This lesson is on analysing your own replays, analysing your replays is an enormously important skill to build when trying to improve.
It's especially useful when you are finding yourself unable to win and aren't sure why. It's still incredibly valuable when on a winning streak.
This lesson will aim to give you a checklist of different things to look for in your replays and some guidance on your mindset when looking them over.
Let's look at some quick tips for looking at replays before we get more in depth:
Watch replays regularly - Even if you have a clear idea of how you need to improve, I'd recommend watching your replays at least once a week and keeping an eye out for anything more important than what you're currently focusing on.
Turn on input display - You can either use the input display or the virtual controller, I'd recommend the virtual controller as it's a bit more clear. Watching your inputs carefully can help identify bad habits or defensive errors.
Acknowledge that you have the benefit of hindsight - We've all pushed a little too hard and eaten a reversal level 3. It's easy to criticise ourselves with the benefit of hindsight but there are plenty of things that WILL catch you off guard. You want to focus on consistent errors you're making, not being caught by off the wall stuff.
Pick out one thing at a time - Especially when you're just starting out, you'll be seeing a lot of small mistakes and there'll be plenty you're not seeing. Pick one that strikes you as important and fix it before moving on to the next one. As you get more confident, you might be able to make multiple changes at once but there's no rush.
Watch your opponent closely as well - You're not the only one in your replay, sometimes watching your opponent can give you inspiration as well. How are they doing the things that you struggle with. This step makes playing against pink squares an absolute godsend.
Watch wins as well as losses - Watching losses is the fastest way to improve in my opinion but watching your own wins is important too. It helps you find strengths you should keep, opportunities you can seize and is a solid confidence booster to boot.
Save your replays to a video format - When you want to look at a replay in detail, saving it as a video gives you a lot more control than the lacking in-game options.
Now that we have some mindset stuff out the way, let's jump into what you should be looking for. I've put it in rough order of importance but everyone is different.
The easiest thing to diagnose is your defence, whenever you get hit, try and work out why. It's pretty much that simple at this stage. You aren't aiming to never get hit by anything, that's just not possible.
What you ARE aiming for is to eliminate consistent weaknesses in your defence. You should be aiming to not be hit by the same thing twice in a row. This covers everything from Dragon Rush mixups to the pesky overhead moves like Cell's rolling crush.
The most common defensive errors to look out for are:
- Pushing buttons during blockstrings out of habit.
- Failing to stand up for overheads and crouch for lows.
- Trying to force your way out by holding up-back or mashing vanish.
- Failing to tech out of dragon rushes.
- Getting caught low while using deflect during a true blockstring.
- Making hard reads and mashing your response during their pressure.
- Not mixing up your recovery options and over-relying on up-tech.
- As you get more advanced, it becomes more important to use tools like deflect and guard cancel to escape pressure.
Movement is a lot trickier to diagnose than defence because it's so organic. The most common mistakes I see from new players are:
- Relying much too heavily on super dash, even if it doesn't get punished, it's still a weak option in many situations.
- Standing still and letting your opponent approach without penalty, always try and stay a moving target.
- Jumping or dashing when in range of your opponent's attacks.
- Staying too grounded or spending too much time in the air (a difficult balance to define, if you have a clear reason for doing either then you're fine, but look for consistent wrong decisions).
- Using a double jump or airdash and landing right in front of your opponent (very common and dangerous mistake that surrenders the momentum to your opponent).
The Neutral Game
The neutral game is a very difficult skill to learn and a difficult thing to diagnose problems with replays, here are some of my recommendations:
Make sure you're using your assists - Assist use is vital, even if you just throw them out randomly. Learning to spam them comes first, when you can do that, you can start to use them more economically.
Make sure you use neutral tools you've decided on in advance - Tools like using a long-range special into a vanish or a careful super dash into a fast assist. Pick some in advance and make sure you use them.
Look at your opponents neutral - A common complaint I hear is that players spend 80%-90% of the game dealing with their opponents block pressure. Watch your replay back from your opponents perspective and try to figure out why you end up blocking their pressure and they aren't blocking yours. Put simply, how is your opponent approaching you and what's stopping you from approaching them?
Pressure can be tricky to learn but is easy to diagnose issues with. If you've forced them to block, how did they get out of your blockstrings? The most common answer is that you leave a big enough gap for them to escape with a vanish or a jump. If that's the case, you may need to learn a true blockstring that forces them to stand still and block.
Another way they commonly get out is to just calmly block everything until you run out of options and can't mix them up anymore, this could mean there are a few things to improve in your mixup game, look for these options and make sure you're applying them:
- Make sure you're making use of the strongest mixups you've learned. It's easy to completely forget the fancy mixups you've practiced and go for simpler strings. To build the habit of applying your mixups, ban yourself from using a safe string and go for a mixup every time. Start with 2 that need to be defended in different ways and add more layers from there.
- A common mixup that is often forgotten is the dragon rush, it's one of the most important offensive tools in the game. Make sure you're making use of assist call > dragon rush as soon as the blockstun ends.
- Leave a small gap early in your blockstring to let your assists recharge, they won't recharge during a true blockstring so make sure you leave a small gap if one of your assists has already been used.
- Watch your opponent's mixups closely, this can help your defence a lot but can also give you inspiration for your own offence.
- Your pressure doesn't end after a knockdown, apply pressure as they wake up and check to see if they are consistently escaping it somehow.
Reacting to your opponent
Reacting to your opponent is the hardest thing to learn in my opinion, it can be tricky to spot in replays as well. Look out for these opportunities and see if you caught them in game:
- How many raw super dashes did you fail to block/2H?
- Were they using the same wakeup option over and over? Did you adjust to it?
- Did they consistently leave gaps in their pressure to let you escape?
- Did they repeatedly choose a risky option like vanish during your pressure? Did you adjust your pressure to catch them?
That pretty much sums up the main categories but there are a lot of small details you can find, here's a bunch of small things to look out for:
- Health bar management, make sure you swap characters out and make proper use of blue life.
- When swapping characters, check if you're covering with an assist or doing something else to protect your incoming characters.
- Keep an eye on your meter, make sure you're spending your bar.
- Going for the kill, do you have enough meter to kill a character but didn't take advantage of that?
- Assist use, I mentioned this above but watch your assist use, an assist that's unused can be hugely harmful.
- Challenging with buttons when you shouldn't be. Look out for the counter hit prompt, if you see that then your attack got beat, are you certain you should be attacking in that scenario?
- Wasting meter on excessive vanishes or EX moves, vanishing just for the damage it does is usually wasteful, save it for long range confirms or to avoid attacks.
Struggling to Analyse Your Own Replays?
I offer an in-depth replay analysis as part of my patreon page, complete with breakdown and training plan. If you are after something less formal, feel free to join our discord for pointers, discussion and sparring partners.