Spectacle fighting games are one of the most underrated genres in terms of depth of mechanics. Games like God of War, Devil May Cry, and Bayonetta build their combat systems to be similar to fighting games, but the biggest difference is the number of enemies and the area upon which the fight is taking place. Being spatially aware of what is going on around a player is also important as an attacking enemy or map hazard may be present. With the combo systems, the flow of the game and awareness of the area around the character in comparison to fighting games becomes more and more similar.
Akin to games such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, or Dragon Ball FighterZ, spectacle fighters usually have set combos, whether it be chaining light attacks into heavy or just using a chain of any one kind of attack. Often these combos can lead to area-of-effect attacks that can damage many opponents in one area or more defensive attacks that surround the player.
Other moves may launch an enemy into the air and have the player follow. Many of these moves are similar to games such as Marvel vs. Capcom that have a focus of chaining a hit into launch the enemy into the air and then continuing a combo up high. The power of performing a launching combo is that it can help avoid attacks or enemies in both styles of games.
In Marvel vs. Capcom, a launch attack with a follow up can avoid an assist or persistent attacks such as a mine or slow-moving projectile, while in a games such as God of War these tactics can be used to avoid getting grouped up on by more monsters while singling out one tougher opponent.
The same can be said for area-of-effect; while they are not always the strongest move, they can be used to disrupt movement and the flow to get a break leading to reassessing a situation. Again, the same can be said for an attack that sounds the player; not always being the strongest can be used to halt many enemies from attacking at once, or stopping an opponent for attacking from behind.
A major part of creating combos is knowing how moves can be cancelled into one another. Usually, the anime style fighting games such as Guilty Gear, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Undernight In-Birth focus on ‘cancels’ to perform combos; the same can be done in many other games also. Being able to perform cancels in both genres is important.
If an enemy in a spectacle fighter is supported by others, cancelling a combo into a launch attack with follow up may be the best bet to single out and avoid monsters, followed up by a dropping area-of-effect attack and then a movement ability can be a great way to reposition to a more advantageous area to continue the fight. At the same time, this move is powerful in a fighting game as air combos are much harder to defend against, and being able to continue them once on the ground can be a make or break situation of a fight, as it allows time for an opponent to reset.
I-Frames or Invincibility Frames come hand-in-hand for both styles of games. While finishing a combo or attack, many enemies in both will have an invincibility time so they can get up and reset. Normally these moments are quick but, if not paid attention to, can end up turning a battle. These moments are when the fight goes to a reset and both parties need to reassess and gauge how to continue.
This can also be said when the player gets the I-Frames as it is a way to reset or to launch a counter-attack in both games. However, understanding the Invincibility Frames is just the tip of the iceberg when understanding frame data, while also being some of the most important pieces of game data to understand.
Spatial awareness is important in both spectacle fighters and fighting games. Games such as Tekken, Dead or Alive, and Soul Calibur have a heavy reliance on map interactions, whether that is a breakable floor to continue combos and deal damage, wall splats to continue combos otherwise not doable, sending an enemy to another area and changing the arena, or knocking an opponent out of the ring for an instant win.
The same is important with the spectacle fighters; knowing where to stand, how to avoid and in which direction, and how to interact with an area can be very important. When getting trapped in a small corridor, different attacks and movements may be better to use while open areas may focus on more area-of-effect moves. Knowing where map hazards are and how to interact with them are important for staying alive, being able to kill enemies instantly, or getting the upper hand.
Boss battles have more of a similar flow to a fighting game, as reading the pattern of the opponent and capitalizing on their mistakes is how to play in both; whether the pattern is supposed to be the fight in a spectacle action game or not, that tactic is important. Spatial awareness also comes in as an important factor in battle because a boss battle has a wider range of attacks and more special attacks.
While games like Dark Souls may not be the traditional spectacle fighter action game like God of War or Devil May Cry, the games have a heavy emphasis on fighting game systems incorporating defence, timing, awareness, and offence. Waiting for the right opportunity and capitalizing on the moment is important.
The power of the spectacle fighter action games is that they offer rewards for combos and creative play, such as in Devil May Cry, which provides a rating and bonuses to creative play and long combos that do not repeat the same attacks, helping push players to understand the many different possibilities to battle and to make them get better at the game. Meanwhile, games such as God of War do not reward the player in the same manner but help add depth and fun to the game, allowing the developers to create more varied battles and intricate enemies. Bayonetta is another example that rewards players for creative combos and varied play.
Many moves in the spectacle fighter require specific button inputs, just like a fighting game. Being able to pull certain attacks at the right time to continue a combo is important and takes practice. The moves are not able to be picked up and executed right away; they take practice, experimenting, and patience, but once the skill is present, the game becomes more enjoyable as the player can assert more dominance on the enemies and help to gain meter for various abilities.
Tekken, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Soul Calibur, and many others have special attacks and rage modes, and the same is said for the spectacle fighter action game. As the player gets hurt and/or deals damage, they can charge up a meter to unleash a special attack, often being a finisher or used to deal massive damage.
The same can be said for a rage mode: Devil May Cry has the devil trigger state, and God of War has a rage mode; both give additional effects, new attacks, and stronger damage along with health regeneration, the same as fighting games. In these special states, new combo potentials are available and can turn the tide of a match; the same is with the special attacks as they can massively damage or kill an enemy.
Both styles of games have their positives and negatives, some more basic than others, but depth is considered with both games. Titles such as God of War, Devil May Cry, and Onechanbara often get called button mashers and lack any amount of depth.
While this point is true on easy difficulties, on harder ones the player will need to have a better understanding of how the game works to get the most out of it. The genres still offer depth if the player wants to delve into the game and find what makes them tick. Games should not always be taken at face value as the basic combos can only get the player so far.
Dragon Ball FighterZ, The King of Fighters 14, and Tekken 7 are good examples of having auto combos but they only go so far, are easily defended, do not deal much damage, and can use up some of the player’s meter when not intending to do so.
These systems are meant to help a player become actuated in the game, and introduce the flow, giving players of different skill levels a way to have fun. Similar to fighting games, understanding spatial awareness, mechanics, and combos lead to dealing more damage and safer situations. Both deserve to be delved into and understood to get the most of the games.