When fighting game players talk about “running away” in terms of a competitive strategy, it can involve a bunch of different techniques, depending on the game. In very few instances does this mean literally running away in-game, but one BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle player did exactly that to great results during a tournament last weekend.
Texas Showdown is a long-running annual fighting game tournament series held in—you guessed it—Texas. This year’s installment saw over 700 players travel to Houston from across the United States as well as a handful of foreign countries. Due to the region’s history as a hotbed for competition in airdashers like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue—not to mention the Arc Revo World Tour spots that were on the line—the events for these anime-inspired fighters ended up featuring some of the weekend’s most exciting competition.
Losers bracket finals for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle came down to Conner “LTL” Gildemeister from Canada and Hayden “Isorropia” Stephenson from Australia. In terms of character selection, these two players couldn’t be any more different, the former settling on the common duo of RWBY protagonist Ruby Rose and Under Night In-Birth rep Gordeau, and the latter focusing on big bodies—Iron Tager of BlazBlue fame and Waldstein, also from Under Night.
Although both teams are capable of putting out incredible damage, LTL’s scythe-wielding mains can mix up the opponent by trapping them between attacks, while Isorropia’s grapplers are more about slow approaches and big shows of force with singular throws. That’s why, once he was two games up and on the verge of securing a third on his way to the grand finals, LTL decided the best course of action was to quite literally run into the corner, away from Waldstein. This would kill a few seconds and remove any opportunity his opponent had left to turn the tide.
LTL didn’t win the match solely off the strength of his ability to run away from Isorropia’s slower team, but it helped. Unlike most of the BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle cast, Tager and Waldstein don’t have the ability to dash forward, on the ground or otherwise. This means that they, like grapplers in many other games, often have to sacrifice health to close the space between them and their opponents, begrudgingly trudging forward in an attempt to get in range. Thanks to his life lead, LTL had zero incentive to approach Isorropia in this specific situation. In fact, doing so would have given the latter a better opportunity to erase the health differential with a few key throws.
Viewership for fighting game competitions has grown in the past few years, and in that time, the communities for various fighting games have fretted a lot about these kinds of keep-away tactics and whether they’re entertaining to watch. Some see it as detrimental to the genre’s overall appeal and worry that the slow, methodical matches created by these strategies have the potential of turning off casual viewers. Some simply don’t like fighting against a player that runs away and feel like quick, offense-heavy gameplay is a more legitimate approach to competition. These sentiments are most common in the Smash scene, but they do stray into the traditional fighting game community from time to time. Playing “lame” or “turtling” has always and forever will be a viable and effective strategy in fighting game competition, however, thanks to being made famous in years past by players like east coast legend Eddie Lee and Justin Wong, and now the new crop of defensive players like Alejandro “Chango” Gastelum.
As Isorropia himself has said about prior matches, it only takes one hit.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and loves writing about them even more. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.