A weak spot is a location on an enemy NPC that, when hit, inflicts a greater amount of damage to that NPC than any other location. Weak spots are usually used on enemy NPCs that are slightly more important or powerful than normal cannon fodder enemies. Sometimes, the weak spot will be the only vulnerable spot on the enemy. Many times, during a boss fight, the boss will keep his weak spot hidden away, making the player wait to strike at an opportune moment or making the player jump through various other hoops to attack the weak spot.
Common weak spot stereotypes
Large colored Spot
In the early days of gaming, a boss would usually have some big red (or other colored) spot, signifying the only spot vulnerable to attack. See Konami games, in particular Gradius. Lately, weak spots have become more ornate featuring some type of pattern, instead of just a simple circle, such as in Shadow of the Colossus. In Ikaruga, the weak spots are either black or white, with the opposite color causing more damage.
Most enemy NPCs with weak spots are overly defensive of that area. King Hippo of Punch-Out!! is indicative of this type of weak spot, because regardless of what he's doing, if the player performs a body blow, he will cover his stomach. This is different from bosses that simply have a hard cover over their weak spot, which, ironically enough, can be seen again, with King Hippo, in the Wii version of Punch-Out!! in "Title Defense" mode.
Sometimes, a player will discover a weak spot on a boss, only to discover that hitting / destroying that weak spot unlocks another weak spot. This is known as a Defense Breaking Spot. In Shadow of the Colossus, the first weak spot found is usually just a way to make the Colossus expose his true weak spot. Metal Gear REX's radome is another example of a Defense Breaking Spot, because destroying that leads to our next stereotype.
Human-occupied bay in an otherwise invincible robot
Some enemy NPCs have the brilliant plan to build a robot that is impervious to all forms of the player's weaponry. Fortunately for the player, the enemy usually has to be able to see, out of a window of some sort that is weaker than the rest of the robot, usually glass. This structural weakness is frequently used by players as a way to hurt / kill the NPC residing inside. In Metal Gear Solid, Otacon actually explains this weak spot as a "character flaw", and that REX would be incomplete without it.
Weak Spot correlation to Attack Patterns
Many times, the only time an enemy's weak spot will be vulnerable, will be right before, after or even during their attack. If the vulnerable time is before the enemy's attack, sometimes the player's attack will interrupt or stun the enemy. Vulnerable time after an enemy's attack is usually shown as the enemy recuperating after an exhausting attack. Wart of Super Mario Bros. 2 fame, could only be damaged while his mouth was open, spewing deadly bubbles.
Special Vision Required
In more recent games, enemies sometimes have a much better hidden weak spot that can only be seen with a special vision mode. This is differentiated from a Defense Breaking Spot, as the Special Vision mode usually does no damage to the enemy. Killer7 and the Metroid Prime series are good examples of this type of weak spot.
Popular weak spots
- The Head - Houses the brain, center of the nervous system. See headshot.
- The Eye(s) - Regardless if the enemy is a human, animal, or robot; getting hit in the eye is always painful and jarring.
- The Mouth - Popularized by huge non-human enemies, like dinosaurs, and Wart.
- The Heart - Usually much more visible, like a Big Red Spot.
- The Back - Commonly seen with an Overt Defense, an enemy's front is impenetrable, then after an attack his weak back side is open.
- The Groin - Some games with a slightly more juvenile sense of humor will feature the groin as a weak spot.
- Anything Glowing - If players are fighting a creature and part of its body is glowing, it is likely that it is a weak spot.
- The Anomaly - Something on the enemy that is simply out of place, a bandage, a patch, a glowing body part or sometimes a little more obvious like a gas tank.