Getting Competitive in Injustice: Controllers and Cancels

This week I talk about the complications of move-canceling and the difficulties of my controller.

Welcome back to Getting Competitive, my quest to become good enough at Injustice: Gods Among Us to be considered genuinely competitive.

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In any given game, there are certain plateaus of capability, generally created by specific bits and pieces of knowledge and ability needing to be added to a person’s repertoire of naturally-understood mechanics.  A common example would be learning to circle-strafe in a shooter, giving the player drastically-improved maneuverability and survivability.

In fighting games, there are certain mechanics that persist from game to game and follow this trope of growth.  One of the most common ones is move-canceling.  Everyone understands the concept of using a move in the first place.  Input command: throw fireball/dive-kick/whatever.  Understanding the moves a character has at their disposal is a pretty basic step in getting good, understanding the moves every other character has available is a slightly more complicated and equally important step.

What is it, anyway?

Move-canceling, however, is significantly more complicated to pull off effectively.  A move cancel is a move or power or whatever that the player has the ability, usually by inputting the activation command again quickly, to cancel before it completes.  The complication of the canceling and the use of it are all greatly dependent on the move in question, but can have truly profound effects.

The most pointed example I am familiar with is the character Kabal from the most recent Mortal Kombat.  Kabal was a largely forgettable character, not one seen often on the competitive scene.  Then someone figured out his nomad dash could be canceled almost instantly.  It takes inputting the same command twice in about a quarter of a second, but it can be canceled almost instantly.

This realization allowed the character to create a completely new pressure game from literally anywhere on screen, one based around keeping the opponent blocking and constantly holding them in a defensive mind game.  Kabal has been considered top-tier ever since, all because of move-canceling.

Naturally this has carried over into Injustice, but the question remains on how to make it truly valuable.  Not all moves can be canceled, and even fewer actually have a reason to be.  There is just no sense in canceling a move if you cannot achieve one of a few things.

For a move-cancel to be valuable it needs to either lead into a combo, throw your opponent off-balance by making them guard how you want them to, or provide mobility across the battlefield without risk of being block-stunned for precious frames.

What’s the relevance?

As I have started to get comfortable with my combos and my ability to pull them off steadily more and more reliably in battle, I have started to experiment a bit with seeing what moves I may or may not be able to cancel for one advantage or another.  I did not see much canceling from the Black Adam players in the last tournament I went to, but that does not mean it isn’t valuable, only that they did not see a situation where it was at the time.

I ran into a problem I have had to a slightly lesser extent with practicing my combos in the first place.  I play Injustice: Gods Among Us on the Xbox 360, and I do not own an arcade stick controller.  This means I use the basic 360 controller and its d-pad.

This is a bad thing.

I am generally a fan of the Microsoft console controllers.  I actually even liked the huge original Xbox controller.  The 360 controller d-pad is simply not precise enough for fighting games.  Any form of diagonal input has a chance of simply not registering or registering as a different direction altogether.  When practicing combos this was obviously annoying, but the entire point of practice is to do the combo over and over anyway, so it mostly just slows the process down.

Move-canceling is more complicated, however, as the timing on when moves can be canceled tends to be just as precise with the reason a person would cancel in the first place being less-intuitive.  I persevere, however, and am looking at the possibility of getting a better controller.  Arcade stick or simply a more precise d-pad… Time and money will tell.

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Writer, gamer, and generally hopeful beneath a veneer of cynicism.