Fighting game translations: core terminology

On the surface, fighting game translations seem quite easy. A bit of thrash talk, some bombastic move names and you are done. Or maybe there's more than meets the eye?

On the surface, fighting game translations seem quite easy. A bit of thrash talk, some bombastic move names and you are done. Or maybe there’s more than meets the eye?


Like traditional animation, videogames achieve the illusion of motion by displaying discrete images, called FRAMES, in very quick succession (60 frames per second in most cases).


Each move can be split into three phases.

  • STARTUP time, when the move "starts" but still inflicts no damage
  • The active time, in which the character can "hit" the adversary
  • RECOVERY time, when the move "ends" but inflicts no damage again

Jab, Strong, Fierce Short, Forward, Roundhouse

Most attacks revolve around a high-risk/high reward system, where the most powerful moves are also those with the longest startup and recovery times, exposing the character for a larger number of frames,

From the weakest to the strongest, they are commonly known as:



The first two variations in this game of timing are CROUCHING and JUMPING, as they allow you to evade the impact area of an enemy attack (red rectangles in the diagram below) and approach his vulnerable parts (blue rectangles).


THROWS can only be used at very close distance but the sudden change of position plus their effectiveness against guarding characters can disrupt the strategy of the opponent. CANCELING refers to the process of starting a move, then switching mid-way to another one, adding an additional layer of bluffing and uncertainty to the game.


When not moving or attacking themselves, players can either stay IDLE or in BLOCK position.


If you are idle or in startup/recovery time when the adversary hits you, you will lose part of your energy and enter into HIT STUN.
If you are blocking, you will lose much less energy and you will enter the much shorter BLOCK STUN.


If your hit or block stun is longer than the recovery time of the attack used by your adversary, he will be free to follow up with another attack, creating a COMBO.

FRAME ADVANTAGE As the timing of each animation is constant within the game, you can chart exactly how much time the attacker will have before the player he just hit will be able to react.

In some extreme cases, as specific move (let’s say a jab) will have a substantial FRAME ADVANTAGE over a player blocking it. If the throwing time of that time is inferior, a player can be mathematically sure to attack undisturbed - as long as they can keep their pace


Alain Dellepiane

Alain Dellepiane @gloc247 08 December 2012
Alain is the founder of team GLOC. Want to read more about localization? You should probably try this blog's Best of, which has a dozen of the best articles ready to read. (View all posts by Alain ➜)

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