How come direct contact enemies are so good? Alpha Metroids in AM2R are so great, Konami slapped a sine wave motion to some faces and they are talked about to this day etc, they seem to create much better depth with character movement and abilities than a dedicated “press for iframes” dodge button
Contact damage is nice because it allows the enemy to block your way with their body. In non-contact damage games, you can hug up against enemies to run past them without much issue. It also knocks you back in the process of touching them (having no-damage knockback, accompanied by a shoving animation, might be a smart idea to make enemies better at blocking your way without contact damage)
The thing about contact damage is, it forces a confrontation. It allow the enemy to block your way. Enemies with contact damage can have a balance between either engaging them, or trying to bypass them, making both propositions risky. In games without contact damage, fighting enemies tends to carry risk, because your attacks naturally have weaknesses built into them, and trying to engage the enemy means exposing yourself to damage, so running past is generally a lot easier and faster. In games with contact damage, trying to get around the enemy is itself a risky proposition, you might take damage in the process and not even get past them. So you now have the choice of engaging them to get past without resistance once they’re dead, or trying to get around them without getting tagged, and these carry equal risk of you taking damage, so it’s more of an interesting choice of which challenge you’ll tackle, rather than challenge vs cheese.
And yeah, when you have contact damage, then the movement pattern of the enemy itself can be a means by which the enemy threatens you, rather than just recognizing the enemy’s animations and pressing dodge at the right times.
I wouldn’t say this is strictly more deep, because time is also a spectrum that can be harnessed for depth, but it’s a lot easier to harness movement and positioning for depth than just raw time. Movement and positioning is a lot more concrete to most people, where time is more abstract. Plus, if you’re clever, you can design games that use the modern pattern of no contact damage + timed attacks, and have it make use of space, by having things stay active for a number of frames and sweep across an area, so you gotta dodge the right direction.