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Homing Attack: Want or Do Not Want?


Candescence

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Over in the Jaded Fanbase topic, the discussion got somewhat derailed by the very question "what's wrong with the homing attack?" Now, being someone who is against it, allow me to restate my complaints against it.

While the need to attack in three dimensions is a valid issue, and the homing attack itself we could let slide back during the Adventures, it's becoming both stale and to me, it just comes off as a bloody lazy and cheap move that makes me think the developers couldn't be arsed to think of something better. Especially that bloody "bounce off enemies to get over a bottomless pit" thing, that's been overdone and it's also lazy (and bad) level design.

And to make things worse, it's practically made the spin-dash nigh-useless for general combat, especially recently, where only the Wii version of Sonic Unleashed even has it. Nintendo faced the three dimensional attacking problem as well, but they actually came up with interesting, non-cheap moves. Maybe they should replace the homing attack with a more varied yet fast-paced moveset, and implement a lock-on feature?

And let's not start on how broken it often is.

Honestly, in my opinion, they should replace the homing attack with a simple lock-on. Thus, Sonic can keep a focus on an enemy if need be, help aim his attacks (and help make the spin-dash a viable option again), allow for a more varied moveset, and isn't overly cheap. Also, nobody will need to complain about accidentally flying off into a bottomless pit because the game can't aim a homing attack for smeg.

Your thoughts?

Edited by The Sniper
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Back in the late 90s, Nintendo came up with Z-targeting. That every relatively combat-heavy 3D platformer hasn't used a similar system just seems odd to me.

The only problem I can think of is that you would probably have to slow down the game considerably to not get motion sickness or something, but recently the Sonic games have had speed to burn anyways.

That being said, I don't have that much of a problem with homing attack because I find its easier to just avoid the enemies entirely. That may be because of the homing attack, though... Hm.

Edited by Tornado
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Well, as I might've hinted at earlier, I personally think removing the HA altogether is a stupid idea, as much as I hate the move myself. Lock-on's okay, but what I would've preferred is that the HA be not an attack at all, but rather, simply a method of getting towards a nearby enemy quickly. That way, you don't need to waste time locking on and approaching in potentially flow-breaking fights when you could simply close in and align yourself with a single button press and work up from there.

As far as actual platforming aids go, well, I'm going to have to admit that the "using enemies as stepping stones across a bottomless pit" shouldn't exist for the most part. It's only barely feasable in classic games, and an extremely tired and lazy excuse for bad level design nowadays. Lock-on can't possibly work well for it either, if it's what I think you're implying (a common standard for lockon mechanics is that the controls change depending on your relative angle from the target - it gets cumbersome when you're directly above them, trust me on that). My idea, as crazy as it may sound, is to approach the issue from an FPS method of control - not actually first person in the camera sense, but otherwise controls like one with the strafing and aiming and whatnot. I've found that aligning yourself with an enemy this way is a LOT easier than trying to manually align yourself with the top of an enemy's head, and can be done on the fly to boot. Not to mention it almost completely negates the camera ever being an issue, with the exception of perhaps a wall being too close behind you.

And no, I'm not saying that simply because SRB2 did it. It's simply a vastly more effective method of orienting yourself when it comes to 3 dimensional precision.

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I enjoy it. It makes my life easier. And even if it does make my life easier, you can STILL mess up on a homing attack thanks to bad aiming and gaming issues. It's useful. I mean think of some of the more lame moves Sonic has had:

-the Peel Out

-the Instashield

-the Magic Hands (makes things stupidly easy)

-the Bounce Attack

-the Stomp (Okay, I can stomp on switches, even thought there's like two in the game! What else can I do with this? Nothing!)

Also, the spindash isn't very efficient in the 3D games. You can barely control it. It's much better to run. If they work on it and make it efficient, then I'll be happy to see it.

And lastly, Doesn't:

Boosting = Spindash these days? That's what I think...

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I don't understand how having a lock-on for all of your attacks is a solution if the homing attack is already a form of lock-on. Perhaps someone can explain that one to me?

Nevertheless, the homing attack has been ingrained in Sonic's repertoire for so long that it feels natural and, at least to me, solves the problem of getting a pinball traveling at hundreds of miles per hour to destroy an infinitesimal object in a vast three-dimensional space. I don't get upset at having to use it and in fact feel a cheap satisfaction when doing so because not only is it immediately destructive, but because it can help you bypass small obstacles by shooting off over them at a high speed and can get you back on a ledge if you happen to overshoot it.

However, there is boredom to be had with it because it hasn't been expanded on. Despite its potential to be a unique way of moving around a level and a valuable life saver, the most you'll use it for is to do is bop three or four enemies before moving on. After all, Sonic's entire arsenal is focused on the idea of moving forward instead of moving around, thus everything he does feels restricted in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps it would help if Sonic Team expanded on the Homing Attack's purpose simply by giving Sonic more maneuverability with it? Allowing Sonic to travel in arcs, curves, and at various degrees upwards and around instead of merely boosting straight forward towards the closest target?

@ BL: You say that the Homing Attack, when used during combat, should merely help the player close in instead of being a direct attack method if for nothing else but the sake of game flow. Is having to close in and then formulate an attack pattern for a particular enemy any less of a flow breaker than merely jumping in the air and taking everything out in the same motion? The way I'm imagining this in my head seems more trouble than its worth, especially if the ability you use to close in has lock-on in the first place.

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I mean think of some of the more lame moves Sonic has had:

-the Instashield

pola.gif

And lastly, Doesn't:

Boosting = Spindash these days? That's what I think...

Not in the slightest. Spindash is momentum based. Boost is "spam the boost button" based.

I don't understand how having a lock-on for all of your attacks is a solution if the homing attack is already a form of lock-on. Perhaps someone can explain that one to me?

A true lock-on system would allow this:

Allowing Sonic to travel in arcs, curves, and at various degrees upwards and around instead of merely boosting straight forward towards the closest target?

Whereas the homing attack couldn't be changed to allow it without rethinking it from scratch.

Edited by Tornado
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Back in the late 90s, Nintendo came up with Z-targeting. That every relatively combat-heavy 3D platformer hasn't used a similar system just seems odd to me.

The only one I remember is The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning, it wasn't that useful generally, but it was a massive help when fighting Cynder, who can hand your ass on a platter if you're not fighting well enough. The TLOS series has hard bosses. Not sure why it was dropped for the rest of the trilogy, besides it not being very useful in the first place besides that one boss.

As far as actual platforming aids go, well, I'm going to have to admit that the "using enemies as stepping stones across a bottomless pit" shouldn't exist for the most part. It's only barely feasable in classic games, and an extremely tired and lazy excuse for bad level design nowadays.

Quoted for truth. I'm amazed anyone actually defends it.

I know Rush Adventure had it. Not so sure about the original Rush. Oh hey, there's Megamix too, but that's a fangame so maybe it's better to disregard that.

SRA? I don't remember that having the homing attack, but that's just me.

I don't understand how having a lock-on for all of your attacks is a solution if the homing attack is already a form of lock-on. Perhaps someone can explain that one to me?

Because it gives you more options. Would you jump on their heads or over, spin-dash into them, or slide under their legs and keep on going? Tornado pretty much beat me to the rest of it.

Edited by The Sniper
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I firmly believe that we need something more than just the basic jump and roll to make fighting enemies in 3D reasonable. The homing attack is one solution, but it's kind of primitive and brings in its own problems. It's better than nothing, but by this point they should have something better than that.

I like the idea of a lock-on. The homing attack can still exist mostly the same, just having to lock on first (I'd imagine without a lock-on you'd just dash forward same as when there's no enemies around in other games, though in this case you could use that dash to get over an enemy). It'd also make the other attacks more viable and might serve as a common point for new abilities.

And I don't think it needs to get any more complicated than that. Sonic's always been more about the running than the fighting; he doesn't need to be an expert fighter, just an effective one.

I don't understand how having a lock-on for all of your attacks is a solution if the homing attack is already a form of lock-on. Perhaps someone can explain that one to me?
Well, first off, it's a visible indicator of what you're attacking (which, to be fair, recent games have started doing with the homing attack), second, it's user-controlled (as opposed to "wander close and hope the game decides to latch onto what you want it to"), and third, it can help with other attacks as well (the spindash is much easier to hit with if a lock-on is keeping it so the enemy is "forward", as opposed to having to deal with a full 360 degrees of aiming...and that's just considering the ground).
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I liked Sonic's W spin attack because defeating the pola enemies required a degree of timing, and Tails and Knuckles couldn't harm them without taking damage. Also helped me a few times in getting hard-to-reach enemies or item boxes.

The homing attack felt pretty satisfying in the Adventure games, so I don't have qualms using it, especially when it also doubles as a short jump dash - though it would have been more useful as one had Sega not implemented a disgusting loss of air momentum when jumping. Utterly useless in the 2D games, obviously.

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@ BL: You say that the Homing Attack, when used during combat, should merely help the player close in instead of being a direct attack method if for nothing else but the sake of game flow. Is having to close in and then formulate an attack pattern for a particular enemy any less of a flow breaker than merely jumping in the air and taking everything out in the same motion? The way I'm imagining this in my head seems more trouble than its worth, especially if the ability you use to close in has lock-on in the first place.
If you were to charge in so recklessly without already having an attack pattern in mind in the first place, you're already doing it wrong. <_<

But whatever the case, mine's more an idea to allow you to do more than simply float upwards after a Homing Attack. If people don't want that option and prefer that for sake of ease of use, hey, I don't mind. But as you say, the HA's never really been expanded on, and I imagine the first step towards actually doing so is to make it not an attack at all, but rather, an opportunity to utilize other moves. There doesn't even have to be a lot of them - if I had a choice between "HA and float upwards", "HA and stay level with the enemy", "HA and drop straight to the ground" and "HA and run straight past the target", each of which causing some form of damage to the targetted enemy, that's more than enough to work with. You could practically base an entire game around that if you approached it right.

It might also help if a Sonic game actually allowed you to use the HA on the ground for a change. Sometimes it kinda irks me that I almost always have to be off the ground to actually attack effectively - even the Genesis games allowed alternatives by way of rolling and spindashing.

EDIT:

SRA? I don't remember that having the homing attack, but that's just me.

I certaintly wouldn't blame you for missing it - it's set to the R button. Which as you might be aware, is the same button used for the special stunt moves. Speaking out of experience, it's actually quite unreliable, having a fairly low minimum range which stops it from triggering half the time. But hey, it's there.

Edited by Blacklightning
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The only one I remember is The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning, it wasn't that useful generally, but it was a massive help when fighting Cynder, who can hand your ass on a platter if you're not fighting well enough. The TLOS series has hard bosses.

The Ratchet and Clank games have a targeting button (though they switch to strafing controls instead of standard controls when you use it), as did (I'm pretty sure) the shooting sections of Spyro 2 and Spyro 3. There is another series on the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember what it is.

SRA? I don't remember that.

He's right. Apparently, pulling the right trigger while close to an enemy does a homing attack in both Rush and Rush Adventure. As someone who beat Rush Adventure without even knowing it existed, I can't imagine what the point of it is, though.

Edited by Tornado
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The homing attack in the 2D games is hideously unreliable. Most of the time when I've attempted it, Sonic just flies past the enemy, or aims incorrectly and gets a faceful of rings instead.

You have to be extremely close to pull it off right - like a couple of pixels - and at that point, you might as well just jump on the enemy the traditional way rather than pull off a homing attack.

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I certaintly wouldn't blame you for missing it - it's set to the R button. Which as you might be aware, is the same button used for the special stunt moves. Speaking out of experience, it's actually quite unreliable, having a fairly low minimum range which stops it from triggering half the time. But hey, it's there.

No wonder. I also wonder why the hell it is even THERE.

The Ratchet and Clank games have a targeting button (though they switch to strafing controls instead of standard controls when you use it), as did (I'm pretty sure) the shooting sections of Spyro 2 and Spyro 3. There is another series on the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember what it is.

Huh. Oh, yeah, now I remember, from playing Size Matters, but that was a PSP game, no wonder I forgot. Also, I just realized that Insomniac may have an obsession with their characters using some sort of gun-like weapon, they gave up on Spyro because they thought he couldn't do anything more, such as holding a gun (yes, they actually used that example). It seems they never played Jet Force Gemini.

Edited by The Sniper
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Regarding earlier comments on the Spin Dash (while we are on the discussion of attack moves), it would be nice if it was used as a slingshot mechanism in the 3D games. Like in Sonic CD, you could charge your Spin Dash for a second or two (avoiding the ability to spam it, although I hate how SA2 went about it, because I don't like assigning more than one move to a single button) and catapult yourself forward; controlling Sonic here would be less sensitive so you could easily guide your way around not-so-sharp corners and stuff. I think it would be pretty cool if you could unleash a Spin Dash and mow down a number of grounded enemies this way, tilting the control stick (and not having Sonic control sporadically in ball mode) to guide your direction and bounce off enemies in succession.

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Who actually KILLS those things?!

Since I found out that the W Kaiten kills them? Every time I see them. I also use it to more easily kill Keroppo and more quickly kill Icedus. As a less serious use, I also try to use it to break TVs in Ice Cap without breaking the ice enclosure they are in.

Jake apparently uses it too.

I don't think that is a valid enough reason.

Its a skill-based move that rewards the player if done correctly and presents the player with more attack options if he wants to use them. Just because it wasn't necessary to beat the game does not mean it had no merit, so I don't really care whether you think its use being essential to kill one of the most annoying enemies in the game is enough of a reason for it to exist.

Besides, it also extends your attack range (but not your hit box), making most of the bosses considerably easier if timed correctly. It was even more useful in Sonic Advance because of the move's increased range (and also how that game's bosses were set up), but in Sonic 3 you could clean the Big Arm's clock without him even touching you (for example). If you were good with it, it was probably the most useful advanced move in the game and (next to Amy's Jump Hammer) probably the second most useful move in Sonic Advance.

Edited by Tornado
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I have no idea where this concept that the homing attack is somehow crutial to Sonic in 3D. Oh wait, Sonic Team is so inept at designing games that the only way they can make one not be a total bust is to have it play istelf most of the time.

First of all, killing enemies should not be a requirment, apart from bosses, but those are big enough that it shouldn't be a problem either way. Add to that the fact that Sonic Adventure is almost playable without it, and tht the only reason it isn't 100% fine is because they hamstrung your mid air mobility. The homing attack is essentially there to make up for something else they broke. When Sonic jumps, he doesn't have to land precisly on top of his target, if he makes any contact with it while traveling through the air, it's a hit. Are the enemies still too hard to hit? Make them bigger, or at lease with larger hitboxes. If they have to be small, just have the player roll into the thing. It works well when the control isn't scitzphrranically twitchy or unresponiasive to the point of uselessness.

The homing attack is also a substantial reduction in terms of depth. Spin dash? Rolling? Why bother? I can just mash A.

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I don't think it's necessary at all. And I do fault Adventure for introducing it, I was unimpressed with it on its debut. I'm gonna compare it to Mario here a lot, because one of the reasons I didn't like it was how sloppy it compared to Mario 64's handling of 3D.

First, Sonic needs an expanded moveset in 3D. Motion is more complex, so his attacks need to match that.

You can still jump on enemies in both Mario and Sonic 3D games, at least the Adventure games. The expanded move to aid 3D combat for Mario was the butt stomp attack. Great move, it cancels your jump and sends your dangerous plumber ass straight towards the enemy. The stomp is useful for cutting a overshot jump short as a platforming aid, and for breaking long falls so you don't take damage. They really put it all into this move. Whoever thought of it deserves a medal, because it's perfect.

For Sonic, not so much. Because we need speed in a Sonic game. So here's the homing attack, which doesn't sacrifice speed. Problem with this is that it's too much of a player aid. Homing missiles are some of the lamest noob weapons around in most games. You need zero skill, and they're cheap shots. Sonic's main attack is a cheap shot never-miss-unless-bugged attack. One of the problems people have with modern Sonic is too many automated sections. Nothing says automated more than a move that never misses. How do we fix it? I don't know, but I'm gonna throw some ideas out there anyways.

1.) First, kill the move or nerf it until it's not the same move. Eboni mentioned some of Sonic's old moves, which I happen to think were some of his best. The insta-shield for example, let Sonic get nice and close to an enemy with less of a chance of him catching a hit. Sonic 3's final grabby boss of doom is a good example here. Small window (heh, literally a window) to hit the guy, but errors are corrected by the insta-shield, saving you in those few pixels outside of the hit box. What if an attack worked like this? Sonic lets out a midair spin or whatever the insta-shield was, and something directly next to his jump takes a hit. This takes the precision platforming out of having to slow down to bop enemies, and only requires you to be "close enough". It's not coming from four feet away with a never miss attack, because it requires the player to put himself within hit range, which equals more playing skill.

Even that move's a bit like the homing attack, because it compensates for the player. But not as much. You could get the same effect from drastically shortening homing attack range. But that's what I mean about nerfing, it'd be so different it wouldn't be much of a homing attack at all. Of course homing platforming would have to go if you make changes like that. The homing's range was shortened a lot in Sonic Heroes, but they kept the enemy chains, which lead to some frustrating pit deaths.

2.) What if the attack only worked from directly above or below an enemy? Kind of like the butt stomp plus momentum? Imagine running and trying to jump on a Badnik at full speed - now when you're directly above him, hit the attack, and you make for a diagonal line straight through the enemy, coming out running on the other side. From below you perform a kind of buzzing uppercut and hit the floor running. Like the above, it's a nerfed kind of homing, limited so it requires more skill. You wouldn't be able to chain attacks, or homing a guy behind or too far to the side of you.

3.) Besides mods on the homing, the bounce attack was a crazy good move that never got enough use. There were a few levels in Adventure 2 where you could fly by enemies and just bounce attack right over them, smushing them into oblivion. It's so satisfying to come mashing with the bounce attack right through a Badnik. This move is effectively Mario's butt stomp move, just a bit slipperier. It cancels jumps and works like an attack. Aside from momentum problems, this is the attack for me.

4.) On the classic side, there's the spin dash. I think we're missing a bit of what made the spin dash awesome in 2D, and it's a bit off topic, but I wanna see movement when I spin dash. Like Unleashed's blur effect while revving to really make us feel the speed. Anyways. Sonic games aren't really open world games, so any dashable baddie would be to the front. That makes tacking them with targeting easier. If you're thinking about a full 3D kind of thing, I don't see why lock on wouldn't work either. Of course the spin dash is used for speed also, so the targeting would need a trigger. Like say you're revving up a dash, but you want to hit the guy a bit to your left. Hold the trigger while revving and you'll aim in that direction. Or for multiple baddies, it targets one and you tap the control stick to target the guy on the other side. You don't even need little red targets, those look tacky. It just guides the attack. This isn't cheap, because the spin dash is used from a standstill, and would probably be your least used method of attacking. Preferably it would have to do with slower rolling also, which in SA1 was my preferred method of killing Badniks with Tails.

Anyways. Hope someone read all that. To sum it up, my ideal Sonic moveset would be four basic moves -

- A modified range attack, or nerfed homing attack, whatever you want to call it. Always works with momentum.

- Bounce attack for smashing through enemies and tougher obstacles, also higher jump.

- Boost, I guess for maximum speed and long jump. Limited use, and not an attack.

- Spin Dash with optional aiming, for quick speed rebound. Also rolling. Not crazy fast like boost, doubles as attack.

Edited by Badnikz
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How do we fix it?

Redesign it so it seems like we're actually putting in skill?

What I'm talking about is I remember in Sonic Adventure 2 (let's use, say, Crazy Gadget in this example) there's one bit that you have to homing attack the enemies to get to the other side over a bottomless pit (well, designed like one at least), but there's this enemy at the end who can generate an electric shield. Depending on when you time it, you'll either smite him no problem or get face full of static (and I mean that in a most painful way).

However there's actually another method of getting through. There's a rail right at the bottom with a spring at the end you could use, so you are given the option to kill all the robots and risk making contact with that last guy, or kill the first guy and use you bounce attack to plummet yourself to that rail (but with the a few of the fundamental problems of the game back then or whatever, chances are you may end up falling through it by accident).

So my solution... make it available, but not a requirement (except of later levels that's meant to challenge you)? Give us a challenge and not just a quick, simple solution?

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I pretty much just think it could be kept, just make everything else more useful and not for those infrequent gimmicky sections tbh. A rolling down hills mechanism would be useful too, it'd be near useless on a flat part, but press B or something while going down and you gain momentum, like the classic games, and then maybe there'd be a part where you fly into the air while rolling and could bop enemies on the way down. Or something. I don't know ._.

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I don't understand all this criticism of "homing attacking over bottomless pits is stale" is coming from. Did you guys play Unleashed 360? It was the first game where they actually did some clever stuff with it.

Examples:

Skyscraper Scamper Day Act 1: There is a simple "use the homing attack to get across pit" section, where if you allow yourself to drop down, you will find another line of enemies to chain across, should you time it right, leading to an alternative route.

Cool Edge Day Act 2-2: Two examples from here: Firstly at the start there are spiked balls blocking your direct line of attack towards an enemy, so you have to let yourself drop down and homing attack at the last second. And in a later section, you are flying down a long, large cave with sets of springs floating in mid-air, some dummies, and some real. You have to navigate Sonic with the control stick towards the correct one in order to proceed, using the homing attack only once you've targeted it.

I found these puzzles to be very fresh and reminded me that the homing attack still has value. They just need to intergrate this sort of thing into the main levels, leading to alternative routes, instead of keeping them as side challenges (well, except for that Empire City example).

All that discussion of Z-targetting fighting: No, just no. That'd slow Sonic down way too much. Any kind of fighting that causes you to stop and start - even if only slightly would be as bad as the enemy hoardes in Sonic Heroes. Ugh.

Though since people were trying to think of platformers that have used it, you can add Rayman 2/64/DS and Rayman 3 to the list.

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