Fighting games. A simple concept where you compete against your opponent to drain their health as fast as you can or before they drain yours. How it’s done is completely up to what the game gives you to work with, be it hand-to-hand or with weapons. Every fighting game has its unique quirks, from special meters to spacing to general speed, but one of several things that’s mostly unanimous amongst them is chip damage.
What is Chip Damage?
Chip damage, for the unaware, is what happens when the game does slight damage to you for blocking. The most common instance of getting chip damage is when blocking a special move (see above, where Ryu blocks Ken’s Hadoken). Chip damage is a tool that most fighting game players have access to. From what it seems, every major fighting game has it in some capacity.
The one varying factor is its degree of chip damage. Depending on the game, you can be dealing very minimal chip damage at all times or chip will be locked behind specials. For instance, Street Fighter V has an interesting system when it comes to handling chip damage. For every blocked Medium Punch, Heavy Punch, Medium Kick or Heavy Kick, the game will deal chip, but it recovers over time. However, specials and supers deal chip as normal.
Another factor of chip is what happens when you block an attack with no health. Most games refer to this as a chip kill. Chip kills are a divisive topic since it can feel like the game is punishing you for being too defensive. Harking back to Street Fighter V, the game only awards a chip kill if the player blocks a Critical Art with their health bar empty (see above).
That sounds okay since the player using the super is putting themselves at a meter disadvantage going forward. However, it can be seen as a rather cheap way to secure victories on final rounds. Mortal Kombat 11 has it significantly worse since every single hit does chip damage (see below).
Mortal Kombat 11 handles chip kills differently. On top of every single hit dealing chip damage, it has two defensive gauges. When the player is at one pixel and they block attacks, they can survive two more hits (known as Last Breath) at the cost of their defensive bars. Last Breath is a solid idea on paper, but there are so many specials that hit multiple times, so it’s almost misplaced being in MK11.
How Anime Fighters Handle It
Anime fighters are another subject altogether when it comes to chip damage. Many of the games in this category, more often than not, deal either very minuscule chip or no chip at all. However, chip in these games comes in significantly faster rates, to balance dealing nearly no chip damage at all.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is one such case where chip is not only minuscule, but chip kills do not exist. Chip damage in this 3v3 fighter is represented by blue health that’s recovered by either having Sparking active or the character being tagged out. The absolute lowest a player can go is one pixel before the mechanic does not affect them anymore. This is in stark contrast to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, where the game does lots of chip damage and chip kills exist.
BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle has elements from both Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Dragon Ball FighterZ, where it seems to do normal amounts of chip damage, but the game itself does not award chip kills. A rather extreme outlier would be playable character Hyde, from Under Night In-Birth. His Insulator sword deals chip damage on every single hit, which can lead to rather large amounts of chip piling up (credit: Gstep#5751 from the BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle Discord). Every playable character represented from Under Night also deals chip with their normals, but nowhere to the degree of Hyde.
Granblue Fantasy Versus is one of the outliers to anime fighters not utilizing chip kills. Not only do they exist in-game, they’re signified by big golden letters splashing CHIP DAMAGE across the screen. Granblue’s also a game where one touch can lead to putting the opponent in pretty significant disadvantage, and a character that also summons a raid boss (that can lead to pretty funny results).
Chip damage, overall, has a very mixed reception in fighting games, and it has its good points and its bad points. For one, chip damage itself can cause players to think on whether they want to be too defensive and face the consequences, or find a way around their opponent’s offenses. However, on the other hand, chip damage allows the player with the lead to gradually whittle away at their opponent’s life until the game kills them or the time runs out.
Chip kills, another topic of debate, have a more polarizing question on hand: Should it be allowed to stay in some manner, or should it be removed outright? Chip kills have the advantage of ending a game when the defending player’s resources are exhausted and they have no means of coming back. However, chip kills also have the caveat of being a rather cheap way to close out matches if the player has no options.
What do you think about chip damage and chip kills in fighting games? Do you feel like both should exist in some manner, or should one of those two factors be removed? What are your experiences and thoughts with chip damage? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Do you play fighting games online? Check out our article on netcode in fighting games.