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Fighting Games - Numbers AND Letters? A Primer on Input Notation

Updated on May 4, 2011

I can't learn these combos because I don't get these numbers! WHAT DO?

Chances are if you looked in some popular fighting game sites, examples being Shoryuken and Dustloop, you may have noticed that all the combos have a weird notation with them. You may even come across something like this:

5B > 3C > 214D > C > 5C > 2C > 4D > D > [j.C x 5] > 214B

Almost feels like you're learning math or something.

Not to worry though, this system of notating inputs is actually quite easy to understand. As long as you have an understanding of how the control stick on your controller or the joystick on your arcade stick (for you trying to get into the fighting game scene) is oriented, you should be able to follow along as I explain what is actually an efficient input notation.

Now you're thinking with numpads. Har har har.
Now you're thinking with numpads. Har har har.

When you forget how the input notation works...

...imagine the joystick as if it were on a numpad.

Sounds weird, but it's probably better to explain this via a small diagram.

7 8 9

4 5 6

1 2 3

Notice how this looks like a numpad on a computer keyboard (although if you're like me and are using a netbook right now, you won't have a numpad right in front of you, so too bad I guess). Imagine that your joystick, D-pad, or analog stick right now, without any push or pull or any other force applying on it, on the number 5. This is considered the "neutral" position. Suppose that we were on the left side of the opponent. If we wanted to move our character to the right, we would push the stick or pad to the right. This would make the stick or pad lean towards the number 6. Thus, "right" would be assigned the number "6." By applying this situation to all the directions, you'll get this:

1 = down-left

2 = down

3 = down-right

4 = left

5 = neutral

6 = right

7 = up-left

8 = up

9 = up-right

Again, this is all supposing that our character is facing right (or left of the opponent). Listing it like this wouldn't be considered very efficient, much less memorable. You'd have to switch directions for numbers 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9. There aren't going to be many happy campers. However, you may have figured out that inputting "right" while your character faces right will move the character "forward," or rather towards the opponent (I'm sure most of you already know this, but to those who don't, here you go). Let's try replacing "right" with "forward" and "left" with "back."

1 = down-back

2 = down

3 = down-forward

4 = back

5 = neutral

6 = forward

7 = up-back

8 = up

9 = up-forward

This way, when notated like this, you can apply the input notation regardless of what direction you're facing and still pull off the moves you want.

Most of the time the notations will have variations that fit specifically for the character. BlazBlue is a very good example of this due to the amount of character diversity in the game. However, most combo topics will list notation variations almost always, although not guaranteed. If you have any questions about strange notations, be sure to ask someone in the topic or try searching the forums for a primer on it.

Common Input Notations

236 = down > down-forward > forward (otherwise known as qcf, quarter circle forward, or "fireball" motion)

214 = down > down-back > back (otherwise known as qcb, quarter circle back, or backward "fireball" motion)

623 = forward > down > down-forward (otherwise known dp or dragon punch motion)

41236 = back > down-back > down > down-forward > forward (otherwise known as hcf or half circle forward motion)

63214 = forward > down-forward > down > down-back > back (otherwise known has hcb or half circle back motion)

421 = back > down > down-back (otherwise known as back dp or backward dragon punch motion)

360 = full rotation of stick (a way you can distinguish is the zero, since there are none in common practice input notation)

And some uncommon ones:

12369 = down-back > down > down-forward > forward > up-forward (otherwise known as half circle up-forward, only used in Street Fighter 4)

632 = forward > down-forward > down (only used in Magneto's Magnetic Blast in Marvel vs. Capcom series and other games)

[2]8 = hold down > up (otherwise known as down charge, notations can vary)

[4]6 = hold back > forward (otherwise known as back charge, notations can vary)

Most of the time the notations will have variations that fit specifically for the character. BlazBlue is a very good example of this due to the amount of character diversity in the game. However, most combo topics will list notation variations almost always, although not guaranteed. If you have any questions about strange notations, be sure to ask someone in the topic or try searching the forums for a primer on it.

The combos I'm talking about don't have numbers though. They're full of letters.

Examples being qcf, qcb, cr.MK, f.HK, etc.

The notation that I listed up above primarily applies to airdashers and fighting games where Japanese influence is strongest. Japanese influence isn't necessarily the reason though; it's more of an influence of a certain fighter database forum (I'm looking at you, Shoryuken.com). The prime fighting games that do not utilize the numerical input notation (although it very well can) are Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 or 3. Marvel vs. Capcom 1 isn't played enough to be considered a mainstream fighting game by the way.

Street Fighter has a completely different but still easy to understand system of inputs. All it requires is an understanding of what attacks on the buttons are called. Most likely the attacks will be notated as such:

(position).(attack)

Street Fighter has 6 buttons, which are jab, strong, fierce, short, forward, and roundhouse. These complex names (which are unnecessary as well in my honest opinion) are more familiarly known as light punch, medium punch, heavy punch, light kick, medium kick, and heavy kick, respectively. Here are what you may see for notations for all 6 attacks:

light punch = lp, j, jab

medium punch = mp, strong

heavy punch = hp, fierce

light kick = lk, short

medium kick = mk, forward

heavy kick = hk, rh, roundhouse

Positions can differ from standing, crouching, or during a jump. Because this notation only applies to normals, things like charge, dragon punch, or fireball motions aren't used. Rather, the move names or nicknames are used for those. The positions are also pretty universal as well, especially since Shoryuken.com covers a wide variety of games.

Learning about this kind of thing won't necessarily make you a better player immediately, but give it time and you'll be able to take in information from pros more efficiently and easily, which can help you become a better player in the long run.

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