DMC4 vs Ninja Gaiden2

Can you explain why DMC4 has more depth than Ninja Gaiden 2 despite NG2 having dramatically larger movesets and more weapons?

Y’know, I could pull out my copy of ninja gaiden 2 sigma (I don’t have a 360, I know sigma 2 sucks, but it’s all I have), and try out all the moves available and write down their unique effects, but I’m going to take a gamble and refer back to my bayonetta answer for this question.

Most of the combo sequences in Ninja Gaiden aren’t very different in function, because you only get access to unique moves at the branching points between the combo trees, which is usually at the end of the combo chain. This means that you get access to functionally unique moves at the point when you’ve already hit the guy into a combo, so it doesn’t matter as much that it’s functionally unique, because they’re not doing anything anyway. What’s the functional difference between many of these moves? The speed across which the combo takes place and the damage. You need to start with the same openers for the majority of these.

Beside that, many weapons overlap in movesets, having similar moves as the other weapons, except with the range, speed, and damage slightly modified. You also are not capable of changing them except by going into the menu, so you are bound to 1 weapon’s moveset at a time, meaning that the depth of these multiple weapons increases linearly, rather than exponentially. Depth ideally increases on a logarithmic/exponential scale, akin to how we measure sound amplitude in decibels. Increasing the amount of content leads to linear increases in depth, increasing the interaction of content creates exponential increases in depth.

What does this mean? This means that functionally, many of the NG2 moves are redundant or close to redundant. There isn’t a significant differentiation in states. Do you question which combo you will use when you play? Are there significant differences that draw you to certain combos over others situationally when they have the same opener? I did not encounter this when playing Ninja Gaiden 1, I do not anticipate this being different in Ninja Gaiden 2. Some combos were clearly more efficient, occasionally less efficient ones had a useful purpose (like guard breaking), but I found that only a small handful of the range of combos available was really useful.

In DMC4, there are very few combo chains. Most moves are activated in one button press. You have access to all of your weapons and styles simultaneously. This design style allows moves to be extremely diverse in functionality without having to all trace back to one root move. It’s like how fighting game combos work. Rather than just having pre-determined sequences that combo, characters in fighting games have a ton of moves they can use at any time that have a variety of applications in the neutral game, then rules for how they can be fit together in a combo. You can use the shoryuken at any time. You can super at any time. Ramlethal in Xrd has some preset combo sequences on P and K, but other moves that can be used at any time too. NG and Bayo lack this and suffer for it if you ask me.

Conversation lifted from here:

Uh, wow. I’ve heard Icycalm once say that DMC is just about rotating the moves you use, but I didn’t think anyone else believed that was all there was to it. Sure, you can do that, and that is an efficient way to build up style points, but first off, that doesn’t always combo, and second, you don’t always want to rotate moves like that. Especially in DMC4, where you have a lot more options with Dante at once than the 4 or so necessary to avoid staling the style meter. Like, just because rotating the moves builds style meter doesn’t necessarily mean you want to just rotate the moves. I have beaten NGS1 by the way, and done half of NGS2.

The thing with DMC is, you don’t have many combo strings. You have a bunch of moves that you can use at any time. Every weapon usually has like 2 or 3 ground strings, but what makes it cool is that you have these moves you can access at any time, usually forward + attack, back + attack, and a modified version using a style, plus forward and back on the style too. Because you have all these moves you can pull out at any time, building combos in DMC is more a question of, “How can I get this move to fit into this one?” and “what other moves can I get this move to lead into?” Where building combos in Ninja Gaiden is more like, “Does this combo string launch at some point in it? Yes? Throw shuriken right then, and do a different combo string, or the same one again.”

So then you get situations like someone using million stabs, which normally launches enemies away at the end of the move, then canceling it with royal guard before it completes, so they can do another million stabs like 5 times in a row. In the air, you can use aerial rave with dante, but it has a natural ending to it which you can’t combo after. You can extend your combo here by switching to darkslayer style and hitting them once, but not twice because the second hit launches, and then switching back. Or with vergil, you can launch enemies, but time a summoned sword to hit them exactly after they’re launched, which halts their air velocity, so they’re not pushed too far away for your next move. You get situations where people literally fly through the air, never touching the ground as they fight enemies, purely through air dashes, teleports, and jump cancels.

Here’s 3 combo videos for comparison in the different styles of play between these players:

As for the range of moves in DMC4, you should find it across these pages:

Rebellion: 14
Gilgamesh: 13 (not counting how you can charge individual moves of the standard ground combos)
Lucifer: 11
E&I: 5
Coyote-A: 6
Pandora: 7
Trickster: 5
Royal Guard: 7
Darkslayer: 4

These add up to 72 individual moves. DMC3 has a lot more, but no switching, so I don’t think it can be counted as neatly. It also has more overlap between moves. I don’t think there’s really any repetition between these in DMC4, except that the ground chains can be kind of similar across weapons.

DMC allows more ready access to individual moves, and more ways to interrupt moves with other ones, thus there is more interaction between elements, as per my 4th rule of thumb criteria for depth. I’d also personally say the moves are more differentiated, there is a reason to use all of them and none of them totally overlap. This is a bias towards the moveset design, the enemy design in the NG games is clearly fantastic, but I tend to focus on player character mechanics first because it is simply how I lean.

DMC3 has more moves total than DMC4, because it has more weapons and styles, and the styles have more options, some were outright removed from DMC4. DMC4 just has more simultaneously, which was rectified recently with the style switcher in DMC3. The weapon switcher is coming I hear, which will make DMC3 great, except for the simpler enemies. Can’t win ’em all.

I personally consider God Hand the best 3d action game in the canon just because it has the best balance of moves to enemies and no significant fuckups. DMC is where I’d like the character movesets to be, Ninja Gaiden is where I’d like the enemy aggression to be (though diversity in function could use a little work).

8 thoughts on “DMC4 vs Ninja Gaiden2

  1. treeghettox August 4, 2016 / 7:48 pm

    Yes, God Hand is the shit. I applaud Clover for focusing on all the right things, presentation be damned. It has perhaps the worst backgrounds I’ve ever seen in an action game, and that’s fine, because they emphasized shit that matters over non-interactive inanimate objects. It has a fuck-ton of enemies and moves.

    However, as I’m sure you know, God Hand has a “perfect” combo that’s immediately accessible from the start that beats everything apparently. What do you think about this? I’m fine with it, personally; Final Fight and its derivatives (Streets of Rage, namely) also have infinite combo tricks that sort of ruin the challenge. I feel that most people playing these games have a sense of personal pride so they refuse to use them, and lesser players can “beat the game” by essentially cheating the whole time. It’s definitely a blemish, but I don’t think it ruins the game.

    Also, I know you don’t really like Final Fight, but did you know most of the enemies in GH are a reference to Final Fight enemies? The ones that aren’t references to Fist of the North Star enemies, that is.


    • Chris Wagar August 5, 2016 / 5:59 am

      Yes, the high side kick wall lock. Get any enemy next to a wall and you can loop them to death. It’s a blemish, but you can just tell yourself it’s off limits. I used to be a lot less accepting of that type of thing when I was newer to this, but I’m fine with self imposed rules for single player games now. If that were in a multiplayer game it would be a definite blemish. Unless it’s hokuto no ken I guess.

      Didn’t know they were final fight references. Though I suppose that one guy with the blue mohawk is pretty obvious.


      • treeghettox August 5, 2016 / 7:46 pm

        Oh, I wasn’t even talking about that. I can’t seem to find the video anymore, but there’s apparently a perfect combo that beats all enemies that can be done with the default setup when you start the game. Of course, it involves the guard breaker, but I forget other details because I never used it out of pride.

        I think a good solution to this kind of thing is for the game to detect that you’re using bullshit like this (obviously this requires a lot of foresight that might not be possible, but hey, new games can be patched) and give you a shitty ending if you even used it once. If you’re cheating just to see the ending, you should be denied the satisfaction. Somewhat related is the anti-piracy on Earthbound. It lets you get to the final boss and then deletes your saves and ends the game right before you fight him.


        • closelywatchedframes August 6, 2016 / 1:34 am

          I hadn’t heard about that anti-piracy measure in Earthbound, that is brutal lol.


          • Chris Wagar August 6, 2016 / 2:28 am

            I’ve heard about it before. Nintendo still puts anti-piracy measures in some of their more modern software actually, it’s just more subtle. I remember dealing with anti-piracy stuff on a lot of DS games, like when I was playing the japanese version of Pokemon White, it had black sections of the map and would crash a lot until people patched it to be more stable and generally ignore the anti-piracy shit.

            Also a pixel art comic I used to really like, Kid Radd, had a joke about this during the arc where they went into an earthbound parody.
   (context is the final boss is only supposed to be beatable by using a buff spell that most players ignore, but they just did so much damage that it got past the normal limitations)

   (this is the fight if you want a little more context, if you want a lot more, then read the comic, it’s a nostalgia classic for me, only renders totally correctly in firefox though for reasons)


        • Chris Wagar August 6, 2016 / 2:22 am

          Huh. I don’t remember that one. Though if you need to get a guard break on someone then it doesn’t sound very perfect.

          I think the solution isn’t to do that, but just to have better failsafes for bullshit. Fighting games can’t predict everything, but they have failsafes in place to make sure nothing too bad gets past usually. You could have progressive gravity, damage scaling, move specific proration, stale moves, enemies that can burst out of hitstun, an undizzy system, enemies that steadily drift in different directions like a tony hawk balance challenge, or a full-blown infinite prevention system if you really want to.

          Retroactively patching single-player games to get rid of infinites is bad form. It’s good form for a multiplayer game, but with a singleplayer one I think you ought to let the dice lie where they land instead of cooking up a whole bizarre punishment at the very end of the game just to spoil the experiences of people using an exploit you didn’t catch. By all means, patch out the exploit, DMC4 did this for a couple exploits, but don’t punish people for exploiting it. Even better, try to find a way to allow it, but make it fair.


  2. Santana January 5, 2020 / 12:17 pm

    “characters in fighting games have a ton of moves they can use at any time that have a variety of applications in the neutral game”
    I think that’s the main problem of DMC and hack and slashes general. 99% of moves don’t have applications outside combos. In that regard DMC is exactly like NG. The difference lies in combo game.
    I don’t know if this problem extends to other single-player genres. Judging by my classic fps experience, even there I used only melee shotgun, mid-ranged assault rifle, splash damage rocket launcher and occasional high-damage low fire-rate railgun or something like that. Everything else felt redundant relative to the situations you found yourself in.


    • Santana January 5, 2020 / 12:28 pm

      I mean, not every move in DMC should have practical use in “neutral game”, but I think the situations a player can find himself in in that neutral game should definetily be expanded. Otherwise, they would be neutral-redundant and only have some combo purpose.


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