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[Whenever I personally witness a fight blocking will only go so far. Dodging and countering—using your opponent’s momentum against them—seem more effective and is generally more entertaining.]
Hack n’ slash and fighters have utilized blocking mechanics since the
beginning of time—err video games. Typically the character will put
his/her forearm or weapon in a defense posture. Incoming damage will be
minimized or avoided all together.
Good games add more defensive
abilities to keep things interesting. This usually involves a counter
and/or dodge feature. Enemies will also be given moves that are
unblockable. These mechanics are used to avoid one of the worst features
in hack n’ slash and fighters. I would like to dub this idea Mortal
Kombat Syndrome (MKS).
In the first Mortal Kombat a player could hold down
the block button while their enemy rapidly punched. The
animation would show the defender in the same animation until they
either let go or their opponent ceased their assault.
This wasn’t a big
deal a couple decades ago, but the same idea is illustrated in countless
video games today. Afro Samurai, Ninja Gaiden, God of War, Force
Unleashed, Wolverine, BlazBlue, Street Fighter, and Castle Crashers are
just a few examples.
These are all great games, and they have plenty of
other features to overcome their MKS. Yet there are still moments where
you put up your defensive animation and watch attacks bounce off.
I have completed Bayonetta. This action packed game has no block
button. Dodging is the basic defensive mechanic. This makes combat fluid
and for lack of a better term more realistic. Whenever I personally
witness a fight blocking will only go so far.
countering—using your opponent’s momentum against them—seem more
effective and is generally more entertaining. Batman: Arkham Asylum is
another game that ditches the block button. The Dark Knight can stun,
dodge, or counter incoming blows. The lack of MKS blocking is one reason
the combat feels fresh and original. I hope developers look at these
two successful tittles and adopt their defensive mechanics.
have yet to find a fighter that utilizes the no blocking mentality. I
also rarely play anything besides Blazblue and Street Fighter IV. These
two popular titles may have a character that specializes in counters,
but there is no universal move.
Dead or Alive 3 is the only game I’ve
played where each character has a basic counter, but there is also
blocking. I think it would be interesting to have a fighter where
blocking wasn’t an option. A counter mechanic would be the basic
defensive ability. I can imagine skilled players countering each other
for minutes at a time before someone finally slips up and gets beaten.
is not a series issue for many games. God of War III has very few
moments where you can simply hold down the block button. If you only
hold down block in Ninja Gaiden II you will be destroyed. In Blazblue or
Street Fighter blocking too much will bring on the throws. The
characters in Castle Crashers are holding shields so their defensive
prowess makes sense.
Yet in all of these a clever eye will notice MKS.
The main character will stay put in that same animation to block
everything from blades to bullets. I hope more games ditch the stiff
blocking pose and follow the examples of Batman: AA and Bayonetta. To
end on a cliché…sometimes less is more.