What are the fundamental differences amongst competitive fighting games?

…That is in regards to how a game is designed and meant to be played. Would someone please give me a summary of what mechanics separate one fighting game/series from another, whether 2D or 3D? And if two or more game titles are similar in gameplay, could you say what major design implementations separate them?

And while limited, I do have an understanding of frames, play styles (zoner, rushdown, etc.) and movement properties… so be as technical as you’d like.

Please post any and all games you believe deserve a mention. Much appreciated guys.

I can mention some of the ones I’ve played:

USFIV: the combo system is link heavy, which results in shorter combos than most games, particularly air dashers. Also very ground bound. Focus attacks make zoning a bit more difficult than say Super turbo. Ultra meter gives you a sort of comeback mechanic of varying utility, usually based on the matchup or your character. Super meter is used most often for ex attacks and FADCs to extend combos, not usually super combos themselves.

Injustice: I just started playing this on a whim for my own enjoyment so I don’t know quite as much. Combo system is chain heavy. Unlike USFIV, there are attacks that bounce opponents off the ground, allowing you to continue combos after they fall. There is also more opportunity for juggles than USFIV. Interactables make the stage you select very important, and introduces a new twist to the footsies game in order to control the space around an interactable. I’ve found zoning to be more difficult, since most of the projectile attacks I’ve tried have a pretty long startup, making them easy to interrupt. Like SF, meter is mostly used to give a new property to special attacks more often than it’s used for a super. There’s more to say, but I can’t speak to how it’s used competitively. Mortal Kombat, to my understanding, is quite similar to this game, but doesn’t have interactables. I’m not a fan of MK, so maybe someone else can fill in the blanks here.

UMvC3: I mostly played vanilla MvC3, and am pretty ass, but I’ll do my best. Combo system is chain heavy, though it has a much different feel than Injustice. What separates this game is the team mechanic. You pick three characters, one is on screen, the other two are available to perform assist attacks or to tag in for the current character. Combos are usually optimized by launching opponents in the air and continuing the combo up there. The combos are usually quite long, sometimes draining entire life bars. IMO, this game is super hectic, with a fast pace and a lot going on on screen at once. It’s important to track how many meters you have, denoted by a number next to your meter. Meter is used to perform super and hyper combos.

Skullgirls: Most stylistically similar to UMvC3 than anything else I’ll talk about. Technically it’s more similar to MvC2, but that’s not played competitively very often/widely. Chain heavy combo system. Meter is handled similarly to UMvC3. However, you can pick the size of your team, 1, 2 or 3 members.

Others that I feel I can’t say much about: I don’t know much about other airdashers like guilty gear, but I’m sure that one in particular will get a lot of play in tournaments for a long time. KOF13 has long combos and a somewhat-difficult-to-grasp movement system with many different kinds of jumps. I know absolutely nothing about killer instinct.

Well first basic thing to mention, games with air-dashing will always tend to be more aggressive than those without (Exception being KoF which I’ll mention in a minute). This is because air dashing tends to be a better offensive technique than defensive technique, so an aggressive player has an additional approach option compared to a game without air dashing. So if you want to play something aggressive, I’d recommend looking into either an air-dasher or KoF.

KoF doesn’t have an air dash, but what it does have is four different styles of jumps, a normal jump(high and close), a super jump(high and far), a short hop(low and close), and a hyper hop(low and far). This gives it the aggressiveness of an air-dasher, without actually having air-dashing. Also, while KoF does have Street Fighter style links, they’re much less important, and can be widely ignored for a fairly long time. The KoF (or KoFXIII at least, haven’t played 98 or 02 yet :c) combo system is much more based on a Normal>Command Normal>Special chain of moves, combined with a kind of juggle system.

Persona and BlazBlue are fairly similar mechanically (I haven’t played GG Xrd yet), but the main difference being that in BlazBlue, your actual character has four moves, whereas in Persona, your character (exception being Sho) only has two moves, and your persona has the other two. This means that when you call your persona to use an attack, your opponent can hit the persona, which causes it to take damage (shown as persona cards) and when you run out of cards, it’s temporarily disabled. This makes Persona feel like it has a bit of an assist system, similar to Marvel and Skullgirls, but without actually having multiple characters.

That’s about all I can think of right now.

Thanks to both of you for the insight! Can you guys comment on the differences between some of the 3D fighters? Tekken, Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, Soul Calibur and King of Fighters: Maximum Impact, for instance.

Thanks again.

Tekken games tend to be the most combo-oriented of the 3D fighters, I know that much. I don’t have too much experience in 3D fighters, since the only one I actively play is Soul Calibur V. If you’re fairly new to the genre and don’t know where the communities for each game are, Soul Calibur has 8wayrun, Tekken has TekkenZaibatsu, and Virtua Fighter has, well, VirtuaFighter. Not sure about DoA.

While I’m on that topic, Skullgirls has Skullheart, King of Fighters has DreamCancel, Mortal Kombat/Injustice has TestYourMight, Smash has Smashboards, and most “anime” games have Dust-Loop. Capcom based fighting games are mainly on, of course, Shoryuken.

EDIT: DoA has FreeStepDodge I believe.

I can speak in pretty damn vague terms. Tekken probably has the biggest community, VF is highly respected as a game and also very much it’s own game as far as how it flows, DoA gets a lot of shit for essentially being porn and not so great gameplay wise, SC is a ton of fun, my favorite 3D fighter by far, but I have no idea what it takes to compete seriously in it.

Street Fighter 4 is very defensive, some might even say slow, but each iteration has made it slightly more offense-focused. The combat is mostly about knowing matchups and how to punish.
Marvel vs Capcom 3, as well as Ultimate, is very fast but mostly relies on the players’ memory and execution, with several long or infinite combos. It is ultimately a game made to be accessible (having only L, M, H, and Launch buttons) and flashy.
Skullgirls, being very inspired by Marvel, is just as fast-paced but detects and prevents infinite combos, allows greater variety in team composition and assists despite its small cast, and has much more forgiving execution for tricky inputs (it even detects when you’re doing a 360) than typical fighters.
The King of Fighters XIII is very fast, very aggressive, and very precise. I personally don’t recommend it as a first fighting game because the inputs and timing are tricky to pull off.
Guilty Gear Xrd has about an average pace, and slightly-difficult inputs. The cast is pretty small, which makes matchups a lot easier to learn.
I haven’t played much of BlazBlue but it’s ridiculously complex, past my personal tolerance.
Divekick is stripped-down to the bare bones of fighting games. It’s all about spacing, footsies, and knowing your opponent. High speed, low execution. It’s possibly the most accessible fighting game but the skill ceiling is very high.

That’s all I’ve played aside from a few minor anime fighters (namely Touhou and Vanguard Princess). I hope this is helpful to someone.

Tekken: As said before, probably the most combo-oriented of 3D Fighters. Neutral game tends to revolve around fishing for a launcher into juggle combo into oki, then rinse and repeat. Pretty fast pace. Movement is a huge necessity in this game (ex. backdash canceling).
Low damage output.

Virtua Fighter: Usually called the most balanced of 3D Fighters (quite possibly fighters in general). The opposite of Tekken; Neutral game tends to revolve around pokes, spacing, footsies, etc and big mistakes lead to launches and juggle combos. This might be true because of its high damage output. Guard button ups the difficulty a bit. Rock-paper-scissors mechanic; Punch, Kick, and Guard. Straighforward gameplay, yet still has lots of depth. Movement is another necessity and frame data seems to play a bigger role in this game. Also fast pace. Sidestepping plays a big role in movement.