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A special attack (known also by other names, such as superpowers, hidden skills, secret techniques and the like) is a literary device of fiction, particularly comic books, manga and anime, though this is not universal; video games, primarily those in the fighting genre, feature these attacks as well. The term refers to an advanced move or strike which goes above and beyond of that of the norm. For example, a simple kick may be considered a normal attack, because it only hits one target, whereas a butterfly kick, designed to hit multiple targets, might be considered a special attack.

It is somewhat unclear what qualifies as a special attack as opposed to normal or even higher moves. For example, within the Street Fighter game series, Ryu's fireball (the Hadōken) is considered a special attack, but his super fireball (Shinkū hadōken) is considered a super attack. A common definition is that a special attack is one which causes damage to an opponent even if blocked. Contrast this with the anime Ranma ½, where everything not a basic punch or kick is considered a special attack. To expound this further, compare the superheroine Starfire, whose starbolts would be considered a special attack. All Tamareaneans can convert ultraviolet radiation into energy for flight, however her starbolts are the results of various scientific experiments performed on her.

Special attacks may not be attacks, per se; for example, a supervillain that could stop time in order to rob a bank might be said to be using a special attack, even if it is not actually an offensive technique. Several manga outside of action or fantasy genres feature various (and sometimes odd) special attacks, such as a particular cooking technique or an unstoppable overhand tennis move. Magic, depending on the medium, could be considered a special attack as well.

The amount of time and skill required to master a special attack varies from medium to medium. A particular sword move that might take one character decades to master, another character might learn within three days (a key example being in the Dragonball series, in which Son Goku learned nigh-instantaneously the Kamehameha Wave, which had taken martial arts master Muten Roshi five decades to develop). Also his Spirit Bomb is a special attack one which King Kai taught him. Other charchters were able to utilize this attack at points, but only Goku and King Kai could create it. Some, in particular comic book superheroes, might be born with the powers; others might gain them as a result of exposure to conditions that will bestow them. Others still might learn it through intensive training, or receive it through technology.

There are also examples of so-called special attacks in the real world. The aforementioned butterfly kick is one such example, as is the "one strike kill" techniques of Iaido and Battojutsu.

Desperation attack

A more specific type of special attack is the desperation attack, an unusually powerful attack a character will use, desperate to even the odds or defeat the opponent. It may leave the user vulnerable and/or only be usable while heavily injured.

In many Beat 'em up games, a desperation attack can be used at any time. Although this attack is guaranteed to hit the opponent and cannot be interrupted, the player's character loses a fraction of life in the process. In some games, like Streets of Rage, the character performs a desperation attack right after reviving so that the opponents cannot gang up on the player. In the Final Fight series, this type of move was called "Extra Joy".

Desperation attacks are noticeably featured in many SNK fighting games, although Battle Arena Toshinden is one of the few non-SNK fighting games that uses desperation attacks. When the fighter's life is at a certain point (usually 25%), the fighter can execute an extraordinarily powerful attack which may outright defeat the other opponent. Although used in a different manner, many games in the Guilty Gear series have instant death moves which serve as a means of desperation attacks. They can only be used once, and if the player misses, he or she cannot use super moves anymore.

The Limit Break in Final Fantasy VII is also a form of a desperation attack.

A similar type of attack is offered in Street Fighter IV in the form of the Ultra Combo. As the player takes damage, his Ultra Combo Gauge fills; when it gets to half way, usually about half of the players health, the Ultra Combo can be used. The more damage the character takes and the longer he waits to use his Ultra Combo, the more damage the move does.

Another good example of a desperation attack is the Genki Dama, also known as the Spirit Bomb, in Dragonball Z and GT. It is an energy ball that borrows energy from all living things to create one massive attack. It is a last-ditch attack as it takes a long time to power up and requires much concentration and energy donation.

See also

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