How to E-Sports: Reading fighting game notation

Last Updated January 23rd, 2022

In our How to E-Sports articles, we have spent a lot of time talking about fighting game techniques and strategies, but there’s one thing that we never went over: basic literacy. We have frequently mentioned how important it is to do research on basic combos and character strategies, but doing so might greet you with something that looks like this:

66 5K/c.5S > 5HS > 214S (RC) > dash 5K/c.S > 2HS (JC) > j.S (JC) > j.S > j.HS > j.SVV

The combo above is a basic combo for Sol Badguy in Guilty Gear XRD -Revelator– and it’s not actually that complicated. The reason it looks like a quantum physics equation is because you probably don’t know how to read fighting game notation.

Fighting game notation is a bit of a tricky thing because each fighting game tends to use its game-specific language, so we are going to go over each form of notation in its own article. Today we are going to focus on numpad notation, which is often used in anime fighters such as Guilty Gear or BlazBlue.

Numpad Notation

Numpad notation is most often used in games such as Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, Under-Night: In Birth, and any other Japanese game with a wonky name filled with air dashes and flashy super moves. It’s called number notation because directional inputs are represented via numbers.

Imagine your joystick or d-pad as the number pad on your keyboard and that you are controlling a character on the left side of the screen. The numbers on the pad correspond to the directions you have to press. So 6 corresponds to holding the joystick forward, while 4 corresponds to holding it away from the opponent. Eight corresponds to up, while 2 corresponds to down. Three corresponds to down and forward at the same time, 7 corresponds to up and back at the same time, and 5 corresponds to nothing being pressed at all.

While numbers are directions in number notation, letters have two different meanings. Capital letters correspond to button presses. They are usually labeled exactly as they are in the game (A,B,C,D for BlazBlue, P,K,S,HS,D for Guilty Gear, and so on). Lowercase letters followed by a period, however, are modifiers. They correspond to a certain state your character needs to be in in order to perform whatever move comes next.

Commands are usually separated by either a “,” or a “>”. “>” indicates that these moves cancel into one another while a “,” shows that the moves link into one another. Basically, a cancel means you can interrupt the first move with the second while a link means you have to wait for the first move to finish before the second will begin. If a specific type of cancel is called for, it will usually be notated in parentheses.

Further punctuation is often used to notate special ways to interact with buttons. For example, brackets mean you should hold a button down while a slash separating inputs means you can choose between either input. We will include a full glossary of terms and notations at the end of the article.

But this is all getting a little theory heavy so let’s look at that Sol Badguy combo again and parse what it actually means.

66 5K/c.5S > 5HS > 214S (RC) > dash 5K/c.S > 2HS (JC) > j.S (JC) > j.S > j.HS > j.SVV

The first command you see is 66. This instructs the player to dash before starting the combo to build momentum. At times, 66 is simply replaced with the word “dash.”

We then see 5K/c.S. The slash means that either input is acceptable as a starter to the combo. So you will be using either Sol’s neutral standing kick (5K) or his close standing neutral slash (c.5S). The lower case “c” in this case is the “close” modifier, a type of move that only comes out when you are very close to the opponent. Sometimes, button inputs are shown with a modifier but no number. In these cases, always default to the neutral (5) input. We will see an example of this later in the combo.

We then see a > followed by 5HS. This means that you should use Sol’s standing neutral hard slash right after the first move. This will cancel the first move into the hard slash, allowing it to hit.

The next command is yet another > noting a cancel into 214S. 214 corresponds to a down, down-back, back input, or a “quarter circle back” for people who have played Street Fighter before. This is followed up by slash, so quarter circle back and slash, which corresponds to Sol’s Grand Viper special move.  Occasionally, people will abbreviate or spell out the name of a special move, rather than using full numpad notation, and we will see that later in the combo as well.

We then see “(RC)” which notes a special type of cancel. In this case it’s a “Red Roman Cancel” which costs 50% meter and returns you to a neutral state. Using this cancel, Sol is returned to neutral out of the forward moving part of Grand Viper. He then is instructed to dash (written in this case) to once again build momentum and catch the opponent, followed by the same 5K/c.S choice we saw before.

We then have another cancel into 2HS or Sol’s crouching hard slash. This trips the opponent but doesn’t necessarily knock them down, leaving you with a temporarily airborne opponent. We then see another special cancel (JC) or jump cancel, which allows Sol to take to the air in the middle of his crouching hard slash.

The next move is j.S. the “j” modifier means jumping, or performing a move while airborne. No number is shown before the S, so this corresponds to Sol’s jumping neutral slash. We are then instructed to (JC) jump cancel this move again. This is a mid-air jump, which is sometimes notated as (DJC) or double jump cancel, but more often than not a simple repeated (JC) is more than enough.

Now, while in the air we have these instructions “j.S > j.HS > j.SVV” – we are instructed to do a jumping slash, canceled into a jumping hard slash, canceled into a jumping SVV. SVV is an abbreviated special move, in this case the S version of Volcanic Viper. Volcanic Viper is 623S/HS or forward, down, down-forward (the dragon punch input) followed by slash or hard slash, and this combo calls for the slash version.

And there you have it! Now you know exactly what to do when practicing your combos!

If you are into anime fighters you are going to see a lot of this type of notation, so make yourself familiar. We’ve included a more exhaustive glossary below.

Numpad Notation Glossary

Please note that due to a technical limitation, throughout this article curly brackets { } are used in place of regular brackets.

1 = down-back

2 = down

3 = down-forward

4 = back

5 = neutral

6 = forward

7 = up-back

8 = up

9 = up-forward

236 = the standard fireball or quarter circle forward motion

214 = the standard hurricane kick or quarter circle back motion

623 = the dragon punch motion

41236 = the half circle forward motion

360 = since 0 has no place in numpad notation, this corresponds to a full rotation of the stick in any direction

236236 = double quarter circle forward

Uppercase letters with no parenthesis = button inputs

> = cancel one move into the next

, = link one move into the next

-> = use a follow-up move. For example, Sol has a follow-up, Thrash Drop, which can be used during Volcanic Viper to knock the opponent down. It is executed using 214K during Volcanic Viper. So using an S Volcanic Viper into Thrash Drop would be notated as 623S->214K

|> = use the next move after your character has landed from his jump

^ = use a homing jump or other special air-combo follow-up (only in games with special launchers)

/ = choose between either input, they both work

{} = hold a button or direction. {2}8K would correspond to Guile’s Flash Kick for example. In Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Zero would charge his buster if he held down any button, which would be notated as {A}/{B}/{C}

}{ = release a button. Certain moves only work when a button is released. For example, if you charged Zero’s buster by holding down A, firing it would be notated as }A{

j. = while jumping

c. = while close

f. = while far (usually only used when an extremely far range attack is different from an otherwise neutral attack)

sj. or hj. = while super jumping or high jumping (exact notation differs depending on the game)

~ = immediately press the next button. Usually used for canceling moves before they even come out. For example, B~C means that you would press B and then as soon as you possibly could press C before the move from B even executes

x = notation for doing a certain command multiple times. It can be followed by a number or by N which stands for “as much as you like.” 5P(x3) means press punch three times. 5K(xN) means press kick as many times as you like or until it stops working. This can also be used alongside full strings of hits. {5K > 5S > 2HS}x2 means you can repeat the string of neutral standing kick, neutral standing slash, and crouching hard slash into itself for another repetition.

(1) = when a number is in parenthesis, it stands for ending the move early, specifically after the number of hits shown.  So if you see 236S(1), it means only allow the first hit of 236S to execute before continuing into another move.

JC = jump cancel, ending a move early by jumping out of it

DC = dash cancel, ending a move early by dashing out of it

DJC = double jump cancel

SJC or HJC = super jump cancel or high jump cancel

IAD = instant air dash, air dashing as close to the ground as possible

RC = rapid cancel or roman cancel, usually a stand in term for any technique that returns the character to neutral in exchange for spending some kind of resource

CH = counter-hit. Notes that the combo only works when the first move interrupts an opponent’s move

OTG = notes that the move shown will hit an opponent while they are knocked down or (O)n (T)he (G)round

TK = tiger knee, a technique to perform aerial special moves very close to the ground. Instead of jumping before executing a move, a tiger knee’d move performs the jump after all directional button presses. For example, a tiger knee’d fireball would be 2369P. The up forward input at the end of the command puts your character into the air, but the game still parses the rest of the command input, allowing you to do special moves very close to the ground

Whiff = when used in parenthesis next to a move input, notates that the move must not hit or make contact with anything. Usually used with moves that move a character in a certain way, or quick moves that work as makeshift cancels

Step = used to notate a short walk forward in order to adjust your position before the next attack in a series. Step back is used to note a short walk backward

Adjust = used to note that the player will have to adjust their positioning before the next move. The exact way the player has to adjust will differ depending on the situation

(X) = notes that X is optional. 236A(->236B) means there is a follow-up to the first quarter circle that is not necessary to continue the combo

Ender, opener, filler, special combo, etc. = usually notes the usage of universal combo strings that open, end, or fill a combo space. These usually mean that you can use any suitable ender, opener, etc. at the point in the combo they are noted

EX = notes that meter must be spent on a move to create an EX version of the move