Hey guys! We’re not dead yet, and neither is Zabuyaki. We’re just lazy and would rather tweet from time to time than write stuff here. Besides, if we’ve got time to write blog posts, then we feel like we’d rather work on the game instead, you know?
Anyway, today, I’d like to talk about grabs, as in, the ability to grab your opponent, leaving them immobilized while you’re free to pummel them and/or toss them away. It’s a pretty classic action available in most beat ’em ups, and which adds a lot of variety to the gameplay.
All games don’t implement grabs the same way. Here’s an overview of the main grab mechanisms used in brawlers, with what I consider their pros and cons.
The Technos way
Technos basically invented beat ’em ups with Kunio / Renegade in 1986, followed by Double Dragon 1987. The way grabs work in these games is that you first need to hit your enemy with a punch or a kick to make them crouch over, then you walk to them while they’re still stunned from that attack.
Pros: It’s simple and clear, leaving no room for confusion.
Cons: It limits your engage options, as you have to hit first no matter what.
The Final Fight way
In Final Fight, you simply need to walk to an opponent and touch them in order to grab them, without the need to press any action button. Grabbing is disabled between players.
Pros: You have the freedom to engage using either regular hits or grabs.
Cons: When you’re up against an enemy who can also grab you, who gets to grab the other one first? It’s kind of confusing and frustrating. Also, it’s a bit too bad that you can’t grab another player. What if you want to piledrive your friend into a dumpster, like any civilized human being?
The Streets of Rage way
Grabbing someone in Streets of Rage works almost exactly as in Final Fight, with a little twist: grabbing is possible between players. That seems fair; why treat players differently from enemies? Being able to grab your partner also enables you to perform tag attacks in SoR 1 and 3. Another notable point is that there is no time limit to the grabbing, unlike in most other beat ’em ups, which automatically make you release your victim after a short while.
Pros: As in FF, you have the freedom to engage using either regular hits or grabs, but unlike in FF, you can enjoy thoroughly beating up your partner, or use tag attacks.
Cons: As with FF, it’s unclear who gets to grab who. What do you think happens when both players walk toward each other, who grabs and who gets grabbed? The answer is: player 1 always wins, which is quite unfair. Also, inexperienced players will tend to grab each other by mistake quite often, as it can happen by simply moving around.
The Grab action command way
Some games have a dedicated button to issue a grab command. When using it, your character will immediately move his hand(s) forward to try and grab someone. This is the case in Crude Buster (aka Two Crude / Two Crude Dudes), for example, or more recently in River City Ransom Underground.
Pros: Simple and fair system with no unintentional grabs. Multiple possible engages.
Cons: Requires an extra button. It’s not a big deal, but it’s one more button or action command to bother with.
The Zabuyaki way
And now, the system we’ve chosen for our game. The basic idea is that you have to hold the attack button to get into “grab mode”, then you can walk to someone and grab them.
When two characters try to grab each other at the same time, they’re both pushed back. Forget about your past privilege, player one!
You may also feint a grab but attack at the last moment, leaving room for mind games. There’s a lot more to our grab system (for example, holding the attack button enables you to perform other types of moves, like the ability to dash forward to grab someone), but we’ll talk about all that another time.
I don’t claim our grab system is perfect or superior to the ones mentioned above, but we want to try something different. I also don’t know if this system is truly original, but at least I can’t think of another beat ’em up that works like this.
The main drawback of this system might be that it’s not intuitive or easy to discover for new players. To work around this issue, we’ve drawn specific character animations when characters are ready to grab someone (as you can see above). A player who randomly holds the attack button will see that his/her character is ready to grab something, or at least about to do something special, pushing him/her to experiment. Naturally, tutorials or tips could be used to clear things up, but they shouldn’t be seen as an acceptable stopgap for bad game design, so I’d rather not rely on them too much.
That’s all folks! Back to work.