I think you’ve already expressed your dislike for Chain Combos, and while I understand where you coming from, I can’t imagine a way to totally get rid of them in 3D Beat em Ups without making the controls an abomination to use
Does DMC4 count? Or is that an abomination?
I’d say God Hand is a reasonable example too, it has 1 chain on square, then command moves on X, Triangle, and down + X/Triangle/Square. Plus it has hidden contextual moves on triangle that are just direction + button, and dashing attacks. Since God Hand lets you assign any move to any button, you have a fair number of moves that you could potentially assign. A chain + 5 command moves.This obviously isn’t the most in the world, but it’s a fair number of moves with no chains required.
So how do you get more moves? You need to dedicate more buttons to attacking, or you need modifier or moveset toggle buttons (or modifiers buttons that allow you to toggle movesets, like Nioh with the stance change button).
Modifiers are pretty simple. Moveset toggles are closer to abomination I’d guess. So the question is, how do you make the most of your modifiers?
The obvious modifiers are the lock-on button and held directions. These are probably the most intuitive. The lock-on button can modify which attack you do when locked on and off, the directions can modify which attacks you do when you’re locked on.
So basically, start with at least 2-3 attack buttons. Give them all a unique attack when locked off, give them a unique attack when locked on. Give them a unique attack for when forward, back, and sideways are held when locked on. Assuming you have 3 attack buttons, that’s 3 * 5, or 15 attacks. 10 attacks for 2 attack buttons. That’s more than God Hand and you’ve only used 3 face buttons and a trigger. If you forgo a jump/dodge button on the face, that’s 20 attacks. If you have moveset toggle buttons on the triggers, you could probably get even more attacks. Imagine all the moves get toggled at once, 3 * 5 * 2 = 30. Dante in DMC4 has like, 77 moves because of all the moveset toggles he has.
You could also have back to forward inputs, mash inputs (like crazy combos in DMC3), and even directionals when locked off if you require a back to forward, or a forward forward tap when input.
There’s a lot of ways to fit moves on the character that I think are reasonably intuitive. If you use tank controls like god hand, then you don’t even need a lock-on button.
DMC4 Dante has roughly 77 moves. He has 3 weapons, 3 guns, and 5 styles. 2 of those styles are extended movesets for his weapons and guns. 1 is a unique weapon, Yamato. 2 are defensive styles with unique moves, royal guard and trickster. I don’t expect Dante wielding Yamato to come back in the next game, so I’m going to drop this one.
So what tricks do we have for fitting in additional moves? One is obviously binding to unused directionals, including back-to-forward motions, which only nero uses currently. Forward-to-back motions could also be used. Then you could have different attacks for locked on and locked off, like nero’s devil buster/devil bringer. You could use 2 button commands, like Y+B and X+A. These could have a kara cancel window of 1-2 frames to make them easier to input. And you could have some moves intended to be used only at close range be context sensitive to distance, especially in cases where the command it overrides is only good at long range. The last is, if I really need it, moving the DT button to LS+RS, or just LS/RS. I think this is a bit unwieldy though.
To get rid of the style swapping on dpad, I need to move all the functions of the style button elsewhere. This means moving the extended movesets of gunslinger and swordmaster onto their respective weapons, which leaves us with a dedicated button for trickster. If I really cared to, I probably could combine the functions of trickster and royal guard into one button.
Imagine royal guard is back + trickster button. And royal release can only be activated either when you’re hit, or when you’re close enough to an enemy that it can actually connect. If you’re too far, then it’s trickster teleport. No one cared about the dreadnought form, so honestly it can be dropped.
Moving gunslinger functions onto the gun button doesn’t sound very hard considering most guns don’t have directional commands anyway. Put the shotgun stinger on forward + gun, put fireworks on lock off + gun. E&I is a bit trickier, because you’re supposed to be able to walk around while shooting them. Moving their commands onto gun + jump (X+A) seems like a decent idea. [EXPLAIN HERE] You could even bring back wild stomp by getting close and doing forward + gun. Pandora already has hidden commands for transforming, it’s not unreasonable to add a couple more, and maybe back + gun in the air for the Argument transformation (not that anyone really used that much). Omen could be changed to simply back + gun and Grief to forward + gun.
With Rebellion, make it so if you press swordmaster during a trickster dash, it switches into dance macabre and continues doing that sequence as long as you press the weapon button. The quick drive command, weapon + trickster (Y+B) could be made into the primary way drive is used, with it being chargeable to get the full blast, and being able to tap the weapon button to get the followups. The easiest change would be making it so helmbreaker is forward + weapon in the air, and aerial rave is just weapon. The one I have trouble with is prop shredder. I don’t see a good way to fit both parts of it in. The Shredder part could be a followup to High Time, but then you lose the Prop part.
Gilgamesh could have its swordmaster moves changed to Weapon + trickster (Y+B). None of them require repeated button presses. They’re all intended to be more powerful, so a slightly trickier command fits pretty well. Air version of Shock could probably be replaced with The Hammer from Beowolf.
You could do the same trick on Lucifer, but I think it doesn’t really follow. Most of Lucifer’s swordmaster moves are about repositioning the blades, which are kind of light moves without much impact. I think Ecstasy should be moved to forward-to-back + weapon, pinup to back-to-forward + weapon (since these two moves have more impact), Climax to back + weapon, and Bondage to forward + weapon. Discipline doesn’t really fit, so I guess I’m stuck with weapon + trickster (Y+B).