Issues/Joys of Parrying

I’ve been thinking over parrying a bit passively and here’s some more thoughts on it.

The issue with parrying is that it is its own system by itself, which can beat anything the game throws at you.

In games where parries can beat any attack, the only system you need to learn is parrying. Parrying in most games has no element of spacing, only the element of timing, so you tend to lose out on a lot of the dynamic spacing challenges that go on in a game, reducing the game to just a timing challenge. A tough timing challenge, but just a timing challenge.

3rd Strike limits this by making it so parries lose to throws, and so there are 2 types of parries, high and low, and most attacks can only be beaten by the right parry. This means that you can’t parry correctly all the time, so you need to fall back on the other game systems to defeat your opponent. This is especially true because 3rd strike is a multiplayer game. Attacks come out in less than 15 frames routinely (average human reaction time), so parries need to be performed pre-emptively versus most attacks. Also opponents can deliberately mess with their timing to screw over your parry attempts (where this wouldn’t really be fair in a single player game unless there was a clear telegraph for early versus late attack, which might frankly not be a terrible idea). So you need to commit to a parry timing, and you get locked out from parrying if you don’t get that timing. There are a lot of situations where they can attack you super early or super late, and that becomes a mixup in of itself. You can only commit to parrying either early or late, and they need to guess which it is. And of course if they’re attacking super late, then you can poke and blow up their attack.

In Single Player games, for parries to not be overpowered, they need to not be a one-stop solution for everything. They need to not be a one-stop solution for any particular type of thing either. There need to be limitations on them that make them situationally inferior to other options so that players need to use the whole system instead of exclusively the parry system.

There’s a lot of ways you could potentially do this, such as making parries more spacing dependent, with different per-attack spacings. They could have drawbacks relative to other moves. They could be limited in how many times you can use them (like bloodborne quicksilver bullets), or they could only be allowed to be used after setting up another condition using the other systems.

You mentioned their were downsides, in terms of design, for the parrying mechanic in SF3. Can you elaborate as to what is wrong with parrying?

Okay, I’ve done a number of asks on parries, with both their upsides and downsides. I like parries, but I also think they’re overhyped. Third Strike is still my favorite Street Fighter and parries are a big part of that, but parries can be pretty stupid, like with SGGK, a 3-way option select that beats pretty much everything (the acronym being a japanese pun or something to the effect of, “sugoi guard that even eats kicks”, the exact meaning is lost to time).

There’s a lot of old-guard people in the FGC who dislike parrying and their reasons are semi-legit. (republish of an old seth killian article that isn’t up on shoryuken)

Their points are legitimate, but exaggerated.

This is ultradavid covering a match in 3rd strike and he goes over some of the strategy involved with parrying, like how people will intentionally throw attacks early/late to catch people off on their parry timings. Then of course there’s high/low parry mixups, and parry/throw mixups, because 3rd strike got the parry design down pat (early SFIII versions let a ton of attacks get parried with just the down parry). Then Yatagarasu went on to make an even better parry design that the whole game is built around and a few of the kinks and option selects were worked out. Also no character in that game is immune to the increased penalty damage for a mistimed parry like chun is in 3rd strike for no reason whatsoever.

In an older ask on this topic I pointed out how much projectiles are still used in third strike even if they did significantly nerf projectiles.

However frankly, parry systems are cool. They’re fun. They’re skill intensive. They just also have drawbacks, especially in single player games, since they can become the sole thing you use if they’re too easy and too powerful. And given that they need to have a certain amount of reward to balance out how difficult they are, they usually end up overpowered. It’s not the type of thing you can feasibly balance really.

So Royal Guard is cool, especially because it does have utilities for canceling other attacks and isn’t a one-trick pony, but if parries aren’t designed with limitations, then they can end up being the only thing players do, which is kind of lame (even if it’s also kind of cool).

I think parries are nice, they’re just overhyped by their supporters, and overemphasized by their detractors. I don’t play souls games with parries most of the time by the way. I like parries, but I have caution about them as a design element.

I remember you saying that Yatagarasu improved on the parry system from 3S. How so? Did they make parries a command with a wiff animation?

No, a lot of other games did that, but not Yatagarasu. Yatagarasu gives you a way to parry if you press with good timing without a whiff animation, which makes parries really powerful like 3s parries.

They made a 6 button game where you have 4 attack buttons and 2 parry buttons. One button for high parry, one for low parry. When pressed, they flash a light below the character’s health bar, indicating they just attempted a parry.

Juicebox wrote an amazing guide on the Yatagarasu parry system here:
and a video guide here:

The big thing this system does is get rid of bullshit option selects, like SGGK. You get locked out of parrying for longer in this game than 3s, and no character has an exception to the bonus damage for getting hit after a failed parry like Chun does in 3s. Plus, if you parry the wrong zone, or parry at the wrong time, then you can get hit with a parry counterhit, that lets people get bigger damage combos on you, like crush counter in SFV except a bit less pronounced. Or more accurately, it’s like Garou counterhits (with air counterhits adding juggle points, since I guess the game works based on 3s juggle points). So this means that parries can be mixed into other moves and don’t leave you vulnerable with their own dedicated animation like in other games, but they still have associated risks. Though one downside is they make it really easy to beat ambiguous crossups.

What do you like about parry systems in videogames?

I conceptually like the concept of an active perfect block. I think a lot of people do. It’s like, you can be perfect, you can fuck someone up, you can absorb anything no matter how strong, but only if your timing is perfect.

I like how parries in Third Strike don’t cost anything. I like that they’re separated by high and low, so people get that extra dimension of parry mixup. I like that you gain a little meter from them and can use them on fireballs. I like that you can use them multiple times to beat multihit moves. I like the kinaesthetic feedback of that little clash and blue parry flash each time you do it, and the way there’s a freeze for a little bit.

I like how parries in DMC build up a meter of stored damage which you can release into enemies, and even damage them more by parrying in the process of releasing.

I don’t really like soulsborne parries. They fall into that category of easy single player parries that let you invalidate the rest of the game with a timing check. DMC parries at least require you to parry multiple times for a multihit attack. Dark souls lets you parry at any point in a multihit string and just ignore the rest of the string for massive damage. It doesn’t have a proper counterplay with the rest of the mechanics. I don’t like mechanics aimed at turning up risk versus reward very much, because they tend to end up kind of one dimensional even if they’re thematically intriguing. Like, “oh, if you screw up, you die, but if you do it right, you cleave mountains” Dark Souls doesn’t have very fast enemy attacks usually, so it’s really easy to just learn parry timing on every parry-able enemy and ignore the intricate spacing/timing/stamina game you’d normally have to play. Bloodborne makes this easier by giving you a ranged parry and refilling your health on success, but at least you have a limited number of bullets so it’s not completely abuseable, you can only invalidate a certain number of enemies per area.

I like how blitz shield in GG Xrd will put the opponent into a counterhittable state, but that state can itself be canceled by using a parry.

I like that MGR has directional parries as its primary defense system and those can be canceled out of with offensive defense that itself can be canceled with blade mode.

And here’s a video of someone responding to Viscant’s post above, in detail:

One thought on “Issues/Joys of Parrying

  1. yujiri January 27, 2020 / 1:30 am

    I’d be interested to hear what you think of the parries in Sekiro and Jedi: Fallen Order, if you’ve played them.

    Sekiro’s parries (‘deflects’) are one-button, and don’t stagger instantly on tough enemies (but are easier to pull off). I initially really liked this relative to Dark Souls because one of my issues with Dark Souls parries was the way you have to choose up-front whether to block or try to parry, meaning you don’t get practice at parrying unless you specifically aim at it. When I was early in DS1 I knew it’d be powerful so I dedicated a lot of time to practicing parrying on the hollows in Undead Burg, which was kind of unsatisfying because I was playing a strat that I knew gave me way lower chances of winning to get practice. I prefer a system where playing to win and playing to improve are aligned. But at the same time playing Sekiro taught me to see something arguably unsatisfactory about one-button parrying: it leads to accidental parries, which feels kind of unearned. I never really decided how to feel about that.

    JFO is basically Sekiro’s combat system. The only real difference between how the two handles parries is that in Sekiro, enemies are opened to deathblow when their posture meter is filled, (and deflects just fill it much faster than anything else you can do to them), whereas in JFO enemies have much less stamina and emptying it only opens them to a few hits and then refills it (but it’s balanced so parrying is still really good).


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