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What Should I Be Thinking?

Once you’ve got control of the game down to the point where your character just does what you want them to do without you having to think about it, you’ve reached the point where you need to strategise. Here’s a selection of things you should be considering at various stages of the game. I’ll provide some examples drawn from a hypothetical match between you (Gaara) against someone else (Lee).

AS A MATCH STARTS

  • What are the strengths of your opponent’s character? How will you avoid them?
  • What are the weaknesses of your opponent’s character? How will you exploit them?
  • What are the strengths of your character? How will you exploit them?
  • What are the weaknesses of your character? How will you avoid them?
  • How does this matchup tilt, and why?

For example, Lee’s strengths are a lot of fast close-range pressure and a devastating special. We’ll avoid that by not attempting to attack during a Lee combo at all, and by avoiding any slow actions when Lee is double-gated or in desperation.

His weaknesses are a complete lack of ranged attacks or finessey ways of getting in – he has to throw you, sidestep around you, or exploit a mistake. We’ll exploit that by walking backwards when he approaches, being trigger-happy on throw-techs and throwing out ^A whenever Lee is at long range.

Gaara’s strengths are very fast omnidirectional ranged attacks, excellent punish options, and generally good turtling ability. We’ll exploit that by using ^A to pressure at long range and at the end of Lee’s primary combo and by only moving to punish, not initiating.

His weaknesses are that he’s slow and has has moderately unsafe combos. We’ll mitigate that by not initiating attacks.

The matchup probably tilts slightly our way, because Gaara can make Lee’s usually-safe combos unsafe, and because Gaara is at home blocking a long string of attacks. Gaara’s desperation neuters Lee’s usually devastating double-gates special, and ^A is an excellent tool against Lee.

AT A DISTANCE FROM YOUR OPPONENT

  • Do I want to approach? How will I approach?
  • Does your opponent want to approach? How will they approach?
  • What long-range options do I have?
  • What long-range options do they have?

In our hypothetical, we don’t want to approach. At a distance, we can chip Lee and he can’t do anything, and we’re much slower than Lee.

Lee wants to approach. He doesn’t have any ranged options, after all. He’ll approach by dashing in for a throw, dashing into a chain, or dashing and sidestepping into a chain, because he doesn’t have many other options. A slow approach will run into Gaara ^A. If Lee is in desperation, he might approach with his vX teleport, which is extremely fast, so we need to be careful if he’s in desperation.

We can use ^A, A, >A, and aA at range. >A and aA probably aren’t very useful in most ranged circumstances. A is slow, so we don’t want to do it too close or Lee will punish, and readily sidesteppable. ^A is probably our most reliable ranged option.

AS YOUR OPPONENT APPROACHES

  • What option are they taking?
  • How will you respond?

In our hypothetical, Lee runs straight at us. That means he’s either going for a throw, going to sidestep when close to us, or /maybe/ stop in front of us and then go for a chain.

The response to a throw is to attack as Lee goes for it, or tech it. Attacking will lose if he’s sidestepping or even going for a chain, so being ready to tech a throw is more important. The response to sidestepping or a chain is to walk backwards – that makes several chains unsafe and will prevent the sidestep getting behind us. It also doesn’t hurt if he’s going for a throw. So we’re going to walk backwards.

AS I APPROACH

  • What options are available to me?
  • Do I need to abort?
  • How will my opponent respond?

Gaara is really only going to be approaching Lee in this hypothetical if Lee has made a mistake and is vulnerable – perhaps selected the wrong chain. In that case, the best option available to Gaara is probably a vY throw.

You would have to watch Lee to see whether you’ve misjudged his vulnerability. If you have, you’d want to abort immediately – probably by jumping or sidestepping and stopping.

Lee will respond by throw-teching if he can, or just attacking in Gaara’s face if he’s in the idle state.

WHILE BLOCKING

  • What chain has my opponent selected? What holes are there in it?
  • How does the chain end?
  • Can I punish? How will I punish?

If we’re blocking Lee’s attacks, he’s almost certainly gone for his standard BBAAA or BBBBA chains. Both of those chains don’t have many holes in them, particularly for Gaara’s very slow <B.

Both of those chains end with Lee vaulting over our heads and landing behind us.

It’s difficult but possible to punish Lee’s standard chains by turning around while he’s over our head, dashing forwards, and throwing him. If we think we can do it, it’s absolutely worth going for it, and a throw is a good punish starter for Gaara. If not, our ^A will hit Lee after his chain easily, and might set up for a wakeup special.

WHILE BEING HIT

  • Do I have escape? When is it safe to escape?
  • How much more damage is there in this chain?
  • Can I techroll?

Checking whether we ave escape is as easy as looking at our escape meter and checking whether it’s glowing. It’s safe to escape at all points in Lee’s chain, with the important exception that if Lee is in the double-gates state and is on the ground he can hit us with his double-gates special. If Lee has double-gated, escape when he’s in the air.

The damage left is a function of how many hits are left. Once Lee has knocked you into the air it’s probably not worth escaping, unless he’s about to connect with his special off of the end of his chain. It’s almost always worth escaping a special.

The final hit of Lee’s chain sends you flying, and if you don’t techroll when you hit the ground he can and will combo you.

WHILE HITTING

  • Does my opponent have escape? When will they escape?
  • How will I respond?

Again, escape is just a question of checking their meter.

If Lee is sensible, he’ll escape during Gaara’s loop on the first two Bs, or while Gaara is falling out of the sky. Other escape timings don’t usually work out. If he’s got escape meter and you’re in the loop he’ll almost certainly escape. If you’re using the vB chain, sensible Lee players probably won’t escape until and unless you attempt to link to special.

Responding is difficult for Gaara. If Lee chose a poor time usually continuing the chain will respond appropriately. If you end the chain early as Lee escapes, Gaara is usually to slow to sidestep out, but it’s worth a try just in case.

OPPONENT’S SPECIAL

  • Can I sidestep?
  • Can I interrupt?
  • Can I jump?

Both of Lee’s specials are eminently sidesteppable. That’s probably your preferred means of avoiding specials when able to do something.

Interrupting Lee’s special won’t be very easy – both of them are quite fast, and Gaara is quite slow. ^A might be fast enough, although you’d want to know it would hit after the teleport. Throwing sand will interrupt if you do it before Lee uses special.

Lee’s specials can be jumped – you have to doublejump backwards quite fast. Sidestepping is probably easier.

OPPONENT ON THE GROUND

  • Can I wakeup special?

Gaara’s wakeup special is almost trivial to execute, and if Lee is past the point where he can wakeup teleport he can’t respond. If you’ve got chakra you should probably do it.

I’M ON THE GROUND

  • Can my opponent wakeup special?

Lee doesn’t usually wakeup special – he finds it easier to chain into it or save chakra for a last-ditch double-gates. If he does, wakeup attack will probably interrupt.

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Desperation abilities

When your character is low on health, they start glowing (or in Bee’s case, exploding) and gain additional abilities. Here’s a list of desperation effects:

ANBU Kakashi: <X modechange special can be performed at 0% chakra, although it consumes all your chakra

Ino: Gain <X special. Fires a projectile that confuses opponents, costs 25% chakra.

Choji: Take half damage during vA. Gain power armour during vA.

Shikamaru: Gain ludicrous amounts of guard. It’s essentially unbreakable in normal play.

Asuma: Charged kunai become unblockable

Sakura: vA modechange no longer drains chakra, although you still can’t gain chakra while it’s going

Naruto: <X modechange becomes free

Sai: ^A birds return from behind opponents a little while after leaving the map.

Yamato: Can use <A counter as a regular move for 25% chakra.

Kiba: Akamaru becomes ready after attacking much faster

Shino: Bug attacks drain chakra on block

Hinata: <X modechange special becomes free.

Kurenai: vA gains larger radius of effect. >A becomes free. She’s still bad.

Kabuto: Regenerate half the damage taken from any attack. As a side-effect, Kabuto becomes immune to chip damage.

Anko: <X modechange special becomes free.

Orochimaru: <X counter special becomes free.

Tsunade: vX healing special can be activated without connecting with an opponent.

Jiraya: vA attack becomes the size of Africa.

Sasuke: <X special changes from fast, unblockable, short-range burst to a blockable special that hits opponents anywhere if they’re doing something after you use it. Basically it makes him worse. Also his sword attacks do more damage.

Itachi: <A teleport becomes free.

Kakazu: X special trigger attack changed from a kick to a very fast, medium-range lightning bolt. Can also hit more than one character in some situations.

Hidan: Gain power armour performing vA. Half the damage you take is reflected to opponents while standing in vA circle.

Deidara: Clay attacks no longer drain chakra, but they still require chakra to perform. >A bug continues crawling along the ground instead of just exploding.

Sasori: All attacks poison opponents.

Hiruko: All attacks poison opponents.

Yugao: Sword attacks do more damage.

Tenten: No longer drops weapons when taking damage.

Neji: >A pokes drain chakra on block. <A counter drains chakra at half the rate when held. X special gains 360 degree tracking.

Lee: <X modechange becomes free.

Gai: Gain <X stomp attack.

Kakashi: <X modechange becomes free. No longer lose health when Sharingan open.

Killer Bee: Gain <X burst that puts you in the invulnerable state while it occurs, for 25% chakra. Upon entering desperation, Bee immediately uses the attack for free.

Kisame: vX special does much more damage. vX special can be used at 50% chakra, but drains up to 75%.

Gaara: Can block unblockable attacks. Gain retroactive counterspecial for 50% chakra – just press X in blockstun. A sand projectiles are always thrown fully charged.

Kankuro: ?

Temari: <A summon no longer drains chakra while it’s out.

Chiyo: <X chakra shield drains at half the rate. vY puppet-summon makes puppets teleport to her location

Baki: >A wind blades become much larger

Minato: Gain vX and <X specials. vX places a marked kunai, <X teleports to the kunai for 25% chakra, even out of movelag. <X with no kunai goes straight to idle animation for free. Yes that gives Minato an infinite.

Sage Naruto: Rasengan attacks no longer drain chakra, though they still require chakra to perform.

Raikage: Negates ranged attacks while charging attacks. This includes some specials. Also reflects kunai and needles.

Gaara

GAARA IN SHORT

Gaara is a zone-y turtle character, similar to Kakazu or Kankuro. His skillset includes:

  • Strong combos
  • A throw that links into essentially anything
  • Easy hitconfirm options for his special
  • A fast omnidirectional attack that hits anywhere.

His biggest drawbacks are:

  • Rather slow
  • Very reliant on throw to start combos or chains
  • Generally limited options

A quick rundown of his abilities:

SPECIALS

X: Cutscene special, 100%. Moderately fast, trigger attack is a puff of sand in front of Gaara. Sometimes difficult to dodge, easy to wake up with. Ranged.

vX: AoE special, 75%. Quite fast. Creates a ‘sand hand’ in front of Gaara that then swipes in a large arc in front of him. The initial sand pulses are unblockable.

A ATTACKS

A: Sand shuriken, basic ranged attack. Can be charged, beats out kunai

^A: Sand pulse appears at your target’s location. Quite fast startup, very useful for interrupting opponents or chipping at a distance. Can be sidestepped or punished if you’re too close. Starts the Gaara loop.

vA: Burst of sand all around Gaara, very slow recovery. Generally not very useful, maybe as a response to someone charging straight in.

>A: Sand wave in front of Gaara, slow startup. Lots of guard damage, generally not very useful. Sometimes good as a wakeup.

<A: Melee counter.

BREAD AND BUTTER

Most of Gaara’s chains can be linked into the ‘Gaara loop’, a sequence of attacks that links into itself. The sequence is ^A B A Yc _. The amount of delay on the end before repeating depends on how many iterations of the loop you’ve gone through – the first two times you need to delay some, after that you have to go fast. I’ll indicate the Gaara loop as GL here to save some typing.

Gaara’s main combo on connect is B B GL. On block B B A A is safer, but you have to vary the delay on the last A to make it safe. >B B A GL is another useful combo if you prefer the >B starter. vB A A A and vB A A X are excellent chains for making some space and outright killing someone, respectively.

All of these can be done off of Gaara’s vY throw, which is all-around excellent. It has more range than a standard Y throw, opponents can’t escape-teleport out of it until after the point where you link, and it links into both of Gaara’s specials trivially.

PLAYING AGAINST GAARA

First things first, learn when to escape-teleport out of the Gaaa loop. The section where he’s falling out of the sky – the attack that gets y-cancelled – is usually the best time. Keep in mind that Gaara can use his vA right afterwards, so don’t get caught by that after escaping – you’re essentially guaranteed a punish.

Learning to throw-tech is exceptionally useful, too. It’s tricky to do consistently, but Gaara relies a lot on landing a throw, so it pays dividends.

Remember that you can sidestep Gaara’s ^A, particularly if you’re running straight for him. Also pay attention to how slow it is to recover – if you’re right next to him and it whiffs, don’t be afraid to try to punish.

Gaara isn’t very good at applying pressure or initiating attacks – the best he can usually do is chip away with ^A. If he rushes to close, he’s almost certainly going for a throw. You shouldn’t feel hurried or rushed – play carefully and try not to let him catch you in one of his high-damage chains.

MATCHUPS

Gaara does poorly against characters that can apply consistent pressure without letting him get an attack in, either because there’s no real delay, they have a puppet or other secondary attacker, or because they can do it at range – for example, Hinata, Kiba, Minato, Kakazu and Itachi.

He also has problems with opponents that are much faster than him – mostly because it makes openings for a punish much harder to find. Ino and Baki are good examples.

Gaara does well against most other zoning characters – most of their zoning tools are designed to prevent characters getting close, and Gaara doesn’t want to. He can just slowly chip them to death if they won’t come to him. Temari and Shino don’t do very well, for example. Deidara isn’t a great matchup either, for similar reasons. Both Chiyo and Kankuro have problems as well.

Characters that are slow and get all up in Gaara’s face also tend to be easy to deal with. Gaara can ^A them at range to disrupt attacks, and if they get close guard frames and power armour don’t affect throws. Choji and Raikage don’t do very well against him because of that.

Throws

Like most fighting games, throws in GNT Special provide a way of getting around guard to damage an opponent anyway. Unlike most fighting games, throws in GNT Special tend to be very good combo openers. In general, you should be catching opponents with the start of a chain or a special after a throw, with the exceptions being a few characters with throws that can’t link (Raikage, curse-seal Anko).

With that said, I would strongly advise new players avoid throws at the start – you need to be very close to throw a character in GNT Special, to the point where a new player will whiff throws over and over again.

Throws can be teched, by the player being thrown pressing an attack button (A, B, X, Y) at the start of the throw animation. You can even tech throws in hitstun or blockstun – the only time you can’t is if you’re being thrown from behind. The tech animation is frame-neutral – both players end up coming out of it at the same time. The tech window is 4 frames – if you enter an input on the same frame or the frame immediately after your opponent throws, they’ll whiff and you’ll perform your input, but frames 2-5 inclusive after their throw input will tech.

(very nearly) Every character has a neutral-Y throw on the ground, and a throw in the air – the one exception is Kankuro, who doesn’t have any throws at all – throw performs some puppet moves with him, and while they look a bit like throws in that they involve grabbing someone and doing something with them, they don’t go through guard.

Some characters have a down-Y throw that performs differently in some way. Here’s a list:

  • Shikamaru (Easier to combo off of)
  • Sakura (very easy to combo off of, can’t escape teleport safely)
  • Sai (easy to combo off of, can’t escape teleport)
  • Yamato (easy to link)
  • Kiba (easy to link)
  • Shino (useless)
  • Hinata (easy to link)
  • Kurenai (very easy to link)
  • Kabuto (easy to link)
  • Orochimaru (hilarious)
  • Jiraya (no link, more damage?)
  • Sasuke (no link, more damage?)
  • Itachi (easy link)
  • Deidara (no link, more damage)
  • Sasori (hilarious, no link)
  • Yugao (no link, more damage)
  • Tenten (easy link)
  • Neji (more damage, no link)
  • Lee (easy link)
  • Bee (hilarious, no link)
  • Gaara (very easy link, no escape, bread and butter throw)
  • Temari (linkable but hard)
  • Baki (easy link)

A small set of characters use the Y button to perform some additional moves – Kankuro and Chiyo. Kankuro can perform attacks with his second puppet using Y, ^Y and aY. <Y pulls the second puppet back to him, and vY performs a counter. Chiyo gets <Y as a chakra-shield that completely protects her from damage, can’t be broken, but drains chakra over time, and she can also summon puppets to her by entering vY B or vY A.

Attacks

Pressing the B, A, X or Y buttons when your character is in the idle state makes them perform an attack. You can select which attack you want using the control stick – holding up and pressing B is a different attack to holding down and pressing B, for example. Every character has a B and A attack for up, down, left, right, and neutral, as well as a B and A attack in the air, and a ‘turnaround B’ attack performed when your opponent is behind you.

Every character has at least one X attack, performed using neutral-X. Some have more, selected using different control stick directions – again, up, down, left, right, and in the air.

Every character has a neutral-Y throw and nearly every character has an airthrow (Kankuro is the only exception). Some characters have a down-Y throw as well. Throws don’t care about block, but they can be teched by pressing any attack button as the throw starts. Throws tend to be easy to combo out of.

GNT Special is built around natural combos. Pressing B multiple times results in multiple hits. I’ll refer to these natural combos as ‘chains’, and linking together a chain, a throw, or a special is a ‘combo’. A chain is said to be ‘safe’ if a blocking opponent can’t retaliate and hit you during the movelag afterwards. In practice, whether a chain is safe or not depends heavily on which character you’re fighting.

Attacks can have a number of different properties:

  • Unblockable. Most neutral-X specials are unblockable.
  • Melee. Some counter moves only activate on melee attacks.
  • Ranged. Some counters don’t activate on ranged attacks.
  • Disjoint melee. Some attacks are a kind of melee attack at a distance. They trigger melee counters like melee attacks, but don’t trigger cutscene counters.
  • Poison. Some attacks poison opponents if they hit, causing damage over time and reversing left and right.
  • Confusion. Some attacks cause confusion in opponents, reversing the B and A buttons.
  • Power armour. Attacks with power armour can’t be interrupted by taking damage (you don’t enter hitstun). Some power-armour attacks don’t protect against getting knocked into the air by launchers.
  • Block. Your character is considered blocking while performing attacks with block frames. Your guard can’t be broken while performing an attack with block frames.

Resources

There are four resources your character has in GNT Special. In no particular order:

  • Health
  • Chakra
  • Escape
  • Guard

Health starts out full. It decreases whenever someone hits you with an attack, or connects with an attack that chips. If it reaches zero, you lose. Most characters have the same amount of health, with very few exceptions (ANBU Kakashi, Kankuro, Granny Chiyo, Hinata in Awakened mode). It’s the green meter at the top of the screen near your character portrait.

Chakra starts out at 50%, and then carries over from round to round. It is consumed for X moves, and occasionally some A moves on characters. It increases whenever you do damage, whenever you take damage, and a little bit just for doing some moves. It’s the equivalent of the special meter in other fighting games. It’s the blue meter at the bottom of the screen or just under your health bar.

Escape starts at 50%, and then carries over from round to round. When it is full you can perform escape teleports when someone attacks you, at the cost of the entire meter. It fills up whenever you take damage. Think of it like a second special meter only used for escaping chains. It’s the orange meter next to your health bar.

Guard starts out at 100%, and refills quickly over time when you’re not in blockstun. It is decreased whenever you block an attack, with different attacks doing different guard damage. If it reaches zero, your character suffers a ‘guard break’ – you stagger and are vulnerable to attacks, and you lose all your chakra. There isn’t an explicit meter for guard in GNT Special (Earlier games in the series did have one though). You can get a sense of what your guard is like by looking at the colour of the flash whenever you block an attack – blue means it’s okay, yellow is mediumish, red is quite low.

Controls

The control scheme in GNT Special is moderately simple, and should be familiar to anyone who’s played Smash Bros.

‘forwards’ here always means ‘the direction your character is facing’, not ‘towards your opponent’.

MOVEMENT

Control stick left/right: Move left/right

Double-tap control stick forwards: Run towards opponent

Double-tap control stick backwards: Backflip

Tap control stick up/up-back/up-forwards: Jump up/up-back/up-forwards

Tap control stick up/up-back/up-forwards (in air): Doublejump up/up-back/up-forwards

L/R: Sidestep left/right.

ATTACKING

B: Melee attacks. Use control stick directions to select which attack – up, down, left, right, and neutral. Characters also have one B attack in the air.

A: Weapon attacks. Use control stick directions to select which attack – up, down, left, right, and neutral. Characters also have one A attack in the air.

Y: Throws, miscellaneous commands on a few characters. All characters have a neutral-Y throw and a throw in the air. Some characters have a down-Y throw. A very small group of characters use other directions with Y for miscellaneous commands.

X: Specials. All characters have a neutral-X special, some have other directions (up, down, left, right) and a few have an air special as well.

A few characters have multiple attacks for a given directional input. Kakazu, for example, can either swing one of his arms upwards or throw a burst of wind upwards for his ^A. What determines which attack you get is whether you press the direction before pressing the attack button, or whether you press the direction just after pressing the attack button.

DEFENSIVE ACTIONS

L (in hitstun, full escape meter): Escape teleport. Teleport behind opponent.

R (in hitstun, full escape meter): Escape teleport. Teleport behind opponent and attack them.

B (in hitstun, just before hitting ground): Techroll. Roll along the ground a bit before getting up and gain 25% chakra

Flick C stick (just before kunai/needles hit you): Deflect kunai

A/B/X/Y (at start of opponent’s throw): Tech throw.

GNT Special uses neutral guard. You automatically block attacks coming from the front as long as you are in the idle state, blockstun, walking backwards, or in the idle state in the air. Some attacks are unblockable.

GROUNDED ACTIONS:

These are actions you can take while lying on your back on the ground

B: Wakeup attack. Your character will do a little leg sweep while standing up.

A: Wakeup teleport. Your character will teleport behind your opponent at the cost of 50% chakra

Control stick forwards/backwards: Roll forwards/backwards