Combos

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So wait... I can cancel Shinku Hadouken into Chopin's "Ètude of Revolution"? Sweet!


Short for "combination attack." A combo is a sequence of moves that string together. Generally these show up in Fighting Games, but they can also be seen in Third Person Shooters where brawling is more common than guns.

Combos will often give points or help fill up a Mana Meter when completed properly, but they most often allow the player to access powerful special moves. In fighting games, each character will usually have his own unique set of combinations and special moves.

For instance, in the Third-Person Shooter Oni, the combination punch, punch, kick causes the main character to execute a spinning kick instead of her usual round-house.

The technical definition of a combo is a sequence of moves where if the first hit connects, the entire sequence is unblockable (compare to Mercy Invincibility). However, many players use the term more casually. See this episode of "Kid Radd" for the natural consequence should a fighting game character ever face off against a Platformer character.

Very much Truth in Television for martial arts, as fighters will train to deliver a series of moves which are easy to do in succession, maintaining momentum while preventing the opponent from recovering.

Examples of Combos include:
  • Combos as we know them first appeared in Street Fighter II by accident; While playtesting the game, the developers discovered a glitch where certain combinations of moves for each character were able to strike in succession before the victim could block between them, allowing players to rack up damage a lot faster. The glitch was kept in as the developers thought it wouldn't be notable. Players and publications quickly caught onto these and spread the word. By the time Super Street Fighter II came around, the game was actively counting the hits of each combo.
  • Another Capcom series, Vampire, or Darkstalkers in U.S., was the pioneer of zigzag chaining, where players can chain normals from weakest to strongest, tracing a zigzag line with the button presses, making this series a grandfather to the Marvel series, Guilty Gear, Melty Blood and countless doujin fighters.
  • Killer Instinct was the first game to use its specially designed combo system as a selling point, and after it took off, virtually every game had it's own unique combo system built in. Killer Instinct's system was notable for having automatic combos launched by Button Mashing, and for the game's announcer enthusiastically announcing when a player managed to launch an extremely long "ULTRA COMBOOOOOOO!" KI also created the "C-C-C-Combo Breaker!", which infests imageboards to this day.
    • Killer Instinct 2 had a great deal of refinement put into its combo engine, to the point where button mashing would do very little but sixty+ hit combos were achievable without glitching.
  • The announcer in Mace: The Dark Age will criticize the player for making a combo longer than ten hits, using such words as "excessive" and "obnoxious".
  • Mystic Heroes rewards high combo counts, considering a 30-50 hit combo quite good work. A combo of more than 5 hits requires beating the crap out of the corpse of a long-dead enemy -- not an inconsiderable feat, as Everything Fades, but it does seem a bit strange that they would choose to reward this behavior.
  • Every Tekken character from the beginning of the series has had a 10-hit combo deliberately programmed in. When the Tekken character Heihachi appeared in Soul Calibur II, he had three moves that were just called "10-Hit Combo."
    • Tekken's versions aren't usually actual combos though, meaning that you can block or evade somewhere in the middle of them even if you're hit by the very first hit.
    • Tekken's combos usually come in air juggles where the first hit pops you up in the air.
      • In fact, you can generally find out which characters are far and away the strongest by looking at the combos that don't do this. Characters such as Heihachi or Steve Fox have had great combos that do not require a "launching hit" to guarantee the rest of the combo, and as such have been considered top-tier at times, especially the fifth installment.
  • Satirized in the animated series Drawn Together, in which the character of Xandir has a number of absurd power-ups and combos, mostly playing on the fact that Xandir is gay (e.g., a special attack called 'The Reach-Around', etc.)
  • The side-scrolling action RPG Legend of Mana has a fairly complex combo system, which rewards you with healing items if you make a long enough combo of attacks.
    • Drakengard rewards combos with healing items as well, though at fairly arbitrary numbers. (The first one is seventeen hits.) If the character is at full health, the reward is instead an orb that lets out a shockwave when touched, sending all enemies in range flying; the resultant hits add to the combo. After about 100 or so hits, the reward is always a black orb that gives temporary Quad Damage.
  • Many abilities in Bloodline Champions get better in some way when repeated - the basic attack ability generally at least has this for the bloodline, as well as abilities that are specifically made to work with others of the bloodline.
  • The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series is one of the few games with combos that don't involve dishing out pain. Any string of tricks performed without a break was a combo. The series eventually evolved this idea into the "line", a combo that stretches out over a certain area.
    • The SSX snowboarding series uses the same idea, giving the biggest bonuses for simultaneous tricks (a flip with a grab).
      • The SSX moves were further translated into Backyard Skateboarding, which obviously give the biggest bonuses for power-up moves.
  • City of Heroes has a power-set called Dual Blades that features combos.
  • Every Tales game lets characters combo beyond their basic attack sequence by chaining skills together, offering bonus experience among other things for players who can cooperate to make extended hit chains. Symphonia gave a title to anyone who pulled off the most basic combo in the game (Lloyd's hit combo into Majinken) as well as an additional string of titles for ever-mounting comboes (up to 100 hits). Tales of Destiny Remake and Tales of Innocence have battle systems geared around comboes - any Innocence character can generally get to at least 20 or 30 hits on their own by endgame, and the AI tends to be very helpful in driving the number into the hundreds against some bosses.
    • The Tales mantra, for those curious, applies to all games except Destiny Remake, Hearts, and Graces, which used the separate CC/EG gauge, and runs like this: "Attack, attack, attack, tokugi/base, ougi/arcane." Insert extra attacks and tech tiers where applicable.
      • Tales of Vesperia has taken this to ridiculous degrees. Overlimit in Vesperia allows you to chain physical attacks and cast spells instantly for as long as it's active. Combining this with certain skills allows main character Yuri to preform infinite combos. Also, equipping the right skills to Rita, the main spellcaster in your party, allows her to chain magic spells together.
    • TODR uses a Combo Capacity system that allows you to combo for as long as you want until either your CC runs out or the enemy escapes the chain (it regenerates pretty fast). The CC system was also used for Tales of Graces, Keroro RPG, and, in the form of the hybridized EG system, Tales of Hearts.
  • Most rhythm games have combos (or chains), for hitting multiple targets in a row with good enough timing. It resets to zero if the player misses one, and it will sometimes go up by more than one, or stay where it was, depending on the timing accuracy. Sometimes combos leads to higher scores, sometimes they're just for bragging rights.
    • The DJMAX Portable series and DJMAX Trilogy take combos to an extreme. In Portable and its sequels, getting a high enough combo (usually in the thousands or ten thousands) unlocks bonuses such as new songs and gallery images. Furthermore, Portable 2 onwards and Trilogy have the "Fever" system; when the Fever gauge is full, you can press a button to activate Fever mode, multiplying the rate at which your combo goes up with each note, and if you chain several Fevers together, you can have up to a x5 multiplier or, in some games, a x7 multiplier. In other words, hitting 10 notes will increase your combo by 70!
    • Elite Beat Agents and Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan take combos to a different extreme. Your score for hitting a marker is (point value of marker) * (current combo). If you have no combo, a 300 is worth 300, but if you have a 100 combo, a 300 is worth 30,000. This means missing notes, especially in the middle of the song, is fatal to your score.
    • In Pump It Up and In The Groove, you can get a combo of missed notes, shown in an embarassing red font color in the former. If the combo is high enough (30 in ITG or 51 in PIU), you get a Game Over.
  • In The World Ends With You, reaching combo benchmarks is one of the conditions that ups your "special" experience multiplier.
  • In Mugen no Frontier: Super Robot Wars OG Saga, the important part of the game isn't comboing, but cancelling. Each attack has a specific window of time during which, if you cancel into the next attack in your chain, the Limit Break gauge significantly rises. Also, if your combo breaks, the enemy has a chance of blocking the rest of your attack, breaking the attack chain, and maybe even counterattacking.
  • Exists in the game Fable I under the name "Combat Multiplier" and the higher it is, the more experience obtained when you beat an enemy. However, getting hit rounds it down to the next-lowest 5.
    • The Mana Shield spell turns this into a Game Breaker in that it allows you to take blows without penalty to your combo. Find an area with unlimited monster spawn (eg Grey House), activate the shield, and it's not too difficult to get the meter above 300 or so (at about which time you might as well stop, 'cause your experience counter just maxed out...).
  • Eternal Fighter Zero has the Reinforce gauge, which can be used to Cancel almost any attack and gives you a small window to input the next command, leading to all sorts of possibilities for creating combos.
  • Breath of Fire 4 featured this whenever two or more party members used magic or special attacks in consecutive turns. The hit counter counted all hits to all enemies in the combo total.
    • The catch being that the characters had to have equivalent speeds so that their turns would be next to each other. This troper was annoyed many a time when what should have been a 25+ hit combo got interrupted by the enemies being so rude as to take their turn in the middle of it.
    • Bonus points (and hits) if the attacks were elemental and complemented each other (eg, fire followed by wind).
  • The PlayStation 2 Fist of the North Star fighting game by Arc System Works is, basically, a combo maniac's festival. Comobos of up to thirty-three hits have appeared in tournaments. It helps that each character has an attack whose sole purpose is to launch the enemy into the wall, leaving them open for such tactics.
  • Also from Arc is Guilty Gear, which is MADE of combos, so much so that the damage scaling system is visible for the players' convenience, as well as fast to kick into high gear to stop Dust loops from being instantly fatal.
  • Devil May Cry 3 lets you feel like a superhero by the simple measure of allowing you to Cancel out almost any move into almost any move at no cost, racking up devilishly large combos limited only by the monster's ability to absorb damage. In most games, this would break the game right in half. In Devil May Cry 3, it was a necessity.
  • Valkyrie Profile 2 has an attack system that can be abused for some truly ridonkulous combos.
  • Art of Fighting 3 uses combo moves known as "Command Attacks" which the characters do 3D fighter style combination attacks. Although many of the other SNK games have 2D fighter style combs that can be implemented.
  • Ragnarok Online two martial artist classes, the monk and the Taekwon has combo moves, the monk must charge up his spirit orbs in order to unleash something beyond the 3 hit comboo to follow it with deadlier blows but can only land up to 10 hits with a full skill set in his trascended class. The Tae Kwon is more traditional with him preparing kicks and pressing the skill when he can use it.
    • Then of course there are Taekwon Rankers, the 10 best Taekwons (sorta) on the server gaining the ability to - when he can get in a kick - make infinite kicking comboes limited only to the mana pool of the Taekwon. A kick is 2 sp, a normal Taekwon has ~2-300 max. mana.
  • Xbox360 RPG Infinite Undiscovery has a combo system with different bonuses depending on if the combo is while the enemy is standing up, in the air, or on the ground with ground combos being the most difficult to get very high. Your teammates AI can also be set to help generate higher combos.
  • The Super Smash Bros. series has these as well, though Brawl has very few due to physics changes intentionally made to remove them.
    • Unlike other fighting games, these don't officially record consecutive hits, so their combos were created by the metagame.
  • Guild Wars is an example. While all classes have a few skills that can only be used after the enemy has been given a status effect from another skill, most of the time the term combo is used it's simply referring to a set of skills that work well in quick succession. The Assassin class however has a build your own combo system that uses the technical definition. Except for lead attacks, which are exactly what they sound like, every strike must follow a certain type of strike and often also requires some kind of status effect to be on the enemy which is generally provided by the preceding strikes.
  • Kingdom Hearts games allow you to string attacks together (abilities let you extend the combos to a preset number), after which you can pull off a finishing move which does extra damage.
    • In the sequel, Combo Finishers are one of the only ways to finish off bosses. (The other ways being Limit Breaks and Magic). If Sora/Roxas doesn't perform a combo on the boss, it will continue to retain it's last hit point indefinitely. (It should be noted that party members, and playable guest characters like Mickey and Riku cannot perform combo finishers. Only Sora can. Because he's apparently the only one allowed to kill the bosses.
      • It should also be noted that Sora himself has a fairly lengthy hitstun, and is thus easy to combo; thankfully, few enemies take advantage of this. Also, on boss characters, if you choose to temporarily forgo your finishing move (meaning you now have an infinite combo attack), they will always block/teleport after a little while, to avoid allowing a completely cheap win. Works perfectly on non-bosses, though.
  • The PSP Star Ocean games, First Departure and Second Evolution, automatically string attacks in a set of three; if the first hits, the rest can't be blocked. However, you're more vulnerable after a combo than after a single attack.
    • And let's not forget that the 3rd game Till The End of Time also had a combo system which encourage you to pile on the hits in order to activate the Bonus Gauge and take advantage to it. If you wanted to get particular bonuses (Triple EXP and Double Fol), doing combos was the way to go and you'd grind quicker if you were lucky enough to get the Triple EXP bonus. On top of that, you gain Battle Trophies depending how long a combo you managed to reach. Combinations with the charcters' special attacks can make such combos possible against meaty enemies with lots of HP.
  • The Time Crisis series from the second title onwards has a combo system that rewards quick shooting with more points, as do the spinoffs Crisis Zone and Razing Storm.
    • Lethal Enforcers 3 is similar, but instead of combos being made up of shots made within a short time of each other, combos consist of consecutive hits.
  • In the Don Pachi series, combos are the main way to score. Though because this is a shmup, you can continue your combo by hitting one enemy shortly after killing another. Also of note is the insane height of these combos, which can reach over 30000.
  • In the anime Clannad, Tomoyo has a trademark rapid fire sequence of kicks that juggles her opponent in the air, and a combo meter actually appears every time she uses it (on Sunohara). At one point, she and Tomoya do a chain combo that bumps the meter to over 1000 hits. In the Visual Novel, she chain combos with almost everyone on the cast.
  • Modern Tetris titles reward additional points for clearing lines with consecutive tetrominoes. In one particular game, Tetris Friends, comboing singles is the key to getting an optimal score as opposed to making Tetrises, which makes making Tetrises a counter-intuitive strategy.
  • Puzzle League / Panel de Pon's scoring is heavily based around chaining block clears. If you want to have a high score or hold water in a versus match, you must learn to make chains.
  • Gothic I/II allows melee specialists to chain multiple weapon swings together with properly timed presses of the "attack" key, instead of slower normal attacks.
  • In an odd use of the trope, Final Fantasy XII allows you to combo Quickenings, including chaining attacks from other characters.
    • Chain combos are used in Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XIII as a means of increasing damage, and in the latter game, a way to max out the Break Meter. The first three games in the series also had a combo counter, but this had more to do with getting around system limitations in order to display huge amounts of damage rather than be something beneficial.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum uses this extensively. You get vastly more experience for racking up a combo, and even more for a combo that uses all of your different moves. During several of the combat challenges going for large combo's is pretty much the only way to get 3 medals.
  • World of Warcraft uses a "Combo" system for the Rogue class (and cat-form Druids, which play the same at their core); Rogues gain several moves that add "points" to a combo meter on their target, which can then be ended with a finisher. The game, however, is slow enough as to not produce the traditional combo feel. There are some more traditional combos mixed in as well, especially at top tier play.
  • Even Pokemon has produced some combos with its attacks, such as Hypnosis+Dream Eater, Rain Dance turning Thunder into a 100% accuracy, Sleep Talk and Snore only working when asleep, Mindreader & a otherwise low-acc insta-kill move and so on.
    • A another example would be moves like Fury Attack and Bonemerang, which hit the target multiple times in a row without giving them a chance to retaliate. The overall damage dealt by these attacks is usually LESS than just using one powerful attack, but they are still useful for breaking the opponent's Substitute or reducing the damage taken from Counter.
  • Ninety-Nine Nights has a system where the higher your number of combos, the more likely a Mook will drop a rare(r) item (i.e. dropping a lvl 4 item instead of a level 1 item). And just to make things easier for you, each character has at least one stage where you will face a very large number (getting close and probably surpassing the 1000 range) of Mooks at once.
  • Tatsunoko vs. Capcom actually encourages smaller combos due to its damage scaling (which triggers pretty quickly). Expect to hear "YES!" (the game's call-out to three-or-four-hit combos) a lot.
  • The Exalted Tabletop RPG has a combat limitation saying that an Exalt can only use one Charm—offensive or defensive—until their turn comes around again. One way to get around this is to create a Combo, which costs Willpower to activate but will allow you to use an offensive and a defensive Charm (or multiple offensive Charm, or multiple defensive Charms, etc.) at the same time.
  • Juggle combos. Love them? Hate them? Either way, Mortal Kombat is their progenitor. Juggle-centric games like Marvel vs. Capcom have this series to thank.
  • The Disgaea series (and Makai Kingdom) counts a series of consecutive attacks on the same target(s) in a single turn as a Combo. Each successive attack gains a stacking bonus to hit and to the damage of the attack, allowing a low-level character to kill an enemy far above it's weight class if you can chain a long enough combo together.
  • Grandia II had combos as the basic attack. When ordered to attack, the character would unleash a flurry of strikes on the selected enemy: two at level one, up to four or five with upgrades by the end of the game. The moves they used, however, were selected automatically. The alternate basic attack was "Counter", which was just one normal strike that canceled whatever attack the enemy was preparing at that moment.
  • Halo 2, of all things. There was a glitch called "BXR" that allow a player to melee with B (which centered the crosshairs on the target's head), press X to cancel the frames of putting the gun back to your shoulder, and Right trigger to finish your target. There were several like this; BXL (BX and stick your target) and others. Removing this in Halo 3 unfortunately prevented lowering guns on XBL for some reason.
  • If a Platform Game allows you to Goomba Stomp enemies, it will probably give you extra points and lives if you keep stomping enemies without touching the floor. You may get the same rewards by hitting a bunch of enemies while under the effects of an Invincibility Power-Up.