The bread-and-butter need-to-know Pokkén technique
This is part three of a series of written guides on Pokkén Tournament Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. I’ve always loved this game and I’ve wanted to give back to the community and generate more interest in it. I’ll be creating more guides like this in the future and I hope this gets new players invested in the fighting game that taught me about fighting games. If you would like to try out Pokkén Tournament Deluxe, and learn more information about the game, be sure to check out the community Discord!
In some games- not just fighting games- you can often begin a second move before the first move you inputted is even finished. This property of ending an action’s animation with the startup of another action is called an animation cancel, or simply a cancel. In most action games, cancelling moves into other moves is the basis for intricate combo systems, allowing you to keep enemies or the other player locked in a flurry of attacks. Pokkén operates on this system as well- most light attacks can be cancelled into a strong or special move in order to extend your combo.
The unique properties of whether a move can be cancelled or not are usually explained in the game’s tutorial section and movelist; however, Pokkén lab monsters have also cataloged the properties of each move for the benefit of new players. As an example, here is a link to the Scizor movelist Google Doc. If you follow the Pokkén Discord link above, you can do a bit of digging on your own and gain access to the documents for your specific Pokémon. In general, though, you’ll know a move is cancellable if you can perform another move after it before the animation of the first move ends, scoring a combo hit.
Some games often offer unique systems that allow you to cancel moves with a specific button or action. Guilty Gear’s Roman Cancel system is famous for allowing frenetic anime battle combos that aren’t possible in any other title. By pressing any three buttons besides Dust, you can spend a certain amount of your Tension (your meter) to cancel anything into anything else. Chain Shifting in Under Night provides a similar system that can allow people to extend their combos or take the advantage in certain situations.
In Pokkén, the R button can be used to block, but it also has additional properties both universal and character-specific. As far as universal examples go, everyone in Field Phase can cancel their Homing Attack mid-flight with R. This Homing Cancel can be used on reaction to instantly crush grabs, and it can even reduce the amount of blockstun frames if used to successfully block a move. This is why the Homing Cancel is often called “Perfect Blocking,” since it has similar properties to a just guard or instant block in other titles.
For examples of character-specific R button properties, Blaziken and Mega Lucario can airdash by pressing R in the air, and Decidueye and Scizor have flying stances they can maintain in the air with R. Certain moves can also be cancelled by pressing R, sometimes along with a directional press. Scizor can cancel his Bug Bite into a dash by pressing R and a direction simultaneously. Machamp can also cancel his Submission dash with R to block out of it, making him the only character in the game who can Perfect Block in Duel Phase. The timing for these types of R-cancels must be precise, but Pokkén’s buffer system (around eight frames) is fairly generous, and it will become second nature after enough practice. Keep in mind, once again, that the specific moves which can be cancelled in this way are listed in the move list and tutorials for each character ingame.
Street Fighter IV has a very unique tech called the Focus Attack Dash Cancel, a tech that influenced Pokkén’s balance and metagame very heavily. In SFIV, much like in Pokkén, there is a universal armored move called the Focus Attack, performed by pressing MP and MK at the same time. This move could then be cancelled into a dash by inputting the dash motion during the armor charge. Cancelling the Focus Attack in this way thus allowed you to move forward or backward quickly while retaining the armored properties of the move. This let you dash through projectiles or certain hits while tanking the damage with your Focus Attack armor. FADC was such an iconic move in SFIV that Ryu can still do it in SFV, and Ryu and Ken both carried it into their movesets in Super Smash Bros.
Pokkén has a move that functions almost exactly the same way as FADC, called Counter Attack Dash Cancel or CADC. It’s so important to the Pokkén metagame that the ingame tutorial will even define cancels for you and teach you how to execute it if you’re having trouble performing it. Certain characters would be almost impossible and unrewarding to play beyond a beginner level without the ability to CADC. CADC is performed in much the same way as Pokkén’s other cancels: press and hold X and A to charge the Counter Attack, then press R and a direction to cancel the Counter Attack into a dash.
CADC has numerous applications in almost any situation in Pokkén. You can use it to push forward against an opponent who is throwing out moves at a range you can’t compete against, for instance- Blaziken is an example of a character who would have no other way to get in on zoners without CADC letting him armor through projectiles. You can also use it as a feint to escape pressure while you’re already holding a Counter Attack- pressing dash back will allow you to fade away and reset the situation from a better part of the screen. It also provides you with another means of slowly navigating incontestable full-screen pressure apart from walking-and-blocking forward.
This was a rather short article, huh! The main thing about learning tech like CADC is that it requires lots and lots of practice until both the input and the tech become second nature. Newbie players should practice CADC in the training room over and over until they’ve got the input down before going online and trying to do it in heavy delay against a laggy Wi-Fi player, or else they’ll just get frustrated. CADC is such an important part of neutral in this game, and learning how to do this cancel will also allow you to access more specific parts of your character’s kit that may be ‘locked’ behind learning precise inputs. Don’t give up!
Incidentally, I’ll leave you with a little bit of trivia about my character, Scizor, before the tutorial ends. Did you know that Scizor can actually move during his Counter Attack? He can slide around a little bit in any direction while charging CA, which allows him to gain a little bit more distance out of CADC than the rest of the cast. Furthermore, his normal dash is actually a stance called Hover Stance which can ignore certain light projectiles, and in Field Phase it can also be cancelled directly into Homing Attack. If you’ve been following this tutorial so far, you understand that Homing Attack can be Homing Cancelled into a Perfect Block. Finally, this block can once again be cancelled into CADC, and if you’re really, really precise, you can armor and block almost everything while continuing to press forward! The main downside to this is that it fucks up your hands, but due to the absurd amount of options that Scizor has out of CADC, his Counter Attack is considered to be the best in the game.
And that about wraps up Lesson Three! While this guide was shorter, it was probably a sharper, denser turn from the first two guides. That being said, I cannot stress enough how important CADC is to learn in Pokkén, which is why I decided to make this guide the third one. If you’re interested in Pokkén, I highly encourage you to begin learning your cancels as soon as you feel comfortable with the rest of the game’s fundamentals. We’ll go back to basics a bit with the next article- Lesson Four will break down character archetypes and help you decide who you want to play in Pokkén!