Hello all! EXWildWolf here again with another article for KOF XIV! This time, we’re going to go a bit more in-depth and focus on the character people believe to be the strongest DLC fighter of the bunch… Ryuji Yamazaki! Whether you're a newcomer, intermediate or advanced player, this guide will surely help you out. Let's begin!
Yes, the psychotic killer of Southtown is back in the latest release of the official KOF timeline. Yamazaki was technically last playable in KOF 2002:Unlimited Match in 2009, but hasn’t been in the main game lineup since 2003. After 14 years, he’s back, ready to unleash carnage and chaos upon the cast like always! If you’re looking to pick him up, you came to the right place for a quick rundown on all his normals, specials, supers, strategies and overall game plan.
Yamazaki is a mid-level execution and highly offensive rushdown/zoning character that wants to control specific parts of the screen with specials and try to get into to establish his deadly close range game consisting of high/low/throw mix-ups as well as a decent frametrap pressure game with snake arm cancels. Yamazaki has a dynamic approach in how he can keep people out and get in, making him a very diverse character that can control the pace of the match very well.
Yamazaki’s great range normals like St.D and Sweep, as well his air normals like Jump CD and J.D make him deadly both on the ground and in the air, along with solid damage that punishes bad mistakes for approaching haphazardly against him. Yamazaki has to be careful however if he makes a mistake though. His defensive tools are very situational and offers high risk for low return outside of basic defensive mechanics.
- Great far reaching normal and specials, as well as a decent anti-air game.
- Plethora of mix-ups and counter special that can put the opponent on edge, as well as Snake Arm Cancel pressure off heavy normals.
- Poison super doesn’t go away until you hit him and can stack on a lot of damage, plus lasts a long time.
- Can Touch of Death (TOD) almost all characters with 5 bars on deck.
- Tools like Reflect and Snake Arm let him dictate the pace of the match.
- Command Throw and EX Guillotine lead to great okizeme options.
- Defense on wakeup and dealing with pressure is subpar outside of metered defensive mechanics.
- Some specials or normal are slow or unsafe on block and can put him in a bad position to get punished against certain characters, and is a fundamental problem
- Meterless damage outside of landing command throws is low.
- Overall slow run and walk speed.
Yamazaki has some great normals that let him poke and counterpoke at mid-range, making him very good in neutral and is one of his strong points.
A great AA jab. Comes out at 5 Frames and hits high. Also good for stuffing hop approaches. Only downside is that it whiffs on crouching opponents, even tall characters like Antonov and Chang. Still a great overall tool for stopping hop-in attempts!
A good low risk poke that doesn’t lead to much, but is pretty safe and can punish low pokes like a Cr.B or a sweep. Not much outside of this move except it has a bit more range that St.A. Good for poking at opponents in the corner for annoyance and can lead to decent tick throws into command grab. Like all command grabs, it can be jumped, so watch out for bait attempts. It can also be a good MaxMode combo starter.
A decent poke that sends Yamazaki forward a bit from his original position. It is a GREAT counterpoke for dealing more ranged pokes, and starts a frame faster than Stand D. It can also work as a good MaxMode combo starter.
A big boy poke. His GOD poke. His 2nd farthest reaching normal and one of the longest in the game. Can stop hops, is the definitive MaxMode combo starter for him from full range, and can hit over most Crouching low normal. Be careful though as some characters like Kyo can alter their hopping hurtbox with normals like J.B and can punish Yamazaki heavily for overabusing. One of the best pokes in the game since it takes up so much real estate and leads to big damage and okizeme with 2 bar combos, which is what Yamazaki wants.
Yamazaki’s 3rd longest normal. Has practically no hurtbox underneath, can work as a pseudo Anti-Hop, and has low invul. somewhere in the startup of the move that can blowup low attacks. It also causes wallbounce, in which Yamazaki can use Snake Arm Cancels (SACs) to do additional damage (More on SACs later). It is also great for catching rolls in some instances. St. CD can also be whiff cancelled, making it great for baiting people trying to punish it and adding a layer on Yamazaki’s already dominant neutral.
A decent fast small poke that is used for comboing off of Cr.B and can also be MaxMode activated. It is 0 on block, and is decent for tick throws or frametraps. It can also be whiff cancelled into other normals and specials, making it great for Option Selecting (OS for short) rolls.
Yamazaki’s fastest low with decent range and one of his fastest normals overall, coming in at 4 frames. Doesn’t have the best recovery, but can be cancelled into Cr.A to make yourself safe. Is also a good tick throw starter if it hits and the opponent stays still after getting hit. It is also decent MaxMode Combo starter from 2/3s of its range.
Yamazaki’s 2nd fastest heavy normal, coming out at 6 frames. Serves as a great AA for full jumps, a pressure tool in close range, and a decent counterpoke that can stuff or punish other normal if timed right. Is special and chainable into Forward B, which can make it safe, and can be advantageous on block after a SAC. It is also whiff cancel.
Crouch D (Sweep)
A long ranged sweep that comes out a bit slow and can be special cancelled to make safe. If it hits raw, Yamazaki can do a Low Snake Arm and have it OTG, racking up damage and lending to great offensive options with SACs added into the mix and giving him frame advantage. Be careful however as even though this move can be spaced to be safe, it’s not whiff cancellable and leaves him to be punished heavily by a properly timed hop attack.
Yamazaki also has 2 command normals. One is used for combo fillers and is his longest poke of them all while the other is an overhead.
Behold, Yamazaki’s longest normal. It hits round start and grants an instant knockdown if it hits raw. This move however, if done raw, is complete raw ASS. It’s slow, is very unsafe on block and is not special cancellable. When cancelled from something like a Close C however, this move is your main combo tool. It has faster startup, and can be special cancelled. You can also whiff cancel this from another normal in neutral to make it a decent neutral. More on this later.
An overhead. Is not special cancellable at all, even if cancelled from a normal. It is a great MaxMode combo starter and can be hard to punish when blocked. A good addition to his great mix-up and close range game and sets up for nasty damage off of certain resets.
His only normal that gives him advantage on block. Is +2, special cancellable, and hits crouching opponents. Is also one of his fastest normals. Makes for great tick throw setups and frametraps with its fast recovery. Can link into heavies or become super advantageous if meatied properly.
A worse Close A. Is slightly negative on block, slower than Close A, and doesn’t chain cancel into much. It’s decent for changing close range pressure options though. Outside of that, not much to it.
Yamazaki’s fastest heavy, coming out at 5 Frames. Is useful for comboing off of jump-ins and not much pushback on it. Can combo into Forward B and can be made advantageous through SAC.
Slower than Close C, but does more damage in optimized MaxMode combos along with slightly better range in some regards. Can also be made advantageous through SAC.
Yamazaki has some great air normals that are good for challenging other Air to Air normals, as well putting on air to ground pressure on the opponent. He also has really fast heavy air normals to boot.
A good jump-in that shrinks his hopping hurtbox and can be good in conjunction with hopping over fireballs. Can also lead to quick tick throws after a land in that has you advantageous but not quite enough for a full combo and the opponent is blocking. It can be used along with Jump D to vary your jump-in approaches.
A great Air to Air that can also serve as a hop–in on the ground. Can serve as a great poke from a hop or hyper hop. It's active for a particularly long time, so it's a good poke for people trying to get in. Be careful though as it can be low profile AA’ed with a Cr.B if it whiffs while landing and can lead to big punishment.
One of the more unique Air normals in the game. Hits completely above Yamazaki, is really fast for a heavy, and can serve as great coverage from a hop to cover overlapping jump-ins. It’s really fast and does more damage than his light air normals, though it has the same problem J.B has and can be low profile AA’ed if it whiffs on landing.
A boot to the noggin. Has a great hitbox, hits fast and deep, and can be an Instant Overhead. Yamazaki’s Main Jump-in normal and one of the best in the game, and has good air to ground use. When I say this move hits deep, I mean it hits DEEP. Tired of old small bastards like Chin and Tung being too small to hit? Jump D. Sick of Luong Sweeping under all your crap? Jump D. Do you just wanna stomp on a fool for down backing thinking he can react to overheads and is nice? Jump D.
ACTION KICK! Has great range, decent startup, and good vertical coverage. Has the same problem as J.B and J.C though, so watch out. This normal is great for covering air space and can lead to great rewards in the corner, Counter Hit or not. It's really great in the corner since it hits so big and is great for putting them back in trying to jump out. It can also be good to stall while hopping backwards to regain positioning.
Yamazaki’s throws are standard, although one only has a soft knockdown that can be tech rolled, and other that is hard knockdown and can’t be tech rolled.
Yamazaki plays football and kicks his opponent all the way across the screen.
Great for pushing them into the corner and creating space to setup Snake Arms from fullscreen. Can be OSed with Cl.C to catch jump outs.
Chucks 'em on the floor like old dirty shirts and expired leftovers in the garbage. Grants hard knockdown for Okizeme. Is great for putting them in the corner. Not enough time to do a safejump however, only basic high lows with Forward A overhead and lights. Can be OSed with Cl.D to catch jump outs.
Yamazaki’s specials are varied and unique, each serving a purpose whether it’s through combos, spacing, zoning or mounting offensive pressure and mix-ups. First let’s talk about his most common special move, Serpent Slash, aka Snake Arm! All versions are Super Cancellable (SC) except the EX one (note: all EX moves except for a hand few in the game are SCable).
There are 3 different versions of this move, excluding the EX version.
This version of the attack is an Anti-Air with great vertical coverage. You can even combo into it on standing opponents if up close. This version of Snake Arm is used when they’re too high for B Snake Arm to hit. It's also a good juggle extender and can lead to big rewards, regardless on if it was Counter Hit or not. It also comes out reasonably fast for its vertical range, at 9 frames. It is terrible when blocked or whiffed however and can whiff on crouching opponents, so watch out.
The main version Yamazaki uses to control ground and hop space. This one is good for quick damage punishes from pseudo safe moves when spaced out properly, and is great for stuffing fireball startup and hop-in attempts, as well as other pokes. Be forewarned however, as this move is VERY unsafe on block, and some characters can punish you with far reaching supers or specials even when spaced at maximum distance. Be very cautious against certain characters with meter on deck. It is also used for MaxMode combos and used for racking up damage off random Counter Hit Jump CDs.
The final regular version of the move. Hits low, and is more safe on block than the other 2 versions. Has overall less range than the B version, but has a soft knockdown and can OTG for a hard knockdown. It can even hit tech rolls, so it’s possible to get conversions off of Sweeps mid-screen and raw non-Counter Hit Jump CD’s in the corner, something not a lot of other characters get. It can also lead to decent okizeme with meaties, quick high-low mix-ups, and is better when in the corner since it gives the perfect space for a quick safe jump setup.
Snake Arm Stance
About the stance itself. It lowers Yamazaki’s profile a bit, making it better for applying pressure with Snake Arm and not having to worry about getting hit out by the tip of big air normals with long horizontal hitboxes like Daimon’s J.CD or Zarina’s J.D. Yamazaki can cancel this stance to also reduce his recovery to bait something out from the opponent in neutral. Yes, he can bait the neutral.
There’s only one EX version of Snake Arm, and it’s quite useful. It hits low, and leads to a restand for a free combo if it hits. This is one of his main combo tools when in MaxMode. It’s unsafe on block however, so you can’t just throw it out all the time. It also leads to reset potential if the opponent isn’t expecting a reset after it hits and MaxMode ends.
A command grab that cannot be teched. Has good range, does the most damage out of all his specials, and recovery fast enough after it hits to get some safe jump okizeme. Not much difference between the A and C version. Is great for Tick Throw setups off lights and SACs. Is not SCable. Can also be used as a reversal against close in meaties because of its instant startup.
The EX Version. Does way more damage, but gives worse okizeme. Not too great outside of combo enders, and even there are better options for enders. It does have more range than regular version, though it doesn’t warrant raw activation of your meter to use it, or even in combos.
The reflect. A version is slower to startup for the hit, C version is faster for hit. Both versions are SCable. A version deflects projectiles and builds meter for doing so while C version reflects them with a unique projectile. This move can reflect ANY projectile, even CLIMAXES, RAW, EASY. Sylvie’s Climax? Aww, that’s cute. Reflect! Haoh Shoukou Ken? NOPE. It’s a pretty great move, and you should use it. Be careful, however, as it is does not activate the reflect properties instantly and is negative as all hell on block. It's a great neutral tool for negating fireballs.
The EX version is unique in that it’s fast and a launcher that can be used as juggles, and is especially great for juggles in the corner with extended Snake Arm followups. Like its regular versions, this one is negative on block, so watch out on it not connecting. It also grants a 3 hit projectile when absorbing another projectile.
A high-mid counter that gives a hard knockdown when connected. Can catch almost all mids and highs, except for a few deviant special cases with some characters. Do note that this move has problems. If the opponent reacts/reads right, they can blow through it with an invul super. Also watch out for cross-ups, since it can make the move completely whiff making Yamazaki susceptible to punishment. Other than that, this move can serve as a functioning AA, a great pressure tool, and another option to keep wary when facing Yamazaki in neutral. With the right read, this move can go a long way and mess with the opponent’s head. Is not SCable.
The EX version has faster startup and grants a fat, juicy ground bounce when connected, allowing for a combo. Has the same problems as regular version, but damn this is probably one of his best moves in raw MaxMode. Does a grip of damage and is a great juggle starter.
A fast move that is safe on block and can be special cancelled from into Snake Arms and Fight Of Tempering. This move is great for extending combos. It does have short range however, so watch out when confirming into this. Is good for mounting pressure and is SACable and SCable.
Fight of Tempering
A slow overhead that can cancel into Snake Arm on hit and possible to follow-up with low Snake Arm OTG. Is bad if blocked, so watch out. Can be used after Sweep to mix-up the opponent. Not much outside of this move other than that, other than it being a standard juggle ender and can be free cancelled from Spray Sand.
Fast startup overhead and has different properties on hit and block. On block, it hits twice, 1st hit overhead, 2nd hit low, is safe on block, and can lead to a combo if the 2nd hit is not blocked low. On hit, this move sends the opponent flying across the screen and has potential for OTG hits in certain combos. A pretty decent tool that is hard for most characters without reversals to blow through the gap between the 1st and 2nd hit. A pretty bothersome move to deal with and could be used to mix-up opponents during blockstrings if they aren’t looking for it.
Yamazaki's supers serve more use other than combo tools than some supers in the game. With 1 bar, he has access to an Anti-Air that has full invul. on startup, and a super that poisons the opponent and stings at their health over time.
A straightforward punch that has high and projectile invulnerability in the beginning of its startup. This super has a unique poison mechanic, which drains down the opponents’ health over time for 15 seconds. The EX version has better invulnerability and the poison time lasts only for 10 seconds. This move is very useful for going into Climax Cancel, since the poison keeps ticking away while the long animation of the Climax is still going on, racking up huge damage in the process. Doesn’t have as much range as the animation of the attack lends itself to be. The EX version is good for midscreen corner carry or screen positioning, as it sends the opponent flying across the screen via wallsplat.
An AA super that has some invul. Good for racking up quick, big damage. EX Version has invul. as well, as it carries through startup until invul. It can blow through a lot of stuff and is good for getting out of blockstrings with small gaps. The EX version is the best in terms of combos. It does a lot of damage, and drags them pretty much all the way to the corner on any part of the screen, and gives strong okizeme as well.
Climax - Super
The 2nd most damaging climax in the game. It does a whopping 47%. It’s an instant command grab with great range, a reversal option against low meaties, and can tack on a lot of damage when your opponent is poisoned. There are 4 levels to this move, the lowest being the least damage. The more you keep mashing the A and C buttons, the more damage it does. You always want to get to level 4. A tip to mashing to level is to press and A and C repeatedly until you come to this animation.
That is all of Yamazaki’s moveset. So how do you actually USE these moves to win? Well, let me give you a few tips on how to approach in neutral, as well as offense and defense.
But first here is some stuff you should know how to do with Yamazaki first.
Snake Arm Cancel (SAC)
Snake Arm Cancel is basically cancelling the Snake Arm Stance to reduce the recovery off of Yamazaki’s normals, as well as make him advantageous on block. All of his heavy normals can be made plus, including his St.CD. You tap the D button as soon as possible after a Snake Arm Stance comes out for a split second. Use this to vary your approach, as well as keep the pressure up.
Yamazaki can whiff cancel several normals into other normals or specials, making him harder to whiff punish or react to. He can cancel his St.CD to Snake Arms to screw with the opponents, and can whiff chain some normals into his Forward B, making it great for extending his range, like such.
— KPB l EXWildWolf (@EXWildWolf) May 4, 2017
— KPB l EXWildWolf (@EXWildWolf) May 4, 2017
This is where Yamazaki is pretty comfy at, but not preferred over mid and close range. He has Snake Arms which hit far and makes it hard for people without projectiles to get over. He can also harass with St.D from afar. Yamazaki also has the reflect, which pretty much nullifies all projectiles and lets him get in. It’s not too long before he leaves this position since he has a lot of tools to get in and is also not easy for opponents to get in because of his great zoning options and long buttons.
Yamazaki’s better screen position. He has great buttons that he can just put in the opponent’s face, harass with Snake Arms and Counter if he has the right read, and a great J.CD that hits somewhat fast and can stop people from jumping over him to avoid the harassment of his great normals.
This is where the fun begins. Not only does Yamazaki have strong high lows from the basic system, but has an overhead and command grab to catch people blocking too much, as well as frametraps, Sadomaso, Snake Arms and SAC pressure You should mix-up all these to make it harder for your opponent to escape pressure them to make a mistake.
Overall Gameplan & Conclusion:
Use Yamazaki’s great normals and Snake Arms to get in close to your opponent and destroy them or keep them out and annoy them. Throw them off their game with a well-timed Sadomaso, harass them from the air with J.CD, J.D, and J.B, counterpoke with Cr.C for being predictable in their neutral, and overall be a wall with stretchy limbs and lash your opponent to death. Crush their defense with lows, overheads, throws, frametraps, and corner pressure.
If you’re put on defense, learn to block well and learn how to escape with Guard Cancels/Super Reversals or recognize player habits and blow them up for it. All in all, Yamazaki is a very capable and deadly character if you have the right mindset and reads. If you’re the type that likes to have lots of offensive potential and dominating neutral in sacrifice of your defensive options, Yamazaki is up your alley.
I want to give a special shoutout to my comrades in the lab Coliflowerz, CriticalHit, BadoorSNK, and FMRoss for taking the pictures and cropping them just for this article, as well as the KOF DLC Team and r/KOF Discord for the support. Thank you all!
If you want, you can follow me on Twitter, @EXWildWolf, as well as the people I have shouted out. You can also join the r/KOF Subreddit Discord to learn more about KOF and learn more about Yamazaki in the DLC Team Server.
See ya next time and remember… The Dream Never Dies.