A Certain Magical Virtual-On mechanics

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Porcupine
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A Certain Magical Virtual-On mechanics

Postby Porcupine » 08 Jan 2018, 17:03

Here's my interpretation of the mechanics based on the playable demo. May this serve either as a historical archive of mistakes after they fix the actual release, or a foreshadowing of insanity and imbalance to come.

This is an entirely new game and is the most different out of all the Virtual-On games. Overall it is the most similar to VOOT, sharing much of its pacing and quickness of moves. The actual speed of movement is like VOOM, the fastest in the series. It is essential to stay away from the edges of the arena now, as rubbing on them takes away that component of your speed and makes you slow. This doesn't happen with obstacles. The closer you get to the enemy the slower you move, it is more of a gradual decrease compared to VOOT.

Walking

Acceleration and deceleration are quick. There is no rowing, all direction changes are instantaneous yet maintain full speed, like watari dashes. Pressing the lock button while walking will rotate the enemy into view extremely quickly and keep your VR walking in a circle around them while held down. Walking speed is slower by an amount that varies with the VR while holding lock. In smart mode you are forced to walk at the slower speed, except for smart Raiden who is glitched and gets to walk fast.

With the underlying twinstick controls gone, if you walk while manually turning in veteran mode, you do not walk any slower. The rotation speed is good, though slower than stationary turning. Most walking attacks move quickly in this game, but for those few that move slowly, holding the lock button will let you walk faster. Walking attacks can have a delay after shooting before they can cancel into a dash, similar to Force, plus a few have glitchy timing requirements.

You can now fire turbo attacks immediately while walking. However you cannot fire stationary normal attacks until you fully stop moving. This is the reverse of VOOT. Normally this is not an issue unless your VR has a stationary normal attack that comes out quicker than the walking version. Fei-Yen has a useful glitch. Although both her walking and stationary CW come out slowly in this game, if she tries to do a stationary CW without fully stopping, it comes out quicker.

Dashing

There is no startup to dashes but you need to wait an extra frame after dashing to fire, otherwise you will get a turbo attack. Dash attacks have super fast rotation, even better than in VOOT. Frame data has been redone, and diagonal dash attacks no longer share data with their forward or backward counterparts. There is no freeze at the end of dash attacks anymore, but all VRs except Angelan slow to a stop after firing. Some attacks slow down gradually like in Force, while others slow abruptly at the end which is closer to VOOT. This is independent of how quickly the attack recovers.

Manual dash rotation still exists but is very slow and worthless. Watari dashing has been limited to one direction change per dash, and the input is different (hold the desired new direction and press turbo again). Only forward, forward-diagonal, and side directions can be used in watari dashing, and 90 degrees is the maximum bend allowed. If using smart mode, be warned that although the camera keeps the enemy in view at all times, the watari dash direction works relative to the original direction.

There is a glitch way to do a better watari dash. Just cancel your dash into close combat by tapping the CC button (you must let go of the button to do close combat, pressing it does nothing) then cancel into another dash immediately afterward. This can be done seamlessly in one frame and is very powerful, especially in smart mode. The glitch watari dash moves according to the direction the camera is facing, and reorients your VR as long as you have lock-on.

Dash cancels are now the same as letting an empty dash expire, slowing to a stop. The direction of movement can no longer be controlled, it copies the dash. The lock button works during the dash cancel animation, so they can function like alternative jump cancels that move a bit, plus you can still jump in an emergency. The button placement makes it difficult to tap lock but it still works late. Or you can just press down and transition to cancel your dash. Raiden has the shortest and best dash cancel.

Turbo Attacks

You can fire turbo attacks while dashing, and if you do they automatically lock-on similar to a dash attack, except that your VR is stationary and the rotation ends upon either firing or acquiring the target. You can also fire turbo attacks while air dashing and in this case the turbo attack can be moved around freely. Super low air dash turbo attacks will be a fundamental trick.

Although there is only one turbo button, they are not all RT attacks like in Force. The developers chose their favorite VOOT attacks, so some are RT and some are LT, or hybrid. The LT attacks allow themselves to be canceled into a dash soon or immediately afterward. Some of these allow canceling into a walk at the same time, but most have a slightly longer delay before they can walk (it's still a cancel, compared to standing there and shooting again). This behavior is similar to crLT attacks in VOOT.

The ability to cancel turbo attacks into a walk is useful, due to the change in dash cancels. Once you start dashing, there is oddly no longer any good way to go back to walking. One of the best ways is to cancel your dash into a LT attack, then walk. The alternatives are to jump cancel (which is now slower) or dash cancel (which now stops but can auto-lock).

Jumping

You can do plain jump attacks at a range of heights, making them better. Unfortunately they took out all turbo rotation, so prediction lasering in the air is poor now. If you need to jump attack from even lower, you can do an air dash turbo attack. In that case they auto-lock and are not useable for prediction. Super low air dashes are easy to perform because you are no longer required to let go of the jump button before you air dash.

You now press jump twice to jump cancel. Due to physical limitation this makes it a bit slower, but the landing freeze is typically longer now anyway. There is only one uncancelable, global landing freeze no matter how you land, whose length varies by the VR. Cypher, Bal-Rloon, and Apharmd B have short freezes. Angelan has zero landing freeze.

If you cancel an empty air dash with turbo there is a midair pause, so this maneuver is no longer one of the better options. If you press jump to fast drop the pause sort of goes away, but a better way to cancel an air dash is to press lock to switch from the air dash to the ground transition dash. Air dash attacks are still good but now slow down while recovering, with a few coming to a complete stop. They can be replaced with air dash turbo attacks for some purposes.

Transition Dashes

This is the major new maneuver. You can only go into a transition dash from a regular dash. There is a small delay before you can transition but it takes about that long to reach the lock button anyway. The transition itself has a lengthy startup that varies by the VR. It is typically longer from the air than the ground, but is shortest from very low altitude. The startup moves at full speed but you cannot do anything for its duration so it's a slight vulnerability.

There are different directions of transition dash, which I studied against the tutorial dummy. They are influenced by the direction of the prior regular dash as well as the direction you press when hitting the lock button. The startup moves in a different direction than the following movement, although they have the same speed. After the startup you can shift the direction around slightly by holding forward, back, or diagonal (which gives marginally less angle but is easier).

  • back-diagonal dash, back-diagonal/side/neutral transition: sideways startup, sideways movement, bendable +/-15 degrees
  • back-diagonal dash, forward-diagonal transition: sideways startup, 15 degrees inward movement, bendable +/-15 degrees
  • side dash, back-diagonal transition: sideways startup, sideways movement, bendable +/-15 degrees
  • side dash, side/neutral transition: sideways startup, 15 degrees inward movement, bendable +/-15 degrees
  • side dash, forward-diagonal transition: forward-diagonal startup, 70 degrees inward movement, bendable +/-10 degrees
  • forward-diagonal dash, back-diagonal transition: sideways startup, 15 degrees inward movement, bendable +/- 15 degrees
  • forward-diagonal dash, side/neutral transition: sideways startup, forward-diagonal movement, bendable +/-15 degrees
  • forward-diagonal dash, forward-diagonal transition: forward-diagonal startup, 80 degrees inward movement
  • forward dash, back-diagonal/side transition: sideways startup, forward-diagonal movement, bendable +/-15 degrees
  • forward dash, neutral transition: sideways startup, 70 degrees inward movement, bendable +/-10 degrees
  • forward dash, forward-diagonal transition: forward-diagonal startup, 80 degrees inward movement
Transition dashes automatically lock-on and circle the enemy for their entire duration, but only the the startup can rotate quickly. Rotation during the main movement has a limit, so if both VRs circle each other in opposite directions at close distance they get off-angle, spiral outward, and risk being shot. Transition dashes have less speed than regular dashes on some VR. There is a tiny lag when jumping from a transition dash which can be removed by pressing turbo and jump simultaneously.

You can attack during a transition dash, and unlike regular dash attacks, they do not make your VR move slower. They tend to be weak and there is only one version regardless of direction. The recovery can be skipped by quickly dashing afterwards within a certain window. Rotation remains limited so these are not as effective as regular dash attacks at close distance. Most LW and CW attacks return your VR to the startup direction while RW attacks keep the current direction but remove any bend.

It's important to understand what happens when a transition is started while the enemy is out of view. You spin in a tiny circle until you gain lock-on, then move in a big circle around the enemy after that. The initial twirl can be considered to be like a freeze. Your VR also has a mind of its own: it normally circles in the same direction as your dash, but when the enemy is behind you (more than 90 degrees to the side) it reverses direction. When this occurs your VR also rotates the wrong way if the prior dash points away from the side the enemy is on (or you dash forward and input a transition opposite the enemy). This makes the twirl last longer.

The side of the enemy is thus potentially the worst spot to transition (it becomes fine if you watari dash correctly first). If you aren't confident of the enemy location or think they are directly behind you, then a jump cancel, dash cancel, or LT attack is a safer way to reorient. Other ways to prevent the transition reversal problem include smart mode, air dashing before transitioning, or the special glitch transition (press down and lock, followed by a quarter-circle motion).

Lasers

Prediction is still useful but lasers are also effective when fired directly at the enemy. Beams tend to be short but are wide and travel extremely fast. Both VR and attack hitboxes can be huge in this game. In veteran mode some lasers can be aimed with the left stick during the startup animation. Angelan LTRW starts and aims quickly. The others can be delayed by holding the trigger but aim slower than regular turning.

Manual turning is a steady speed in all circumstances. There is a noticeable input delay to begin any type of manual turning which can be buried inside any prior action such as a dash cancel. Though smart mode can't be used for prediction, it instead allows stationary attacks to self-rotate and face the enemy throughout their startup, which improves lasers fired directly.

Knockdowns

A major change to the game is that timeout winners are now determined according to who has scored the most points instead of remaining health. 30 points are awarded for most knockdowns, 50 points for CC knockdowns, and 70 points for a wreck (called fatal down earlier). Certain conditions, such as being knocked down from the air, allow a followup hit for 20 more points. Jump CC makes a wreck. Most VR have one or two other specific moves that wreck. The italicized ones require a previously worn down gauge, otherwise they only score a regular knockdown.

Temjin: RTRW, surfboard, super punch
Raiden: CW, hand laser
Fei-Yen: RTCW
Grys-Vok: RTRW, special nuke
Apharmd S: RTRW, baseball bat
Apharmd C: RTRW, jump kick, katana slash
Apharmd B: melee kick, jump kick, giant sword
Specineff: jump BTCW
Dordray: air CD rush, giant mode
Cypher: jump RTRW, SLC
Bals: magical feathers

Knockdown strength of moves is generally the same as VOOT. The knockdown gauge was in every VO game, just never displayed before. There is a newly introduced 5 to 10 second delay depending on the strength of hits taken before recovery begins. The gauge refills about three times slower than VOOT, taking 30 seconds, and also stops while attacking.

If the points leader runs away for too long a hit clock violation will be imposed, draining 1 point per second until a hit is landed on the opponent. It can now be advantageous to run away when you are losing. It takes 15 seconds to instigate the 1st penalty, 10 seconds for the 2nd, and 5 seconds after that, so it's good to start violating the leader early.

Multiple Hit Attacks

The two frame invulnerability after any projectile hit was removed, thus it is now easier to suffer multiple hits from Cypher daggers, four-way missiles, and the like. Staggers still exist as precursors to being knocked down but the invulnerability to projectiles was likewise removed. You can be staggered out of a dash (VOOT was the only game in the series where you couldn't) and even in the air. This makes multiple shot dash RW more dangerous.

Fei-Yen's forward dash RW is strong. Perfectly point-blank the first shot will knock down, but this is actually bad for her. From general close range the first shot will stagger, then the second hit combos and knocks down anyway. This will only amount to around 10% health damage, which is typical in this game. Yet this knockdown power assures her just as many points as Temjin (and the shots similarly appear far out from her body despite her short arms).

All three Apharmds have arguably the best forward dash RW due to the changes in stagger mechanics. They have less knockdown power than Fei-Yen but it works to their advantage. Typically their second shot staggers, then all four to five shots will hit and knock down, doing roughly 30% health damage. This is more than Temjin who usually does 20% with his forward dash RW (he can do over 30% damage from farther out).

Forward-diagonal dash RW on Fei-Yen, Apharmd, and others have almost the same damage and knockdown power as forward dash, as the combo mechanic self adjusts when enough shots are fired. Temjin and Grys-Vok are exceptions, their forward dash RW knock down immediately while their forward-diagonal dash RW don't even stagger (the damage is still comparable).

Close Combat

Melee mechanics are similar to VOOT however attacks are quicker and slide forward faster. Because of the larger hitboxes, many CC attacks seem to be undodgeable, even for example Fei-Yen's small vertical slash. Jump CC is dodgeable. Melee damage has been lowered. Single hit CC typically does 20% damage and can only cancel into a dash before hit frames. VRs with 2-hit CC strings typically do 10% damage with the first hit and a bit more with the second. First hits can cancel into a dash anytime except during hit frames. Most second hits can only cancel into a dash before hit frames.

The CC strings create a stagger which appears longer lasting than the normal stagger and could be true combos. They can be hit confirmed with fast reactions. Otherwise, various input tricks exist to mimic such performance. Another option is to repeat the first hit by canceling it into a dash, then tapping CC again.

Activation distances are as follows: Apharmd B 130, hyper/normal Fei-Yen 120/105, Temjin 100, Apharmd C/S 100, Specineff 90, Bal-Rloon 85, Grys-Vok 80, Dordray 80, Angelan 80, Bal-Bados 70, Cypher 70, Raiden 40. Without double lock-on, a VR can still perform melee but the attack will not slide forward, with the exception of Raiden who always charges forward in the same manner. Raiden can hit from slightly outside the listed range but will do lower damage (he normally triple hits).

Special Moves

Melee+RW actives Fei-Yen hyper mode and Grys-Vok giant nuke. The remaining specials are performed by doing a forward air dash, holding turbo, and pressing CW. All weapon gauges must be full. If you just use the shoulder buttons without having turbo pressed you will get turbo CW instead. The restyled input allows these specials to also be activated for a brief period after the air dash ends or is fast dropped. Damage is high, consistent with previous games.

Temjin surfboard homes well but can be dodged even by walking. When started the surfboard additionally reorients to face the enemy once, similar to a jump. It's better to attack off-angle so the reorientation acts as a short period of perfect homing. Lock-on isn't required, allowing him to fly overhead and quickly attack from behind. Smart mode does not alter the performance since it only affects the camera. Dashing no longer goes under the surfboard but you can run behind it during startup.

Cypher SLC can also be done from a ground dash. It reorients once and flies at full speed during the brief startup. It won't reorient if the enemy is too far out of view. Performing it immediately from a low air dash guarantees reorientation and makes it instant (this can be undesirable). Afterwards you fly manually. You need to keep holding turbo to move fast. Don't hold forward as this will ram the ground. Airplane mode has been integrated so mash triggers for free attacks. The SLC and daggers seem undodgeable from close range, but if you miss just fly upward, turn sideways, then cancel with jump when it's safe.

Apharmd jump kick has a stationary startup then flies straight. It reorients to face the enemy when started. Lock-on isn't required so it's pretty useful as a punisher or direct attack but prediction can no longer be used. It uses no ammo. Striker's jump punch has no reorientation. The low air dash trick can reorient it but the punch does not work well at low altitude. Neither can it be used for prediction since watari dashing does not work in the air. It's worthless.

Super Moves

The super gauge is filled through the progression of time but also increases by a fixed amount every time you land a hit or get knocked down. Activating a super move refills your knockdown and weapon gauges. The following powerup lasts 13 seconds with Specineff and 17 seconds with everyone else. Points scored are doubled in this state, making it an important comeback mechanic. Other effects vary by VR, typically including greatly increased speed. Temjin also gains increased knockdown resistance.

Guarding

Guarding is now performed by holding down together with the melee button. It's no longer exclusively for blocking CC, lowering all health damage taken to 50% of normal, and all knockdown damage to 30%~40% of normal. However, guarding only activates when you have a double lock-on. This can be used to your advantage via fuzzy guarding. Just hold guard while dashing and your VR will only stop and guard if the enemy gets within CC distance.

In veteran mode, be cautioned that you don't automatically get a double lock-on whenever an enemy is within CC distance. This mechanic has returned to VOOM, you need to get a regular lock-on first by having the opponent pass through your center of view. The regular lock-on is then upgraded to double lock-on when the enemy gets within CC distance (they do not need to pass through your center of view a second time).

<Work In Progress>

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