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Flash of Pain

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In many video games, enemies that don't die from one hit will blink a different colour when damaged. Most of the time, it tends to be white, although it may come in different variants, like red. This particular effect was chosen because it is achieved with a simple Palette Swap, a cheap operation for early video hardware.note 

The Flash of Pain will definitely be used on a boss that is Immune to Flinching because it conveys that the player's attacks are actually landing damage. Especially important if the boss has a weak point on its body that must be hit in order to cause any damage (in which case usually just the weak part of the enemy will flash). Absence of this feature is nowadays considered Fake Difficulty. Sometimes the player also flashes in a different color when hit, when the game doesn't feature Mercy Invincibility.

Prolonged flashing may also signify that an enemy has Mercy Invincibility after you have attacked it, in which case you must wait for it to stop flashing before you can damage it again.

A related analogue occurs in first-person videogames, where - because the player is unable to see their own character - if the player takes a hit, the entire screen will flash momentarily to indicate damage.

In some cases when a boss Turns Red, it will look the same as the Flash Of Pain, except it will flash repeatedly on its own.

This is also commonly used in fighting games when an attack has Super Armor on it to indicate that a hit landed without interrupting that attack.

This trope follows the Rule of Perception, of course, as the Video Game character presumably doesn't see his opponent flashing white for a split second.

See also Shows Damage.


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    Action Adventure 

    Action Game 
  • Battle City: Enemies with multiple hitpoints and bosses in Tank Force flash white when taking damage.
  • Heavy Barrel: Larger enemies, bosses, and walls flash bright yellow when hit.
  • Last Alert: Bosses blink white when taking damage.
  • Skeleton Krew had certain obstacles moving along a set path that displayed the same flash that enemies did when shot. However, those obstacles are really indestructible, and the flash is meaningless in their case.
  • Sunset Riders: Bosses and destructible objects flash white when damaged, and rapidly flash red when they're low on health.

    Beat Em Up 

    Fighting Game 
  • This shows up occasionally in the Capcom vs. series.
    • In Marvel vs. Capcom, certain characters, like the Hulk, could take a shot without flinching, flashing red to show they did this. Hidden character Mecha-Zangief could take an infinite number of shots at the cost of being unable to block.
    • In Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, the giants and Yami do. This is because giant characters, who fight alone, don't flinch when damaged (as compensation for not having a partner).
  • Armored attacks in the Mortal Kombat games from 9 onward cause this as well.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • In the Marathon trilogy, S'pht compilers not only flash into static when they're hit, that's also their death animation.
  • The Super Spy will have the entire screen flashing red for a split-second when you suffer a hit.
  • Team Fortress 2: The screen will flash red in the approximate direction that you've taken damage (or, in the case of being set on fire, a subtle red ring will appear and continue to flash).
  • Metroid Prime and its sequels use a more complicated version of this trope to help you understand what's going on in a boss fight: a hit that damages the boss will make it flash red, whereas a hit that doesn't directly damage the boss but nonetheless makes progress in the fight will cause it to flash yellow.

    Idle Game 
  • Sword Fight: You and the enemies flash red upon getting hit or orange upon deflecting an attack but still taking 50% damage.

    Multiple genres 
  • The enemies in platforming parts of ActRaiser blink red and white when hit. Even those which require single hit, blink red before exploding. In town building parts, the enemies blink white when hit.
  • Enemies and bosses in Spin Master blink red when hit.
  • Vice: Project Doom: The enemies blink yellow when hit.

    Platform Game 
  • Bosses in the first Adventure Island game blink purple when hit. Subsequent games use white color instead.
  • The enemies in Batman: Return of the Joker for the NES blink red and crates blink white after getting hit.
  • Strangely enough, enemies and bosses in Bug only flash red in the Sega Saturn version. The PC version averts this. Bug himself flashes green when he's under Mercy Invincibility, also only in the Saturn version.
  • All of the Contra games have the enemies flash when your shots are dealing damage, but in Contra: Hard Corps the bosses and minibosses go through an almost psychedelic pattern of colors while taking damage. It's especially unsettling with the larger bosses.
  • Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure: The enemies that require more than one hit to be defeated blink white during a split second. Stronger objects susceptible to bombs, such as the red buds which summon enemies, rubber barriers, and a certain pod hiding a meter-raising burger, blink rapidly multiple times in a row as they only go down with multiple explosions. The Final Boss in the first and third episodes also blinks successively with each hit, though it only takes damage from Goomba Stomp instead of explosions.
  • Enemies in Dynamite Headdy always flash white with the same little sound effect whenever they take damage without dying.
  • Flippin Kaktus: The kaktus flashes red whenever he takes damage.
  • Gish flashes red in his game when he is damaged.
  • The enemies in Journey to Silius flash pink after getting hit for some reason.
  • Most bosses in Kirby games, along with some stronger enemies.
  • The Mega Man series of games: regular enemies with flash invisible for about 2 frames, while bosses and Mega Man himself flash white.
  • Many enemies in Metroid. Sometimes, a boss will flash yellow when an attack will just stun it, and red when attacks start to damage it for real.
  • If a boss in Moon Crystal is hit, the entire screen flashes white.
  • Hayate will flash white in Ninja Senki, but other enemies don't flash much.
  • Enemies in Ratchet & Clank flash red when damaged.
  • Bosses and some other things with multiple hitpoints flash white in most 2D Sonic The Hedgehog games when damaged. If Eggman is piloting a machine, he'll also display a surprised reaction while also facing the screen when his vehicle is damaged.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros. 2: The bosses when damaged. The sound effect is slightly different from Doki Doki Panic, due to the more primitive sound chip of the NES compared to that of the Famicon Disk System. The flash rapidly varies through shades of white, green, and pink.
    • Super Mario World: The only boss in the game that flashes when hit is Big Boo (a Mini-Boss); it flashes multiple colors (such as red, yellow, and green) every time Mario or Luigi throw a block at it (it takes three hits to defeat it).
    • New Super Mario Bros.: All bosses in the subseries have this effect after receiving a hit. With the Koopalings, this is combined with Retaliation Mode to prevent the player from attempting a stunlock (though they can be hit again right before they prepare the next attack). The flash's color is red.
  • Bosses in Cuphead will flash when they take damage.
  • Bosses in The Messenger (2018) follow Sunset Riders rules, flashing when hit and flashing orange rapidly when at low health.
  • Enemies and bosses in Axiom Verge have a static pattern overlaid on their sprite when they take damage from Trace's weapons.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Z has robots that flash white when hit by a bullet. Both for the robots you control and the enemy, presumably to help you notice when your units are being attacked by something slightly off-screen.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • Most enemies in Chrono Trigger.
  • In many of the Final Fantasy games, enemies will "flash" or otherwise demonstrate that they'd been attacked with a special effect. Even as early as the original Final Fantasy for NES, the flashes would be color-coordinated to the type of weapon or spell used.
  • The Kooma Panda and Ursa Circus Dream Eaters in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] flash red when struck with weak attacks to indicate that they're Immune to Flinching. Oddly, the multitudes of other enemies with the same ability don't flash at all.
  • Mass Effect 2 has a variation: your squadmates' status bar icons flash red when they take health damage, rather than the squadmates themselves.

  • All the bosses (and occasionally mid-bosses) in Metal Slug visibly flashes when hit, as an indicator that your attacks are working. It's especially notable for bosses with a single, tiny weak point like Sol-Dae-Rokka and the Evil Incarnate.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • Bosses and some enemies in arcade Bells And Whistles flash when hit.
  • Enemies in Dogyuun flash yellow when damaged.
  • Enemies in DonPachi series have been known to flash different colors depending on game. In one game, they flash blue while in the other, they flash gold color.
  • In Gradius ReBirth, shots that inflict damage will have red explosions, while shots that inflict no damage will have blue explosions.
  • Characters in Mushihime Sama series flash yellow though.
  • Enemies in Radiant Silvergun flash white when hit.
  • In Spheres of Chaos, it's possible to add an option for the whole screen to flash when a black hole is hit.
  • Bosses in Super Space Invaders / Majestic Twelve flash when hit on a vulnerable area.
  • Thunder Force, like Gradius above, uses red bursts for damaging shots and blue bursts for shots that fail to inflict damage. However, the Blade weapon in Thunder Force IV creates red bursts for EVERY hit even if it doesn't do damage.
  • Enemies and bosses in Zanac Neo.
  • Flashes of pain often happen in Zero Wing.

    Survival Horror 

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Most mobs in Minecraft jump back a bit and flash red when you hit them, including players.