So right now, I'm playing Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening. It's a lot of fun and a very flexible and fluid system. It's doesn't seem as hard as people make it out to be. Enemies don't seem that aggressive as I thought they would and the only bosses really giving me a hard time were Cerberus and the mission 8 boss. All the other bosses, at least so far, aren't too bad.
But I'm not here today to just talk about Devil May Cry. I'm here to talk about the depth, challenge, understanding and appreciation of the combat offered in the beat em up and hack n slash genres.
Now, a lot of people seem to take for granted the combat of games such as these for their "monotony" and "repetition." I find these arguments null and void. One of the reasons why is because HOW the combat is presented towards you, the player, and the choices you have during combat. The most important thing to have in genre is the overall amount of choice you have. A perfect example of this is obviously Devil May Cry, mostly part 3. You have not only multiple weapons at your disposal, but also different sets of Styles to choose from. I was first messing around with Sword Master, because an offensive approach was suitable to my style. However, during the mission 8 boss, I couldn't get anywhere with Sword Master, so I switched to Trickster, a more evasive and defensive style. And was then and there were the depth of combat came to be. Using different techniques and weapons helpd out in the long run and bosses like this encouraged experimentation. And not only that but being at the top of my game against this boss. It was not a simple thing to do and goes to show that the developers do want you to learn the system. Which brings me to my next point.
Challenge in a game such as these is an important aspect of depth. Probably one of the best examples of this is Ninja Gaiden, namely part 2, since it calls for much more flexiblity and experimentation than the 1st. Ninja Gaiden 2 was not only the game to bring me into this wonderful genre but also taught me a very important lesson in boss battles; understanding patterns. Genshin was the first boss to ever give me trouble. I probably died over 30 times on Actolye, ACTOYLE, even with the help of friends. I was pretty young at the time, but he still gives me some trouble to this day, even on Warrior. He is not an easy boss. He's quick, very aggresive, constantly attacks, has a good defense and can take a ton of your health away with quick combos. Understanding the mechanics of blocking while being on your toes was key to success. Understanding and utilizing moves such as the Izuna drop were key into bring him down. The reason why I put part 2 instead of part 1 is namely because of the amount of depth and flexiblity 2 offers compared to 1. Think about this, how many times during mission mode did you use a weapon like the Dabilahro or Lunar against Alma? They were useless since the only way to stun her was with a Flying Swallow, with the Dragon Sword. Ninja Gaiden 2 called for more flexibility because of the achievements of going through the entire game with just one weapon.
Another important aspect is the overall feeling of combat. Quite possibly the best example of this is God Hand, quite possibly my favorite game. The reason why this game is so fun is not just because of the combat, challenge or sheer depth, it's the overally feeling and sound of combat that truly gives it an edge. Every punch and kick sounds like an explosion and launching people into walls and destructible enviroments never felt quite as amazing as it is in God Hand. Using the Roulette Wheel on baddies is just pure fun. It also helps that the world of God Hand is just pure, unadulterated genius, being tongue and cheek with no sense of restraint all in a hilarious fashion. The bad guys in God Hand look completely ridiculous and retarded, so it only gives you more of an incentive to beat these baddies up. Facing street thugs, demons, midgets, dominatrixes, robots, gorillas in costumes and all sorts of other things give personality to the array of bad guys you'll be facing.
The most important things these games offer is the amount of flexibility and use of creativity in these games. God Hand calls for such by allowing the player to map any attack to the combo or other attacks mapped to any other attack button. Devil May Cry offers the style system, which allows players to learn the system and get that SSStylish ranking by doing a variety of moves. Ninja Gaiden is able to offer this by utilizing your enviroment to your advantage and using the moves available in a fashion in order to win and come out on top. Most importantly is the use of experimentation founded by the players that, for the most part, developers probably didn't do intentional.
Devil May Cry makes use of such combat by things such as Jump Canceling and use of Styles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebtGxzdHQWQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiEG3n6lMOY
Ninja Gaiden makes use of UT's, shuriken canceling and OT canceling:
God Hand makes usage of evade canceling, use of Roulette Wheels and juggles:
What I'm trying to get is that developers that DO care for how the game works put a lot of time and effort and most people just seem to scoff this away. This genre may seem like it's dying due to releases that are dumbing down gameplay such as Ninja Gaiden 3 and DmC: Devil May Cry for the sake of reaching out to a wider demographic. There are games out there that do offer complexity such as Bayonetta and perhaps even Metal Gear Rising. Games like God Hand, Ninja Gaiden 2 and Devil May Cry 3 are a rare-breed and it's up to us, the players, the people, to keeping playing and learn new techs and interact with the community to keep these amazing systems intact. Only time can tell whether we can improve upon these systems.