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Lag Cancel
aka: Animation Cancel
In all Fighting Games, each attack you do has a "lag time" or "recovery": The amount of time after your attack connects before its animation finishes and/or you can begin executing another one. This limits the rate at which a player's character can throw out attacks in-game (compared to how fast the player can physically mash their attack button).

However, in many fighting games, a skilled player can interrupt or reset this recovery time by performing certain other actions (such as a blocking or dodge maneuver), possibly enabling them to launch their next attack(s) sooner than normal. These recovery-shortening actions are known as canceling.

For example, let's say that Mighty Glacier Bob has a special attack called Punch Rush, and that after it connects he is in recovery for three secondsnote  before he can do another Punch Rush. On the other hand, Bob can duck immediately after performing a Punch Rush, an action that takes only one second to perform, and it resets his recovery time. So, if Bob executes a Punch Rush and then Ducks, he is able to cheat the system a little and launch another Punch Rush after just one second of his first. And when fans discuss the whole maneuver amongst each other, they'll no doubt refer to it as his "Punch Rush Cancel".

This trope is almost completely ubiquitous in Fighting Games these days, though it is by no means exclusive to them.

It might also be worth noting that, when used in a platforming or action title, "dash canceling" or "jump canceling" combos can be used to make your character move absurdly quickly; though it may require frame-perfect timing, meaning that this can only be performed with any consistency in a Tool Assisted Speedrun.

Compare Re Stabilization for Knockback cancelling.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Fighting Games 
  • Street Fighter II is the Trope Maker. Specifically, the original cancels were a glitch that the developers decided to leave in as an Easter Egg. After word spread about these, and how they could be used, the very idea of the Combo was born.
    • Street Fighter III allowed you to cancel certain attacks with a super jump which allowed you to extend some combos. These carried over to characters with super jumps in Street Fighter IV.
    • Street Fighter IV allowed you to cancel certain special moves with a Focus Attack at the cost of some Super Meter, and then cancel that attack with a forward or backward dash. "Focus Attack Dash Canceling" (or FADC for short) became a very important part of the game's early metagame since it allowed certain characters to combo reliably into their Ultra Combos.
    • C. Viper in particular can cancel/feint her Thunder Knuckle and Seismic Hammer specials by pressing any two punch buttons. Some of her more damaging combos use these heavily.
  • Many cancels exist in Super Smash Bros.. The most famous non-character specific cancels is Z-Canceling/L-canceling in 64 and Melee respectively, where most air moves can be have the landed lag removed by shielding at the right time. Some characters in Brawl can cancel their fast-moving dash attacks with up-smashes, letting them keep their momentum far longer. Snake is known for this in particular, since he has a particularly fast dash attack and low friction. He can cross stages almost immediately.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has X-Factor, which will cancel ANYTHING that's not a straight cutscene. The catch is that it can only be used once per match. Some other noteworthy cancels include:
    • Morrigan can use Flight to cancel a Soul Fist (L or M) and then cancel Flight with Soul Fist H, giving her some zoning possibilities.
    • C. Viper can cancel three of her four (five in Ultimate) special moves just by pressing the Launcher Move button. The advantages of this vary depending on the move.
    • Dante's Bold Move is the only move that can be cancelled out of his Stinger move; Bold Move can also be cancelled into any special move if you're quick enough. Thus, many advanced Dante combos involve Bold Move cancelling out of Stinger and into other special moves. This can prove to be quite Difficult but Awesome.
    • Iron Fist can cancel his special moves into other special moves. Using this, he can chain up to three special moves together, having more options on the third move. The only catch is that he can't chain a special move into itself.
    • Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has Heroes and Heralds mode, which introduces some ability cards that allow players to cancel moves in ways not available in the normal game (dash cancel, jump cancel, special cancel, and so on), usually at the cost of Hyper Combo meter.
    • Tatsunoko vs. Capcom had a similar mechanic to MvC3's X-Factor called "Baroque". By sacrificing all of your current red health, you can cancel any move short of a Hyper Combo, which is useful for extending combos and forming combos with normally laggy moves. It also gives you a damage boost proportional to how much red health you had before activating it. Unlike X-Factor, Baroque can be used as many times as you want as long as you have some red health. Both games also feature Delayed Hyper Combos, where you can cancel a Hyper Combo by inputting the command for a partner's Hyper Combo during the first one.
  • In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, you can cancel dodges by attacking, and conversely cancel attacks by dodging.
  • Arcana Heart allows you to pull homing canceling, which causes the attacker to do a dash that homes in on the opponent after connecting with their attack.
  • Guilty Gear's unique version is called a "roman cancel". Roman Cancels can be used to cancel almost any attack in the game, which has many tactical benefits. They're very costly (half of a full tension meter) and only work when an attack hits, but each character has at least one move that can be cancelled at a very specific point with only 25% tension bar and regardless of whether or not it hits; this special technique is called a "Force" (sometimes localized as False) Roman Cancel. The latest game in the series, Guilty Gear Xrd, alters these mechanics slightly; in addition to a new version of Force Roman Cancel, attacks can now be Roman Cancelled if they miss, and successful use temporarily slows down the rest of the game. In a character-specific example, Jam's card abilities allow her to cancel certain attacks into an enhanced version of an attack that she created a card for earlier in the match.
    • Its Spiritual Successor BlazBlue has Rapid Cancel, which is effectively the same mechanic as Roman Cancel, but without the ability to Force Roman Cancel. Hakumen's specials can be freely canceled into one another, but only as long as his Magatama gauge holds out.
    • Fellow Arc System Works fighter Persona 4 Arena has the One More! Cancel, which is effectively a Persona-themed version of the Rapid Cancel.
  • Some fighting games take this one step further with a jump cancel cancel. You do a move, cancel it into a jump, then cancel the jump into another move before you leave the ground. It's easier than it sounds, you do the directional input for the attack, then input "up", then press the attack button before the game forgets the input. For example, to JCC an attack into a move with a quarter circle forward motion,note  you simply extend it so that you end with a diagonal up-forward input before you input the attack button for the second attack.
  • Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations has added in a new cancel called the Chakra Dash cancel, which is done by pressing the triangle button which activates a character's chakra and pressing "X", which is normally the jump button. This will allow any character to cancel a combo into another combo seamlessly, and is a good way to do a massive amount of damage in a short period of time, but takes out a bit of chakra to do, and can't be done anymore until you charge your chakra back up.
  • In Touhou Scarlet Weather Rhapsody/Hisoutensoku, canceling is an integral part of game play, as it can allow players to rack up mean combos. And the rules are fairly simple: you can cancel into more powerful attacks. So a B-button attack can be canceled at any time into a C-button attack, which can be canceled into a Spell Card.
  • Skullgirls has two invoked examples.
    • Parasoul has the special move "Egret Call", which interrupts the animation of whatever she is doing and causes it to end quicker. This allows her to fake opponents out by cancelling unsafe moves into the Egret Call and trip the opponent up while trying to "punish" the move as well as make moves safe that might not be otherwise. Egret Call can affect almost all of Parasoul's grounded attacks, including her most powerful Limit Break.
    • Squigly can do this via her Stance System. Cancelling a normal into a stance move and then quickly hitting another button causes Squigly to immediately come out of her stance and into a position where she can continue her combo or blockstring. She also has special shortcuts made specifically to facilitate this kind of canceling.
    • Skullgirls is also unique in the fact that the kind of canceling seen in most other fighting games can be done even if the move to be canceled completely misses. (In other fighting games, one's attack normally must hit or be blocked by an opponent before it can be canceled.)

    Other 
  • One of the more well known examples is in Counter-Strike. Most, if not all, snipers cancel the animation that plays after each shot for bolt-action rifles by double tapping the "switch to previous weapon" button. The same thing is used in Global Offensive to unscope faster, because both sniper rifles have two levels of zoom Secondary Fire toggles through.
    • Global Offensive made it so players slowing to a stop, and thus regaining weapon accuracy, take a fraction of a second after the arrow keys are released, whereas in previous games it happened instantaneously. However, pressing the arrow for opposite direction increases acceleration in that direction, thus if you tap that key just after stopping you regain full accuracy almost instantly.
  • In Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars, this technique is considered a critical part of the balance of the game, especially for heroes with ranged orb attacks i.e. Sacred Warrior, Netherdrake, Enchantress, etc. Drow Ranger's manual-casting of the orb effect plus animation-cancelling allows her to chase down any hero during the early game, even past towers.
  • In Spiral Knights, tapping the shield button will stop the attack animation short, giving a few extra precious pieces of a second. Interestingly enough, when doing this with swords, if you attack quickly enough after shield cancelling, it will be the first strike of your combo, and attacking immediately afterwards will result in the third (and usually final) strike of your combo. (Resulting in a combo of 1-shield cancel-1-3 rather than 1-2-3) Naturally, mastery of this technique is highly valuable in the later part of the game.
  • In Metroid Prime it was possible to cancel missile lag by firing your normal beam, allowing you to fire missiles at a much faster rate than normal.
  • Melee attacks in Borderlands, for both slow firing weapons (but not Sniper Rifles since you need to aim) and reloading (as soon as the magazine/clip is inserted).
  • In Dungeons and Dragons Online, tumbling moves (unlike regular blocking) cancel a melee attack. Many enemies in the game have nasty special attacks with longer animations. The fact that it's possible to instantly roll away from one of these, whereas blocking has to wait until the character's attack and follow-through is over (and both are safer than fighting while running), is one reason why many character builds go cross-class to get 1 rank in the Tumble skill.
  • The original Tomb Raider games have many different ways to cancel recovery times from different moves, and working out ways to fit them in using level geometry is one of the main parts of most speedruns for them.
  • Steel Battalion has clip dumping. Main weapons will have a firing delay after firing a set number of rounds-one for smoothbore cannons, three for rapid-fire rifles, and five for assault rifles. By holding down the main weapon button such that the initial weapon switch selects the desired weapon (it won't cycle after that) and hitting the magazine change button, one can cancel the delay-but weapons only get three to four clips maximum, with 20 to 30 rounds each, thus burning a lot of spare ammo for an extra shot in quick succession! Furthermore, it's a very frowned-upon tactic in the Line of Contact community and will likely earn the ire of other players unless specifically permitted before the match. (Matches likely to have voluntary clip-dumping could be one 3rd-gen VT like an Earthshaker vs. several 1st-gen V Ts.)
  • In a very rare RPG example, Wild ARMs 3 features an Animation Cancel. As long as you have at least 25 Force Points, you can cancel the move you just queued at that character's turn to move, enter another move and you will start your action without waiting. While not often used, it is important if you suddenly want to stop attacking the enemy for whatever reason (the enemy is preparing an instakill move, or a reflect barrier, for example).
  • A huge part of God of War's combat system is the ability to cancel Kratos' standard blade combos with a press of the block button, so if the player is fighting a Mook and his buddy attacks, one can quickly press the block button without breaking the combo.
  • Some classes in World of Warcraft can obtain a kind of passive cancel. One example is the Elemental-spec Shaman's Lava Surge talent. The damage ticks of Flame Shock, a damage-over-time spell, have a 10% or 20% chance (depending on the rank of the talent) to immediately end the cooldown on your Lava Burst spell. Since Lava Burst is guaranteed to land a nasty Critical Hit on a target suffering Flame Shock damage, this talent will provide huge boosts to your damage output when it's feeling generous.
  • Call of Duty games also have this. All firearms have their ammo count updated before the animation ends, so it's usually interrupted with a melee attack, weapon switch (especially the fast-switching pistols), or even just sprinting for a split second in CoD4 onwards. Especially valuable for notably longer empty-reload animations, like those of the light machine guns.
    • Bolt-action sniper rifles and pump-action shotguns also have two distinct timing values for their effective fire rates: the 'actual' fire rate of the gun, and the bolt/pump animation time. Quickly cancelling the second by double-tapping the weapon switch key allowed players to shave off fractions of a second off their overall delay - a tactic often used by more skilled quickscoping snipers. Later games make it so that the bolt/pump animation must play out, either doing so before letting the player switch weapons or forcing them to do it after switching back to that weapon.
    • Before Halo came out, most shooters didn't let players interrupt animations like reloading and attacking at all. Of course, even Halo forgot to let you cancel the Context-Sensitive Button 's making you slowly clamber into nearby vehicles.
  • Most of your attacks in Viewtiful Joe would cancel each other, noticeably so in slow-motion. It was very much Difficult but Awesome; it made an already steep learning curve even nastier by making you interrupt half of your own attacks, but once mastered it gave a great amount of control over shifting attacks very quickly. Infinite Slow Motion Uppercuts, anyone?
  • An unusual genre for this, Metal Gear Solid has the 'Quick Reload' technique. Normally when you exhaust a magazine you have to reload normally, which actually does take about two seconds; in a boss fight this is often about 1.9 more seconds than you have to spare. By unequipping and reequipping a weapon, it automatically reloads for you. On top of that, the manuals actually tell you about this technique. After the final boss of Metal Gear Solid 3 was made into a complete joke by abusing this technique, every Metal Gear since then has forced the player to take the time to let a reloading animation play out.
    • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, being a spectacle fighter developed by Platinum Games, naturally boasts a lot of this. There are three types of animation-cancelling. The first and most important is parrying, which can interrupt any of Raiden's attacks. The second is dodging, which doesn't work during the recovery animations for some of the more powerful moves but boasts invincibility frames and the ability to maintain your place in your combo. The last is known as "blade-cancelling," in which the player taps the Blade Mode button to make Raiden enter and immediately exit Blade Mode. This cancels the recovery animation for more attacks than dodge-cancelling and is much quicker, but this is an intentional mechanic rather than a developer oversight, so there are still a few moves it doesn't work on.
  • From Tales of Symphonia, we have Spell Cancelling, which allows five out of the nine available characters to more or less break the game by pulling off infinite combos.
  • This is sometimes used to train faster in RuneScape; an example is eating while fishing.
  • The Gundam Vs Series had an interesting evolution for this. In Gundam vs. Gundam, the Freedom had it as a unique special move (SEED Mode), which made it a Game Breaker. Gundam vs. Gundam Next made this part of the game engine under the name Next Dash, executed by double-tapping the Jump/Boost button. Gundam Extreme Vs. renamed it Extreme Action and made performable by double-tapping either Jump or any direction, making it a literal dash-cancel. In the cases of Next and Extreme, the move costs about 1/5 of your Boost Gauge.
  • Similarly, everything except SP attacks is cancellable in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam by dashing in any direction. It does however costs more on the heat gauge than regular dashing. On mobility-focused machines however, this makes them more than able to stand their ground against tougher ones.
  • In Metroidvania Castlevania games there are a few methods of canceling, the most universal being the back dash and landing. Many of the Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow souls and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin subweapons are AMAZING when canceled (Killer Clown, Dart), key for Boss Rushes. Dawn of Sorrow also has the Succubus cancel, which, when combined with a special dagger that temporarily moves you forward, lets you teleport though walls.
    • This started in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, where your backdash move had NO LAG. The designers wised up and added lag or animation time to it in subsequent games, but often a backdash still gives you a net gain, and landing still lag cancels in every game.
    • Even back in Symphony of the Night there were weapons that couldn't be cancelled, typically the slower ones or those designated as two-handed. This could mean the difference between something being a Gamebreaker (such as the Claimh Solais in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow) or being Awesome, yet Impractical (such as the Pluto/Black Dog card combo in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon).
  • God Hand is basically built around canceling out of your moves by dodging.
  • There are quite a few cancels in the Devil May Cry series. Moving just a fraction while using the shotgun cancels its reloading time, and jumping or rolling cancels the (longer) reload time on the Grenade Launcher. In 3 and onwards, cancelling short hops and rolls into the guarding animation of the Royal Guard style is a very effective defensive tactic and makes the Difficult part of its Difficult but Awesome slightly less so. You can also cancel the after-shot lag of the Spiral rifle and Kalina Ann rocket launcher by either switching to Ebony & Ivory immediately afterwards or timing a use of Royal Guard properly.
    • There's also jump cancelling, where you can cancel a jump with a basic attack, and cancel a successful basic attack with another jump. Done right, you can just hover at an enemy's head batting away.
  • GunZ, Cancel based techs have dominated the game after their discovery.
  • Most speed runners can tell you that Mega Man games that include dash commands are notorious for Dash Canceling, where you can maintain the fastest part of the dash command way longer than the dev team intended you to by constantly performing some other button press.
    • In Mega Man X, you can cancel Zero's Z-Saber with a dash, and a dash with the saber. With fast Button Mashing, this becomes a Game Breaker because not only can you swing the saber much faster, but most bosses are designed only to activate their Mercy Invincibility on the third swing of Zero's three-hit combo. By never using that third swing, bosses can be killed in mere seconds. Funnily enough, this actually got in as one of Zero's attacks in Project X Zone!
  • In some Tetris games (such as the TGM series), there is a short delay between when you lock a piece into place and when the next piece appears. One Tetris fangame, DTET, features this, but allows you to cancel it and immediately spawn the next piece by performing an input.
  • Gorf, like many other shmups from the early 80's and late 70's, only lets you fire One Bullet at a Time, so if you fire a shot and miss, you have to wait a bit before firing the next shot. However, Gorf allows you to cancel your current shot and immediately fire your next one, simply by firing when you have a shot on the screen.
  • Bangai-O Spirits has EX canceling, performed by hitting a regular attack button while charing an EX attack. Different from most examples here in that it prevents an attack instead of interrupting it, but it's useful if you start up an EX attack but change your mind before you fire it.
  • The entire gameplay premise of the four Virtual-ON games are built upon knowing when to cancel moves. The most well-known and important move accepted by the players community is "jump-cancelling", which can do anything from reducing time spent frozen after landing from a full jump (and thus being a very tantalizing target) to avoiding melee attacks, and in later games, set up for other forms of attacks.
  • The most notable advantage of Lord of Arcana's 2H Sword weapon type is that the second and third swings of its combo can be cancelled into a block, allowing for much safer attacks.
  • Asura's Wrath has Jump canceling to follow up with a launcher attack to do an air combo and a homing cancel that's used to home in onto locked on opponents after an air combo knocks them out of the sky, allowing for more follow ups and higher scores.
  • Monster Hunter has some lengthy animations that lock your character in place, but some can be canceled by blocking, dodging, or re-sheathing your weapon. The Great Sword has particularly excruciating animations where a hunter brings the weapon back to a ready position after a big attack, making this technique an absolute necessity.
  • Dragon's Dogma has an actual cancel ability called Reset. It's available to Striders and cancels all animations except hitstun. Its upgraded version, Instant Reset, allows you to cancel out of hitstun.
  • Xenoblade has a variation, in that one of Sharla's Aura-type moves resets her other moves' cooldown timers, letting her use a healing or attack move that much faster.
  • Dungeon Fighter Online allows you to attain cancels for most of your skills, which lets you cancel straight into your skill from the middle of your basic attack combo.
  • In Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria, you can cancel your R1 dash into your attack. Attacks themselves can be canceled into the next attack in your sequence. Then there's Break Mode, which encourages canceling completely.
  • In Mass Effect 2, a number of powerful weapons, such as the Widow and the Claymore, can fire only one shot before overheating, and the reloading animation can be longer than one can afford in the middle of a heated battle. However, the actual reloading happens in the middle of the animation, so a player with good timing can perform a melee attack when the weapon reloads, which happens quicker than the rest of the animation. This trick is essential to getting the most out of the Claymore, as it almost doubles the DPS one can get out of it.
    • In Mass Effect 3 this is extremely useful in multiplayer with the same single shot weapons. Additionally, performing one of several actions (dodge, light melee, using a power) will interrupt the reload sequence.
    • This is also very useful for Nova Guards as they can cancel their Nova ability into either a roll or a punch to abuse the invincibility frames this move grants. It's incredibly useful when the class is relegated to the pizza delivery objectives and for holding control points; both being objectives that completely negate the class's greatest strength: mobility.
  • BioShock allows you to cancel the cycle time of your slow-but-powerful crossbow by switching to your plasmid and then back to the crossbow, allowing you to effectively machinegun your bolts until a reload is necessary, oftentimes killing a Big Daddy before it can even properly react and attack you.
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a glitch that allows you to cancel the delay between Yoshi's flutterjumps by immediately ducking before the flutter's almost finished, allowing you to reach places with Yoshi that's normally impossible (like fighting browser while still riding him, reaching Tall Trunk Slide from the mission involving him (although jumping on the slide freezes the game) or even beating Grandmaster Galaxy's The Perfect Run with him).
  • Killing Floor lets you cancel most of the animation for injecting yourself with the medical syringe by swapping to a different weapon/tool.note 
  • In the modern Ninja Gaiden series, you can throw a single shuriken to cancel the basic attacks' rather long recoveries (it doesn't work for strong attacks, though); especially useful when using the sword or the scythe in in the second and third games. In Razor's Edge, the Cicada Surge also allows you to escape attacks or grabs that enemies frequently attempt during recoveries, although using it effectively requires very good reflexes.
  • Warcraft III: Some units (notably the Archmage) have spellcasting animations that last longer than the spell's effect. Here, it's a simple matter of telling the unit to cast, making sure the spell gets cast, then issuing a stop/hold position/attack order so it gets back to fighting instead of waving a magic stick.
  • In The Warriors video game, you can do sweeping attacks with weapon. Normally you can only do one at a time, but if you hold down the block button and then rapidly hit the sweep attack button, you'll be able to do several attacks in succession.
  • TRON Deadly Discs for the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision lets you recall the disc you use to defeat the MCP's warriors after it's thrown in case it misses its target and you don't want to wait for it to return.


Lethal Joke CharacterFighting GameLauncher Move
Knockback EvasionVideo Game Effects and SpellsLast Chance Hit Point

alternative title(s): Animation Cancel; Cancel
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