Game Philosophy: Combat Systems

Okay, guys, let’s get this whole “OMG I haven’t posted in a while” thing out of the way and simply get to this subject as quick as possible. Yes, I haven’t posted in a while, but to be honest I never was that great with schedules anyway. I post these things simply because I feel like it, and I’d prefer it if I don’t have to force myself into doing it. So be surprised all you want, but generally I’ll just act like I posted another blog just yesterday, otherwise I’ll sound like a broken record.

Now, with that out of the way:


Today’s topic:
Combat Systems

Alright, you know what’s coming:

Yeah, so much for not sounding like a broken record, but these two games are my big favourites for a reason.

Personally, I’ve never played any other game where the combat system has been as fluid and fun as these two game franchises.

You can say all you want about how God of War makes you feel like a god or Batman Arkham Asylum makes you fight flawlessly as the Dark Knight, in the end they just never got the “spark” that I felt when I played Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry.

Now of course, I have to wonder, why is that?

Is it the visual feedback of the attacks as they hit their enemies?


Maybe, but you could argue that Batman Arkham Asylum has the flashy comic-book-esque flashes that makes any comic book nerd cream their pants everytime they hit someone (seriously, have a doctor take a look at that…).

Is it the ability to free-form combo the heck out of your enemies?

Well yeah, it truly plays a huge part, but God of War has had a bunch of Combo Videos as well, and they generally look pretty good.

So what is it about Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry that spoiled me in the combat department compared to other games?

Well, personally it’s because of two things:

  • I felt in control
  • I constantly had to keep thinking on the fly

Batman Arkham Asylum and God of War plays on the idea that you’re this amazing fighter because you feel like a badass for defeating 20 enemies in one fight. Both of them accomplished that in different ways.

Batman Arkham Asylum created a very simplified control scheme, X is for attacking and Y is for countering. Sure, there’s also B to stun them and add more attacks, but generally the combat revolves around the first two buttons. There’s no combo list, you just keep pressing X again and again until you notice an enemy is about to attack you, in which you counter with Y. Batman’s animations are not in your control, it’s all context sensitive to the situation, Batman’s position according to the targeted enemy and which previous animation Batman happened to be.


Because of this, your control is less like you as a player specifically controlling the character, but more like you’re this cheerleader who calls out “BATMAN! BEHIND YOU! BEAT HIM UP! YEAH!! OH! TO YOUR RIGHT!!!”.

On the other side of the spectrum is God of War.

God of War specifically designed the weapons to have a very long reach.

One slash from your weapon would easily hit about 3 enemies.

Unlike Batman, Kratos has a combo list, and each of them has a specific combo. Meaning you have absolute control over what Kratos does (just ignore the QTEs).


But due to the long reach of your weapons, generally there’s no real thought put into the combat.

All the different combos don’t matter since you could easily abuse one combo again and again and nothing would be able to do anything about it. You have control, but you don’t think as you fight.

By comparison, both Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry have mechanics that keep you in control while still making you think on your feet.

With Ninja Gaiden, it’s the enemies. They learn about your tactics. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you will end up getting countered by them in no time.

The enemies also keep up with your thinking, because for every new tactic you do, they start thinking of ways to counter-act it. Because of that, it is very important that the attacks you do really have been well-thought out, and you as a player have the precise controls on how to do it.

Sure, in the end it’s controls aren’t that different from God of War, X is the Quick Attack, Y is the Strong Attack, B is the Projectile Attack, A is the Jump, etc. But unlike God of War, the weapons Ryu have have moderate reach. You have to be at the right distance to actually hit the enemies. You can’t just assume that hitting X will automatically mean you will hit the enemy 75% of the time.


Devil May Cry on the other hand goes the other way.

Where Ninja Gaiden makes sure the enemies keep you on your toes, Devil May Cry has a mechanic that encourages the player to keep experimenting with different attacks. And that’s the Style Meter.

The general gist is that the more you repeat your attacks, the less and less the Style Meter rises. Which means if you want to have a high score, you need to change up the attacks you do.

It’s a really small thing, but it really helps the player get in the mindset of the crazy character that Dante is.

The gameplay in itself is also made to compliment this Style Meter. Whereas Ninja Gaiden and God of War have set lengths of animations where you are generally unable to jump or cancel out of automatically (for example, for Ninja Gaiden you have to throw a Shuriken to cancel out of your slashing animation and for God of War you do it with blocking) Devil May Cry actively encourages you to change up attacks because Dante can go from any attack to another without generally having to wait for the animation of his previous slashes to finish.

This is how you feel in control in the combat with Devil May Cry, what Ninja Gaiden has for tactics and movements, Devil May Cry has for the ability to just continue with a totally new attack any time you want.


In the end, there’s a lot more to the combat systems than those two, but they’re the big things in my opinion that make these game’s combat system so enjoyable.

I know there are games like Dark Souls that probably has an objectively better combat system than even these two, but Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry in my opinion beats it by having the right balance to be awesome, fluid and most of all, fun.

Published by Huy Minh Le

Huy Minh Le is a Video Game Enthusiast, Movie Lover, Writer, Content Marketeer and regular TvTropes reader! His studies in Game Design, Art, and Writing has led to a very creative, yet analytical mind.

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