My favorite style of fighting game character would have to be the grappler.
Maybe it’s because of my aversion to speedy button-blistering, combo-crazy, rushdown style gameplay…or because I like slower thinking oriented contests…or because I like pro-wrestling…I dunno. But, I love grapplers.
At EVO North this year, I noticed a bothersome trend that followed me no matter which game I was playing…3s, ST, A3…even SFEX2:
I was ALWAYS on the defensive. Even when I won. Is this the curse of the grappler?
Jumping over fireballs. Blocking jump-ins. Parrying stuff for a slim hope of grabbing. Running around as faster characters dictate the ebb-and-low of the match.
Take the original king of the grapplers, Zangief. A force to be reckoned with, to be sure. Yet, Zangief can’t just walk up to someone and start wrecking them. He needs an opening. Maybe a sweep. Or an anti-air lariat against a greedy combo-hungry opponent. Something. Anything. Only THEN can he get to work.
And, so most of his time is spent blocking, running, and taking sacrifice hits from other characters who don’t NEED openings. Characters with long-range unpunishable pokes, projectiles, high-priority normals, and solid-anti-air.
Is this the curse of the grappler? That your entire world is dictated by your opponent?
Sometime I get the feeling that grapplers are afterthoughts. They’re often the large, slow, bumbling brutes with undeveloped storylines and sloppy moves.
Look at Birdie…he used to be moderately respectable in A1. Invincible charging head-butt (hold PPP or KKK). Damaging 360 with Zangief-like range. Nice jumping fierce. Nice standing fierce.
Then over time he was forsaken. That’s the only way to describe it. In A3 the invincibility frames on his head-butt are…umm…are they even there anymore? His grab range sucks. Jumping fierce ain’t what it used to be. And, they decided to give him a useless standing close fierce which basically gets him punched in the face.
Capcom obviously stopped caring about the guy. Too bad I didn’t.
Don’t get me started on R. Mika. And her unnecessarily awkward attacks that only the CPU can consistently use.
How often are grapplers top-tier? I’ve heard that Jubei in Fatal Fury Special was really good…that’s about it. Now, how often are they considered low-tier? Yeah. That’s right.
Is THIS the curse of the grappler? A lack of development and concern from the creators?
In more recent years, more thought has been put into this characters-type. Hugo…Shermie…Potemkin. Still, I wonder if the same amount of effort is exhausted on grapplers when compared to the stars of the show: the quick and flashy fireball tossing, dragon-punching, juggle-meisters that the kiddies love.
After all, those are the characters that people play. So, why waste time balancing an oversized, bumbling oaf that no one likes to use…
…except as a dummy in practice mode and combo videos. Maybe that’s the REAL curse of the grappler.
I’d love to hear what other grappler fans think about their beloved characters. Do you think they’ve got a bad rap? Or am I just complaining…