This is More than Mashing, a column on amazing demonstrations of skill in video games where I try to collect and showcase the best the net has to offer in skilled game playing and break it down so anyone can understand. This week I’m covering Daigo’s full parry.
Fighting games are a genre notorious for their high barriers of entry and the dexterity necessary to perform basic moves, let alone the long combos of attacks strung together the genre is known for. For this reason, many have accused fighting games of being button mashers, because beginners have a tendency to mash the buttons more than actually try to learn the game, and can even overtake worse players with these tactics. Despite misunderstandings, Fighting Games are one of the most skillful genres we have today.
Perhaps the best known fighting game moment of all time comes from the Street Fighter 3: Third Strike tournament at the Evolution 2004 event. In a showdown between legendary players Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong, what occurred can only be described as a premeditated miracle. This accomplishment has since been referred to as Evo moment #37 or The Daigo Parry.
When I first saw this clip, over 7 years ago, I had never played a fighting game before for more than a bit of fooling around, and I just knew right there exactly what was happening and why this was so impossible, but everyone I’ve ever shown it to since hasn’t been able to parse it, so I’m giving it a formal breakdown.
Street Fighter 3 was a game that tried to shake up Street Fighter as a concept a lot and was met with a negative reception for the first two editions for a lot of reasons. One big change Street Fighter 3 made to the formula was a new technique called Parries. Parries enabled a player with good timing to perfectly block an attack. Normally blocking means you take a bit of damage from special or super attacks and get pushed back and stunned a bit. With Parries, you could block, stand your ground, gain super meter, and hit your opponent right back. Parries became integral to how Street Fighter 3 was played, completely changing the projectile gameplay and enabling every manner of new tactic, such as jumping in on an opponent to bait out an anti-air attack (an attack intended to knock down enemies that dared to jump in such as a shoryuken or a lot of crouching hard punches), parrying it, and then punishing that anti-air with your own attack.
Parries are performed by pressing and releasing the direction towards your opponent or down 7 frames before an attack hits you. Jumping attacks, overhead attacks, and projectiles all need to be parried high, while crouching attacks need to be parried low. Attacks that can be blocked low or high are also parried either way. 7 frames means that parries have a fairly wide window (116.6 milliseconds or roughly a tenth of a second) relatively speaking, but generally need to be done in prediction of an attack instead of on reaction.
Attacks that hit you multiple times such as whirlwind kicks (also called tatsus) need to be parried multiple times, once for each hit, and thus you need to time it according to how fast each hit comes in and how long the freeze time is on each parry’s animation, making it significantly harder to parry anything that hits more than twice. If you mash, then you’ll automatically fail and get hit, although failing to parry later hits in a multihit attack while succeeding on earlier ones sometimes means you don’t get knocked down, only stunned, and you don’t lose as much ground. It’s also possible to block and then parry with a red parry, but the window for that is a lot shorter, only 3 frames. It can be helpful to block every hit of an attack and only parry the last one so you can retaliate at the end.
In this moment Justin Wong, playing as Chun Li, was demonstrating one of the reasons Chun Li is still considered one of the best characters in Third Strike. Chun Li’s attacks all have massive priority, meaning they had short startups and great range. This meant that a Chun Li player could simply wait for the other player to rush in and punish whatever attacks they attempt. This tactic was so effective that even Daigo, known as one of the world’s best Street Fighter and general fighting game players, was starting to play recklessly to break down Justin Wong’s defense.
Eventually near the end of the match, Chun Li had a stock of super meter ready and Daigo had almost no life left. This meant that Justin only needed one clean hit to take down Daigo or he could use a super and kill whether Daigo blocked or not. On top of being downright deadly in terms of power and priority, Chun Li has a killer super that zooms in on her opponent and does massive damage should it hit.
Daigo, of course, knew about Chun’s super and instead of rushing in as he was before, began tapping forward over and over again. He could have waited and jumped at the right time to escape, but instead he chose to face the super head on in a gamble at both winning the match, and demoralizing his opponent enough to take the set in the match afterwards. Justin must not have been paying attention to Daigo, because he readied up the super input and then the super flash happened. The first hit of Chun Li’s super is incredibly hard to parry, but if you input the parry motion before the super flash as if it were a direct attack, you will automatically parry the first hit of the super even if it’s outside the normal window, and this is what Daigo shot for. Daigo knew that super was coming far in advance and Justin didn’t even see it. After that Daigo followed up to perfectly parry every single hit of the entire super combo, one of the longest and most erratically patterned series of attacks in the game. This was completely unprecedented in the history of fighting games. More than just a block, it was a perfect block; the riskiest possible action he could take in that circumstance in a mad gamble to mentally destroy his opponent.
At the end of Daigo’s parries, he jumped up, parried the last hit (which would normally be a launcher that Chun Li can follow-up into an air juggle using her headstomps) and came down into a jumping attack. He followed up with a crouching medium kick, canceled into a shoryuken, then super canceled into Ken’s super combo, securing the victory and forging a legend.
This is a video of another famous player and maker of combo videos, Desk, recreating Evo Moment #37 in Third Strike Online Edition with only one hand, letting you clearly see the movements involved. He makes it look easy, but anyone with any Third Strike experience could tell you this video took a lot of hard work to produce.
Third Strike Online Edition was worked on heavily by Seth Killian, Capcom’s former community manager. As a gift to the community, Seth went all out with the combo trials and parry trials, including Daigo’s full parry as the final parry challenge. This moment has a legacy unlike any other since. It has even become tradition at tournaments in japan to shout, “Lets go Justin!” when a Chun Li player uses her super on a low health opponent.
Do you have a video of someone doing something amazing in a video game? Send it my way in the comments and I’ll add it to my youtube playlists, and maybe break it down in the future. I love seeing things unlike what I have already, so if you have something unique please share it.
We await your return, warrior.