Improve your Yomi, play Kongai!

kongai A huge portion of Virtua Fighter is about reading your opponent’s mind correctly. What will he do next? A fast attack up-close, a strong—but rather slow attack—from afar? A throw, or a mid?

Understanding the basics of mind-reading and decision-making is crucial to every fighting game. high-grade-articleThe occurrence of two-choice situations (nitaku) can be overcome by correctly reading your opponent’s actions (yomi).

The free card game Kongai can help you to improve your understanding of nitaku and yomi. And above that, it’s simply fun to play!

Nitaku & Yomi = Two Choices & Mind-reading

Yes, Kongai is a collectible card game. For your browser. The creator behind Kongai is David Sirlin, Street Fighter veteran and, besides many other titles, game designer of SSFII Turbo HD Remix. I know the uproar might be huge now but let me explain it a bit.

Every fighting game follows basic principles: spacing, attack speed, range & damage, and recovery. More damaging moves are slower and have a higher recovery whereas less damaging ones deal with the exact opposite—they are quick in execution but but their damage is relatively weak. Being able to read your opponent’s mind, what he’s going to do next, is crucial to every fighting game. From Street Fighter to Dead or Alive to Virtua Fighter, here they are all alike.

Kongai leads the player back to the simplest game principles. This is especially interesting for Virtua Fighter players. If you look past the construct of VF, past its pretty graphics and fluent animations, what remains are situations and options. Taking full advantage of the potential outcome of an option in a situation, and not playing just your move against the opponent’s move, will make you truly powerful in battle. This is the very essence of Virtua Fighter. What options does my opponent have in this particular situation now? What would be wise to do now if I were him? And if he knew that should I then simply do the exact opposite of what I would have done in the first place—thus, should I then rather play risky abare-style?

Being able to read just that, what your opponent does next, is called yomi in Japanese. It is often referred to as mysterious, innate—or even “inhuman”—ability.

Let’s lift the veil of mystery a bit. Yomi is an overly aware recognition of your opponent’s behaviors, and the awareness of the choices your opponent possesses at that time and its potential outcome. Yomi is something that one can learn. It’s rather a skill than an ability.

Of course, I haven’t any scientific proof that Kongai will really improve your Yomi skill but nonetheless, at the very least, it will make you more aware of your opponent’s and your very own choices and how to use this knowledge to your advantage. Oftentimes, it comes down to a two-choice—nitaku—situation, where your opponent can either do this or that.

Kongai & Virtua Fighter – A Perfect Match?

Similar to Virtua Fighter, you have characters that are better at close range. For example in Virtua Fighter, we have throw-specialist Goh Hinogami with his phone booth range being perfect for throwing; in contrast to that, there is Brad who feels much more comfortable at long range, slipping in and out of range whenever necessary. This also translates well for Kongai: there are close combat specialists (the Samurai Onimaru), and long range characters (female archer Andromeda), but also characters who are a crossing between the extreme abilities of some characters that you can meet in Kongai.

kongai 2

The turn-based card game works as follows:

It’s deceptively simple in that you only make about two clicks per turn: first choose your fighting range, then choose amongst attack / intercept / rest / switch characters. And yet I think you’ll find it tests the interesting skills of yomi (reading the mind of the opponent) and valuation (judging the relative value of moves in a game).

—David Sirlin

So, a turn in Kongai is split into two parts: first you choose the range, then an action. Changing the range as well as using any of your skills cost energy of course, very similar to the recovery times of moves in Virtua Fighter. Then you can choose to either use a skill, intercept the enemy if he wants to switch characters, switch the character yourself, or simply rest and regain a bit more of your energy this turn. As in the tag battles of Dead or Alive, some characters are a better matchup than others. Deciding when to switch characters, or which card to add to your deck is important as well.

An almost ideal example of a nitaku situation is if you happen to meet Juju the Shaman at full energy in close combat: he can either cast Touch of Doom which will instantly kill you after four turns, or intercept you if you want to switch characters to avoid this fatal attack. Of course, if you have character cards in your deck that can break or even reflect a slower attack, then it’s no longer a two-folded but three- or even four-folded situation. In order to draw the comparison to Virtua Fighter again: it’s similar to Wolf’s guessing game when the opponent wants to stand up (often referred to as Okizeme). Starkly simplified, Wolf can either use his hideously damaging Giant Swing or a mid-attack leaving the opponent with the choice to either duck to avoid the grab throw or block high to successfully guard the mid-hitting attack.

Conclusion

I hope I could show you a bit that David Sirlin has, indeed, created something unique: a card game purely about Yomi. Even though it’s "only" a card game, it follows the same rules as any 2D or 3D fighting game. And even though it deals more with a fantasy setting (dark and light magic attacks), it is still very close to the major game principles of Virtua Fighter if it comes down to decision making and mind reading, Nitaku and Yomi.

Became interested? Improve your yomi, and playKongai at Kongregate.

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