Hello all! My name is EXWildWolf, a competitive fighting game player who is also a lab junkie. I started out with KOF as my first game to learn. KOF is an amazing fighting game series, especially with the latest entry in the series, KOF XIV!
There is lots of fast paced action and a variety of movement, offense, defense and a gigantic cast of characters that play very differently from each other & are highly likable. With a cast of 50 characters, all of them utilizing so many differing styles of play, you'd be hard pressed to say you can’t find somebody you might like! What’s also unique about the characters in KOF is how all the universal mechanics diversify their basic tool set with hops and dashes, which gives them a totally different curve in how they approach.
Some people, however, feel really daunted by the way this game plays and that’s understandable. KOF is very different from any other fighting game in the way you approach competitive play, but I’m not going to talk about how people should approach the game... I want to help people recognize on what they should be focusing on during play. The game is not just a mindless onslaught of hop in normals that most people perceive it to be and there’s a lot more going on than that. With the 2.0 balance patch coming out this upcoming Wednesday, I feel that with a clean slate for those going back into it or wanting to try it out the first time with the new DLC characters, I wanted to help guide them and try to give a few tips on what could also help some of you, our readers. This isn't a "how to short hop" tutorial or "Trip Guard Anti-Air" demystification of the game. I'm here to give some advice, because I feel learning the game will only come from playing yourself. With that out of the way, let's get started!
Moving with a Purpose
A lot of what I see from new players is that they don’t have a real sense of purpose when moving around the screen. They flail about copying what they see from offline tournaments and online play, without really wondering why the way that they’re movement works without a sense of purpose or reason behind it. You should recognize why Iori or Kyo backdash cancel with their aerial specials and why it works. You should always take into account what you or your opponent are trying to do in your movements. This is a very active and constantly moving game, but not a game that rewards blind flailing. You should always try to take note of where you hop, where you dash, where you are willing to commit to a poke and how your opponent tries to react to your approach. This is where people freeze up and only stick to one set movement pattern they think will work all the time. Which brings me to my next point...
This is obvious and pretty much everybody says it, but not a lot of people do it. If you play and don’t adapt to your opponent, how do you expect to win? Adaptation in KOF isn’t any different from other games. If you go up against a defensive opponent, you can take advantage of their passive gameplay and crank down their guard gauge to make them flinch with jumping or rolling. If you go up against an aggressive opponent, you can check their approach with pokes that have reach and halt the opponent’s offensive momentum, frustrating them with their headstrong & reckless approach. There is no one style this game sticks to in terms play and you should be adapting to your opponent’s habits & beating theirs actions/reactions constantly throughout. You see, KOF has different ways of approach and that’s where people get stuck. People starting out are too focused on one particular thing the opponent is trying to do, like baiting the DP on wakeup. This is where people get frustrated with things like wakeup hop. It’s on you to make sure that you counteract them by having a formulated game plan, which is where I come down to my final point.
Making a Game Plan
Having a game plan won't necessarily come easy in KOF nor will you be able to build one quickly, BUT with more match-up and player experience, you will be able to have a more solidified game plan and will be able to minimize the number of different scenarios through conditioning & overall situational awareness of your opponent. Heck, even just getting somebody into a blockstring gives you so much information about your them. Did this guy still stay downbacking after run up Crouch B strings for the 3rd time? Give that dude a command grab or an overhead. This other person really likes mashing his bare Hop Down C with Kyo after a blocked Standing A from Iori, so I’m just going to Stand CD early so I can get this counter hit confirm to corner carry and make him feel bad. It’s stuff like this that makes you plan your offense and defense accordingly, as well as knowing how to open up your opponent. If something is working, stick with it! If something isn’t working, have another plan (and even a plan after that) in order to win.
In order to get better at this game, the best I can say is practice and learn from your previous matches and your mistakes. See what you’re missing and add it to your gameplay. Analyze different scenarios on how you could approach the game differently, polish it, and come back stronger. Oh… and never EVER not bring out your characters’ full potential, which is another article for another time. Thank you for reading!
Any other further inquiries or questions, you can follow me or send me a tweet over on Twitter over at @EXWildWolf. See you soon and keep burning to fight!