One initial difference from Street Fighter is that in KOF it becomes possible to attack from more unique angles due to hops. Knowing which grounded and aerial normals can cover specific angles or areas is required knowledge to best deal with the opponent's approach or to judge which approach you should attempt.
Note: the hitboxes in this section are approximations and may not be exact. They primarily demonstrate their simplified 'feel' rather.
Here we see Terry standing at neutral which doesn't offer any spacing insight in and of itself, especially without context. By visualizing the spaces and angles readily controllable the player can gain greater insight into a stronger spacing game. Specific spacing strategies will vary depending on the distance between both players, so the following sections discuss defending against the common angles of approach from an oncoming hop or jump. Through understanding the general strengths and weaknesses associated with defending each zone, the player should therefore gain insight to each area's benefits and flaws when going on the offense.
These three colored areas represent common zones of approach and thus angles that the player should want to be able to recognize and act accordingly, whether on offense when deciding which jumping attack to use or on defense when determining to anti-air from the ground, air-to-air, run-under, or escape with a backdash or similar special movement. Notice how the boxes overlap as some approaches and attacks can occupy an intermediate place.
Let's analyze each individually:
Low Hop Space
Here we have the low 'hop space' designated in red. This low area can commonly be accessed from a short or hyper hop, although it's possible to space a jump to land and attack in this low space. Having quick access to this intimate, low-to-ground zone is part of what allows KOF to have a faster offensive game.
It's also a simple area to anti-air with a Standing as demonstrated by Terry and Kyo. A standing jab is quick and places a hitbox out in front of the hopping opponent's short trajectory, effectively hitting the opponent before they stick out their attack. Other attacks can dominate this area (such as a typical Far/Crouching , other heavy normals, or specials like Yuri's Saifa ( + ) but a Standing Light Punch is the quickest and safest universal solution to a hop. Be aware, that not every single hop will be anti-aired and some setups can cleanly beat anti-air attempts.
In short, anti-airing this close space often follows the same principles of anti-airing a typical dive kick in any fighting game.
High Hop Space
This angle is often difficult to defend against or anti-air. This makes it a hotly contested bit of space to approach from. Defending against an aerial attack with both strong vertical and horizontal reach is difficult. Terry lacks an appropriate attack that can attack diagonally forward from his current spacing and so a solution (besides blocking) revolves around changing the player's positioning.
- The player has a few options against similarly-angled attacks as K's Jumping but most require space to work with or a risk to deal with.
- One possibility is to hop backwards before the attack comes into range and then countering the downward attack with a horizontal air-to-air. This doesn't work if the player is cornered or if the opponent is at a large frame advantage from a previous action.
- A gutsy answer is to run forward underneath the oncoming attack and anti-airing with an upward vertical attack.
- Likewise the player can run underneath the oncoming attack and time a Crouching attack to meaty the opponent while dodging the attack from behind. This can lead into a combo on success but can be countered if the opponent uses a deep vertical jumping attack or spaces the jumping attack from further out.
- All of these techniques are demonstrated further below on this page.
- All of these techniques are demonstrated further below on this page.
- The grounded player could use an invulnerable move or 'DP' through these tough jump-ins but reacting to a hop with a special is tough and requires the player to be buffering before the opponent hops. Terry is out of luck as his Rising Tackle requires a downward charge which limits the special's use outside of his wakeup.
- Finally, the grounded player can respect the opponent's spacing and block the jumping attack. This is always the safest and easiest option.
This blue area is the 'deep' or vertical angle where crossups can occur if the aerial attack registers deep enough behind the grounded player.
Vertical attacks offer one solution to these approaches. Terry's df. can anti-air Benimaru's more horizontal Jumping from underneath its active hitbox, but the more downward vertical jump-ins like Kula's Jumping are more difficult to deal with.
- Anti-airing attacks similar to Kula's J. as fast as possible will lead to a higher success rate. If the opponent starts to attack preemptively to beat out a standard anti-air, the grounded player can adjust by crouching under the early attack and punishing the whiffed jump-in with a tripguard meatying crouching . There's also the option of running under the opponent as a more extreme method of preemptively beating an air approach.
Some DPs (Terry's Rising Tackle is one example) or Crouching type uppercuts can whiff against an aerial player that travels deep into the crossup area (think of the space toward Terry's back). This positioning is easy to establish against a cornered player, especially after a knockdown. Landing this setup can effectively shut down all methods of escape for the player waking up.
- The grounded player can sometimes walk or run forward in this situation and attempt to anti-air the opponent from behind that jumping attack's line of fire. This is a risky method to escape from the opponent since the window of opportunity is limited to times when an air-to-ground isn't a meaty, such as if the opponent rehops. Know that this can backfire if mistimed or if the opponent attacks with a move that can easily cross up.
Another weakness to deep vertical jumping attacks is that they are cleanly beaten by air-to-air attacks.
- As usual, this requires one to have enough spacial and frame advantage to get into the air to intercept the opponent.
Be on the lookout if the opponent's spacing is off; if a vertical air-to-ground attack was spaced too short and whiffs, the a grounded player may be able to safely anti-air with a normal, sweep, or special poke.
Let's review and take a look at all three areas again and then at all of Terry's stationary attack options:
With all of Terry's main grounded attack hitboxes listed at once you can see that he lacks an attack that reaches both vertically and horizontally to control the space between the deep vertical and low hop spaces. Thankfully characters have other techniques to anti-air from the ground, which are listed below.
When a player commits to a jump or hop there's a recovery period when landing on the ground where the player cannot block low attacks. The grounded player can take advantage of this and attack with a low-hitting move such as a Crouching or attack to punish the opponent.
In the above picture Duo Lon is meatying Athena's early-timed Jumping attack. A downward attack like hers is a strong air-to-ground attack when spaced close in toward the grounded opponent, but notice in this situation Athena's attack ran out of active frames and is coming down on the outstretched active hitbox of Duo Lon's Crouching . Had Athena been closer or used a more vertically downward-hitting jumping attack then Duo Lon's anti-air could have been heavily punished.
Low meaties are great punishes against whiffed or crouchable jumping attacks but will outright lose to a proper 'deep' downward jumping attack.
In the above setting Kyo's vertical Jumping would hit Elizabeth out of her Crouching long before Kyo would land on the ground. Like most deep vertical air-to-ground attacks, Kyo's Jumping can hit most low attacks before touching down on the ground and becoming vulnerable. Despite this, it's still possible for a vertical jump-in to be performed too early in a hop or whiff due to spacing, which then leaves the landing player open to a full combo punish.
This spacing demonstrates two extremes: Andy's amazing Crouching that is possibly the best (sweep) anti-air in the game, and Kensou's Jumping which is an extremely upward and horizontal air-to-air attack, but a horribly unsafe jump-in.
Most air-to-ground attacks have a blind spot directly underneath the character that can be exploited with attacks that reach vertically upward like Yuri's Close . If the player runs forward and can get either under or behind the opponent then the anti-air should be successful. Even a steep downward jumping attacks can be countered if the running player can get to the opponent before their attack can become active.
This technique can be applied not just to full jumps, but also to hops. Iori's Close is quick and has a great hitbox for anti-airing, though the player often has to run toward to opponent to quickly get inside the range where his Standing registers as a Close normal. Running underneath a hop requires the grounded player to be closer up to the opponent, and when running very deep this can lead into a sweep anti-air:
Run-unders can be combined with meaty low anti-airs. With a proper read, the grounded player can run all the way behind the opponent's active jumping hitbox and meaty from behind to start a combo. In the above scene, the Iori player counters Shen's buff Jumping Blowback Attack by moving underneath it. This technique can be very rewarding when landed but arranging for a setup requires spacial awareness and knowledge of the opponent's aerial options in order to make an educated guess about which jump-in the opponent will use. Overall, a very high risk, high reward anti-air method.
Aerial attack angles can also be categorized as on the ground. This time we'll look at Ash and a few others.
Aerial attacks primarily fall somewhere between these general outlines.
- On top is the yellow box representing the high vertical angle.
- Below is the more pure horizontal space in blue.
- The red zone enters the vertical, downward zone but still maintains extra horizontal range.
- At the bottom is the green more vertical attack zone.
High Horizontal Attacks
Clark's Jumping really reaches upward into that high vertical space that can air-to-air opponents above him excellently. His foot's also intermingling with the blue horizontal zone and so the attack can also air-to-air straight in front of him. Just like with Kensou's Jumping pictured above, attacks with high vertical dominance are easily beaten by crouching and meatying with a low attack.
Ash's Jumping reaches primarily horizontally but slightly overlaps with the higher upward space. Attacks with this angle function best as air-to-air attacks against opponents in front of the player or slightly above or below. Downward, vertical jumping attacks will lose to these attacks unless the horizontal attack is stuffed during the startup or attacked from directly above.
The effectiveness of horizontal air-to-airs should speak for itself from the image of Vice and Ash.
- While strong air-to-airs, the vertical reach is weak. These attacks are will normally hit standing opponents, but whiff on crouchers.
Jumping attacks that fall into the red-colored area are a strong intermediate between the horizontal and the vertical. The angle of these attacks allows them to approach the opponent from the high hop space discussed above, meaning that their hitboxes are often suited for getting in on the opponent; when spaced to tip the grounded player these attacks hit deep enough to force crouchers to standblock while having the extended width that places the character's vulnerable hitbox far out of reach. Other moves like Benimaru's Jumping can additionally cross up the opponent when deep.
- One weakness of these jumping attacks is that they can be vulnerable to sweep anti-airs if timed early. Timing the attack later creates a longer window for the grounded player to anti-air with a normal attack.
Jumping attacks that fall into the red and blue zones (or in other words, attacks with strong horizontal hitboxes) also function defensively. Hopping into a horizontally-angled attack can create a barrier that will both air-to-air and hit standing or approaching opponents. This is a great tactic against an aggressive opponent since it can hit a running or hopping player. Take a look at what options Hwa Jai defends against in the below setup:
Hwa Jai's Jumping Blowback Attack has been timed late from a neutral hop so that it prevents Joe from walking or running forward and if Joe tries his usual short hop Jumping Heavy Kick to get in, Hwa Jai's attack would cleanly air-to-air it with its stronger horizontal hitbox.
This option limits the other player's methods of approaching, but as with any tactic these setups have risks of their own.
- Activating a jumping attack earlier in a jump arc so that it may air-to-air better, or hopping forward with a horizontal attack leaves the aerial player vulnerable to a tripguard punish from below. A player that performs patiently on the ground can wait and punish these setups by crouching and reacting with a low attack.
- Additionally, a player could challenge this technique with a quick or powerful horizontal air-to-air. Hwa Jai's Jumping Blowback Attack has a big hitbox, but the Joe player in our demonstration could stuff the attack before before it becomes active with a jumping attack of his own. Just be aware that hopping with a preemptive horizontal attack can leave one vulnerable to a tripguard punish just as mentioned above.
- Although the running player may can get hit by the jumping attack from this setup, the hopping player needs some space to work with in so that their jumping attack comes out at the descent of their hop. A close grounded player can simply run and get underneath the hopping player and anti-air with an upward attack before the jumping attack is low enough to hit. Spacial awareness is key for both the grounded and airborne player.
- Reacting to a hop is difficult, but the grounded player has the option of anti-airing with a special poke that commands the short hop space. For instance, a projectile may automatically anti-air the hopping player.
The last aerial angle to cover is the deep vertical space. These are attacks that hit deeply downward but lack that extra horizontal range; this leaves the aerial player more vulnerable to anti-air attacks while moving into position to connect against the player. One of the best ways to minimize the vulnerability when using one of these attacks is to simply save them for hops since they're the hardest aerial approaches to react to.
- Attacks with vertical angles are usually the primary air-to-ground choice for up-close hop pressure. Their additional downward range allows them to connect earlier on in a hop arc if need be, which complexifies the player's offensive options.
- Some vertical attacks can also cross up such as Kim's Jumping and Kyo's Jumping .
- Some command normals that lower a character's vulnerable hitbox (King's df. slide) can only be jumped on with a direct, downward attack.
The projectile has proven itself time and again to be a dominating weapon in 2D fighters. This is because projectiles act as pokes that travel fully across the screen while lacking a vulnerable hitbox. From longer distances its easy to observe how projectiles heavily limit the opponent's moveable space but a lesser obvious strength is found when using fireballs as extended pokes just outside of the opponent's maximum normal range.
There are two main projectile classes in KOF which vary in which ways they limit the opponent's aerial approaches. The opponent may have numerous methods to get around projectiles in KOF XIII, though most are baitable and then punishable when read, and so the key is to become as gutsy or minimalist as necessary against the opponent, and then further pressing the advantage off a blocked projectile, knockdown, or anti-air.
This is the more common projectile type that mimics standard Hadouken's properties. Takuma's Ko'ouken ( + ) is one just fireball, so let's discuss how these are unique.
Non-grounded projectiles travel higher in the air than their grounded siblings. Look at how these projectile dominate the Low Hop Space discussed above; Takuma's Ko'ouken is big enough to hit crouching opponents and its additional height allows it to anti-air and otherwise reign over this region across the entire screen! This encourages the opponent to commit to a full jump to quickly get in, as reacting to an oncoming projectile's speed and correctly timing a hop is difficult.
Most projectiles can be baited and punished with a jump or super jump as with any fighting game. After using a few projectiles and discouraging the opponent from hopping, the zoning player should keen up and look out for a new method of approach from the opponent. Many of these desperate attempts to get in are punishable--but only when taking a break from flinging fire. Full jumps can be reacted to and anti-aired from the ground or be met with an appropriate horizontal or upward air-to-air. More directly damaging anti-airs include invulnerable uppercuts, EX specials, and DMs, all of which are more likely to connect against a jump vs a hop.
One weakness of non-grounded projectiles is that certain characters can shrink their hitboxes to maneuver underneath an oncoming volley. Duo Lon's Hiden: Genmubakkoshikon ( + ) DM is a great anti-air and projectile punish as his vulnerable hitbox is significantly lowered while he moves forward, despite the fact he isn't even invulnerable when performing this. Always be aware of the opponent's options that allow them to get underneath these projectiles. Recognizing this flaw moves us on to grounded projectiles:
The lesser common projectile type, but a more unique staple to SNK fighters. We'll look at Kyo's 108 Shiki: Yamibarai ( + ) as our example:
Grounded projectiles travel fullscreen and may initially appear identical in utility to any other fireball. But compare the areas controlled by each projectile archetype and the difference becomes clear: grounded projectiles don't control the Low Hop Space. Either projectile can work wonders against a grounded enemy, but their similarities end at that. So what does this mean?
The simplest method to deal with a grounded projectile would then be to hop over it. Grounded projectiles carry a much lighter threat of anti-airing a short hop attempt, and recall that a full jump unnecessarily increases one's vulnerability. So if suspended projectiles encourage jumping, their bottom-bound brothers promote hopping. The next step in countering the adversary is to bait a hop in order to intercept the opponent with a grounded anti-air (one that reaches into the hop space) or a horizontal air-to-air (which gives varying frame advantage, spacing setups, and possibly set up for cross-unders).
Another built-in bonus is that the enemy can't manipulate their hitbox to shrink underneath these projectiles, so the opponent will need to hop, block, roll, or use a different method to approach attacking player.
Joe's Hurricane Upper ( + ) is unique in that its hitbox stretches from the bottom of the ground up into the low hop space. He has the benefits of both types in one.
Joe players must still take caution to avoid having his projectile hopped or jumped, rolled through, or countered with reflectors or anti-projectile attacks such as Daimon's Jiraishin ( + ) fullscreen pound. In fact, many EX specials and DMs can be used to move through projectiles regardless of their hitbox. Fortunately for the projectile player most of these invulnerable moves are unsafe on block and deplete the opponent's meter, and so baiting very is important. Never be predictable.
Ignoring EX moves and specific one-speed projectiles like K's Second Shot ( + then + ), most characters have two normal fireball strengths. Six button games like Street Fighter offer three projectile strengths (usually based on finishing an input with , or ) with slightly varying speeds and recovery, though in KOF the four button layout restricts the player to two options; either the or strength specials. However, because there are less choices in KOF, projectile versions behave much more independently of each other.
The slower projectiles have two large advantages: they stay on the active playing field for a longer duration and their recovery speed is much greater. This is important as these factors combined will often allow the projectile player to send out a fireball and then trail behind it. In Street Fighter IV, Rose is barely able to trail behind her weak Soul Spark when the opponent is from mid to far-screen, though by spending meter for an FADC-canceled projectile just about any character can walk behind their canceled fireball and force the opponent to block and deal with close-ranged mixups. Guile is historically known for always having this same option from his weak Sonic Boom, though his close offensive options are limited.
In KOF, most light projectiles recover around when the attack travels halfway across the screen. When this happens, a projectile character can simultaneously control the ground while being free to move on their own, much like when FADCing a projectile. Unlike in Street Fighter, KOF enables more mobility options as the player can run or hop or jump to quickly move forward to get in on the opponent. If the opponent decides to block a weak projectile, the other player can capitalize on their blockstun and move forward to launch an offense. Joe's weak Hurricane Upper allows him to recover with enough time to run forward, confirm if the opponent tries to jump or roll through, and punish escape attempts on reaction; and if the opponent blocks then Joe gets a free mixup from the blockstun.
This technique also works on the defensive by using the time bought from a blocked projectile to backdash or bait a projectile-invulnerable counterattack. Athena and Kyo ould follow a projectile by using their aerial command normals off their backdashes to fly backwards at a faster speed than the opponent can match while running. This can be a very frustrating tactic to get in against, and so the zoning player can easily capitalize off the opponent's frustration by baiting an unsafe action from the opponent.
The effectiveness of these followups varies based on how fast a character recovers from their projectile animation, and how slow their projectile travels across the screen. Duo Lon's Juon Shikon ( + ) travels very slowly and recovers quickly which guarantees him two attack fronts once it comes out (though his projectile has a short range and is easily hopped over). Lesser extreme projectiles will recover more slowly, though all it takes is a solid distance between the opponent or their willingness to block in order to open them up from across the screen.
With all the advantages of slower projectiles, the appeal of their faster variety may initially seem diminished. However, slower projectiles are much easier to react to and counter with a hop, jump, or any efficient anti-fireball attack, and repeatedly using the same speed fireball makes one predictable. Enter the strong projectile. Their accelerated speed can blow up the opponent's reactions and timing, such as when looking to use a projectile counter or when timing a jump when predicting more sloth speed. And although it may seem obvious, they get across the screen faster and form tighter blockstrings and leave a tighter window for the opponent to attempt a jump or other escape method.
Their faster speed comes with the downside of controlling the active play area for a shorter amount of time. Also, since the opponent will block or avoid the faster projectile much earlier, this means the recovery on these fast projectiles is much worse. Because of this, nearly all fast projectiles can be safely rolled, efficiently shortening the distance between the two players. After the opponent rolls a fast projectile, the threat of hops, running, and long-reaching normals applies a heavy pressure that only increases the risk of further projectile usage.
In short, the opponent knows just how good/annoying a slow projectile can be and will try to avoid blocking or being hit by one. In fact they're so much safer, who'd even expect a fast one since they have such poor recovery and can so easily sacrifice spacial advantage? And with that thought in mind, the player walks forward in preparation to counter the next projectile... and end up walking straight into the fast version before reacting with their super. And that's what we call yomi layer 3.
SNK fighters have experimented with many systems that gave players more ways to maneuver around attacks. This dates back to plane shifting from Fatal Fury which evolved into the sidestep dodge found in the early KOF games (which was finally tweaked and greatly enhanced in KOF98 Ultimate Match) which was then abandoned for the rolling system introduced in KOF96 that persists up to the present.
Players have plenty of options against projectiles in KOF XIII, but each option has its own risks and rewards. Here we'll cover not just how to avoid projectiles, but rather offer insight into when each option becomes a safer method of getting through a fireball.
Blocking provides the most basic and safest answer to projectiles. Players can run the old strategy of blocking a projectile and then running or walking forward to safely advance to a more favorable positioning and act from a more advantageous spacing. Blocking also demonstrates that one is willing to play a grounded game which can lure the opponent into a sense of security or encourage them to jump or hop.
One downside to blocking is that the opponent gains meter while inflicting chip damage as in most fighting games, but as discussed above characters can gain a large initiative by following a weak projectile. The opponent may be able to backdash to reset to a fullscreen spacing or take advantage of the defending player's blockstun to run forward and go on the offensive, so blocking can have threatening repercussions in some instances.
Rolling through projectiles can be a secure or suicidal choice depending on both players' spacing and the recovery found on a projectile. We'll start with the more common method of rolling among newer players, and that is rolling when close to the opponent.
Notice that Ralf safely avoided Kyo's projectile and now he's able to recover and punish Kyo's whiff with a combo. Rolling in this closer range can yield a high reward but from this short of a range it becomes more of a guess if the opponent uses a laggy special than a safe option that's done on reaction. This method of 'running and rolling' is a large guess with high risk and high rewards; had Kyo not used his projectile and Ralf still gambled with his roll, Kyo would be able to throw or combo Ralf for free damage. In essence, rolling into combo range is an even riskier form of jumping in. As such, veteran players avoid rolling in these situations where so much is at stake.
Rolling becomes a safer option from further ranges where players can properly react and recognize projectile speeds:
Raiden reacted to Mai's heavy Kachousen and rolled forward to gain ground. In general, faster projectiles can safely be rolled and the attacking player wont be able to recover in time to punish the rolling player's recovery. However, should Mai have used her weaker fan toss and recovered faster then she could potentially have ran forward and reacted to Raiden's roll for a punish. If Mai had used her weak Kachousen and backdashed or remained in place then Raiden might get away with rolling a slow projectile.
After safely rolling a projectile both players are at a mid range where further projectile usage becomes more risky, but in turn further rolling becomes jeopardous as in the above scenario.
Jumping and Hopping
A majority of the projectiles in the game can be hopped over, though hopping non-grounded projectiles requires stricter timing than when jumping over them. Any aerial option is going to leave one vulnerable to anti-airs from a bad read or mistimed attempt, though one may be able to jump-in at the opponent and land a full combo as in any fighting game. Jumps and Super Jumps have more leeway in getting over projectiles, though their added height and hang time increases the ease of the opponent to anti-air, and usually with a stronger option like a DM. Hops and Hyper Hops can move the player forward while taking no damage though their horizontal reach isn't as long as a jump, and the opponent can still anti-air these approaches when up close.
Just like with rolling, jumping (or hopping) projectiles becomes a safer option from farther ranges where one can react to a projectile, move above it, and land before the opponent can get a true punish. Terry safely closed the distance against King, though his jump didn't take him far enough for him to land a jump-in. Sacrificing that extra range and the possibility of damage often leads to safer approaches for entering a closer range against the opponent. Even if King had waited at that distance, Terry would land outside of the range of her primary anti-air options, and so the King player would have had to preemptively move forward or delay her projectile to anti-air Terry.
As you might now expect, it's harder to safely jump over or jump-in against the weaker projectile that have better recovery. Neutral jumping over projectiles is yet another option to avoid projectiles in the air, though the opponent may be able to trail behind a slower projectile and gain an advantage against the neutral jumping player, or read a neutral jump attempt and run forward for an anti-air or jump forward with an air-to-air.
A hefty portion of the cast can challenge projectiles with moves of their own that can safely nullify or reflect oncoming projectiles.
- An obvious way to cancel projectiles is for the player to use their projectile so that both clash and dissipate. One character will generally come out the winner in a fireball war due to having a faster projectile, but the losing player may have an EX projectile that will power through normal fireballs and cause a knockdown.
- A select few character have projectile reflectors that hurl attacks back at the opponent. A reflected projectile wont necessarily always punish the opponent, but it does buy more time to change positioning. Care must be taken to recognize if the opponent used their slow or their fast speed projectile in order to time the input properly. Guessing incorrectly or timing a reflector wrong will cause one to take a hit from the attack.
- Some commands are made for hitting players out of projectile from far distances. Daimon's ground pound will punish fireballs since the opponent must stand while performing a a special, and Duo Lon has his + command normal that targets the opponent's current location.
- Other specials have projectile hitboxes that can absorb fireballs when timed correctly. Elizabeth's Étincelle pictured below is great because it controls the Short Hop Space, builds meter, and stops projectiles.
Keep an eye out for moves that shrink one's vulnerable hitbox; they can be used to avoid entering blockstun (through which frame and positional advantage is given to the other player) and can punish non-grounded projectiles within their active ranges. In previous KOF versions some characters were even able to run, sweep, or use their Crouching Light Kick to shrink underneath these projectiles.
King's command slide can move her forward while avoiding a select few of these loftier attacks. From a far to mid range, a King player can safely react and get in against some projectiles, and once both players meet at a close range inside her sliding distance a slide kick functions as a great poke that can automatically shut down closer fireball attempts.
Most of the moves with projectile invulnerability are going to take meter to use, but with the addition of EX specials and DMs characters have more options to beat projectiles than in previous KOF titles.
Shen's Tatsu! Gekiken ( + ) has a lot of invuln coupled with a decent startup speed and so he can react to projectiles with this DM. Most invuln counters work on reaction but are limited by their effective range. Shen's DM moves him far across the screen, but his hitbox only stays active enough to give his DM an effective range of about 1/3 of the screen. Other moves may have a shorter window of invulnerability, or different ranges; a wise opponent will avoid using projectiles inside these dangerous ranges or step inside them to bait an attack, so both players should be analyzing their optimal ranges.
Offense in KOF is faster than in other traditional fighters due to the inclusion of hops which allow jumping attacks to cover more angles and be more relevant due to the faster nature of hops, and also due to the fast walk and run speeds and quick close normals. This is not to say the flow of a match cannot become defensive or high cautious, but characters are able to move at a quicker rate which diversifies the range of pressure applicable.
The other side of the coin is that blocking against most standard hop pressure becomes easy to do once used to KOF, and command grab mixups can be punished with Alternate Guarding. The major weakness of blocking is that players can suffer a Guard Crush from blocking for too long. Once a player scores a knockdown, the resulting mixups become much more difficult to defend against than most neutral offensive mixups.
Close Range Offense
This tutorial demonstrates common offensive options including how to pressure with hops, low attacks and running techniques, and most importantly ways to shut down specific options that the opponent has available to counter your offense.
Players have a multitude of options to storm the opponent after a knockdown. Safe jumps may be familiar to fighting game players, but ambiguous rolls and KOF's grappler okizeme are offensive techniques more unique to the series.
Any type of knockdown severely limits the amount of actions available to the recovering player, while the standing player is free to move and manipulate the opponent into a dirty setup. It's crucial to keep pressure on the opponent after a knockdown in some form, even in situations where one isn't directly mixing up the grounded opponent with an attack as waiting or delaying keeps the momentum in the standing player's favor.
Hard knockdowns force the downed player to wait until their character naturally stands up, and so the standing player has a longer period to maneuver into an advantageous setup such as a safe jump, ambiguous roll, or cross up. Hard knockdowns are also much more difficult to inflict on an opponent as each character only has a few moves that can cause one. Select normal throws, command grabs, specials, and command normals can force a hard knockdown; some attacks cause a hard knockdown but are made less effective by leaving less of a frame advantage on hit, though these instances are mainly reserved for DMs and Neo Maxes.
- Additionally, a player waking up from a hard knockdown gains an 8 frame throw-invincible period. This makes it harder for the waking up player to be grabbed, though tick throws and delayed grabs pose a threat.
Benimaru Collider ( + ) causes the opponent to slowly crumple to the ground, which gives a Benimaru player a long time to set up an ambiguous cross up, safe jump, or attempt any other spacial-based trick. Though comboing into this attack deals less damage than his Handou Sandangeri ( + , + ) it sets up a much stronger okizeme for Benimaru.
Most knockdowns in KOF are soft or techable knockdowns, meaning one can press + before hitting the ground to perform an invincible backwards roll and recover to a standing state at a faster rate. Most specials, Desperation Moves, and certain throws cause soft knockdowns, as well as all sweeps and Blowback Attacks.
- Quickrising reduces the amount of time the standing opponent has to set up further offensive options, but the rising player rolls back further toward the corner which can work for the better or worse.
- Teching can also be used to punish botched combos or poor rejumps.
- When a player techs a knockdown, all throw invulnerability is forfeited upon standing and so the risk of being grabbed upon recovery becomes a possibility.
- Some followups to soft knockdowns are based around dealing with the grounded player teching and recovering faster; therefore its worth occasionally choosing to enter a hard knockdown by not recovering to mess with the opponent's setup. Be warned, as the opponent may react to an unteched knockdown with an improvised mixup.
Cross ups are jumping attacks that hit behind the opponent's character. Since blocking is performed by holding ( ) away from the opposing player, a player being crossed up has to correctly guess or react to the correct direction to block. Some of the best cross up options allow the player to land either in front of or behind the grounded player which increases the ambiguity of which way to block. An incorrect block allows the jumping player to confirm into a damaging combo, so cross ups can be powerful offensive tools.
- Only certain jumping attacks have a deep enough hitbox to hit behind the opponent. These moves will be designated as being able to cross up on each character page.
Cross ups can be set up in many ways in KOF, though some tactics require tight spacing or timing. One of the simplest ways to land a cross up is after a hard knockdown where the standing player has enough time to hop or jump behind the opponent. Benimaru can easily land a cross up or fake cross up after his Benimaru Collider command grab by walking backwards and then hopping forward with his Jumping Heavy Kick. This method is the most common way to set up a cross up in most fighting games, but in KOF characters have other ways to land cross ups and indeed cross unders.
Some characters can cross up opponents with a hop or hyper hop, but certain variables come into play. Character-specific hop heights may require the opponent to be crouching in order to land a cross up hopping attack, while others can cross up a standing player from a hop. The best way to figure this out is to experiment with your character to find setups. One common technique is to perform a Crouching Light Kick from up close, and then hop forward with a cross up attack. This type of "Tick Cross Up" becomes very nuanced for characters, as some may need to hyper hop forward after one Crouching Light Kick tick, where others only need to hyper hop after the opponent blocks two Crouching Light Kicks. It's important to practice these quick cross ups, as a mis-judged attempt can sometimes cause a hop to go too far and whiff which allows the blocking player to punish with a tripguard attack.
There's two ways a player can face when waking up in KOF, and under certain circumstances these can cause crossups to occur in the corner. Let's look at a normal knockdown:
King stands up and faces toward the opponent as soon as she recovers to neutral. This is what commonly occurs after the majority of knockdowns in KOF and just about every fighting game. Now compare this to how she wakes up next:
King starts out on the ground but flipped backwards, and when she finally rises she's facing away from the opponent for the first frame, and then in a split second she'll correct herself and flip to face Shen. When her back is turned toward the opponent, her whole character hitbox is also reversed which can sometimes allow the waking player to be crossed up in the corner. However, these cross ups aren't very common in KOF XIII as opposed to in the older games as the setups are strict. Still, it's important to be aware of these occasional mixups.
Corner Cross Ups
There's a very slight gap between King's back-turned hitbox (noted in blue) and the game's corner (designated in red). This very small opening allows the jumping player to land behind the waking player, and since the reversed hitbox is different many moves can easily function as a cross up attack such as Shen's more difficult Jumping Heavy Kick.
After one of these cross up attempts, the jumping player will be cornered so if the attempt is blocked, the player's corner advantage is gone.
So how are these corner cross ups set up then?
- If a Guard Cancel Roll goes over successfully and the opponent whiffs a special move, the followup punish can cause a back-turned knockdown since their character will not auto-correct when hit. For the cross up setup to work, the punish must push the opponent into the corner and certain moves like ranbus and command grabs that automatically force the opponent into the correct direction can't be used. For example, EX Iori can Guard Cancel Roll King's df.D xx qcf+K blockstring in the corner and then go into a rekka combo which will cause a hard back-turned knockdown and set up for a corner cross up.
- Sometimes due to spacing, the opponent isn't fully pushed into the corner from a standard knockdown. This can be difficult to judge, but the principle behind the back-turned cross ups apply here. So whenever it seems like someone randomly gets a corner cross up, it's usually due to very minute corner spacing. Exact setups into these are unknown at the time, and it seems that empty jumping/hopping may also help trigger these.
- Unlike in older KOF games, the throws like Kim's that naturally cause a back-turned state don't set up for corner cross ups for whatever reason. While the character will wake up facing backwards, it's not possible to jump behind them.
After certain hard knockdowns, a player may have enough time to safely roll on top of the opponent's downed character. From the right distance and with proper timing, the player could appear on either side of the waking opponent in time to use a meaty attack. In essence, this creates a similar 50/50 mixup as a cross up since the opponent has to quickly guess which side the player will appear on in order to block or correctly perform a reversal: The odds are stacked in the rolling player's favor since most reversal options (including backdashes) need to be input in the correct direction so the waking opponent will likely be trying just to block. A player can really go nuts from a tight ambiguous roll, especially if one's character has additional tools like a command grab to demolish the opponent.
- Timing a roll too late can allow the waking up player to punish one's roll recovery. Rolling and recovering too early is safer in that regard, but it also gives the opponent more time to react and block the correct way. The best timing for an ambiguous roll gives the rolling player enough advantage time to interrupt any of the opponent's attacks while ending late enough to perplex the opponent.
- Characters that normally don't have a way to land an ambiguous roll can watch to see if the opponent doesn't tech from a soft knockdown. If the opponent doesn't tech, the player can try to launch a freestyle roll setup.
- This is a tactic that was usable in CvS2 in C, A, and N Grooves, and can be done with Abel in Street Fighter IV. The premise of the technique is also applicable in games where characters can roll forward on okizeme, which includes Marvel vs Capcom 3, Vampire Savior and BlazBlue.
KOF allows characters to combo into command grabs unlike in most contemporary fighting games. This becomes an important tool for grappler characters as their command grabs typically cause hard knockdowns that are followable by hopping or running at the opponent to get close again.
Once a grappler gets a knockdown (from a sweep, normal throw, Jumping Blowback Attack, or landing a command grab) the player can run up to the opponent to force a mixup. The player could meaty the opponent with a sweep or hit-confirmable attack string and cause another knockdown if the opponent attempts to jump out in fear of being thrown. But if the waking opponent respects the meaty option and decides to block, the grappler can land a raw (or ticked into) command grab. A successful guess on the grappler's part leads into another knockdown which forces the opponent into the same attack/throw mixup. In KOF, a grappler's okizeme game leads back into itself with a correct guess.
A grappler's options include more than the basic hitconfirm or throw mixup: Opponents have the option of using a reversal attack to beat both options, and a backdash can escape most meaty attacks as well as all command grabs. This means players using grapplers will need to incorporate more setups and techniques to adapt to the opponent's options or battle tendencies.
- Meaty grounded attacks can be confirmed into a grab which leads back into another hard knockdown. If the opponent blocks, the player can still attempt a tick throw or frame trap.
- However, if the opponent blocks an attack they can begin to Alternate Guard to escape any further tick throw attempts.
- Alternate guard can be broken by timing a low attack as the opponent blocks high, though the timing is more of a guess than a guaranteed hit.
- Predictable meaty attacks can also be punished with reversal moves, so the player needs to understand other options:
- However, if the opponent blocks an attack they can begin to Alternate Guard to escape any further tick throw attempts.
- An alternative to using a true meaty attack is to perform a delayed attack, meaning to time an attack so that it hits just after the opponent gets up. This gives the opponent enough time to try and press a button or to jump, only to be intercepted by an attack.
- Sweeps are great as delayed attacks since they cause a knockdown and have a good range so that they can hit just outside of one's command grab range. It can be really tempting when a grappler walks backward, seemingly giving the opponent some breathing space, only to hit with a long-reaching low check.
- Delayed Jumping Blowback Attacks are perfect for shutting down backdashes and jump-outs. These cause a soft knockdown like a sweep would and require the player to be hopping/jumping which can help to avoid any attack the opponent may mash out on their wakeup.
- Some characters can land a safe jump or meaty jump-in from a command grab. This encourages the opponent to block high and not attempt a reversal. If it's blocked, the player could still try a blockstring or tick throw upon landing on the ground.
- Once the opponent begins to respect the jump-in, the grappler player can begin to perform empty hops and land immediately into a command grab. These setups are impossible to beat with the normal throw option select and difficult to anti-air with a tripguard attack due to the speed of command grabs combined with the threat of a high-hitting jumping attack.
- Another empty hop tool invulves an option select; hop at the opponent and time is so that the player's character lands in time to block reversal attempts, and then attempt a normal throw ( + / ). This setup can beat invulnerable reversals, tech a grab should the opponent try to do a throw, throw the opponent if they remained grounded, or anti-air the opponent with a fast Close Heavy Attack should a throw fail to activate. This setup isn't too damaging on its own, but it covers many of the opponent's escape options; notice how Ralf had landed many successive knockdowns but then did a low risk empty hop into a normal throw attempt after the air-to-air, which resulted in K' being grabbed as he hesitated.
- Attempts to block (or initiate Alternate Guarding) on wakeup can be beaten with a command grab. This setup can be beaten if the opponent reads a grab attempt with a hop or by using a fast attack to hit the grappler before the player activates their throw. The answer to a skiddish opponent is to try a meaty method listed above.
- If the opponent tries to roll away the command grab should automatically punish it. For the record, performing a reversal roll is one of the worst options to escape from a grappler's mixups.
- A very important mechanic to note is that when a player recovers from a hit reset or hard knockdown, they remain unthrowable for 8 or so frames. This long period makes it difficult to land a raw command grab afterward as the opponent can easily press a button to interrupt a grab attempt. Tick throws can alleviate with this, but as soon as an attack is blocked the opponent can begin to alternate guard to beat out throws. However, if the opponent quickrises from a soft knockdown then the opponent becomes throw-vulnerable on their first frame upon standing.
- Reacting to teched knockdowns gives a grappler a chance to force a attack/throw 50/50 that is occurs much faster than in most normal circumstances.
- Reacting to teched knockdowns gives a grappler a chance to force a attack/throw 50/50 that is occurs much faster than in most normal circumstances.
Some jump-ins can be reacted to on wakeup and punished with an invulnerable reversal move like K's Crow Bites ( + ). However, most of these invulnerable reversals have a noticeable gap from startup to when their hitbox becomes active; this allows for players to time deep jump-ins to hit as late or meaty as possible in order to cause one of many advantageous situations for the aerial player. Safe jumps are usually set up from hard or unteched knockdowns and most of the timing comes down to getting the proper feel rather than whiffing certain moves to set up an absolute frame-perfect setup. Some characters like Mai have few reversal options and can be more easily hopped on on their wakeup, though some like Athena have many reversal options which requires the offensive player to attempt more efforts to bait reversals. With that in mind, safe jumps can cause any of the following situations:
- Guard Cancel Blowback Attacks can be safejumped, blocked, and punished.
- Reversal Rolls can still be caught and punished with quick enough reaction speed.
- Guard Cancel Rolls are poor escape methods as the jumping player will easily have enough time to re-meaty the opponent to regain the advantage.
- Most meterless reversals can be safely jumped on and blocked for a free punish.
- A reversal backdash will cause the opponent to take the damage of the jumping attack.
- The grounded player may make a mistake and fail to block high.
- If the grounded player blocks correctly, the previously jumping player can continue with a blockstring and further offensive options.
If the waking up player decides to press a button or blocks incorrectly or attempts a backdash, then the jump-in attack will hit which may lead into a combo. The defending player should obviously aim to avoid taking damage, but their other escape methods are also restricted:
Most fully-invulnerable reversals have somewhat lengthy startup periods. If Ryo lands a deep Jumping Heavy Punch as K' is waking up and then holds back to block as he lands, K's Heavy Crow Bites will be too slow to anti-air Ryo, and afterward Ryo can punish the blocked reversal. Lighter-strength reversals come out faster, but they generally lack invuln and are more prone to losing or trading.
This rule does not always hold true though, as certain EX reversals and DMs start up so fast that they cannot be safe jumped. Ash's Sans-culotte ( ~~~ ) is instant and is transformable into a large combo that can lead into his sealing Germinal finish which disables special and command normals for 10 seconds. These stronger reversals cost meter to use and are still punishable if baited, so one must still be cautious with these moves. The attacking player could try to bait a fast reversal by neutral hopping outside the range of a reversal (for instance, Ash's Sans-culotte lacks horizontal reach), or by timing an empty hop so that the player is grounded and able to block any reversal attack.
Since the waking up player's reversals become punishable and considering taking a jump-in hit is a bad idea, the waking up player is forced to block the jump-in. This gives the attacking player a large frame advantage to work with to create a strong offense. Most notably, the jumping player risks nothing off a proper safe jump and is guaranteed an advantage no matter what the opponent does.
Delayed Jumping Blowback Attacks
Sometimes the enemy player will want to backdash or jump on their wakeup to escape a command grab mixup or to try to quickly get a jumping attack out, such as when neutral jumping in the corner. This can be difficult to deal with--especially against backdashes which immediately cause a mid-air state--since if a player is hit out of the air with a normal attack all that results in a hit reset. Taking the damage of the reset may allow the player to punish a buffered laggy attack or face a less threatening situation. Backdashes and jumps can be especially troublesome for grappler characters since backdashing negates the basic meaty or command grab okizeme strategy and should the opponent opt for the hit reset, the okizeme options for the grappler are weaker than off of a hard knockdown.
A strong universal solution to the reversal backdash problem is to use a Jumping Blowback Attack on the opponent's wakeup. Blowback Attacks will always trigger a soft knockdown instead of a hit reset and so one is able to run or hop forward to get back in on the opponent after landing one of these "j.CD" attacks. Jumping Blowback Attacks can be combined with safe jumps, but not every knockdown gives enough time for a safe jump setup. A way around this is to wait until the opponent is almost standing and then hop at them with a Blowback Attack. By delaying, the player is forfeiting going for a true meaty attack, but this gives the opponent enough time to start a backdash or jump which will be anti-aired for a good knockdown. Another plus is that because of the staggered hop timing in comparison to most meaty jump-ins, the opponent will have a tougher time reacting with a reversal attack.
Reading and strongly punishing a backdash or jump out attempt will further discourage the opponent from trying the same method of escape, and so the opponent will be more willing to deal with traditional meaty pressure rather than risk taking damage and going right back on the receiving end of strong oki pressure.
Certain jumping attacks hit deep and activate so fast that a player can hit a crouching opponent on the way up from a jump or hop. This creates a quick overhead attack that is often impossible to react and block against. Fewer characters have instant overhead options in KOFXIII than in older KOF games, but some lead into more damage than ever before.
Leona's Neutral Jump Heavy Kick and her Jumping Light Punch can hit crouching characters and both can be canceled into her aerial X-Calibur ( + ) or V-Slasher DM ( + ). Her instant overhead mixups synergize with her low-hitting Crouching Light Kick hitconfirms to create a scary close high/low mixup game. Most instant overheads are punishable if blocked and in Leona's case hers aren't easily confirmable into her DM and so she can waste meter and be punished from a blocked instant overhead attempt.
It isn't that difficult to react and correctly block against oncoming hopping attack, so players will sometimes want to get a stronger mixup from a hop attempt. Most characters have two options available when omitting a jump-in attack from a hop: the first is to land an attempt a normal throw or command grab and the second is to land into a Crouching Light Kick hitconfirm.
- Hopping into a normal throw is a somewhat weak option as the opponent can tech a normal throw after an empty hop by using the Throw/Block option select or by reacting, but grapplers may occasionally want to hop in to a normal throw attempt since these lack a whiff animation and aren't as punishable as command grabs.
- Using a command grab from an empty hop is a more menacing threat to deal with since any instant grab will beat a block/throwtech attempt. If the opponent hasn't had a chance to block any other attack and start Altlernate Guarding, a grappler can force a quick 50/50 between using a jumping attack from a hop and possibly confirming into a grab (a setup which is thwarted if the opponent blocks) or by doing nothing from a hop and landing into an immediate grab (which is countered if the opponent anti-airs the hop or jumps out of the situation).
- Landing an empty hop into a low attack can deal big damage and initially seems like a dominating strategy. However, the defending player can hold ( ) to block high and then delay a ( / ) input which will result in the player defending against a jumping attack or throwing the opponent before their low attack comes out. Characters with command grabs can blow up this option select, but there's another way to set land a fast empty hop mixup that cannot be thrown by this method: hop a slight bit early against a rising opponent and then go into a low attack. With the correct timing the low attack will meaty the opponent and so defending players must try to react against these setups instead of relying on an option select.
Keep in mind that empty hop mixups come with more risks than being thrown. The defending player may see through an empty hop and anti-air the other player with a normal attack, tripguard anti-air, or reversal move. A more aware opponent can shut down empty hop mixups
In certain situations a player may be able to follow up a successful air-to-air with a grounded cross up. A universal setup is to air-to-air an opponent's jump from a hop and then run forward underneath the recovering opponent.
Iori meets Duo Lon's jump-in by hopping forward with his powerful horizontal j.B attack. Because Iori landed his air-to-air from a hop, he'll be able to touch down on the ground while Duo Lon is still in a hit reset. The key to landing a cross under is to anti-air the opponent from a lower height so that one's character recovers on the ground with ample frame advantage.
Upon touching down, immediately run forward toward the opponent. This is how a player is able to get behind an opponent's character.
Finally, cancel one's running animation into an attack so that the opponent is hit by a meaty.
Cross unders are difficult to react to and block against, much like with an ambiguous roll. The running player may not even know which side his character will appear on, and so the receiving player must act fast or make a 50/50 guess on which direction to block. These setups are difficult to land, but the offensive rewards are slanted heavily in the attacking player's favor.