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A common issue, mostly in older games (though starting to make a comeback with the advent of FPS games with horrible controls) where your weapon can fire along only a fixed point on the Y-axis (i.e., no aiming your shots higher or lower to hit something just out of reach). While some games may let you crouch for lower shots, others won't even let you do that. If you're lucky, your character may eventually upgrade to a weapon capable of targeting enemies outside your initial weapon's range of fire, but you will inevitably begin with something that will fire only along a specific point on the Y-axis.

As a result of all this, enemies that are crotch-high or shorter are nearly impossible to hit due to an inability to shoot any lower. This can also apply to floating/flying enemies that soar just above your weapon's range and aim for your forehead. Due to the aforementioned fact that some games at least let you crouch for lower shots, the flying/floating variant of this trope is possibly even more common than the "crotch monster" variety.

Often part of the Goddamned Bats bag of tricks. One of the main contributing factors in games that are Nintendo Hard. Not to be confused with grid-based games not allowing diagonal attacks (though they may certainly qualify if this is a source of constant frustration) or with actual Denial of Service Attacks.

Examples:


  • Action 52: Apollo, the leader of the Cheetahmen cast, instead of fighting melee like his companions (and therefore flying) uses a crossbow. This gives him a tiny vertical range that is too high for every single enemy in his two stages. Virtually the only thing you can attack with him that doesn't randomly spawn flying at your own height is the final boss.
  • Yes and no in The Binding of Isaac; the main player (and a few monsters) can only nominally shoot up, down, left, and right, but the player can whip shots by firing while moving.
  • Captain Comic cannot duck. You'll need a corkscrew to deal with the enemies that are shorter than you.
  • Castlevania: the flying/forehead variety is present at all times in the earlier games, and walking on stairs effectively removes your ability to deal with crotch monsters.
  • E Swat Especially annoying in the very first mission of the game where in one spot you have to jump from this one platform to another with some guy above you shooting straight down at you.
  • Galaga: though you'd be hard-pressed to find a shooter that doesn't employ this trope.
    • Eco Fighters is probably the only shooter in existence that defies this trope at all times, since all guns can fire in 360 degrees.
    • Sigma Star Saga also mostly averts this trope, since you upgrade to weapons capable of multi-directional fire very early in the game and never have to look back beyond that point.
  • Ghosts N Goblins: as if this game wasn't hard enough already.
  • The original The Legend of Zelda: also an example of Denial of Diagonal Movement.
    • Somewhat averted with the boomerang, however.
    • Later games avoided this by making the sword slash in an arc, and introducing the spinning attack. However, most ranged attacks still only fire four directions.
    • Averted in the 3D Zeldas.
  • The Legend of Zelda CDI Games
  • Mega Man: the series as a whole is a horrible offender of this trope. More often than not, you can't even shoot up or down, with the exception of certain special weapons. This trope is one of the main reasons the Metal Blades, which could be shot in all eight directions, were such a Game Breaker.
    • It wasn't until 5 that the charged shot gained extra vertical spread, finally putting an end to crotch monsters.
    • Bass could fire in 7 directions and later Axl could fire in 8, although they could not run at the same time.
    • X was a Game Breaker in X7 because he would actually aim at his target instead of blindly shooting forward. Floor, ceiling, Z-axis be damned, you were dead meat once X fired.
    • Poked fun at by Dueling Analogs.
    • 10 uses this heavily to make certain boss and mini-boss fights "challenging." Downloading Bass reveals just how much of a game design crutch this is, as he can shoot up and will destroy these bosses almost instantly.
    • MMX5 and X6 allowed you to crouch, partially averting this.
  • Metal Slug: You start with a pistol that can only shoot straight right, left, up, or down if you jump and fire. Crouching while shooting is possible (and a good strategy because it's slightly faster), but unless you get the Heavy Machine Gun power-up, you can't shoot diagonally.
  • The first Metroid game only let you shoot horizontally and straight up, and you can't duck. The Wave Beam helped deal with this, but you inevitably needed to replace it with the Ice Beam to deal with the Metroids. The Screw Attack was awesome enough to possibly qualify for a partial aversion for flying enemies, but the only other way to deal with crotch monsters was with bombs. Metroid II averted this a bit by allowing you to duck and fire straight down if you're in midair, and also improving the Screw Attack so it could destroy small monsters at ground level. Super Metroid and beyond averted this further by also allowing you to both shoot diagonally and combined collected beams instead of replacing them. The Metroid Prime series, being First Person Shooters, got rid of this problem entirely.
  • Ninja Gaiden: is another example of the flying/forehead variant of this trope, notable if only for the fact that the game's Goddamned Bats are more deadly than a bazooka blast to the face.
  • Golden Eye 1997: is an odd example where this trope's invocation is the result of one specific character/enemy and not a glaring, inherent flaw in the game controls.
    • More to the point: if you're playing multiplayer and your friend picks Oddjob, just declare him the winner and play something else. You could crouch in Golden Eye 1997, but it wasn't a simple button press, so quite a few players (especially those new to the game) had no idea how. Combine this with a crouching Oddjob and it was physically impossible to target him at point blank range. Normally the Oddjob would karate chop you to death in amusement.
      • Perfect Dark thankfully avoided this, because the game automatically aims at stuff lower than yourself. Made fighting short characters like Elvis much easier.
  • Resident Evil: the first two games are a rare example where the trouble lies within the X-axis instead of the Y. Most 3D games of the time (and even now, in this troper's opinion) suffer(ed) from the issue of quickly and effectively dealing with enemies behind you, but the notable lack of a quick-turnaround feature prior to the third game make Resident Evil a particularly egregious offender.
  • Super Smash Bros: some characters have a much easier time dodging projectile attacks due to small size (Kirby, Pikachu, Pichu), while others (Bowser, DK) might as well not even bother.
    • In theory you could use the actual in-game "dodge" move or try to parry, but if the match is hectic enough you might not even know you're being shot at until you've been hit.
    • This disadvantage is compensated by the bigger characters being generally more powerful and harder to smash, requiring being well over 100% damage to be Smashed in normal conditions.
  • Might and Magic: the 3D games (6, 7, and 8) are a examples of the "FPS games with horrible controls" version of this trope. The Godawful "look up/down" controls were bad to the point of near-uselessness, leaving firing straight ahead as the only viable method of attack. Melee attacks would automatically target anything in range, ranged attacks were usually pretty good about aiming higher at flying enemies, and there were no ridiculously short "crotch monsters" to contend with. Trying to aim at anything more than a foot lower and more than a yard away from you, however, was next to impossible.
  • It's not until late in Bionic Commando Rearmed that you get a weapon that fired diagonally, and even it it clumsy. You can fire while crouched to deal with low threats, but you cannot jump at all, so enemies attacking from above remain a major annoyance for the entire game. Oh, and the enemy AI knows that you cannot fire diagonally up, and will take advantage of this fact to remain safe from your attacks.
  • Iji can't fire while crouched, and more damningly, can't fire while jumping. However, the game was designed around these limitations; there's really never a point where you NEED to be able to do these things. There are a few weapons that can fire in a spread or hit things not on your horizontal level, but aside from a few secret bits, the spread isn't all that useful.
    • Also explained by the game - Iji's nanogun is so large she can only hold it properly while standing straight - trying to fire while crouched or airborne would result in the recoil knocking her over.
      • Which becomes ridiculous when you realize that Iji will happily fire a weapon which knocks her over with recoil even while she is standing. Not to mention that you get knocked over frequently anyway with all the rockets flying around, and that blasting yourself across the room with recoil would actually be useful in some instances. In fact, it's required to get some of the secrets!
  • Sachen's Silent Assault. You can shoot horizontally and vertically, but not diagonally.
  • In Sküljagger: Revolt of the Westicans, Storm's non-crouching swings are in an overhead arc, yet only part of the arc will register hits. His crouching attack changes to more of a sideways arc, but can still hit enemies standing slightly lower than him if close enough. Finally, the projectiles granted by red jemeralds only travel horizontally forward.
  • Madness Accelerant With keyboard controlls, you can only aim in a few directions. A later version added mouse aiming that allowed you to aim anywhere.
  • Dynasty Warriors is a 3D variation: characters can attack in the full 360 degrees... but not up or down. This is a big problem when trying to move down staircases or steep hills.
  • Super Mario Bros. has a variant: You can attack diagonally, downward. But anything higher than Mario can't be attacked. Not normally a problem, until you've got Lakitu, a Demonic Spider constantly spawning Spinies. (You can kill him if you stand high enough to hit him, but he just respawns.)
  • In Cave Story, you can only fire in four directions. However, since the player's character is short, this is rarely a problem.
  • Purple lets you aim only in four directions. What's worse, during the development process, the author promised the finished version to let player aim in eight directions, but that never was implemented[1].
  • In La-Mulana, shurikens can only be fired straight left or right, spears straight down, and flares straight up. Throwing knives (and the dagger) do help get rid of crouching enemies, but the other sub-weapons aren't good for general use.
  • Non-video game example: Chess. Rooks and Bishops are this to each other. Pawns can only attack diagonally.
  • Dragon Slayer doesn't allow the player to move or attack diagonally before accumulating 30,000 experience points. Monsters are under no such restriction.
  • The NES version of Super Pitfall allows you to crouch and shoot, but not at the same time. This means certain enemies can only be killed by climbing slightly down a ladder.
  • In Tutankham, though nothing in the game could move diagonally, the player was denied any kind of vertical attack.
  • The cannons in Netstorm can only fire in the four basic directions, to balance out their high power and long range.
  • Vanguard allowed 8-way movement, but only 4-way firing. However, this is more generous than most later Horizontal Scrolling Shooters (but Vanguard was not a pure Horizontal Scrolling Shooter).

Inversions:

  • Recettear: Many enemies have ranged attacks which can only fire in the main 4 directions, so if you approach from a diagonal they are unable to defend themselves. You can then become the Goddamned Bats you so despise.
    • The player's projectiles are bound by the same rule, though. The diagonal reach of melee attacks is used as a balancing factor between adventurers, from Louie's wide sword swing covering a broad arc, to Nagi's spear paying for it's huge reach with a very narrow attack.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, not only can you attack in all 8 direction (and projectiles can be fire toward any square on the screen), the game currently has 3 dimensions but altitude has no effect on ability to attack: a fish in a river and a dwarf on the surrounding cliff face are perfectly capable of exchanging blows so long as they are horizontally adjacent. In adventure mode, you can even attack units underground if you happen to be directly above the 3x3 tile square that unit in is the center of and have at least one visible target in range.
    • Played straight in fortress mode by ballista, which can only fire in cardinal direction. This is less of an issue than it could be because you control the layout of the fortress and can easily bottle-neck many foes into a straight line direction in front of one.

Aversions:

  • Contra: all games in the series allow you to aim in all eight directions and shoot while prone, not to mention the famous spread gun. You have to be moving to shoot diagonally, though.
  • Zelda II the Adventure of Link averts this trope both by allowing Link's range of attacks to cover most of the area in front of his body and by giving him the down-stab and up-stab abilities.
  • The Donkey Kong Country series as a whole averts this trope by providing the characters with full body attacks, as well as by giving projectiles an effective range of coverage, as well as allowing you to launch the projectiles at an angle from 2 onwards (strangely enough, this ability was absent in Returns).
  • Ice Climbers: a hammer swing will take out anything that's even remotely close to you, and simply jumping will even deal with baddies directly above/behind you.
  • Super Castlevania IV was the only one of the older 2-D titles to have 8-way whipping thus reducing a bit of the annoyance Medusa Heads and Bats cause.
    • Castlevania: Bloodlines and Chronicles too, to an extent; the player character can only hit diagonally or when in the air (as well as downwards in Chronicles), and can't hit straight up at all.
    • Most of the Metroidvania games gave you enough options to deal with enemies to proerly avert this trope, as well.
    • Fully averted once more by none other than Julius Belmont in Harmony Of Despair, where he can whip in all directions this time, and he has a variety of sub-weapons as well when that doesn't quite cut it.
  • In the original Doom, although you can't aim the gun up or down yourself, if you fire at an enemy who is above or below your sights, the game aims the shot towards the enemy. Even if the game didn't do that, you'd still score a hit due to the enemies' cylinder-of-infinite-height hitboxes.
  • Matt Hazard: Blood, Bath, and Beyond lets you stop and aim, which can be handy when dealing with enemies that are crouching or standing on a ledge above you. Unfortunately, you have to stop and stand still to aim like this, in a game where everyone else is aiming for your current position.
  • Abuse (sometimes called “Doom the side scroller”) lets you use the mouse for aiming and shooting while walking with the keyboard.
  • Gunstar Heroes allows you to choose between two modes: Fixed Shot and Free Shot. Free Shot gives you a shooting scheme straight out of Contra, whereas Fixed Shot makes you stand still and aim in the direction you press the D-pad while firing.
    • Its remake/sequel Gunstar Super Heroes expands on this by assigning those two to separate buttons (instead of making the player pick one) and adding the ability to move freely while continuously aiming in one direction.
  • Yoshis Island and Yoshis Story completely avert this with eggs, which can be thrown at many varying angles - in fact, it's easier to throw them at a diagonal than straight forward. Watermelon seeds and Baby Bowser's flames, on the other hand, can only be fired at a straight angle. Super Smash Bros also allowed a surprisingly great deal of control over both the direction and distance of Yoshi's egg throw, decided only by the position of the analog stick.
  • In the tactical strategy Odium, your weapons' range is arbitrarily limited; this was criticized in several reviews. Melee weapons cannot be used to attack diagonally, and most firearms can only shoot horizontally and vertically as well. The rifle is special in that it can also shoot diagonally, but if an enemy happens to stand a knight's move away from you, you cannot even graze them. The shotgun's firing range is something of a thick plus sign, with your gunner standing in the middle.
  • The titular hero of Dynamite Headdy can fire his head in five directions while standing, in eight directions while in midair, and diagonally downward or low and to the side while ducking. If a target is within firing radius, it can be hit. The game even gives you overkill with Lotsa Heads, a three-head spread shot, War Head, which automatically fires projectiles in eight directions along with being able to be fired normally, and Pig Head, which cannot itself be fired but which allows you to fire two homing projectiles at a time.
  • In Recettear, one of the adventurers (Louie) averts this by swinging his sword in a wide arc, allowing hum to hit monsters diagonally. Played straight with everyone else, though.
  • In Deadly Towers, Prince Myer can throw swords in 8 directions.
  • Hellfire allows you to select between forward fire, backward fire, 2-way vertical fire and 4-way diagonal fire.
  • Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup not only allows you to attack in all 8 directions, but you can aim ranged attacks at pretty much any square within your line of sight, though you generally need to have a clear path to your target for your attack to hit. Of course, this applies to your enemies as well.

Notes

  1. And will never be, since the author lost the source code.
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