Many beginners get into fighting games and see these COMBOS and feel like, “bullshit, it’s not fair that they can deal a billion damage. I hit them twice as much and they win off one hit.” While that can be frustrating, combos add a lot to the game that you can’t get any other way.
The deal with combos is they make certain hits under certain circumstances more damaging than just any random hit. Games with longer combos allow players to find different combo routes that lead to different types of advantages, like more damage, better screen positioning, knockdown, meter gain, easier confirms, and safety on block.
This makes the game not just about landing hits, but about landing the right hits with the right followup, and being on the ball to either followup or not depending on the circumstance. Combos aren’t just, “land a hit, then do this button sequence every time,” they actually have a lot of different tradeoffs, and they allow characters to get different types of advantages on hit, and convert into big damage off different types of moves. It also means that characters have different levels of risk and reward and different dangerous ranges. It means they can spend meter differently for different types of advantages, and make that decision when they land the hit. Essentially, combos, especially long combos, give you the chance to customize in the moment what sort of bonus you get off a hit.
Imagine it like this, when you land a hit, a menu appears and you get to choose what bonuses you get off the hit, then it instantly skips to the end. Functionally, this isn’t much different than how combos work right now, except players need to practice and explore the character to find all the bonuses possible off a given hit. This means that over time, people will find new ways to use the character, so as the life cycle of the game continues everyone is still learning new things and the way the game is played changes. If it were just a preset menu, then the game would stay the same and everyone would have the same options, instead of practicing some combos instead of others, giving them a unique playstyle.
Games with shorter combos usually only have a few combos that a character can do, meaning that you have less choice in which hits lead into combos, or what type of bonus you get off the combo. In these games, combos are more rote, you don’t get as much choice in how much risk or reward you want to take on, or where it will lead onscreen, or what type of advantage you get afterwards. You get one combo, take it or leave it.
Instead of thinking of combos like your opponent gets to hit you a bunch and you can’t do anything about it, think of them like they’re all one hit. The initial hit is the point where you screwed up, and all the rest is just a part of that hit. Pay attention to the types of hits that lead into combos, remember the situations where your opponent uses them, and guard against those. Another big mistake is not guarding after the combo ends. Most combos grant knockdown or some type of advantage at the end, so after landing a bunch of damage, the attacker gets a chance to do it all over again. Beginners get bamboozled by the combo, and aren’t ready to defend themselves afterwards. Also you should be ready and defending yourself in case the combo drops. Even the best players don’t finish combos all the time. Once you recognize these things, you’ll be able to protect yourself from combos better, and you’ll be more engaged while a combo is going on, so combos won’t seem as long or tedious, because you still have things to consider during them.