Combo (video gaming)
In video games, a combo (short for combination) is a term that designates a set of actions performed in sequence, usually with strict timing limitations, that yield a significant benefit or advantage. The term originates from fighting games where it is based upon the concept of a striking combination. It has been since applied more generally to everything from puzzle games and shoot 'em ups to sports games. Combos are either used as an essential gameplay element (more commonly), or used merely as a high score or attack power modifier, or simply as a way to exhibit a flamboyant playing style, not explicitly necessary for victory or survival.
In fighting games, combo specifically indicates a timed sequence of moves which produce a cohesive series of hits. The combo requires that an initial hit connects. This hit is then followed by an often predetermined sequence of other hits, each of which leaves the opponent unable or almost unable to block or otherwise avoid the following hit(s) in the sequence. Depending on the game design, a combo can have a final, sometimes special, hit or be infinite, limited only by the player's skill, patience or finger dexterity. In some cases, each additional hit has an increasing negative modifier, in order to balance gameplay, for example SNK's The Last Blade, Capcom's Street Fighter IV or Arc System Works' BlazBlue series.
The use of combo attacks originated from Technōs Japan's beat 'em up arcade games, Renegade in 1986 and Double Dragon in 1987. In contrast to earlier games that let players knock out enemies with a single blow, the opponents in Renegade and Double Dragon could take much more punishment, requiring a succession of punches, with the first hit temporarily immobilizing the enemy, making him unable to defend himself against successive punches. Combo attacks would later become more dynamic in Capcom's Final Fight, released in 1989.
The combo notion was introduced to competitive fighting games with Street Fighter II by Capcom, when skilled players learned that they could combine several attacks that left no time for the computer player to recover if they timed them correctly. Combos were a design accident; lead producer Noritaka Funamizu noticed that extra strikes were possible during a bug check on the car-smashing bonus stage. He thought that the timing required was too difficult to make it a useful game feature, but left it in as a hidden one. Combos have since become a design priority in almost all fighting games, and range from the simplistic to the highly intricate. The first game to count the hits of each combo, and reward the player for performing them, was Super Street Fighter II.
Types of combo
The most basic type of combo is simply one normal move which hits two or more times, for example Ryu's standing close roundhouse kick. Another type of simple combo is the jump-in combo, in which a jumping attack is immediately followed by one or more ground-based attacks (for example, a flying kick followed by a punch in Streets of Rage).
A 2-1 combo (an abbreviation for two-in-one combo, also known as an interrupt combo or special cancel) is a combo which takes advantage of the fact that after executing a normal attack in certain games, the player is able to immediately interrupt the animation of the normal to execute a special attack without having to wait for the former to finish.
The auto combo contrasts the Deadly Rave technique, in that unlike Deadly Rave which requires the player to constantly input correct button sequence for a complete move, Auto Combo move will complete itself provided that the initial hit from the move connects (so if the initial strike misses or is blocked, the move will only do partial damage or fail completely). Another defining feature of an auto combo is that during its execution, the multiple hit count comes from the fact that multiple moves are used, or in other words, an auto combo consists of normal and/or special attacks packed into one. An auto combo is usually a super/desperation move, an example being Iori Yagami's Yaotome. Such autocombos are sometimes referred to as "ranbus", the name originating from the Japanese words often used in the names of the super moves that are autocombos and translating roughly to "violent/boisterous dance".
A chain combo, first seen in Vampire/Darkstalkers, is a combo or a part of a combo that only uses normal moves or command moves. Although chain combos allow for a reasonable degree of flexibility, some characters (generally large ones) are unable to use chain combos. A typical mechanism for this is that predetermined pairs of moves can link into each other. In some fighting games (Mortal Kombat and Guilty Gear being prime examples), chain combos are an integral part of the game play, and are considered special moves.
Although 3D games have "chain combos" by this definition of the word, most players never refer to them as such, instead preferring to focus on strings which may have some sub-elements of chain combos within them but may have some non-comboing elements.
Sometimes fighting game fans only refer to a combo as a "chain combo" if it is within a game which has long and widespread examples of chain combos. For example, most Street Fighter fans described the chain combo system of Street Fighter Alpha as being discontinued in Street Fighter Alpha 2, even though Street Fighter Alpha 2 and other Street Fighter games still contain some combos which are only performed via normal attacks.
Alternative names for chain combos are: target combos, precanned strings, and canned strings. The latter two are generally misused (strings, by definition, are different from combos).
Super combos, sometimes simply referred to as Super Moves, are a more powerful and/or damaging type of special move, which usually (but not always) requires a full super combo gauge or available super stock. This term is usually only applied to Capcom games (particularly in the Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha series).
Super combos can either be auto combos, or chain combos. In the latter case, activating the super combo will usually make the character faster, enabling the chaining of moves that are usually too slow to be chained together. Some combos automatically go into a combo upon activation, such as a super projectile or a flurry of kicks, whilst some require the initial attack to come into contact with the opponent, such as grapple moves. There are also combos that enhance player strength, restore health and activate when attacked.
Other names for super combos include Hyper Combo in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, Overdrives in the Guilty Gear series and Desperation Moves in SNK games.
The super combo gauge shows stored power that can be used for executing super combos. It is also known as a super gauge or super meter (SNK games). The gauge charges up in different ways, most commonly by landing hits on the opponent.
There are many types of super combo gauges, including:
- offensive gauge, where the gauge fills with execution of special moves (and fills faster if the move connects)
- defensive gauge, where the gauge fills by defending attacks (and fills faster with protected blocks)
- manual gauge, where the only way to fill the gauge is by performing a move (usually holding down a button) that leaves a player open to an attack
A custom combo (also known as original combo, variable combo or excel) is a state, lasting for a limited time, during which any move or attack can be cancelled into and out of (typically including special moves). This can usually only be activated through using one level of a gauge.
A combo in which the victim is hit multiple times in midair. The move used to start the juggle is called a "launcher" or "floater." This was a type of combo which first appeared in Mortal Kombat and is frequently seen in games such as the Tekken series.
In most games "juggle combos" are only considered valid combos if the victim remains stunned for the full duration of their time midair. Lighter characters are generally more susceptible to juggle combos, as less force is needed to keep them in the air. In the recent King of Fighters games, juggling is supported by another feature called "wire", in which a character is bounced off a wall and sent back, ready for follow-up attacks.
Similar to the juggle combo where the opponent is held up in the air by successive hits, the Air Combo differs because the character performing the combo does not remain standing on the ground, but rather uses the first hit of the combo (usually called the "launcher") to propel his opponent into the air and jumps in pursuit to continue hitting in close proximity throughout the duration of the jump. Those following hits will often give the opponent additional air momentum to keep being juggled longer, and lighter character who are less affected by gravity (such as Dhalsim from the Street Fighter series or Spiral from X-Men: Children of the Atom) are often able to sustain longer air combos.
Not a combo in itself, a combo breaker is any move which prevents the successful execution of a full combination. In most games, any move which successfully strikes the opponent will become a combo breaker, however, in some games a combo breaker is a specific move which prevents a combo, often doing additional damage for breaking the combo. In popular culture, the term "combo breaker" is used to refer to anything that disrupts the repetition of a theme or, in the case of imageboards, meme, sometimes simply being announced in itself with the exclamation "C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!", which comes from where the term was first mentioned, the first Killer Instinct game. Another type of combo breaker appeared in Skullgirls.
Many other types of video games include a combo system involving chains of tricks or other maneuvers, usually in order to build up bonus points to obtain a high score. Examples include the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series and the Crazy Taxi games. Combos are a main feature in many puzzle games, such as Columns, Snood and Magical Drop. Primarily they are used as a scoring device, but in the modes of play that are level-based, are used to more quickly gain levels. Shoot 'em ups have increasingly incorporated combo systems, such as in Ikaruga, as have Hack and Slash games, such as Dynasty Warriors.
First-person shooter games can also have combo-like features (usually in deathmatch situations) such as the Unreal Tournament series in which a rapid series of kills is dubbed a "Double Kill" or "Multi Kill".
Combos in video game culture
Since combos have become an essential gameplay element, many players practice to create combos that are as long as possible. The average length of fighting combos has generally increased over time—whereas the average Street Fighter II combo was likely to be well under 10 hits, the average Marvel vs. Capcom 2 combo might contain 30 hits or more.
In some games, such as the Tales series of Namco fame, where extended combos are explicitly encouraged (via movement-facilitating mechanics and overlapping hitstun from multiple player characters, for example), it is possible to pull off almost unfeasibly long sequences of attacks. Combos may take a considerable amount of time to execute and include many thousands of hits. A subset of gamers aim to maximize the number of attacks in one combo. Such games are (ideally) designed so that excessive combos yield monumental benefits to the player, and are rarely played in a competitive context.
Some critics contend that the tendency to create longer and more devastating combos has damaged the competitive gameplay in fighting games, as advanced players abuse programming flaws, such as the relaunches in games like Marvel Vs Capcom 2 continuously to juggle their opponent helplessly. Other critics argue that, while simple combos give a game an offense-centric flavor, long combos equate to periods of greatly limited player interaction. The increasing complexity of combo systems, and the rules of fighting games in general, has been blamed by some for the decreasing popularity of arcade fighters since the early '90s.
Games with infinite combo possibilities
||This list possibly contains original research. (September 2008)|
- Capcom vs. SNK 2
- Devil May Cry series
- Dynasty Warriors 2 
- Dragon Ball Budokai Tenkaichi 3
- Final Fight
- FX Fighter
- King of Fighters (most notably '97 and 2003)
- Mace: The Dark Age
- Marvel Super Heroes
- Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter
- Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes
- Marvel vs. Capcom 2
- Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (also in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3)
- Tekken 2 with Yoshimitsu & Kunimitsu
- Tekken 5 with Steve Fox
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series
- Melty Blood series
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy
- Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
- Power Rangers: Super Legends
- Samurai Shodown II
- SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom
- Soul Calibur III – Only possible with Tira
- Street Fighter Alpha 3
- Street Fighter III
- Super Smash Bros.
- Super Smash Bros. Melee
- Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
- X-Men: Children of the Atom
- X-Men vs. Street Fighter (famous because every character has at least one infinite)
- Eventhubs - How Combo and Damage Scaling works in Street Fighter IV
- Jess Ragan (2006-06-15). "Playing With Power". 1UP.com. p. 3. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
- 1up.com - The Essential 50, Part 32: Street Fighter II
- IGN staff (2007). "The Top 100 Games of All Time!". IGN.com. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
- "20 Things You Didn't Know About Street Fighter II". 1UP.com. 2011-03-30. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
- "The making of Streetfighter II". Edge presents Retro ('The Making of...' Special). 2003.
- Internet Archive Wayback Machine