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Denial of Diagonal Attack

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"Wait a second. I can shoot diagonally! YES! What in God's name took them so long to program something like that in!?"

A common issue, mostly in older games where your weapon can fire along only a fixed point on the horizontal axis (i.e., no aiming your shots higher or lower to hit something just out of reach). While some games may let you crouch for lower shots, others won't even let you do that. If you're lucky, your character may eventually upgrade to a weapon capable of targeting enemies outside your initial weapon's range of fire, but you will inevitably begin with something that will fire only along a specific point on the X-axis.

As a result of all this, enemies that are crotch-high or shorter are nearly impossible to hit due to an inability to shoot any lower. This can also apply to floating/flying enemies that soar just above your weapon's range and aim for your forehead. Due to the aforementioned fact that some games at least let you crouch for lower shots, the flying/floating variant of this trope is possibly even more common than the "crotch monster" variety (though the crotch monster version still tends to be more annoying when it does appear, since with flying enemies the player can still at least usually be able to jump to shoot at them). Adds a lot of frustration—not only because the enemy is unkillable, but also because it's annoying to see the hero bested by a foe which, for all intents and purposes, he should be able to kill easily if only he could slightly lower his rifle.

Ironically, a variant of the trope can still appear in games where diagonal attacks are allowed (such as simple eight-directional firing), if the angles of attack are still limited enough to leave large blind spots in the player's firing arc, which may render certain configurations of enemies unhittable.

Some games account for the limitations of the controls and make it part of the gameplay and challenge. Others... are not quite so consciously designed.

This is often part of the Goddamned Bats bag of tricks. One of the main contributing factors in games that are Nintendo Hard. Not to be confused with grid-based games not allowing diagonal attacks (though they may certainly qualify if this is a source of constant frustration) or with actual Denial of Service Attacks.


  • Apollo from Action 52, the leader of the Cheetahmen cast, instead of fighting melee like his companions (and therefore flying) uses a crossbow. This gives him a tiny vertical range that is too high for every single enemy in his two stages. Virtually the only thing you can attack with him that doesn't randomly spawn flying at your own height is the final boss.
  • Yes and no in The Binding of Isaac; the main player (and a few monsters) can only nominally shoot up, down, left, and right, but the player can whip shots by firing while moving. There are many items that changes how Isaac can shoot tears, like in a spread pattern, only diagonally, around him, in any direction, or even fully controllable. Mom's Knife is one of the few items, if not the only item, that can actually be aimed and fired in 8 directions.
  • Captain Comic cannot duck. You'll need a corkscrew to deal with the enemies that are shorter than you.
  • The flying/forehead variety is present at all times in the earlier Castlevania games, and walking on stairs effectively removes your ability to deal with crotch monsters. Later games allow diagonal whipping, and some even allow you to spin the whip. However, stairs are still problematic.
  • ESWAT: Especially annoying in the very first mission of the game where in one spot you have to jump from this one platform to another with some guy above you shooting straight down at you.
  • Galaga: though you'd be hard-pressed to find a shoot-'em-up that doesn't employ this trope.
  • Freeware Ninja Senki also features this trope with protagonist's shurikens. Funnily enough, some enemy ninjas and other ranged enemies can attack diagonally.
  • Ghosts 'n Goblins: as if this game wasn't hard enough already.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In the original The Legend of Zelda, Link is only able to move in four directions and his main attack is a straight-forward stab, which makes it difficult to attack things that you'd rather not be standing directly in front of. With a little finesse, you can throw the boomerang diagonally, but that's it.
    • Later games avoided this by making the sword slash in an arc, and introducing the spinning attack. However, most ranged attacks still only fire four directions.
    • Averted in the 3D Zeldas, including the top-down ones. Of course, the enemies can freely rotate too, so you can't simply come at them diagonally.
  • Mega Man: the series as a whole is a horrible offender of this trope. More often than not, you can't even shoot up or down, with the exception of certain special weapons. This trope is one of the main reasons the Metal Blades, which could be shot in all eight directions, were such a Game-Breaker.
    • Shadow Blade can be aimed in any non-down direction.
    • Pharaoh Shot is another aversion.
    • It wasn't until Mega Man 5 that the charged shot gained extra vertical spread, finally putting an end to crotch monsters.
    • In Mega Man 6, Knight Crush can be aimed up and down.
    • Ditto for Mega Man 7's Freeze Cracker, and Danger Wrap can float up.
    • Bass could fire in 7 directions and later Axl could fire in any direction in X8, although they could not run at the same time.
    • X2 has the Magnet Mine which can be guided up and down.
    • X was a Game-Breaker in X7 because he would actually aim at his target instead of blindly shooting forward. Floor, ceiling, Z-axis be damned, you were dead meat once X fired.
    • Poked fun at by ''Dueling Analogs''.
    • Mega Man 10 uses this heavily to make certain boss and mini-boss fights "challenging." Downloading Bass reveals just how much of a Retraux game design crutch this is, as he can shoot up and will destroy these bosses almost instantly.
    • MMX5 and X6 allowed you to crouch, partially averting this. Some enemies are also on the receiving end of this, as the classic series' slide and the X series' dash allow you to consistently slip under their projectiles.
    • Mega Man Legends, Zero and ZX averts this to some extent. Legends has lock-on features; ZX has Model F (who can not only shoot directly up, but has a Buster Edit where you can change the paths of your guns' bullets) and Model P (who can spam kunai knives that spread out until everything in front of you is getting stabbed); ZX Advent has a number of forms you can use, some of which shoot in 3-way or have Homing Projectiles; and Zero had a Buster Mod that allowed him to fire two shots at once in a V formation, as well as making use of the Rod-type weapons and many of the weapons you can rip off of enemies in Zero 4.
    • Ironically, Mega Man is one of the few exceptions to this rule in Super Smash Bros. thanks to retaining the Metal Blade. Almost every other character must shoot and throw their projectiles in a single direction (albeit in a small arc once gravity kicks in).
    • Street Fighter X Mega Man has Yoga Inferno which can be aimed up and down.
    • Rockman 4 Minus Infinity has the Pharaoh Shotgun and the Water Cutter, an even more broken Metal Blade.
    • In the Spiritual Successor Azure Striker Gunvolt Series, Gunvolt is limited to only shooting in front of him up until he gets the Technos, Mizuchi, and Orochi bolts. Technos fires a pair of twin shots downwards and diagonally that glides along surfaces, Mizuchi can be fired in five directions from its reticle, and the Orochi deploys an aerial drone that fires in seven directions in a sweeping motion. Averted in Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, where Gunvolt gets no new guns but can now aim diagonally up and down. Similarly, Kirin can throw her talismans in diagonal directions and can unlock Kirin XX who can not only aim diagonally but fires multiple talismans in a spreadshot.
    • In Mega Man's other spiritual successor, Mighty No. 9, Beck's primary Arm Cannon shoots in front of him, but he also has a downwards backshot he can perform by pressing the Action Shift+Attack buttons to shoot at the ground. Using Dynatron's ReXelection form allows him to shoot multiple electrical bits in a sweeping fan-like spread. Aviator's ReXelection allows Beck to toss propeller boomerangs that zig-zags during its trajectory. Guest DLC character Tenzou from the Gal*Gun is only character who can crouch and attack enemies while ducking, partially averting this before getting the diagonal attack module.
    • The spin-off game Mighty Gunvolt Burst has characters limited to only shooting in front of them until they can pick up and equip a late-game module that enables diagonal shots, and the angle of the shots can be adjusted.
    • Completely averted in Mega Man X DiVE, where all characters equipped with shooting weapons can fire in any direction.
  • 20XX, a Mega Man X-inspired roguelike, has something similar for Nina's basic N-Buster, although by cracking open a weapon crate you can get the Scatterblast, Forkalator or Wave Beam to bypass that.
  • RosenkreuzStilette is a clone of the classic Mega Man games, and both of the main protagonists, Spiritia and Freudia, lacked the ability to fire any direction other than straight forward with their initial weapon. This in turn makes Lusteatem and Frostklinge the potential game-breakers in their respective games; the latter goes as far as running across whatever surface it hits, making any damnable enemy a head proportion shy of Freudia's Freudenstachel fair game.
  • The titular heroine of the PC-98 game Rusty has all of the aiming capabilities as Samus from the original NES Metroid.
  • Metal Slug: You start with a pistol that can only shoot straight right, left, up, or down if you jump and fire. Crouching while shooting is possible (and a good strategy because it's slightly faster), but unless you get the Heavy Machine Gun power-up (or the laser gun in 6 and 7), you can't shoot diagonally outside of a vehicle. Not as bad as most examples since grenades can generally take care of anybody in your blind spots.
    • You can fire a full 360° in vehicles, however, albeit somewhat awkwardly since there's still only one stick and you generally can't lock the gun. Later games also let you throw grenades diagonally if you play as Eri.
  • Metroid:
    • The very first Metroid game only let you shoot horizontally and straight up, and you can't duck. The Wave Beam helped deal with this, but you inevitably needed to replace it with the Ice Beam to deal with the Metroids. The Screw Attack was awesome enough to possibly qualify for a partial aversion for flying enemies, but the only other way to deal with crotch monsters was with bombs.
    • Metroid II: Return of Samus put a downplay on it by allowing you to duck and fire straight down if you're in midair, and also improving the Screw Attack so it can destroy small monsters at ground level.
    • Super Metroid and beyond averted this further by also allowing Samus to both shoot diagonally and combine collected beam power-ups instead of having them as mutually exclusive. The Metroid Prime Trilogy, being 3D First Person Shooters, got rid of this problem entirely — as did Metroid: Samus Returns, the first 2D game in the series to offer a complete free-aim mode.
  • Ninja Gaiden is another example of the flying/forehead variant of this trope, notable if only for the fact that the game's Goddamned Bats are more deadly than a bazooka blast to the face.
  • GoldenEye (1997) is an odd example where this trope's invocation is the result of one specific character/enemy and not a glaring, inherent flaw in the game controls: if you're playing multiplayer and your friend picks Oddjob, just declare him the winner and play something else. You could crouch in GoldenEye, but it wasn't a simple button press, so quite a few players (especially those new to the game) had no idea how. Combine this with a crouching Oddjob and it was physically impossible to target him at point blank range. Normally the Oddjob would karate chop you to death in amusement.
    • Perfect Dark thankfully avoided this, because the game automatically aims at stuff lower than yourself. Made fighting short characters like Elvis much easier.
  • The first two Resident Evil games are a rare example where the trouble lies within the X-axis instead of the Y. Most 3D games of the time suffer from the issue of quickly and effectively dealing with enemies behind you, but the notable lack of a quick-turnaround feature prior to the third game make Resident Evil a particularly egregious offender.
  • Super Smash Bros.: some characters have a much easier time dodging projectile attacks due to small size (Kirby, Pikachu, Pichu), while others (Bowser, DK) might as well not even bother.
    • In theory you could use the actual in-game "dodge" move or try to parry, but if the match is hectic enough you might not even know you're being shot at until you've been hit.
    • This disadvantage is compensated by the bigger characters being generally more powerful and harder to smash, requiring being well over 100% damage to be Smashed in normal conditions.
  • The 3D Might and Magic games (6, 7, and 8) are a examples of the "FPS games with horrible controls" version of this trope. The Godawful "look up/down" controls were bad to the point of near-uselessness, leaving firing straight ahead as the only viable method of attack. Melee attacks would automatically target anything in range, ranged attacks were usually pretty good about aiming higher at flying enemies, and there were no ridiculously short "crotch monsters" to contend with. Trying to aim at anything more than a foot lower and more than a yard away from you, however, was next to impossible.
  • It's not until late in Bionic Commando Rearmed that you get a weapon that fired diagonally, and even then it's clumsy. You can fire while crouched to deal with low threats, but you cannot jump at all, so enemies attacking from above remain a major annoyance for the entire game. Oh, and the enemy AI knows that you cannot fire diagonally up, and will take advantage of this fact to remain safe from your attacks.
  • Iji can't fire while crouched, and more damningly, can't fire while jumping. However, the game was designed around these limitations; there's really never a point where you NEED to be able to do these things. There are a few weapons that can fire in a spread or hit things not on your horizontal level, but aside from a few secret bits, the spread isn't all that useful. This is also explained by the game — Iji's nanogun is so large she can only hold it properly while standing straight - trying to fire while crouched or airborne would result in the recoil knocking her over.
  • Sachen's Silent Assault. You can shoot horizontally and vertically, but not diagonally.
  • In Skuljagger Revolt Of The Westicans, Storm's non-crouching swings are in an overhead arc, yet only part of the arc will register hits. His crouching attack changes to more of a sideways arc, but can still hit enemies standing slightly lower than him if close enough. Finally, the projectiles granted by red jemeralds only travel horizontally forward.
  • Madness Accelerant. With keyboard controls, you can only aim in a few directions. A later version added mouse aiming that allowed you to aim anywhere.
  • Dynasty Warriors is a 3D variation: characters can attack in the full 360 degrees... but not up or down. This is a big problem when trying to move down staircases or steep hills.
  • Super Mario Bros has a variant: You can attack diagonally, downward. But anything higher than Mario can't be attacked. Not normally a problem, until you've got Lakitu, Flying on a Cloud at the top of the screen constantly spawning Spinies. (You can kill him if you stand high enough to hit him, but he just respawns.)
  • In Cave Story, you can only fire in four directions, though some weapons have spread. However, since the player's character is one of the shortest things around, this is rarely a problem. Except for that one boss designed purposefully to be extremely small.
    • There is also the Fireball, which is affected by gravity, bounces, and is rather powerful. However, even a not-so-Insurmountable Waist-High Fence or trench makes it virtually impossible to use.
  • Purple lets you aim only in four directions. What's worse, during the development process, the author promised the finished version to let player aim in eight directions, but that never was implemented.
  • In La-Mulana, shurikens can only be fired straight left or right, spears straight down, and flares straight up. Throwing knives (and the dagger) do help get rid of crouching enemies, but the other sub-weapons aren't good for general use. The biggest headache is aiming at the ever-annoying bats that like to randomly head off on a diagonal course.
  • Non-video game example: Chess. Rooks and Bishops are this to each other. Pawns can only attack diagonally.
  • Dragon Slayer doesn't allow the player to move or attack diagonally before accumulating 30,000 experience points. Monsters are under no such restriction.
  • The NES version of Super Pitfall! allows you to crouch and shoot, but not at the same time. This means certain enemies can only be killed by climbing slightly down a ladder.
  • In Tutankham, though nothing in the game could move diagonally, the player was denied any kind of vertical attack.
  • The cannons in Netstorm can only fire in the four basic directions, to balance out their high power and long range.
  • Vanguard allowed 8-way movement, but only 4-way firing. However, this is more generous than most later Horizontal Scrolling Shooters (but Vanguard was not a pure Horizontal Scrolling Shooter).
  • Metal Mutant: Switching into one of your three forms—each of which has different weapons, with different ranges—mainly depends on which weapon can even reach the enemy you're currently fighting.
  • In Elevator Action, enemies can shoot from a prone position, while the player cannot. In fact the player cannot even drop prone, being limited to crouching only.
  • In the original StarTropics, Mike and all enemies are restricted to grid-like movement and attacks, only able to move or shoot horizontally or vertically.note 
  • Telenet Japan's 1986 computer game Final Zone gave the player character two (not very smart) AI teammates, but none of them could attack in any direction except upward.
  • Alex Kidd in High-Tech World has a very bad case of this: Alex Kidd can only attack horizontally, but the ninja can throw shurikens from any angle.
  • Magical Chase's heroine Ripple by herself can only shoot forward. Power-ups like the 3-Way can fix this.
  • Rolling Thunder traditionally only lets you fire forward. Rolling Thunder 3 lets you shoot diagonally upward, but only when you're on the ground and with your basic pistol.
  • The Star Control series has only a discrete number of rotational positions for ships (usually 16). If you are not in the line of fire of any direction they can point, you cannot be hit. Battles between experts tend to use this as a form of Gun Kata.
  • Cyber-Lip doesn't allow players to aim their shots diagonally.
  • This is a problem in Pokémon triple battles in Gen V and beyond. If you're on one of the sides, you won't be able to target your attack at the opponent Pokemon on the far other side from you unless you are using certain attacks (most of which are flying).
  • Space Zap only lets the player's immobile fortress shoot in a direct horizontal or vertical line; fortunately, most enemies happen to attack along these very lines.
  • In the platform game Stinkoman 20X6 the projectiles you shoot are affected by gravity, however the tiny enemies known as "My Benj" require you to stand far enough away to hit them.
  • Disgaea's gun weapons can only shoot in the four cardinal directions, as a trade-off for having more range than any other weapon type; other weapons that can attack more than one panel away can hit diagonals. However, equipping a particular Evility will allow guns to fire diagonally, and even then this only affects their basic attack, not their special skills.
  • WarioWare's Pyoro minigame twists this trope forty-five degrees. Your tongue/seeds will only fire diagonally, while the beans you're trying to hit fall from above.
  • Hollow Knight plays this quite straight. Your primary melee attack can only strike directly left, right, up or down, and spells and Nail Arts only let you attack in the same directions at greater distances and in wider arcs. Needless to say, enemies are not bound to this rule, especially many common flying enemies which can and will charge into or spit at you along diagonal lines.
  • Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny had this issue with magic and missile weapons, which meant that your enemies would always have a straight open line towards your mages and archers. Diagonal aiming was added for the sequels.
  • Mission: Impossible (Konami): Your agents can only attack along eight directions, while the enemies can shoot bullets at you from any angle. Fortunately, Max's bullets travel a lot faster than the enemy's bullets do.