Leroy is broken. Correction, Leroy was broken but they’ve now fixed him with a recent emergency patch. Emphasis on the word emergency.
Such was the backlash from the community that the developers had no choice but to patch him quickly after release.
The final straw was EVO Japan 2020, where the top 8 consisted of 6, that’s right, 6 Leroys. That was what I think really pushed the developers to do something.
When Leroy was first released many prominent YouTubers came out, like TheMainManSWE, and made videos saying the character was broken. It wasn’t until I actually faced off against one to know how true that statement was. You see, I hadn’t bought the character yet but I faced quite a few Leroys on his release day.
Needless to say, they all pretty much kicked my ass. From then on, I quickly learned how at a disadvantage I was whenever playing against Leroy. It wasn’t fun, it was broken.
Tekken quickly became a lot less fun and so I took a little break. I was worried, however, that I would stop playing altogether. At least until they patched the character. Fortunately, they did and I’m now back playing Tekken in all its glory.
It turns out, I wasn’t alone in this and a lot of people got put off Tekken because of Leroy. So I thought it would be interesting to chart what happened and how Leroy, at least for me, almost ruined Tekken.
My initial reaction
I remember seeing the Teaser Trailer for Leroy Smith and how exciting the Character looked. Although short, it showed how powerful the character was (maybe that was a sign?) beating, Law, Lei, and Feng with ease.
I also thought his overall look and story was really cool. A black IP Man who practices Wing Chun: What’s not to like? Of course, it also helped that I’m a big fan of the IP man movies, so there was that.
Subsequent trailers showed off gameplay of the character. The moves, parries, and combos. All good. Again, it looked really cool. Everyone seemed quite positive about the character. Despite the Uncle Leroy comments.
When Leroy was released
TheMainManSWE released a video on Leroy a couple of days after his release. In it, he talks about how Leroy is basically a boss character and how most of his moves have ridiculous damage and are incredibly safe.
This was the first indication for me on how overpowered the character was. But, of course, the proof is in the pudding and so I decided to go online to face some Leroys. And boy, did I ask for it.
My first encounter with Leroy was pretty bad. My opponent pretty much perfected me in the first two rounds. Now, I’ve been playing Tekken for years. I’m certainly not a bad player. But I was baffled by how ridiculous this character was.
Most of my character’s health was pretty much gone in an instant. Punishing Leroy’s moves were pretty much a no go. Even when I did try to punish, I would get parried and my opponent would be rewarded with a huge chunk of free damage. I made a semi comeback in the third round but to no avail and I, ultimately, lost the match.
It would be rinse and repeat in subsequent games against Leroy. I went on a pretty bad losing streak and ultimately had to put the game down and take a break.
How Leroy almost ruined Tekken for me
Over the next few days, I always used to dread playing online against Leroy. There were times where I would win. But those times were few and far between and were, pretty much, against inexperienced players. A semi-decent Leroy would, mostly, always kick my ass.
It wasn’t as simple, as going into practice mode and learning all of his moves and countering them. You see, Leroy didn’t really have any weaknesses. Even if you were to get his life down to very little, your opponent could easily make a comeback, especially with how high Leroy’s damage potential was. And I couldn’t pick him because then I would have an unfair advantage. He was literally the definition of a broken character.
This was pretty much cemented in the EVO Japan Tournament. This was a tournament that I was very much looking forward to. I was hoping to see Arslan Ash win again. Probably in an epic battle with Knee.
My hopes of this epic encounter were pretty much dashed when I saw how many Leroys there were in the Tournament. Pretty much all the big names were taken out by Leroy, including: Knee, Arslan Ash, and JDCR to name a few. And when I saw how Leroy pretty much dominated the top 8, that was the final straw for me. Even watching Tekken had become boring.
Leroy Emergency Patch
There was a similar outcry from the Tekken community and, shortly after EVO Japan, Namco released a patch that was specifically targeted at Leroy.
The patch mainly nerfed Leroy’s ridiculous damage. It also made some moves unsafe so that they could be easily punished.
Overall, the patch was good and made the character a lot more balanced and playable. Leroy is still, in many aspects, an overpowered character but at least now he’s not broken.
I also went back to Tekken shortly after this patch and boy was it a lot better. At least now I had a fighting chance against any decent Leroy. And I did. I’ve had some really good matches against some strong Leroy players and, this time, it’s not frustrating, it’s fun.
The community quickly rejoiced, and Tekken had now, especially for me, been saved.
Vietnam Flashbacks: Bob in Tekken 6
For the veteran players of Tekken 6, they may remember Bob who was also a broken character, similar to Leroy.
EVO 2011 saw a lot of Bob vs Bob matches, including the final match. Not only was it boring but it kind of also killed off the game for good. That was just before Tekken Tag 2 came onto the scene.
That’s why I was afraid history was going to repeat itself with Leroy – and that this character would be the final nail in the coffin for Tekken 7.
Thankfully I was wrong and we can all now move past this.
Why balance is important in fighting games
All online competitive games, especially fighting games, need balance in order for the game to be fair and fun.
However, I do understand how achieving balance in fighting games can be difficult for game developers and designers.
There are always going to be certain characters that are better than others. That’s why we have tier lists, after all. You can’t have all characters be the same, otherwise it would be boring.
Nonetheless, you can’t have broken characters. It’s like putting on a cheat code which makes you easily win. It’s not fun or fair.
The takeaway for Namco and Future DLC characters
I understand balancing is difficult to get right, especially in fighting games.
Although developers should focus on trying to make a game as balanced as possible, overbalancing may provide its own set of problems, such as making the game boring.
I think if the overall system of the game is solid then developers shouldn’t need to worry too much about balancing.
It’s only when a character, like Leroy, that abuses the system – that’s when developers need to step in. Fortunately, Tekken has a solid system and Namco were quick to respond to gamer feedback and provide a patch for Leroy.
It looks as though Namco did learn from this as well. The most recent DLC character, Fahkumrham, is not only awesome but is well balanced and not nearly as broken as Leroy.
Hopefully, this trend continues in future seasons and games.