The curse of the grappler

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…

Depends on the game. If you want to play rushdown grapplers- go to KOF.

In 98 (my bias here- I think 98 is the only KOF that qualifies as great), Clark rushes down like a beast, as can O-Yash. Goro is capable of rushdown- but he’s Goro, he can do whatever he wants to do usually. Mary kinda pulls some grappler rushdown as well, but she’s a very versatile hybrid char.

In later KOF’s, Maxima/Ramon might be good choices, Mary’s not though.

Daimon and Clark from kof are great grapplers. From mid to top tier in every game they have been in. Kof has pretty good grapplers overall.

it depends on the game you play.

do people normally stay away from grapplers? yes. but why? because people fear grapplers. they can sneak in grabs from the smallest holes from great ranges(generally speaking, capcom games) for great damage. surethey are weak from keepaway tactics, but if they get in, you are in a world of trouble. its a tradeoff. i dont think i would want a fast/mobile gief in a game because thats just retarded when you factor in his damage abilities as well. besides, theres games where grapplers are very good. mainly gief tho(once again, capcom related only). hes a beast in a2 and a3. as well as HF, arcade ssf2, and WW. not too shabby at all in xsf either.

grapplers are just a different type of character. they do require a patience game for sure. but it can pay off in the end. even if the character sucks in whatever game, people still have a natural fear towards them. so its natural to stay away from something you fear

just IMO

kira in arcana heart is a grappler character, and shes also one of the best archetypes of a grappler character ever, since she can utilize the system to her advantage just like anyone else (read, unblockable setups up the ass, true 50/50:s that gief would kill to have, system mechanics that allow you to fly across the screen right next to them in asecond - basically its what mvc2 gier shoulda been.) just sayin haha. shes also toptier too

Potemkin is disgusting man.

Sure, grapplers aren’t often top tier, but they usually make up a small percentage of a fighting game cast anyway. Out of 20 characters, there’s usually 2-4, if that.

Birdie does suck, but V-Gief and V-Sodom are nothing to sneeze at.

I completely agree here. My two main weapons against an opponent when busting out Hugo or 'Gief is patience and fear. Patience in predicting moves, jumping when necessary and waiting for the opponent to goof up to deal some great damage. Fear helps this, there’s nothing funnier than a Shoto player desperately trying to keep a wrassler away from him, they tend to lose their train of thought when 'gief is mere inches from them lol.

I would say Capcom has some issues with their guys, but it’s a different play style. KoF has some of the better wrestlers, half-circle moves are a lot easier to me than 360 on a D-pad, and I stomp hard with Clark, that guy can kick some ass.

I would have to agree on if you love grapple characters you may find some of the King of Fighters games fun.

For capcom games grapplers are usually inhibited as much by their size as they are by their speed. So a lot of the games will require an amount of patience. Some people I know find it easier, because your character is slower it makes you really stress the fundamentals, since as Hugo for example mistakes can cost you a lot, more so than someone like Makoto where you may be able to quickly cover up your mistake.


Whoa there, steady on.

The CPU plays a useless Mika. I’ve taken matches vs top uk players, and even taken down a few JPN players with my A-Mika. Sure, part of that is to do with the surprise element, but she has some things going for her.

First of all, her slide. High priority and fast. Yes it has lag, but you can instantly turn the tide of the battle in your favour if you land the slide. From there you have her crossup splash which, if played as a meaty, puts her right in the opponent’s face and might do you some good damage too (as does the slide). From there you’ve got the standard 360 tricks and also her jab -> peach stuff.

Also has a top quality anti-air (crouching strong headbutt hop), a great jump-roundhouse (great range), good standing pokes like standing strong…

In short I think she’s underrated. A top london player I spoke to recently who went out to Japan said he saw a lot of great Mika players over there getting wins. Middlekick plays a great V-Mika. I hope one day an A-cho player picks up Mika and starts wrecking shop with her.

Also, if you don’t like 100% grapplers, there are some characters who have speed and combos but also have a big grappling element to their game. Karin in A3 is a prime example. Her punch throw is a slam, which means that a) it puts the opponent right at her feet for wakeup games, b) if teched, it does not suffer damage reduction and c) it does not suffer damage reduction based on the oppponent’s lifebar. The airthrow is the same. She has a 360 which does very good damage, and a jump short which is perfect for ticking into it. Her normal kick throw is a grab looks very similar to her 360, which can confuse opponents and get you a bit more damage (as they might forget to mash to escape). If you play her in V she has all her off-the-floor grapple options.

Then there’s Makoto in 3rd Strike. One grab can lead straight to a won round, if you have the technical skill and enough meter.

So y’know, I can see your point, but it’s not like grappling can’t be a highly successful tactic.

EDIT: I think Hugo best fits your theory. 'Gief in CvS2 is a pretty good match too, but then in A3 (where you bemoan Birdie’s weakness) 'Gief pwns up there in the top tier. And hey, try KOF 96 Clark, that grappling is just straight up BROKEN (makes me wince even thinking about him).

Well, Potemkin in AC is top 5. Some put him in S tier, some do not.

But overall, I think grapplers do tend to be weaker in general. They’re a very easy type of character to balance, compared to projectile zoners or rushdown pixies.

The older KOF games are definitely the most favorable for grapplers - 2k2 and XI, not so much. And not like anyone cares about World Heroes, but Muscle Power is actually top tier in Perfect. Condor in Breakers Revenge arguably is, too.


I guess someone hasn’t played Kof 2k3 Tizoc.

IIRC Tizoc in MOTW was pretty beastly too. Would’ve been higher teir if he didnt have to put up with Gato’s bs and too a lesser extent Marco’s

The traditional grappler character that sucks except for their grab/threat of a grab and has no other tools except those that aid in achieving the threat of landing a grab (SF2 Gief, Potemkin pre-AC) seems to be a dead archetype now, sadly.

Satsuki in Melty Blood is top tier, didn’t the guy that won the SBO Melty Blood tournament use her? And that blob girl in Arcana Heart.

Grapplers are my favorite too. I tend to play a defensive counter game in any game I play so they work well for me. No way in hell I’m even close to winning any tournament but I like them so I use them.

Newer games tend to be about the combo-crazy rushdown so grapplers have kind of fallen off.

Last I checked Q, Alex, and Hugo were still awesome.

I tend to stick with the grapplers as well. I mean all you’re really doing is advancing to get in. You’re not sticking out attacks or anything but trying to get your opponent in the corner, knock em down, turtle. Once you’re in close range, grapplers become hella scary. The only disadvantage I think with grapplers are that they are big and I don’t care how slow they are.

Its different SNK wise cuz of the system change/game mechanics

Tizoc in the right hands can destroy any character in Garou as long as the player knows how to deal with everyone. There has been a Garou japanese tournament where a Tizoc player beat all the other characters and it was 2 vs 2 at that. So anything is possible with grapplers not just for SNK but for Capcom as well. It all depends on the players abilities to use all the characters tools in a match.

LOL KOF 2k3 has that vacuum/priority on throws. Almost all of the grapplers benefitted from the KOF 2k3 system.

XI Clark is fucking nasty though; A tier, last I checked. Gai is too: though not a pure grappler, his grab is pretty disgusting.

KOF grapplers have always been beastly but that has more to do with the fact that most KOF grapplers (Clark, Shermie, etc) generally don’t follow the SF grappler archetype of the hulking steroid freak with zero agility. There’s also the fact that KOF grapplers and hybrid-grapplers like Mary have combos into their grabs and supers.