KOF XIII provides a very combo-lenient system compared to previous iterations of the series and even other fighting games. However, the basic combo archetypes and "bread and butter" flow are about the same as in previous KOF games. So how exactly do combos work in KOF?
Take of any fighting game of choice and think: "How would I begin a large punish?" The answer will vary by game and even by character. In Street Fighter IV a player may start with a Focus Attack, though Ryu might start a damaging combo with his + , but Makoto will get more damage by using her + command grab. Each game system contains a different solution.
Throughout the KOF series every character has been able to start a simple, yet damaging combo from a Close Heavy attack. Close normals are also the fastest normal attacks in the game--even faster than a crouching light attack--and they're fully cancelable. Most characters also have command normals like in other fighting games, but in KOF it's possible to chain cancel into these command normals and then cancel them into specials or supers. Thus, a universal standard combo in KOF follows with a Close Heavy normal quickly canceled into a Command Normal which is then Special Canceled. Here's an example of how this would appear in shorthand combo notation, with Vice's meterless bnb as the example:
- cl.D f.A xx qcb+P qcf+P
The first requirement for these basic combos is to be close to the opponent. Sometimes the opponent may be close from using an unsafe move, but in other times a player can run forward and cancel their running animation with a Close attack when in range. Landing a deep hopping attack will generally put a player within close activation range, so getting in close isn't hard. Simply input the command normal after the close attack hits, and then input a special move or DM of choice. The resulting combo should flow like a chain combo; anyone familiar with Ken's >> + target combo should have an idea how this combo series flows.
What's also notable is that these combos are hit-confirmable, meaning that a player can react to whether or not the first two hits connected before canceling into a special that would be unsafe on block, or confirming whether or not to activate HD Mode. However, leaving a command normal uncanceled will often put the attacking player at a disadvantage which limits one's options afterwards and which can sometimes be punished. The attacking player can cancel into a safe special move such as a projectile, but this can be punished if the blocking player reads the 2-in-1 with a Guard Cancel Roll. So though this combo series is fast, simple and damaging, it can end one's momentum, lacks a low mixup, and is more predictable on block.
Low Light Series
Or in other words, hitconfirms.
In short, Street Fighter traditionally employs link combos that usually follow the pattern of cr.LK cr.LP, cr.MP xx special where a cancelable normal must be linked into from a low jab. KOF lacks these intermediate strength attacks due to the game's four button layout and so players can directly chain cancel into cancelable attacks. The direct effect of this is that BnBs are simple to perform once one has knowledge of a character's normals.
The standard KOF light hitconfirm is to attack with a Crouching Light attack and then chain cancel it into a Crouching Light Punch, which can then be canceled into specials on hit. The Crouching Light Kick hits low and can be chained into other light attacks, namely a cancelable one such as a Crouching Light Punch. If this series is blocked, the attacking player still has the initiative afterward to rehop, walk or run forward, or continue with a blockstring.
Ryo has a simple hitconfirm that's worked in nearly all the games he's appeared in, and it is performed as follows:
- cr.B st.A xx hcb+K
Now when close to the opponent Ryo can use two crouching light kicks, but the key here is that his Standing Light Punch is cancelable (and is easier to cancel afterward compared to his Crouching Light Punch).
Certain characters such as Benimaru and Kula have even simpler hitconfirms as their Crouching Light Kicks chain into themselves and can be canceled into specials for a knockdown on hit. Moreover, KOF XIII allows most characters to have longer and thus easier chain hitconfirms than in previous iterations. Many Standing Light Kicks hit low and are cancelable much like O.Sagat's standing short, but another change is that now more characters can combo Light attacks into command normals. Characters that traditionally had weak ways of hitconfirming now have much longer and easier chains, as is the case with Daimon and Clark.