Core definitions from TRS thread.
- Stylish Action' is an Action Game where combat is not only a complex endeavor but also stylish because of the complexity, with Some Dexterity Required, and being rewarded with some useful things for doing cool things in the game. The game will expect you to do ever cooler things, and maximize the use of all of your capabilities in the game. — Getta
Stylish Action is a sub-genre of action games that especially deals with unrealistic combat and having fun creating it yourself. Their main point is to use a deep set of mechanics to be stylish, rather than the style coming from the animations itself. In short, the style is because you, the player, are being stylish, not just the character.
Unlike most action games, stylish action is just a particular way of engaging players in good combat, so it's crossed over with a few established genres. The most famous examples are based in beat 'em up and hack and slash, but the third-person shooter genre has seen some attention lately, too; as long as a genre relies on real-time action and isn't riddled with scripted Gameplay Roulette, it can work with stylish action.
Three elements are the backbone of stylish action:
- Combat depth, or giving players options besides modifying how much damage they're doing and how fast they're doing it. Stylish action enemies can be interacted with in numerous ways; they can be knocked down, picked up and thrown into others, stunned in place, stripped of their weapons, or killed instantly with finishers, for example. The character themselves will have combat options that aren't direct attacks; they could dodge, block, counterattack, stop time, provoke enemies, switch styles, forms, or weapons, or power up. Platform Fighter variables are key, since they allow players to move the fight anywhere. Movement and launch speed, direction, and distance, transitioning between ground and air, using the environment advantageously, and dashing to a target are standard fare. Weapons and attacks tend to serve their own purposes, so no one option will be clearly better than another.
- Teaching through difficulty. Similar to old arcade games and Nintendo's earlier work, stylish action teaches skills by making it difficult to proceed without them. To do this, stylish action games present a diverse cast of enemies which must be interacted with differently. For example, heavy enemies cannot be staggered or grappled, Elite Mooks can break up lengthy combos, and aerial enemies cannot be hit from the ground. Unlike Dynasty Warriors and the like, there are no One-Hit-Point Wonder mooks and even the easiest enemies require a decent amount of attention to kill. Boss fights are designed to put these skills to the test, but the most common archetype tests the player's raw skill against someone with similar combat capabilities and no exploitable weaknesses or behavior, often more than just once.
- Providing some motivation to improve. Stylish action always encourages skill improvement in some tangible way, not just by letting them complete fights quicker or without taking damage, and this is done by judging the player's performance. Individual combos get scored, whether by a simple hit counter or a complex Score Multiplier, while fights and chapters as a whole get ranked battle reports. The battle reports generally use some well-known ranking system (letter grades, or metal trophies or medals) so that players with mediocre performance know how much room they have to improve. Multiple difficulty settings generally fulfill the same purpose.
Trope Codifier was the original Devil May Cry. The director, Hideki Kamiya, stated that his inspiration for the game's combat came from his days of playing at arcades, where he often found the ability to make a cool move because he knew people were watching. Subsequent improvements to the genre have made Devil May Cry seem shallow by today's standards, but since the core vision behind it is the same, it remains the genre's most well-known example.
Over the years the genre gained a lot of alternatives names such as character action, cuhrayzee games, spectacle fighters, deep action, and extreme action.
The following are examples of the genre:
- Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2: The spiritual successor to Devil May Cry, the most famous modern example, and exhibits every characteristic listed above. Both games are known for their wide selection of open-ended weapons, combos, and techniques, and defensive play revolves around well-timed dodging to trigger brief Bullet Time. The first Bayonetta is considerably less forgiving than Bayonetta 2, although combat in both games is famous for its complexity. A explanation of some mechanics can be found here and here, while an example of high-level play can be found here.
- Devil May Cry: The Trope Maker, and the first game of which was directed by eventual Bayonetta creator Hideki Kamiya.
- Fairy Bloom Freesia: A 2D indie title that features extensive ground-to-air combo capabilities similar to Bayonetta.
- God Hand: An over-the-top hand-to-hand fighter that lets players assign techniques to three attacking buttons in lieu of weapons. This was the last game made by Clover Studios before they became stylish action-regular PlatinumGames.
- God of War Series: A hack-and-slash series featuring chained swords, grapples, and magic as its combat components, and perhaps the genre's most basic example. God of War features easy-to-master combat, a few token combo setups, and a simple scoring system that rewards extended combos at certain lengths. While nowhere near as deep as genre classics like Devil May Cry, the series' accessibility makes it a good choice for casual players trying out stylish action for the first time. This video from God of War III shows the best of what the series allows.
- The Legend of Korra: Another PlatinumGames work, which features deep combat based around physical combat and "bending" four elements with different uses. While the scoring system is shallow compared to other Platinum games, its versatile combat and surprisingly harsh difficulty still make it one of the genre's most complex games.
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: A PlatinumGames title with a steep learning curve. The game's combat is based in bladed weapons and realistic cutting physics, along with Metal Gear stealth. Defensive play is mostly reliant on parrying attacks and potentially counterattacking with frame-perfect timing, while players can also "stab-and-grab" repair units from foes to recharge their health and energy. A example of advanced tech being used on the final boss can be found here.note
- NieR: Automata: Somewhat simpler than some of Platinum's other works, and slightly more reliant on stats and equips, but it still requires precision for high-level play, and it's significantly more skill-based than your typical Action RPG.
- Ninja Gaiden: Primarily the Devil May Cry-like 3D games (and the God of War-like Yaiba to a lesser extent), the originals being a side scrolling Beat 'Em Up, and a high-speed action platformer trilogy.
- Rain Blood Chronicles: Mirage: A 2D game whose feudal aesthetic and style mechanics.
- Stranglehold: A third-person shooter directed by John Woo. Comboing in Stranglehold is based around interacting with the environment in scenery-chewing ways; props can be used for mobility, shot and dropped onto enemies, or destroyed to change the terrain of the fight. A simple scoring system rewards players for creative use of the environment and efficient shooting. The game's generous Bullet Time and basic, relaxed combat make it an easy choice for players getting used to gun combos.
- Transformers: Devastation
- Vanquish: A fast-paced third-person shooter from PlatinumGames. Guns, grenades, powerful melee attacks, and cover are standard fare for the genre, but Vanquish adds stylish action with two mechanics: the first is a high-speed powerslide that gives players unrivaled mobility, and the second is "AR Mode", an at-will Bullet Time that players can trigger at almost any time and combine with the game's basic mechanics to create combos. A video of high-level play in the game's first level can be found here.
- Viewtiful Joe
- The Wonderful 101: A Pikmin and Ōkami hybrid with an over-the-top sense of superhero scale, made by PlatinumGames and directed by Hideki Kamiya. Players fight by combining their team members to form "Unite Morphs," gigantic weapons and objects that can interact with the arena and its enemies in various ways. As with Kamiya's other games, new players can expect lots of difficulty, but the fast-paced combat is ultimately fair once it's mastered.