This neutral game shit is confusing. I still don't know what the fuck it is


#1

From my fucked up understanding the neutral game is basically when it’s nobody’s turn on offense. Like when the round starts and both characters are on their side of the screen the game is in neutral. I know certain things in SFV set the game back into neutral, like being thrown by certain characters or pushback from blocked normals.

But what I don’t understand is being able to recognize when the game is in neutral and what I should be doing when the game is in neutral. It’s just really confusing and the weird part is I play a character who is supposedly good in the neutral game.


#2

When you’re in neutral, you’re really just searching for an opening, typically by baiting a move of theirs to whiff or by looking for a time when you can get a solid jump in (a mistimed fireball perhaps). You enter a neutral state whenever the pressure has been reset, whether that be by you or him. So for example if you threw you’re opponent out of the corner, you can consider both players to be in a neutral state providing one player doesn’t have a significant life lead.


#3

Fighting games are never in neutral. Think of it like fencing. You’re either parrying, defending, baiting, spacing, or pressuring. Fighting games add one more mode and that is zoning.

Neutral in fighting games is either the baiting or spacing of fencing. In baiting you’re simply thinking about trying to get the opponent to do something you want them to do, then counter it, such as chucking a fireball at midrange to bait a jump in or shimmying within sweep range then backing up right when they sweep and then chuck in an ex hadouken to punish the sweep then dash in before they get up so you can begin pressuring before they wake up.

Baiting requires good spacing often such as knowing the right distance for baiting an action, but with spacing you also play the footsies game of out normal-ing your opponents normals. You do this just like in a real life fight. You see your opponent has X arm length and you have Y arm length so you press a hook punch to beat out their straight punch etc. etc.


#4

In a nutshell, neutral game is when:

  • you aren’t hitting the opponent or getting hit yourself
  • performing or defending against setplay (okizeme)

Basically, neutral is generally considered to be the series of actions that lead up to any of the two previous two scenarios.

What you’re “supposed” to do in neutral depends on your character and the matchup. eg. A zoner chucks plasma to keep the opponent out. A character who lies heavily in oki might try to out-footsie you score the knockdown. A grappler might try to work their way in where they can force 50-50 command grab mixups. etc.

That’s the paint-by-numbers neutral game. Most players understand this even if though don’t realize there’s a term for it. On a deeper level you have to factor in the opponent’s gameplan/tendencies/style etc vs your own. And because you won’t really know about these things vs a stranger, you can use neutral tactics to try breakdown and understand their playstyle, and then use that info to develop a neutral strategy. eg. How do they react to a fireball? Jump, block, or counter-fireball? How do they react to you walking forward? Do they press buttons? Do they try to go for the jump? etc etc.

OK, so now you understand how they play. You basically realized that whenever you walk forward, they walk back, probably because they’re not that comfortable playing footsies. So what you do you? You’d probably just want to keep inching forward till they reach the corner or jump, either of which puts them in a bad position.

Of course, all of this usually happens at much higher speed in a real match (not to mention that you aren’t playing a robot - your opponent is probably try their best to win the neutral game as well; they may even be trying to bait you), and often you won’t even need to do this especially when a matchup has a linear strategy.


#5

it’s also important to understand that fighting games are all about taking risks/ vs knowing risk/reward ratio. after you become a high level, you begin to be able to maximize your character’s ability to do ALL of the following:

1.) be as safe as possible (hard to open up and has mastered risks so only takes the absolute only necessary ones to win.

2.) understand number 1 and how it applies to all matchups with your character

3.) can force pressure at an optimum level to force the opponent to make punishable risks