The chemical love combo

Chemical Love is one of the a signature moves of I-no, a character from the fighting game series Guilty Gear. The Chemical Love combos are one of the most complex things I ever had to master in a fighting game, and the biggest knowledge check I ever encountered just to be able to properly use a character. It took me days of trial and error to make it work for the first time. It's a great testimony about how older fighting games used to be humbling bottomless pits.

The basics

Chemical Love is a powerful move: when doing it, I-no flips herself into the air, does a front split, and launches a sound wave what goes almost full screen and knocks the opponent down (a very powerful thing in Guilty Gear as recovery timings are fixed and give plenty of time to prepare your next attack). It's counterpart is that his execution is demanding: a half circle backward then forward motion + Kick button (or →↘↓↙← → Kick.)

The Chemical Love. We can see the input motion is happening as the character crouches before the move happens.

But this move isn't just a standalone attack you throw out of nowhere, it's also a core part of I-no's combos. And that's where it becomes both complicated and amazing.

Guilty Gear XX provides a move cancelling technique called Roman Cancel. By pressing 3 buttons, it frees the character from what is it currently doing, while leaving its existing projectiles active. The basic version creates a red halo around the character.

A classic Roman Cancel.

Some of those cancels, when done during a specific time window that usually last 2 to 4 frames (32 to 64 milliseconds) and only exists on specific moves, are called Force Roman Cancel (or FRC) and show a blue halo instead of red. The Chemical Love has an FRC point, meaning it can be used during combo.

The Chemical Love can only be cancelled at a specific timing, creating a blue Force Roman Cancel.

But as I-no lifts herself in the air at the first frame of the move, cancelling it makes her fall to the ground before she can continue and attack. And as I-no does not have a traditional running motion, she cannot catch the opponent she just hit with the sound wave.

Chemical Love is cancelled, I-no falls on the ground, then dashes forward but is too late to continue.

Guilty Gear XX allows character to dash in the air, and I-no can do it too. Since we are canceling the Chemical Love, a move that lifts I-no in the air, she should be able to just air dash without having to go on the ground first, right?

The air, the ground, and the tiger

Well no. Because if the moves gives some properties akin to being in the air (like invincibility on the legs), I-no is considered on the ground, thus she cannot air dash. She has to jump first, then do the Chemical Love in the air, then cancel it with the FRC, then air dash.

Jumping and then inputing the complicated motion of the Chemical Love is near to impossible to do in such a short amount of time, which is why a tiger knee motion has to be used. A Tiger Knee motion means inputing the move motion, then an extra upward direction, then the button that triggers the move. By doing so, the game input buffer is tricked: it has the move motion in memory, but only triggers it when the button is pressed, which happens after the jump.

For I-no, it means doing a half-circle backward that ends with a up-backward direction that acts as a jump, then forward, then the button (or →↘↓↙←↖ → Kick.). By doing so, I-no does the Chemical Love close to the ground, but is considered in the air.

A Chemical Love done on the ground, then then done in the air using the Tiger Knee technique. The trail of dust indicates I-no jumped before doing the move.

Once the character is properly considered in the air and the cancel can happen and I-no can technically air dash, the player has to input a double tap forward extremely fast before I-no falls. It's almost impossible to do when close to the ground, so once again the game buffer must be abused. Instead of doing Chemical Love > 3 buttons > Forward, Forward, it's necessary to input Chemical Love > Forward > 3 Buttons > Forward.

This way, the I-no doesn't have the time to fall back on the ground and instantly air dashes outside of the cancel, allowing the combo to continue.

The final combo: Chemical Love done with a Tiger Knee motion, followed by Forward, then 3 buttons to cancel during the Force Roman Cancel Window, then Forward again, triggering the air dash, and then a few hits.

And that's it, that's all the basics needed to do a proper combo with I-no! But it's not over. Depending on the starter before the Chemical Love, the distance, and other factors, like the weight of the character, the remaining of the combo changes.

But wait, there's more!

There's actually another way of doing this combo! In Guilty Gear XX, there's a technique called Jump Install, which consists of making the game believe the character is both on the ground and in the air, allowing them to store a jump or an air dash until they go back to their idle stance.

The way it works is by using normal moves that are jump-cancellable, which means their recovery animations can be cancelled by the character jumping. But the animation of the jump can also be cancelled by another move before the jump starts, yet the jump still registers. Which means the character does an attack, cancels its animation to jump, then cancels the jump animation with another attack. Nothing on the screen indicates a Jump Install happened, it can only be seen after the fact, when a character uses the air dash or the additional jump, in a situation where it's normally not possible.

Which is perfect for I-no! If she can make the game believe she is in the air while she is on the ground, when she cancels the Chemical Love with the FRC, she can air dash without doing the additional Tiger Knee motion.

The Chemical Love combo using the Jump Install technique. Notice there's no dust trail, which means I-no did the move without the Tiger Knee.

That's all folks

This combo is an incredible knowledge check even by fighting games standards of the period. It requires not only to know how I-no works, but also to know some Guilty Gear specific techniques that are not explained in the game manual, as well as others, more generic fighting games techniques. Before the internet allowed knowledge to be shared more easily, it was near to impossible to learn this by yourself.

Today, most fighting games don't try put essential stuff like this behind a knowledge or execution barrier. For business reasons, they prefer to tone down the strength of the moves and reduce the complexity of motions, which makes the game more accessible, less punitive, and overall, more successful. Still, it feels good to do this combo in a real match. It's the same feeling as beating a hard boss in any other game. I miss this kind of feeling in more recent games.

Initially published: May 1st, 2023
Generated: May 2nd, 2023