What Makes A Fighting Game Character "Bad"

Oct 23 2020 3 min read
Credit: streetfighter.com

There are some fighting game characters whom we all agree suck, but what makes them so bad?

Ever thought to yourself, 'you know, I really hate this character'? If yes, then you are basically like every gamer that has ever existed. Hating characters in fighting games is something of an everyday habit to members of the FGC. However, beyond that, some characters are just bad. This is different from characters that are low-tier as in the right hands; they could be devastating.

Think of someone like Ryu. Once considered one of the best characters in video game history, the martial artist is now a shell of himself and barely has any dedicated users. It was so bad that Daigo Umerhara, who has generally been a fan of Ken and Ryu, dropped the latter for Guile.

So what makes a fighting game character bad? Well, I think there are three things to consider: their core mechanics, their balance, and their playstyle.

Core mechanics

Core mechanics are the basic moves that all fighting game characters have. So, HP, MP, and LP are all considered basic stuff that all characters possess, and the same can be said about kicks. However, since everyone on the roster of a fighting game is imbued with different strengths and ranges, these core moves are better on some characters than others. For instance, Dhalsim has a pretty handy MP, which can be used to neutralize opponents depending on the situation. On the other hand, there are other characters, like Ryu, who have weak basic mechanics. This includes Ryu's fireball, which doesn't deal a lot of damage. Therefore, using a character like that is not to anyone's advantage.

Ryu v Alex

Balance

Balance makes or breaks a fighting game. Balance is the concept of setting character abilities for fighters so precisely that no player is left at a massive disadvantage. But as you know, we can't have a fighting game where all the characters have the same moves that deal the same amount of damage. Neither can all the characters have the same amount of defense. Therefore, granting each fighter different levels of basic skills by ensuring that it doesn't leave them at a massive advantage or disadvantage is the delicate balancing act that all fighting game creators need to contend with. In terms of how this affects the suitability of a player, it is important to ensure that a character isn't OP (overpowered), as this means that everyone will want to use them, and they won't be fun to play against. The same is true with characters that are so underpowered that they are basically useless. Everyone can remember how broken Leroy was in Tekken 7 when he was first introduced, or Elena in USFIV.

Playstyle

The last thing to consider is the character's playstyle. There are different fighting styles in video games, with the most popular being the grapplers, zoners, and rush down characters. Each character must fit into one of these styles, as that is what defines them. It is also important as having a definite playstyle allows gamers to identify the character that best suits them easily. For instance, everyone knows that Guile is a zone; therefore, even if someone picks up Street Fighter for the first time, they would go for Guile if they are zoners. Meanwhile, a bad character is one that doesn't fit into any of the playstyles with ease. I hate to use the Ryu example again, but here we go: Ryu is something of an all-rounder, and for the most part, that isn't very good. It means he doesn't excel at anything, and this could make it difficult to be picked by most gamers who already have defined patterns of play.

And that's it. Hopefully, this little piece might be able to help someone who is trying to articulate why they think a character is bad. Who is your worst fighting game character, and why?

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