Five of the Best is a weekly series about the bits of games we overlook. I’m talking about potions, hubs, bags, mountains, anything really – but things we ignore at the time. Then, years later, we find they’re cemented in our memory, inseparable from our experience of the game. Turns out they were important after all. So now we’re celebrating them.
Five of the Best works like this. Various Eurogamer writers will share their memories in the article and then you – probably outraged we didn’t include the thing you’re thinking of – can share the thing you’re thinking of in the comments below. We’ve had some great discussions in our other Five of the Best pieces. Some of you have memories like elephants!
Today’s Five of the Best…
Ultimate abilities! The kind you charge up and then unleash. You probably know them most from fighting games, but which ability in which fighting game do you choose? Or you’re used to them from MOBAs, or maybe Overwatch, but which one should we single out? It’s not only competitive games with ultimate abilities, either, so here’s to the big flashy moves games let us show off with. Happy Friday!
There’s a simplicity to Omnislash which I love – it’s essentially Cloud going to town with his sword – but in Final Fantasy 7, a game where combat can be a little on the sluggish side, unlocking this endgame Limit Break is a revelation.
Whereas summon animations lose their novelty quickly, the more you watch Omnislash, the more it gains a hypnotic quality – with its rhythm of three strikes at a time, polygonal shock waves and damage numbers flying off with every blow, before that elongated mid-air pause and blinding finisher.
It’s not the most showy or most ridiculous attack in the series. Hell, it’s not even the most powerful in this game – but in my eyes, Omnislash is as perfect an attack as there has been in Final Fantasy. It’s snappy, utterly devastating, and most importantly, involves a ridiculously oversized sword.
There can be only one: Akuma’s Raging Demon has been a part of Street Fighter iconography since Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo introduced the devil himself into the series. Akuma floats forward to grab his opponent, then, behind the cover of darkness, lands loads of super fast hits. The darkness lifts, Akuma stands menacingly, his back to the screen, and, if the super kills, all sorts of pyrotechnics spark in the background. It’s mysterious, it’s dripping with cool, and it can be devastating in the right hands.
It’s also unique. The input command for Raging Demon, which has remained the same for the last 25 years, is a series of button presses (light punch, light punch, forward, light kick, hard punch), as opposed to a motion or two and the press of a button or three. So, used on its own and out in the open, your opponent will see your jabs and back off. Flash that input series with quick fingers during some other action, however – that is, hide the fact it’s coming, and you can pull off some proper dirty finishes.
I’m quite fond of the Street Fighter 5 version of the Raging Demon, which pulls the curtain back on the darkness ever so slightly to reveal Akuma actually teleport punches around his opponent’s body. Fans have slowed this right down to reveal Akuma is punching vital weak spots – he is completely and comprehensively destroying his opponent, who is left in a heap on the floor.
Rage is a pretty funny name for a special in God of War – Kratos is defined by his anger in the first place. So I guess now he’s…even angrier? Still, Rage is an ugly delight: build up the gauge, push down on the sticks – I think; it’s been a while – and Kratos puts aside his weapons and starts lamping people with his hands. Even better, I think you regain health with all the damage you do.
God of War is such a study in OP design that adding a special like this must have been pretty daunting. Inevitably the buffs and damage design of it goes some way to making it work, but it’s also a victory for the art department. They make you feel doubly-angry, and maybe a little bit out of control.
(One last thing – when God of War launched, Spartan Rage required two buttons to be held down at once, which is very hard for people with certain disabilities to do. Always worth thinking about flexible input systems and giving people freedom to change layouts!)
Which is the best ultimate ability in Overwatch? Whew, now you’re asking. How do you single out one? I mean, the healers aren’t going to get a look-in are they? Maybe old-school Mercy when she swooped in with a five-person resurrect, though there were team members who would let you die specifically for that reason. Still, any healer in Play of the Game was a nice sight (and they’re better recognised now by the game’s algorithms).
I’ve always had a soft spot for Mei and her Blizzard. There’s nothing like slowly freezing a team into ice cubes, then sliding up next to them to icicle them in the face one by one, knowing all they can do is look at you and fume. Bliss! I also think, and I hate to say it, Hanzo’s “ryuga waga teki wo kurau” (“dragon, consume my foes”) ought to be up there. The long dragon of death so characterised Overwatch in the early days. Genji’s Dragonblade, on the other hand, can do one.
Or there’s the connoisseur’s pick: Zarya’s Grav, which sucks all the enemies towards it. It’s the assist of all assists for ultimate combos, although she rarely gets the recognition on her own. Or there’s Junkrat’s iconic tyre bomb, which rolls in from sneaky places, or McCree’s unmistakable “It’s High Noon” and then everyone runs for cover thinking ‘where is he, where is he?’. Or Bastion’s bee-boop warcry as he turns into a miniature tank. I could go on and on.
But the prize, I think, goes to D. Va and her self-destructing mech which kills anyone caught unsheltered in the blast. It was the first ultimate to really promote showboating, as people would fire off the ticking bomb, spray the wall and emote, all under the assumption their little piece of choreography would be shown in Play of the Game later – if their ultimate landed.
It’s still used today, the D. Va bomb, even at the highest level, the Overwatch League. You should see the precision they fire the bomb off at, up into the sky only to drop on the other team at the exact, unshielded moment. It’s glorious. It doesn’t always come off but the anticipation of a big kill is always there.
There’s never been a better cheat ability than Star Power in Guitar Hero. Sure, you can use it to multiply your score into the stratosphere, but that’s what good players did. Us normals, we used it to get through the hairy parts of songs, like when Freebird kicks off, or when Jordan gets going. Did you ever play Jordan? It was a downloadable song by Buckethead, and it’s a great track, but fudge me was it difficult. Star power got me through that song, stopped me from being booed off stage.
The other thing I loved about star power was how you activated it. You had to pull up on the fretboard to set it off, like a real rocker wrangling his guitar in front of a crowd. You know, Guitar Hero is the only game I’ve ever run home to play – and I mean that as an adult! I ran home from work to an empty flat and I – I kid you not – put my foot up on the sofa, like I had my foot on an amp, and thrashed out Hit Me With Your Best Shot like I was playing Wembley. What. A. Game.