Sean:God Hand, the best fighting game ever made, doesn't have any blocking in it, only dodging. Street Fighter IV, the other best fighting game ever made, focuses more on blocking. I'm torn. Help me, boys.
Andi: Here’s my stance on the subject. You can’t block in Doom. You can only evade. That sums it up for me. I find blocking a bit like hitting the brakes in a racing game - I know what I’m doing is a fundamental aspect of the experience but I still feel like I’ve failed, somehow. Dodging out of the way of something feels so much more satisfying.
Sean: But you're okay with parrying, I guess? Fuck, is it too early to mention parrying?
Andi: You’ve gone and done it now. I was waiting to mention parrying. That’s the ultimate. The reliable and familiar feel of a good old fashioned block combined with the satisfaction of a perfectly timed dodge. This isn’t about parrying, though. Which is best - BLOCKING or DODGING? I’m leaning toward a dodge. Bayonetta couldn’t block, could she?
Sean: I actually can't remember, which makes me a terrible person. But yeah, if we're going to justify blocking we'll need to consider things that are too fucking vast to dodge anything. Did you ever play Cybernator on the SNES? Or Assault Suits Valken in the US, which is a better name. It was a 2D shooty platformer where you controlled a huge mech, except you could also play the entire game just using your mech's FISTS. Which I did. And you could block pretty much anything with this shield on your arm and I was ten and it was brilliant.
Andi: I’m putting the ROM of this onto my phone AS WE TYPE THIS. Here’s a blocking thing - Punch Quest. When does ANYONE block in Punch Quest? A dodge would be superb though.
Sean: Ah yeah, Punch Quest. Blocking is useful but breaks your combo, and is instantly superceded by the Discocut or Shadow Step the moment you unlock them.
Andi: I’ve no idea what the Shadow Step is. I’m also terrible at Punch Quest. The two are definitely related.
Owen: You can’t block with a Switch-Axe, but you can dodge. QED.
Sean: Ah yeah, Monster Hunter. Not many games give you such a meaningful choice between blocking or dodging as that series does. Hell, we could have this entire argument without mentioning anything that isn't Monster Hunter and still be here all evening.
Owen: This is basically my philosophy on blocking:
Any time you spend blocking is time that you should be using to attack instead.
Sean: That was the principle behind Jeet Kune-Do, wasn't it? And look what happened to Bruce Lee. Dead in a brothel with weed in his tummy.
Owen:“The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement.” - Musashi
Andi: In Muay Thai, a top-tier fighter will throw a kick at his opponent and force him to block the impact with his arms. He will then continue to force that same block until he has done ridiculous damage to his opponent’s arms. What we need to consider is blocking with artificial means. Surely there's some badass shield stuff out there?
Sean: There's the Mystic Knight class in Dragon's Dogma. A mage/warrior combo that channels his spells through his shield, first enchanting it and then successfully blocking attacks with it to make it react by blasting the enemy with fire or lightning or whatever. It's fun as balls.
Owen: Blocking in Street Fighter is a terrible idea. Half my game is about buffering blocked jabs and gloves into spinning piledrivers.
Sean: Aw, come on. Blocking effectively is essential in Street Fighter.
Owen: No, you should just interrupt your opponent’s attacks. It’s the best defence.
Andi: There’s nothing worse than having the first hit of a particularly long-winded ultra combo blocked, and have to sit there and wait for that inevitable moment of vulnerability where your opponent unleashes hell on you. I suppose it feels pretty good if you’re the one doing the blocking, mind.
Owen: All my ultras are throws, so.
Andi: Fuck YOU.
Sean: Playing as Guy, I do have a lot of fun sprinting at people and then randomly deciding to go high or low. It's a bit cheap, but odds are they'll fuck up the block eventually and you'll land a hit. I've seen people do the same with Balrog, too.
Andi: Throws expose the brutal truth behind blocking, though. If a 400lb Russian wants to fuck your day up, sitting in the corner with your arms up isn’t going to stop him picking you up and dropping you on your head. You need to get the hell out of ‘Dodge’, so to speak.
Sean: Awful joke. Which game is it where a perfect block momentarily transforms you into a flock of bats? Bayonetta?
Andi: YES! Alright that’s pretty amazing. BLOCKING makes a comeback.
Owen: That’s not a block, it’s a dodge. Also it’s butterflies, not bats. Come on, guys.
Andi: Fucksake, then blocking is STILL rubbish. What about Phantasy Star Online, there’s no bloody dodging there, just a completely random block!
Sean: A game clearly in favour of blocking, yet it does the technique no favours at all.
Andi: Man, I’m really trying here but I don’t think blocking is as much fun as a game with a good dodge system. I had a great moment in Dark Souls, where I equipped ridiculous armour and basically became a human tank. I could just stand directly in front of the Hydra and block every hit with a shield. I felt like a badass. But it's still not as much fun as a perfectly timed dodge roll under an enemy's attack.
Sean: Yeah, the problem we're contending with here is that any attempt to justify blocking comes back to 'perfect' blocks or parries, ideally with counter attacks. That's the only way to make blocking cool.
Andi: Like Metal Gear Rising.
Sean: Yeah, that did parrying perfectly. It's weird how much it changes things having to push towards an enemy to block; it completely negates the feeling you described earlier, that blocking feels like you've slowed down or fucked up. In Rising, it feels like you're always advancing on the enemy, even when defending yourself.
Andi: That’s what makes Street Fighter 3: Third Strike so bloody amazing. You can hold back and block, but tapping forward at the moment of impact parries the attack. You don’t receive any chip damage and you feel like a bloody hero. This is where we post THAT Daigo video.
Sean: Bloody brilliant Street Fighter. I never even played 3, but that video still gives me a proper buzz.
Owen: You know what’s a good block? A Tetris block.
Andi: HE WENT THERE. That’s definitely blocking done for, then. So, what is the best dodge? I'm sticking all my votes into sliding around on your knees in Vanquish, because it is bloody brilliant fun. Rocket knees!
Owen: Bayonetta. Not because of the fact that you can explode into a lek of butterflies, but because you can dodge-cancel out of pretty much anything - it leaves you with no excuse for taking hits. You develop a hair-trigger reaction as your skills improve, using the dodge to insert tiny life-saving intermissions into your otherwise continuous assault.
Sean: For the sake of not having three Platinum Games answers, I’ll go for the Shadow Step ability in Punch Quest. Effortlessly disappearing in front of an enemy and then reappearing behind them in the blink of an eye, laughing and punching endlessly as you do so. Bliss.
Andi: Platinum Games are the undisputed kings of dodging. I hope this has thoroughly answered your question, Sean. Maybe we should put this on the site?