-Crawls on walls and ceilings
-Uses webbing to swing on and wrap up enemies
-Is agile all-around
Spidey in action!
When Spider-Man swung into action in Web of Shadows, I was so unburdened in controlling him that I just about forgot I was doing so! I spent a lot of time sneaking up on enemies, wrapping them up, yanking them from one side of me to another, pulling myself to the floor and drop-kicking them on the way, and zipping up to the ceiling all at once whenever I needed a quick out. With Shattered Dimensions there was one little update - one can use Spidey's webbing to snatch up enemies' weapons, which can then be thrown back at them!
The Spidester has always had a unique control scheme, and this game executed it perfectly. Unfortunately, the level designs were just solid Metroidvania locales with little in the way of innovation, else the game would have been perfect.
-Is the fastest thing alive
-Curls up into a ball to destroy badniks
-Spindashes on the ground in ball form
-Homing attack hones in on enemies
-Boosts all at once into a barrier-protected run
-In this game, uses Wisps for extra abilities
True blue in action!
When I first became familiar with Rush's Boost feature, I thought it was an outrage. Do we really need to throw out the momentum-based gameplay which has worked for so many years' worth of Sonic sidescrollers? And in Rush, it was just an excuse to make the 2D speedfests faster. In Colors, it can be saved to do necessary things like crash through walls or give one that extra edge against bosses, and is quite convenient when used alongside other Wisps, who each grant Sonic different abilities. The Wisps require of this game the depth that was missing from the preceding handheld Sonic games. Effortless are Sonic's physics, homing attack, and extra abilities such as kickdropping straight downward to destroy certain floors.
Future Sonic games don't necessarily have to have Wisps in it. The core abilities of Sonic's are what secured Colors in its place on this list. But if Sega goes back to just the basic gameplay, the levels shouldn't be so ready to get rid of the player. Sonic's about speed, yes, but the way it's been utilized starting with the Sonic Advance series and continuing through the Sonic Rush and Sonic Rivals series is too straightforward and not very fun.
-Performs quick dashes
-Slides on walls and kicks off of them
-Holds two weapons at once
-Uses Cyber Elf data to alter internal and external aspects of gameplay
-Uses Elemental Chips to take out robots weak to them
Zero in action!
With a game known for intense difficulty, I expected to get so frustrated I'd forget how to spall. But playing as Zero is an utter joy. Dashing is controllable - you wanna stop? Just release the button. Wall Sliding is another mechanic brought back from the Mega Man X series, and it's something I used for fun, even if it hurt my missions time. This game was hard but became easier as I collected more and more Cyber Elves. Even when I had a hard time before doubling my health bar and increasing my defense, the ease with which Zero was commanded kept me looking forward to playing stages loaded with bottomless pits and fast-paced boss fights.
Though Zero has many elements of the original Mega Man and Mega Man X in his gameplay, he definitely has his own attacks and the way his design is animated lends a certain grace to his movement absent in the two first incarnations of the blue bomber. So he can't duck. Neither can swallows. Quack qua- Nevermind...
-Whips in eight directions
-Makes use of a variety of subweapons
-Swings from hooks with his whip
Simon in action!
Before Super IV Castlevania games had very limited controls, which were made so to complement the small levels and carefully placed enemies. They weren't the best, but they fit the world the player had to contend with. In Super Castlevania IV, Simon's control scheme is innovated in several ways. His multi-directional whip makes taking out enemies easier to strategize, and has only been incorporated in part in later games (Bloodlines allowing John Morris to whip diagonally upward, Portrait of Ruin allowing Jonathan Morris to whip diagonally downward) - why this is, I have no idea. He can also swing a la Indiana Jones from hooks, which is fun. As far as his basic abilities go, Simon can change direction in midair, walk and whip on stairs more easily, brandish his whip to destroy things (candles, breakable walls) at close range, use sub-weapons with just the 'R' button, crouch walk, and on top of these he's also faster.
Super Castlevania IV set the bar for Castlevania games' controls, a bar that unfortunately hasn't been reached since. Symphony of the Night had some smooth controls, and was able to innovate the Alucard gameplay similarly.
-Grabs enemies, which he can bounce off of or throw
-Grabs and climbs up ladders, poles, and walls
-Swings from cranks high into bonus stages in the sky
Ristar in action!
Ristar's grab feature is the defining aspect of his being. Like the afterimage of our own star in our eyes, enemies cannot escape the guy. He can grab them and throw them at other enemies and obstacles, can bounce slowly but surely up walls, and easily makes his way up and down poles by swinging diagonally through them. One thing you'll notice is that Ristar has somewhat floaty jumping, but I feel the slow drop from jumps makes grabbing at the end of a jump easier - in this way, he effortlessly attacks boss enemies over and over and has time to grab a ladder before landing on an enemy. As with all the entries in this list, I went through many of Ristar's movements because it's just plain fun. Collecting stars inbetween multiple poles and playing the special stages in the Game Gear version are highlights in this regard.
Ristar certainly has unique moves and smooth execution of them down. Unfortunately for the gaming community, Ristar hasn't been brought back by Sega since his first adventures on the Sega Genesis and Game Gear. What, is Nintendo keeping them from doing so because they believe it will overshadow Starfy? Because we can really have two stars in the Nintendo canon. We already have Mario and Sonic. Zing!
-Cane used as pogo stick, clearing large gaps and offing enemies from above
-Hits walls and objects with cane to draw out health or treasure
McDuck in action!
You gotta love an old duck who probably has arthritis and a bad back but is still able to bounce around on a cane-pogo stick, all for Wad of Money. Scrooge McDuck's cane offers a distinctive jump-attack different from other platform characters. Usually it's either a jump on an enemy's noggin and the player lands on the floor, or several successive unprotected jumps that must be performed to bounce. Scrooge can bounce on a pogo stick, taking out enemies from below and protecting him from dangerous ground. The game makes the player use it carefully at times as sometimes the ceiling itself can be dangerous. It also serves to make jumps over bottomless pits that much more exciting, especially with ground that falls upon any kind of weight. The sequel to his debut, DuckTales 2, gave Scrooge a number of other abilities as well - he can use his cane to hang from hooks in the ceiling and drag obstacles out of his way.
Scrooge is an early example of how to create a unique control scheme. If only it weren't based on a licensed TV show that has long since run its course, because who knows when DuckTales 3 will come out and polish the gameplay up for modern technology!
Platformers require much from the imagination. Their sidescrolling worlds are completely non-sensical in how they attempt to incorporate 3D structures and the like to an obviously limited world. Only by familiarizing oneself with the format can one really appreciate the cohesiveness of 2D platform gaming.
Platforming can also be immersive for the lack of effort it requires when it comes to how well characters control. Some feel like an extension of oneself. Whether or not every ability is necessary, and whether or not the areas around the protagonists are thoughtfully designed, these characters make a game fun to play simply because they eliminate the distance between one's will and what the game will let them do.
I'm trying to include one game from each series, but if one exceptional control scheme is radically different from another, that would warrant separate entries.