Normal attacks in KOF are fundamentally as strong as in Street Fighter or most every fighting game. At their core, normals are the key components in commanding the grounded space, attacking and defending when in the air, hit-confirming combos, creating frame traps, anti-airing, and so forth. As in any other 2D fighting game, each character has a full set of normals when standing, crouching, or jumping. Certain characters also have different normals when neutral jumping or hopping, but this is quite rare in KOF XIII.
Close normals appear in many fighting games. Once the player is 'close' to the opponent, using certain button-attacks will cause a different move to be used. One way of thinking of this is that close normals are a type of command normal that only trigger in proximity of the opponent. These attacks are especially important in KOF.
Instead of a 'Crouching LP' or other light attack serving as the fastest attack as in Street Fighter and many other fighters, most KOF characters' Close and/or attacks are even faster (which usually fall in the 2-4 frame startup region). Since these are heavy attacks, this means that the fastest attacks also inflict heavy hitstun, and they can be canceled into command normals and special moves freely. Because of this, close normals have many uses.
- Punishing with a Close Heavy attack is easy due to the rapid startup while leading to a damaging combo.
- If a close normal is blocked then both players are at a neutral advantage. This differs from Street Fighter where it is a universal rule where close attacks are hugely negative if uncanceled. Combined with hop pressure, 2-in-1s into command normals or specials, the threat of the faster-recovering Crouching , and the possibility for the blocking opponent look for an opportunity to Guard Cancel Roll, the attacking player can often continue attacking after a blocked close attack.
- Close attacks have big hitboxes and work as strong meaty attacks, plus certain characters have exceptionally powerful close normals that can also anti-air or hit multiple times. Upward, vertical normals like Iori's Close are superb anti-airs on top of being strong offensive moves; Terry's Close is an example of a fast close attack that hits twice and can easily be hit-confirmed off of.
- Throws are activated with and and so a fast, safe close attack will activate should a normal throw attempt fail.
Each character can perform a unique Blowback Attack with + , which performs a slow, extra-hard attack that causes a soft knockdown on hit and can be canceled into specials or DM's. The effectiveness of each Blowback Attack varies by character though universally all of these attacks have large hitboxes once active. The stronger blowback attacks can function as anti-airs, long-ranged pokes, and hefty frame trap attacks.
- Unlike other normal attacks, Blowback Attacks do not have a crouching variant. They can only be done when standing or jumping.
- What makes these attacks especially interesting is that if they cause a counterhit the opponent is put in a freely juggable state which can be followed up upon with quick reactions. This increases the reward of landing a blowback attack as an anti-air or as a grounded frametrap.
- Blowback attacks cause more blockstun than close heavy attacks. Landing one can allow the player to perform even tighter blockstrings into slower specials.
- The startup on a blowback attack is massive, which increases the risk of using these moves. A neat way to take advantage of this is to perform an empty hop against an opponent that likes to use GCCD attacks. The guard cancel counter is activated with + , so if the opponent blindly presses both buttons hoping for a counterattack, then the player can land and immediately throw the opponent out of the startup of the standing blowback attack.
Four Button Layout
For players used to a six button layout, as found in Street Fighter, adjusting to KOF's four button style is important for understanding the differences in spacing and footsies between games. In general, it's as if the 'medium' buttons in Street Fighter were broken down and distributed between Light and Heavy buttons, leaving two punch buttons and two kick strengths.
KOF lacks a 'Crouching MK' as an intermediate between a 'Crouching HK' and a 'Crouching LK'. Instead, one must choose to attack either with Crouching , which can transfer into a combo easily (and certain ones can even be canceled), or instead committing to a longer sweep (Crouching ).
- Besides counter-poking a sweep or out-spacing it with a projectile or other character-specific move, every character in KOF can hop over a predicted sweep for a combo.
- Most sweeps can also be canceled on hit or on whiff. By canceling a sweep into a special move that starts up fast and attacks the low hop space, it becomes possible to reduce the risk of having a sweep hopped on.
- Crouching / recovers fast enough to block or anti-air a hop but tends to lose to heavier, longer attacks such as a Crouching/Standing .
Standing and attacks are strong grounded attacks that typically either travel far horizontally or cover a higher angle for anti-airing. Horizontal attacks such as Kyo's Standing can end blockstrings, stop grounded approaches, and in Kyo's case, hop over low attacks. As a reference, these heavy normals closely parallel the nice, hefty Heavy normals in Street Fighter III 3rd Strike or Capcom vs SNK 2.
- Some standing attacks such as Joe's will hit crouching opponents and can be used to quickly pressure the opponent similarly to Ibuki's st.LP in Street Fighter or anyone's far in Garou.
- Some hit low, can be chain canceled into, and are cancelable. Daimon's standing resemble's Sagat's st.LK from Super SFII Turbo and functions similarly as Daimon's best grounded footsie attack. The low property makes the opponent to want to respect the attack and crouch block, which allows Daimon to walk into command grab range. If the opponent doesn't respect the poke, then the Daimon player can cancel the attack into a command grab off a hit for a knockdown.
- Other standing attacks have a longer horizontal reach and can still be canceled into specials and command normals. These tools can quickly check the opponent on the ground and open up certain frame traps when canceled. Ryo's standing is a great example of this. Some SF precedents would be Chun Li's amazing st.LK in SF Alpha 2 or Abel's st.LK in SFIV.
- The final category is similar to the long horizontal kick, but with an upward angle. These attacks are fast and can hit crouching characters but will more importantly reach higher upward, which will in turn naturally anti-air hops. Benimaru's infamous standing can annoy grounded opponents and shut down the short hop space with exceptional effectiveness. Many characters in SSFIIT have similar st.LK attacks, but their effectiveness is overshadowed by the lack of hops and the abundance of stronger anti-air options.
Hit-confirms are simpler in KOF because of the streamlined button size and chaining mechanics. For more details, see the Basic Combo Explanation.
- In Street Fighter, a typical hit-confirm combo goes cr.LK cr.LP, cr.MP xx special. A basic KOF confirm goes cr.B cr.A xx special. The main difference here is that the low can be chain canceled into and canceled into specials which eliminates the need to link the Crouching MP as a cancelable move. In a sense the KOF crouching has the range and frame advantage of a Street Fighter Crouching LP but the cancel properties of a Crouching MP.
- Comboing from Heavy attacks is also simpler in KOF at times since the player can chain cancel the attack into a command normal and then special cancel. In Street Fighter terms, it is as if most characters have a simple chain combo like Ken's st.MP > st.HP target combo that can be confirmed into a Hadouken on block or Shoryuken/super on hit.