PlatinumGames has never been a studio which shirks away from adding an extra layer of complexity to their action games. Many of their titles are chocked full of unique combat mechanics, but one often-hidden mechanic makes its way into several of their games.
This ability is called Dodge Offset, and was originally designed as a mechanic exclusive to PlatinumGames’ flagship title, Bayonetta. Similarly to its spiritual predecessor, Devil May Cry, Bayonetta heavily emphasizes a combat system based around a style ranking which judges the player’s skill and rewards them accordingly. Essentially, the more the player has mastered the game’s combat, the more rewards they receive. In Bayonetta (or any PlatinumGames title for that matter), this means the player must successfully juggle dodging and attacking. This is no easy task considering how swiftly and frequently enemies attack, in addition to the textbook’s worth of combos Bayonetta has in her arsenal. These combos often end with powerful strikes called Wicked Weaves, which raise the player’s style ranking considerably when used. However, the player will never earn a high style ranking unless they avoid taking damage, avoid using the same combo too frequently in a single encounter, and use enough Wicked Weaves. This is where Dodge Offset comes in.
Because of its core combat mechanics, Bayonetta players are encouraged to land multiple Wicked Weaves in a fairly brief period of time while avoiding damage. The only problem is that enemies are extremely aggressive, and Bayonetta players will rarely get a decent opportunity to land a Wicked Weave combo ender without her offense getting interrupted. Dodge Offset circumvents this issue by letting Bayonetta hold her place in a specific combo string while dodging. This way, Bayonetta players can start a combo, avoid damage using her dodge, and finish the same combo without having to restart. All the player has to do is hold the most recent input in the combo sequence during the dodge. Once the dodge ends, the player can press the next button in the sequence and continue as normal.
This is most easily illustrated with Bayonetta’s “punk, kick, punch” combo, which ends in a Wicked Weave. Say the player has already pressed the first two inputs in the sequence, and is about to be attacked. Obviously, getting hit isn’t an option, but it would be nice if they didn’t have to press that initial “punch, kick” again before they get to splatter their angelic foes with a Wicked Weave the size of a semi-truck. If the player holds that kick input as they dodge, they will be able to throw the final punch in the sequence and land the Wicked Weave. Bayonetta even encourages this behavior by firing extra bursts of damage from her pistols if the player holds each attack input.
However, Bayonetta is only the beginning of Dodge Offset. The mechanic has become a staple part of PlatinumGames’ combat design. Aside from appearing in Bayonetta’s sequel, it has also shown up in games like Nier Automata, Astral Chain, Wonderful 101 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Even some of Platinum’s property-based games like The Legend of Korra and Transformers Devastation have the mechanic in some form. Certain implementations of Dodge Offset, such as in Wonderful 101, do not require the button-hold to function. Finally, other studios have picked up on Dodge Offset and adopted it for their own games. Notably, God of War (2018) sported a similar system which allowed combo strings to continue after Kratos performs a step-dodge.
The most interesting aspect of Dodge Offset, however, is how difficult it is to master, especially in its original incarnation. Games like Bayonetta aren’t exactly known to pull punches on the player, and braving the game’s trials on the harder difficulties requires weeks or months of built-up knowledge and muscle memory. To earn Pure Platinum rank for every mission in Bayonetta, the player must have memorized the inputs and timings of dozens of combos for multiple weapons. They must have learned the behaviors of each individual enemy in the game, and they must juggle avoiding their opponent’s attacks while executing and maintaining their combos. It’s no easy task, but it’s one of the major reasons PlatinumGames titles can be so rewarding. They require the player to look beneath the surface of the game’s mechanics, and seamlessly act on that knowledge to succeed.
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