage, you're going to have a rough time with this game. Don't take any shit from anybody - that's how you play Vampire Savior!
ES And EX Attacks
This is a rather short section, but it merits mentioning before delving into the more important stuff about offensive maneuvers. In Street Fighter 3, 4, and even Guilty Gear, there exist special moves which can be made more powerful by using a small amount of Super Meter. They're sort of a bridge between Special and Super moves, and are usually referred to as "EX Attacks."
Well, special moves that are similar to EX Attacks and Supers exist in VS. They're called ES and EX Attacks. ES Attacks are similar to the "EX Attacks" of SF3/4/GG, in that they are more powerful versions of Special Moves. They differ in the fact that they take an entire stock of Super Meter, instead of a fraction. VS's EX Attacks are more akin to Super Moves of other games, but it's important to understand that they're not necessarily the most damaging attacks at a character's disposal. Instead, it's better to think of EX Attacks as Special Moves which have no meterless variant.
For example, J. Talbain has his Special Move, Beast Cannon. He can do it with no meter, or use one stock to do an ES Beast Cannon. His two EX Attacks, Moment Slice and Dragon Cannon, have no meterless version. However, Moment Slice and Dragon Cannon are not more powerful than the ES Beast Cannon. It's actually much easier to combo into an ES Beast Cannon, and it deals almost twice the damage as either of his EX Attacks, to boot.
I see a lot of novice players go for EX Attacks at any opportunity, whether or not it's a good idea. The big one I see (and perhaps the best example) is Felicia players using her QCF+PPP EX Attack at random to punish people from full screen. Nevermind the fact that it's random; some people are good enough to anticipate when those things are going to work. What's like nails on a chalkboard about this is that her ES Rolling Buckler moves almost as fast and deals more damage when done cold turkey.
EX Attacks have their time to shine, but it's usually for very particular situations. While some EX Attacks are certainly wonderful for their damage, the majority of them have more esoteric uses. Make sure you take some time to determine whether a different attack or combo would be better in your situation.
During a dash, Specials, ES-Moves & EX-Moves will auto-correct their directions
There's not too much to know about the 'Magic Series'. If you've never played VS or ANY crossover game, the Magic Series means that characters can chain their normals into each other. You have to keep moving forward in strength (i.e you can't chain a medium attack into a light attack) and you can't chain a kick into a punch of the same strength (i.e you can chain Lp into Lk, but not Lk into Lp).
There's only a few technical things you might want to know if you were big into the crossover games:
1. There are no variations on the 'Magic Series', there's only the 'Zig Zag' style (as described above, for those who don't know what 'Zig Zag' style refers to).
2. Actually pulling of the Magic Series is a bit more finicky than the crossover games; in those, you could do the Magic Series virtually as fast as you possibly could, or even take all day to complete a Chain. In VS, you have to make sure one move has started before pressing the button for the next move. Since chains are slower in VS, it's very plausible to try it too fast, causing your character to skip parts of the sequence or just stop altogether in the middle of a chain.
Otherwise, there's not much to cover under the Magic Series that hasn't been covered in earlier sections. To recap, just be sure you're not always going for the longest combos possible unless you want to become bait for Guard Cancels. Learn to pressure with quicker, shorter strings mixed in with dashes. Try to hit-confirm longer chains.
There is one other thing worth mentioning, though, and that is...
Knockdown string vs Damage strings
There are generally two types of chain combos in VS: Chains that end with a sweep (which knocks an opponent down, of course), and chains that simply focus on doing the most damage.
1. Knockdown strings.
Sweeps generally have shorter range than most other hard attacks. As such, doing the most consistent, most damaging chain that ends in a sweep will require you to perform more light attacks, because they push the opponent back less.
For example, Morrigan can do a knockdown string (C.Lp -> C.Mp -> C.Mk -> C.Hk), but while it's the most damaging, the C.Hk sweep might whiff certain characters if you're not point blank. So, the more reliable string would be (C.Lp -> C.Lk -> C.Mk - C.Hk). The farther away you attempt it, the more hits you'll have to omit, probably starting with the C.Mk (most pushback) and then omitting the C.Lp (doesn't hit low anyways).
The benefit of these combos is, of course, that they knock your opponent down, allowing you to play wakeup games. Whether or not you want to use a knockdown combo depends on some things, such as:
- If you're playing an opponent that tends to try and AG/spam normal attacks on wakeup.
- If you're playing against a character who is difficult to pressure against (if they're too agile, a damage combo might allow them to escape your rush too easily)
- If you're playing as a character with a decent high/low wakeup game, since a knockdown allows you to play your game that much better.
2. Damage strings.
The goal here is to do as much damage with one chain combo as possible, while of course ensuring that none of your attacks whiff. You have more leeway to use powerful attacks here than with knockdown strings, because other hard attacks generally have much longer ranges than foot sweeps.
To continue with Morrigan as an example, her most damaging chain of normals is S.Lp -> S.Mp -> S.Mk -> S.Hp, but that's hardly a good chain to do. S.Lp is a bad starter, because it will whiff a crouching opponent. You could sub it for S.Lk, but it doesn't hit low, and it's very susceptible to Guard Cancels. A good starter would be a crouching attack, preferably a low. It'll catch people blocking high, and they are generally out of harm's way from GCs.
It's good to stand up as soon as you've hit-confirmed, though, because standing normals do more damage than their crouching counterparts. So, make sure to switch to standing normals as soon as you can, and make sure they hit mid or you'll be sorry!
The benefit here is that you'll do way more damage than if you end with a foot sweep, although it does reset the pace of the match. Things to consider when going for a damage string:
- Am I playing against a character who is less agile, and less able to take advantage of a 'neutral' situation?
- Am I playing as a character with the ability to move forward at a quick pace with their dash?
- Does my character rely more on relying lots of pressure, as opposed to just high/low mixups?
To close this section out, just remember that what kinds of chains you do may change depending on who you fight. Characters have different heights, possibly causing some normals to whiff that wouldn't otherwise. Characters also have different widths, which may allow you to tack more hits onto a chain than you would normally. It's up to you to either learn the character-specific combos, or learn the most reliable go-to chains for any situation.
Command Throws are an extremely powerful tool for almost every character's rushdown in VS. Almost all command throws in the game grab on the first or second frame, and the ones that don't generally have startup invulnerability, allowing them to blow throw any attempt to stop them with a normal attack (some characters are total jerks and have both advantages). Even better, they're untechable and tend to have better range than normal throws. The final cherry on top is that almost every Command Throw in the game has no whiff animation under normal circumstances (except EX Command Throws and Victor's Command Throws). Instead, you'll only see a whiff animation if your opponent was in range to be caught by a Command Throw during the startup and moved out of the way before the active frames. This almost never happens.
In VS, where Advancing Guard is relied on very heavily for defense, there's no questioning the strength that Command Throws bring to a character's offensive game (unless their names are Demitri, Jedah, Lilith, or Anakaris, in which case they get to eat shit). Here's a few ways to take advantage of command throws:
1. Empty Jump.
This was detailed very early in the guide, but since anti-airs in VS are generally scarce, a lot of players will AG a jump-in on reaction. Use this against them by using an empty jump and landing with a command throw.
2. Dash into Command Throw.
If your character has a ground dash (or a homing air dash, Q-Bee), you can mix up your dash pressure by dashing right into their face and doing a command throw. This needs to be supported with good pressure, though; if your opponent is confidently AG'ing your rush, there's no reason he won't try to AG when you dash in for the throw, stopping that in the process. So, use your Variable Blockstun Pressure to peg them a few times and make them think twice about trying to AG your every moves...those fucks. Also, most characters with ground dashes have invulnerability frames up until the active grabbing frames, so there's a bit of leeway when using this strategy against counterpokes in general.
3. Mix it into your high/low game.
Naturally, characters that can play a high/low game have a little easier of a time creating an opening for their Command Throws. This is because it's more dangerous to try and AG every blow when you have to determine if you should be crouching or standing beforehand. Since it's easier to make them hesitate on the defense, it's much easier to find windows where, after an air dash, you can just step forward and Command Throw.
Finally, just consider when it's a good idea to use a Command Throw. Generally, characters with really powerful high/low pressure are better off trying to overwhelm their opponent with highs and lows than using Command Throws all day. Also, if you have an opening for a Chain Combo, there's pretty much no reason to use a Command Throw instead, as they'll do less damage. Use them to force an opponent to open up from their blocking frenzy, as well as cause them to think twice about being so AG-happy.
P.S: Unless you're Q-Bee, don't use ES Throws. Q-Bee gets a significant boost to the invulnerable and active frames of her throw; everyone else gets a pitiful damage boost that amounts to little more than a huge waste of meter.
Pursuit Attacks are relatively simple. After knocking someone down, press Up and any Attack button to make your character jump on the floored opponent and deal some additional damage. Keep in mind that any attack button can be pressed to initiate a Pursuit Attack with no bearing on speed or damage. Thus, if you're anything like me - a giant walking execution failure - you can mitigate the chances of messing up a Pursuit Attack but rolling your fingers over various attack buttons. Just don't mess it up when you try this, or you'll get a one-way ticket to a nickname with "mash" in it.
While the superficial function of Pursuit Attacks are to deal additional damage, they rarely are used for that. Many characters have trouble keeping up the pressure after landing a Pursuit Attack, and they are affected very heavily by damage scaling. While a Pursuit Attack might do decent damage after a very simple knockdown, most Pursuits will only net you a piddling amount of White Damage and nothing more. The only Pursuit Attacks worth doing for damage are the ones that are several hits long, like B.B Hood's, or special Pursuit attacks like Felicia's Toy Touch or Bishamon's EX.
In actuality, the real goal of a Pursuit is to try and do it just barely too late so that it whiffs, but you land right next to your opponent as they are getting up. It's much easier for some characters compared to others, but it's a legitimate strategy for anybody. This helps keep the pressure up, and is especially good for characters that lack a powerful high/low game, and rely more on applying relentless pressure to their opponent.
...And, uh. What else can I say? Don't use Pursuit Attacks for damage unless you can keep up the pressure afterwards (you probably can't), or if you're sure the Pursuit Attack will Down your opponent or end the round. Do use Pursuit Attacks to keep the pressure up. If you're against an opponent doing this, there's not really anything you can do to specifically deter them from using Pursuits, unless you're Anakaris. So, just prepare your best defense for when it happens.
Fireballs & Shoryukens
Finally, some familiar territory! Right? Well, not really. I saved this section for the end because while it seems like Hadoukens and Shoryukens function the same in every game, this is the one game I can think of where universal understanding of them doesn't really apply.
Most people think of Fireballs as a way of putting pressure on someone without rushing them down, and Shoryukens are your trusty anti-air, useful in combos or other situations where you can anticipate attacks, but generally there as your best buddy in hard times against jump-ins. This is just not true in Vampire Savior.
Starting with Fireballs: they generally have extremely slow speed, limited range, and can't be fired nearly as quickly as in other games. While in most games, a second fireball can be thrown immediately after the first one is blocked, a second fireball in VS can't be thrown until the fireball dissipates completely. Even after they're blocked, players need to wait up to 1/4 second after the fact. So, they can't really be used to overwhelm the opponent. Most fireballs also have very slow startup times, AND almost all projectiles dissipate if the character throwing the projectile gets hit. Thus, it's not very risky to attack someone throwing a fireball if you're close to them. Lastly, remember that, due to Air Blocking, they aren't as effective as anti-airs, either.
Shoryukens are much different, as well. They still knock opponents down, can be used in anticipation of an attack to know an enemy down (i.e Psychic DP), and can still be used in combos (although this generally doesn't come up often). However, the biggest difference is that almost NO Shoryuken-esque attacks can be used as anti-airs. In other games with Air Blocking, a SRK can be used when the jumping opponent is close to the ground, and they won't be able to block it. This is because SRKs are considered ground attacks at the beginning of their animations in those games. In Vampire Savior, almost every SRK attack is considered airborne for the entire duration of the move. The only SRK attacks which can't be blocked at the end of a jump descent are:
1. J. Talbain's Climb Razor 2. Felicia's Delta Kick 3. Victor's Giga Burn 4. Bishamon's Kienzan
Bishamon's SRK can only be used as a reversal; the other three attacks have no invulnerable frames of animation, and are very easy to beat with jumping attacks in the first place. Thus, their role as anti-airs are completely different.
Instead, Fireballs and Shoryukens in Vampire Savior serve a similar purpose: they are defensive maneuvers that generally shift the situation in your favor IF you correctly anticipate an attack. Hadoukens and SRKs can still 'anti-air' opponents if they have already committed to an air attack at some point in their jump, because they'll no longer be able to Air Block. Otherwise, they can be Chicken Guarded and even punished on block in some cases.
They can be used the same way even if the opponent is grounded, as well. Contrary to other fighters, most fireballs in VS knock opponents down on hit (even when on the ground), or cause special, extended stuns which allow the projectile-thrower to reverse the situation. Here's a list of each fireball character and their knockdown properties. the words "air and "ground" refer to where the opponent needs to be for their fireball to knock down on hit. "Long stun" means the fireball causes an extended hitstun (which will likely lead to a knockdown anyways):
1. B.B. Hood (air and ground) 2. Morrigan (air and ES on ground*) 3. Lilith (air) 4. Jedah (air) 5. Demitri (air, long stun on ground*) 6. Bishamon (air, long stun on ground) 7. Hsien-Ko (air, sometimes causes long stun on air and ground) 8. Rikuo (long stun) 9. Sasquatch (long stun) 10 .Anakaris (long stun)
Note: In Demitri's case, the fireball does causes a longer-than-usual hitstun on the ground; but, I've never played a Demitri player who was able to use that to turn the tide from defense to offense. It's probably POSSIBLE, but consider it very uncommon.
Wakeup games rule! More to come.
Pressure games rule! More to come.