From: dtebben@alumnae.caltech.edu (Dirk Tebben)
Newsgroups: rec.games.video.arcade
Subject: [VF2] Dirk's Kage Guide v1.1
Date: 19 Jun 1996 03:22:48 GMT


Well, here it is (again) with minor changes.  I'm not playing VF2
much anymore -- everybody seems to be retiring these days -- so I
don't think I'll have much more to contribute.  Only others'
suggestions will be used to update the guide from now on.


Kage Strategy Guide version 1.1
-------------------------------
By Dirk Tebben (dtebben@alumni.caltech.edu)


Preface
-------
This guide assumes you have read both the VF2 FAQ by Chia Jin Ngee, and 
the Kage FAQ by Tan Wu Meng.  It further assumes that you're conversant
with r.g.v.a. slang terms and shorthand for moves.  See BigCat's
Shorthand Guide if you're not sure about something.

Everything herein is concerned with VF2.0 only.  While I play 2.1, I'm
much better at 2.0 and I'm not sure how much of my knowledge transfers
accurately.

This document was originally intended as a kind of getting-started
guide for beginners but it evolved into something completely different,
which I suppose is a strategy guide.  Really, it's a loosely organized
hodgepodge of pretty much everything I know about Kage.  I've tried
to keep out all the stuff that appears in other FAQs, and I think I've
been 90% successful, but if I have stepped on anybody's toes please
let me know.  That doesn't mean that all, or even most, of this
document is original with me.  In fact, most of the stuff in here
that isn't original is not credited, for the simple reason that I
don't know who came up with it.  Please tell me if you recognize your
idea and I will update the credits in the next version.

Anything presented as factual material in this guide is accurate to
the best of my knowledge, but lots of stuff, like the vs. character
strategies, are IMHO.  I'm not any kind of authority on anything.  If
the tactics in this guide help you, great; if not, sorry for wasting
your time.

Sorry about the organization, and I hope no one has to wade through
pages of stuff they know to find something they don't.

Okay, I'm through apologizing :).  The following material is self-
explanatory; enjoy, and *please feel free to comment!*  This guide is
meant as an open letter to spark discussion, not as a be-all end-all
Kage encyclopedia.


Table of Contents
-----------------
I. Standard Tactics by Range
II. TFT Combos
III. Stance
IV. Staggers
V. Rising
  -- Oki
  -- Oki-zeme
VI. Move Followups
VII. The Fine Art of Ringout
VIII. Odds and Ends
  -- Back Facing Opponent
  -- Rolling
  -- "Whiffed" Reversals
  -- Round Beginning
  -- Difficulty Levels
  -- After the Bell
IX. The Competition
  Akira
  Pai
  Lau
  Jacky
  Sarah
  Wolf
  Jeff
  Shun
  Lion
  Kage
X. Credits


The Cardinal Rule
-----------------

Before the guide starts, here is the Cardinal Rule of playing with Kage
or any other character:  Don't Get Predictable.  If you habitually do
elbow-low punch, or always heelkick from midrange, or never do anything
but forward shinsodan after you start rolling, you are certain to lose
to good players.  Don't let yourself get into grooves of habit, so
that you always respond in a preset pattern.  This is the one thing to
keep in mind as you read about moves and tactics.  No matter how
effective a move may be, if you overuse it you'll lose.  This is the
heart of VF2's beautiful game balance, and (SF2 people listen up!) you
ignore it at your peril.

The flip side of the Cardinal Rule is to capitalize on your opponent's
predictability.  Specific things to watch for may be found in the vs.
characters section.



I. Standard Tactics by Range
----------------------------

VF2 essentially operates at three ranges.  For Kage, I define short 
range as "within elbow distance", and mid-range as "within heelkick 
distance".  Long range is everything else.  This section is necessarily 
vague, since your tactics should vary considerably depending on
which character and style your opponent uses.  More detailed tactics
are included in the final section of this guide. 

At close range, the game is essentially rock-paper-scissors.  Elbow
beats low punch, PK beats elbow, low punch beats (reverses) PK.  Of
course, this is a gross oversimplification, but close-in VF2 is
mostly a matter of guessing what your opponent will do next and
reacting appropriately.  Kage is better at this than pretty much any
other character except Lau, so cultivating the skill of winning
close exchanges is essential to Kage's game.

The single most important factor within close range is initiative.
This means being able to start a move before your opponent, usually
due to his being in hit/block/recovery stun.  This doesn't mean a
move is counterable per se (very few close-range moves are), just
that usually one player or the other has that all-important timing
advantage of a few frames.  Things that will cause Kage to lose the
initiative are: having an elbow blocked, whiffing a low punch,
whiffing a high punch, or being hit by a low punch/high punch/elbow/
nearly anything.  The opposite situations, for example connecting
with an elbow, let you regain it.  Always be conscious of where the 
initiative currently is.  If you have the initiative, "slow" moves 
such as sidekicks, shuto chops, or the TA sweep are much more likely 
to connect.  Conversely, if you have lost the initiative your best 
bet is usually to go for a quick move like PK, PKG, low punch, etc.,
always keeping the Cardinal Rule in mind.  Reflexes are of course
very important close in, but assuming you are quick enough to
follow up an elbow stagger with PK you should be fine -- VF2 is
"slower" than most fighting games and involves more buffering of
moves.  Don't worry, nobody (not even Tetsujins) can reverse high
punches on reflex -- if it looks like your opponent did, you just
broke the Cardinal Rule.

The most desired outcome of a close-range exchange is a TFT.  Second
is an elbow stagger.  Third comes any move that knocks down, such as
a punch reversal or major-counter sidekick.  Toward these ends,
here is a list of commonly-used close range moves and some brief
commentary about each.

-- The low punch may be done either as d+P or d+P+G.  The former doubles
as a hip throw versus standing defenders; the latter is a reversal
against incoming single-fist/palm strikes.  Depending on the situation
and the opponent, either may be better (more details are in the vs.
characters section).  In general I stick to d+P simply because it is
rare that a skilled opponent will stand and defend at close range; if
I suspect that they are about to, I would prefer a TFT anyway.

-- A low punch which major-counters a high-recovering attack may be
comboed into a PK, or, if you buffer a brief forward dash, into a throw.
Low punch (MC)-dash-TFT is very useful against those who use lots of
slow, high-recovering moves at close range.  Unfortunately it is quite 
difficult to perform this combo on reflex, and if you guess wrong you 
might eat big damage.

-- TFT attempts become useful when your opponent becomes respectful
enough of your elbows that he begins to stand and defend, hoping to
regain the initiative.  Probably the most effective way to TFT is to
buffer a forward dash while low-punching or elbowing, then input b+P
the instant you think Kage is in range.

-- PK recovers faster than you might think.  Good players will often
be able to counter it when it whiffs over their heads, but you'd be
surprised how difficult this is.  Mixing in PKs at close range can
pay dividends, especially considering the low punch (MC)-PK combo.

-- The elbow will stagger an opponent who is crouch-defending, or
whose low-recovering attack is interrupted.  If it major-counters a
high-recovering attack, I *think* (not positive) the opponent can be
very quickly TFT'ed while still in hit stun.  The down side is that if
your elbow is blocked, the opponent recovers slightly faster than
you do.  Initiative is very important to Kage at close range so this
can be a bad thing.  Also, the elbow is a fairly slow attack compared
to high and low punches.  Finally, beware of good opponents who can
throw a whiffed elbow.  The power of the elbow stagger more than
compensates for these shortcomings.  Kage's elbow is what makes his
opponents stand up so they can be TFT'ed.  Use it often.


-- The moves detailed above are the ones you should use most often,
but by no means the only ones.  Some other close-range strikes to add
to your bag of tricks:
  -- Shuto chops: Reasonably fast and powerful, and uncounterable.  You
should pretty much always do both chops, since the chance of taking an
enemy by surprise with only one is small and you feel stupid when the
first chop connects and you didn't follow with the second chop and
sweep.  One drawback is that they can be done only from crouching, which
in a practical sense means they must follow a low punch.  Doing them
as an m-move would be too slow at close range, unless perhaps you could
buffer them into the recovery time of an elbow.  By "shuto chops" I
mean the chops done from crouching as (FC) f+P+K, P+K.
  -- PKG: PKG as a feint is useful, but slow.  It is generally followed
by either a sidekick or a throw.  This move is more worthwhile at mid-
range.
  -- TA sweep: If it connects it combos into the TT sweep for a little
damage.  But this move is very slow to come out, is vulnerable at all
attack levels during its execution, allows nasty floats if you are
knocked down in the middle of it, and situates your back to the enemy
if it is major-countered by a low punch or other non-knockdown move.
If blocked Kage recovers somewhat after his opponent, with his back to
them.  See the "Odds & Ends" section.
  -- Sidekick: This move does more damage than the elbow and has better
range, but has the disadvantage of being slower, which is a big
problem close-in.  It also has an irritating tendency to whiff when
the opponent does a low attack, even a low punch.  The sidekick is
useful when you suspect you are just out of elbow range, or when you
anticipate an interruptible attack -- especially from lightweights,
who can often be floated from an MC sidekick.
  -- Kickflip: Kage's kickflip is not nearly as good as the Bryants'.
Even though it only does 10 points less damage, it also (usually)
can't be followed up by even a heel slam, while Jacky & Sarah can
land that 40-point high pounce.  In general the risk attached to
the kickflip outweighs its damage potential, which is slight
compared to elbow stagger-PK-sweep or TFT.  Kage has few effective
bait moves, as well, although sidekick (blocked)-kickflip or rising
sweep (blocked)-kickflip sometimes work.  The kickflip is most useful
against those who foolishly try to high-jump towards Kage.

Standing and defending at close range is usually a bad idea for Kage,
due to his speed advantage.  Rushing Laus and elbow-happy Akiras may
force this at times, but avoid it when at all possible.


Mid-Range
---------

Kage's mid-range game is weaker than his close-range one, so in general
you should try to close the gap when possible.  Of course this doesn't
mean you should ignore his extremely important mid-range attacks:

-- The heelkick is a good damaging move, allowing a pounce on major-
counter or a sweep otherwise.  Bear in mind that it is counterable by
most characters' PK, and that if whiffed it is easy to counter-throw.
In closed stance, it will whiff against crouching defenders but will
still interrupt (most) low attacks.

-- Kage's sidekick is uncounterable, reasonably fast, staggers
crouchers, and allows floats on a major counter against lightweights.
However it's also easy to counterthrow when whiffed.  It is probably
his best midrange move.

-- The TA sweep has about the same range as a sidekick so it can be
useful at midrange.  Sometimes it pushes the opponent too far away
for the TT sweep to combo, in which case its damage is nil.

-- The shuto chops have deceptively long range (just shorter than a
sidekick's), and can be effectively used by crouch-dashing briefly
towards the opponent.  This does telegraph the move somewhat.

-- PKG is very useful at midrange.  Don't try to make it a "tight"
PKG, certainly not a senbon; the object is to make your opponent
think you are PKing, so he should clearly see your leg start to come
up.  The sidekick should follow immediately after you tap G,
hopefully catching his attempted counter.  After the opponent begins
to expect PKG-sidekick, do PKG-TFT for the really big damage.

-- Thunder Dragon (f, f+All).  While terribly risky, it has the
advantage of going under most midlevel attacks and interrupting most
low ones.  The only truly safe thing the opponent can do is crouch
and defend.  Good players will always do this on reflex, making the
Thunder Dragon a losing bet for the most part.  Use it in cold blood
only every once in a great while.

At mid-range the danger of whiffing a move becomes high.  Players are
psychologically prepared to dash in and throw after a whiff, so
paradoxically, at mid-range throws are more common than at close range.
Since Kage has (arguably) the best throw in the game, this is somewhat 
to his advantage.  Train yourself to punish whiffs with a quick dash-
in-and-TFT.


Long Range
----------

Kage's only long-range moves are the Thunder Dragon and corkscrew kick.
Assuming your opponent is good enough to block them on reflex, don't
try these unless you are desperate.  Most of the long-range game
involves dashing back and forth trying to find an opening while your
opponent does the same.  One trick that is useful at long range is
the run-in, either run-in-and-throw or run-in-and-PK.  The latter is
generally more useful since most people, seeing you run towards them,
expect the throw attempt and try to P+G out of it.  Kage's punches
being (probably) faster than theirs, and you having anticipated their
move, the PK will often connect.  Other than that there is very little
to say about long-range fighting since it's mostly nonexistent.



II. TFT Combos
--------------

The TFT is Kage's lynchpin move.  The surest way to tell how good a
given Kage player is is which TFT combos he has mastered.  I'll briefly
outline some of them and talk a little about their mechanics.  For a
more in-depth description see the Kage FAQ.

TFT-KneePPPK:  This is my bread-and-butter combo against light- and
middle-weights.  Great damage at 100 points, and excellent ringout
potential (it can ring out Sarah from the center of the ring, and Pai
from slightly farther).  It is difficult to master but a thorough
description is given in the Kage FAQ.

TFT-Knee-P-PPPK:  This is the highest-damage TFT combo yet invented, at
110 points.  In straight-line distance it is also the farthest float
possible for Kage.  Pai can be rung out from very nearly 2/3 of the way
across the ring with this combo!  The drawback is that the extra punch
gives an increased risk of flubbing that is usually not worth the
higher damage/distance.  The punch need not be a senbon, or even a PKG
if your timing on the knee was perfect; P, G, PPPK will work.  Making
it a PKG improves your chances if you missed the "sweet spot" with
the knee.  My advice is to only attempt this combo if you really need
that little extra "push" for ringout, or if you can get it at least
95% of the time as compared to KneePPPK.

Kickflip:  One of the two famous scrub TFT combos, the other being the
pounce.  This is a perfect standby move when you TFT an unwary enemy
near the edge of the ring.  The proper way to perform it is to buffer
a dash forward into the TFT recovery, then kickflip *as soon as you
see Kage move*.  Any length of forward dash, however short, will
guarantee that the kickflip hits.  A shorter dash means that the
victim will be hit nearer the top of their arc, thus pushing them
farther.  Against the heavyweights you will get very little distance
out of this combo.

TFToD:  Master it, and use it against the heavies when you need decent
linear distance to RO.  Against lightweights a kickflip will actually
push them farther than the TFToD, and the distance is about the same for
middleweights.  You don't need much of a forward dash to connect the
TA swipe against the heavies; it's easier to do it too late than too
early.

Swipe-swipe-swipe-PPPK:  The most famous of the swipe combos, this was
invented by the Tetsujin Kyasao.  I've done it a few times, only once
in an actual match.  Its timing is much less forgiving than other swipe
combos'.  IMHO the increased difficulty does not warrant the extra 10
points of damage, except for those with silicon reflexes.  Doing it
against Dural (the K at the end must be an u/b+K kickflip to connect
due to fluid viscosity) is not too hard and a great crowd-pleaser.

Swipe-swipe-swipePPK:  Very nearly as good as the above.  It's the
same except that instead of making the third swipe a PKG, you make it
the first hit in a PPPK.  This combo is not quite as good in damage or
distance as KneePPPK, but has the great advantage of working equally
well against all characters.  Basically there are three problems in
doing this combo:

1) The timing of the first swipe.  Ideally it should connect as high
as possible, giving you more margin for error in the combo, but be
careful not to whiff.  If you do, it's sometimes hard to tell whether
you were early or late.  Generally you should do the swipe just
before the victim reaches Kage's head height, but the "feel" of the
combo is different for heavier/lighter characters.  Practice.

2) Hitting the diagonals.  Ordinarily not a problem, but the punches
must be hit on the fly which makes it harder.  I have no experience
with this on North American sticks, either.  It always helps me to
think "sidekick" when I go for diagonals, for some reason.  And make
sure to release the d/b before the next punch, otherwise you'll get a
low punch and wonder what happened.  Precisely matching up the stick
contacts and button presses is also crucial.  Practice.

3) The timing of the PKG.  Very difficult.  Here is how the timing
basically goes: d/b+P, K, [pause], G, d/b+P, K, [pause], G, d/b+PPPK.  
Note that the only pauses in the combo are between the K and G
buttons!  I can't stress this enough.  Hitting the buttons with
even timing will not work.  The easiest way for me to master this
was to first master the timing of the senbon swipes, then consciously
think of the combo as just a series of swipes strung together as
quickly as possible.  In other words, I thought of it as three
distinct moves: swipe, swipe, swipePPK.  Others have reported that
it's easier for them to think of the sequence as GPK than PKG, or to
first master swipe-swipePPK and then add the extra swipe to the
beginning.  Experiment and find what works for you.  Practice.

As you can see, the upshot of all this is you should practice a lot.
This combo will not come easily or quickly, although I would say it's
easier than the SPoD.  One day it will all come together is all I can
say.  It's almost automatic to me now; it's all in muscle memory so I
don't have to think about it.  Ganbatte!  Find the cheapest machine
you can, and always give the CPU mercy rounds :).

One important thing to keep in mind about swipe combos after the TFT
is that they don't push the opponent in a straight line.  Instead,
he will curve somewhat in the direction *away from Kage's leading leg*
(e.g. if Kage's right leg is in front, the victim will curve to the
left).  This curvature is fairly pronounced and is usually
disadvantageous for RO.  If you are really slick, you might be able
to tell when the curve will help, but it's purely random for me.
The more swipes that connect, the more off of true the victim curves.
Anyway, you should basically only use swipe combos against enemies who
you can't easily KneePPPK, especially Jacky, Akira, and the heavies.

Of course, there are many, many TFT combos.  TFT-Thunder Dragon (ground 
hitting) is a stylish alternative to that damn scrubby pounce.  Do it by
dashing backwards about a quarter dash length and very quickly
inputting f, f+All.  Swipe-swipe-kickflip is fun.  One of my favorites:

d/b+PKG, b, b+P+G, d+K

which is a swipe, TA upward slap, and TT sweep.  Looks pretty weird.
Then there is swipe, swipe, heelkick; swipe, swipe, Thunder Dragon;
swipe, corkscrew kick; and many more.  Anyway, mess around and find
funny ones that you like, almost anything is possible after the TFT.


III. Stance
-----------

Stance has less of an impact on Kage than it does on most characters.
Some stance-related things to keep in mind:

-- Heelkicks hit "high" in closed stance.  I put "high" in quotes
because they will still interrupt low-recovering attacks.  Even in open
stance, they will not always hit a crouching defender at the limit of
their range.

-- Throws are easier in closed stance.

-- I'm pretty sure the KneePPPK timing changes with stance, but I
have been unable to tell exactly how.  Not much help, I know.  I'm
working on it.  If anybody knows please tell me.

Kage's best stance-changing move is the shuto slash (b, f+P+K).  Beware 
of using it too much since it has a nasty recovery time.  Also, if
Kage's left foot is forward, hold F to move his right foot up, thus
changing his stance.

I pay little attention to stance personally, only glancing at it
at mid-range to see if my heelkicks hit H or M.  Then I just bear in
mind what the stance is so I can have some idea of how easy it will
be to TFT/elbow.  The problem is that stance changes so often
(especially against Lion and Shun) that it's hard to keep up, and
generally not worth the mental effort required.  I leave keeping track
of stance to Lau players.


IV. Staggers
------------

Kage has two options after inflicting an elbow or sidekick stagger (the 
two staggers are nearly functionally identical).  

1) PK-sweep does a very respectable 60 points of damage and is guaranteed 
in both cases assuming the joystick is held forward during the punch;
sometimes the opponent is staggered too far away (especially
lightweights), in which case heelkick-sweep is a good alternative if
you react quickly enough.  PK-sweep should be your most-used stagger
followup. 

2) TFT.  Though staggering opponents are immune to throws, there is always
a very brief window of opportunity just as the stagger ends.  The reason
for this is that the victim cannot buffer moves during a stagger (any
stick/button contacts simply count toward shortening the stagger time),
which apparently creates a very brief window just as the stagger ends
when they are treated as a standing non-defender.  Also, a throw can
still connect against them in the first frame only of any move they
attempt to execute.  The stagger-throw is worth attempting, even against 
good players, in desperate situations or when a TFT would ring them out.  
Remember that the timing on the stagger-throw changes if the opponent 
struggles; the up side to this is that many players struggle while holding 
G, thus guaranteeing that a stagger-throw will connect no matter how late 
your timing is.  Stagger-throw technique is simple in theory -- dash in 
and TFT -- but in practice the timing is very tricky.

After Kage is himself staggered, you will usually want to struggle out.
My method for doing this is somewhat unorthodox.  I quickly wiggle the
joystick between d/f, d, and d/b, while repeatedly pressing P+G *at
the same time*.  This method is somewhat less effective at shortening
stagger time than the standard way (hold G and flail the stick and
other buttons as rapidly as possible), but it is very good at
defeating stagger-throw attempts.  Done properly it will result in
Kage doing a d+P+G low punch that doubles as a hip throw and a P+G
throw escape.  Most opponents don't try to stagger-throw using P+G so
the throw escape is not very useful, but as is well known, if a
P+G throw (hip throw in Kage's case) and a command throw (the enemy's
stagger-throw attempt) are entered simultaneously, the hip throw
wins.  The only character against whom it's really necessary to
struggle to avoid a strike-followup to the stagger is Lau; most
other characters will either attempt a stagger-throw or follow up with
a quick, unstrugglable attack (like PK).

One thing to note is that since the "throw window" will exist no
matter if you struggle while holding guard or not, it's a bad idea to
always recover in the same amount of time against a skilled opponent;
this makes stagger-throw too easy.  Therefore it's not always a good
idea to struggle.


V. Rising
---------

Oki and oki-zeme are very important and often-overlooked aspects of
the game.  In Japan, getting an opponent on the ground is considered
a major advantage, and players will often forego pounces etc. in
order to concentrate on oki-zeme.

Oki
---
Kage has pretty much the same rising options as anybody else, and I
assume the reader is familiar with them.  When dealing with players
fast enough to block rising attacks on reflex, avoid using them.
Against good oki-zeme, especially hop-kick oki-zeme, your best
strategy is as follows:

-- Try and wait for the opponent to commit themselves before inputting
a rising attack.  Not always possible.

-- Look for patterns.  Does the opponent always hop in and then do
an elbow that doubles as a throw (Sarah, Jacky, and Kage have them)?
PK will interrupt Kage's and Jacky's elbows, and Sarah's unless her
timing is perfect.

-- Side roll.  This makes all oki-zeme trickier to do.

-- Occasionally, when you think your opponent doesn't expect it, do
a high rising attack.  Whiffing them is murder, but they will hit
anyone except standing defenders, allow a sweep followup, and are
uncounterable if blocked.

Muteki-oki is useful against those who don't know how to deal with it
(you should get up with it almost every time if this is the case),
or to run down the clock when you're ahead with only a few seconds
left.  It can also help to avoid ringout, but be careful because you
can still be "pushed" while in muteki, just not actually hit.  Jeff's
Flying Butt Pliers will still shove you out of the ring, in other
words.  The ideal situation when rising with muteki-oki is to have
your opponent whiff an attack while you are invulnerable, thus
allowing a throw/counterhit/whatever.  Muteki-kickflip is commonly
used, but I prefer muteki-elbow vs. low punchers or muteki-PK
against standing attackers.  Be careful of those who are good at 
dealing with muteki and use it very sparingly against them.
Note: when using it to waste the last few seconds of a match you're
winning, be ready to roll away if the opponent catches on and tries
to pounce.

Finally, be careful about Kage's back-roll rising kicks.  If he is face
up and head-towards, you will get a roll into sweep -- that's facing the 
wrong direction!  This is pretty humiliating, believe me.


Oki-Zeme
--------
Kage has a wide and effective variety of oki-zeme options.  They are
especially deadly against those who don't know how to deal with them,
but they can be very effective even against good players if you
don't overuse any particular one.

Hop kick oki-zeme is Kage's best overall tactic to keep the pressure
on a fallen opponent.  It is somewhat complicated but not too
difficult with practice.

The hop kick referred to is the landing hop kick (u/f, K), not the
takeoff hop kick (u/f+K) or the hopping sweep (u/f [pause] K). Tap
u/f, release it, and tap K.  This kick does little damage but has
an incredibly fast recovery time and has the advantage of hopping
over rising sweeps.  It also floats on a major counter.

To perform hop-kick oki-zeme, wait until just before the opponent
actually begins to rise.  Then hop kick into them.  If your timing
was perfect, you should see one of three things happen:

1) Opponent gets up with no rising attack, and is forced to block the
hopkick.  Since you recover at about exactly the same time he does,
you have the upper hand temporarily.  A PK executed quickly will often
connect if the opponent tries to do anything but defend or low attack.
An elbow executed as b, f+P will faceplant-throw a standing defender,
stagger a crouching attacker or defender, and (usually) hit a
standing attacker.  Those are the two best options; mix them up based
on opponent response.  Use the b, f+P elbow more against the heavies
since they have no moves that can interrupt Kage's elbow (their punches
are too slow).

2) Opponent gets up with a low rising attack, and the hopkick minor-
counters it.  A PK will now (barely) combo, since Kage recovers
faster than the opponent by eight or nine frames.  Use it.

3) Opponent gets up with a high rising attack.  Kage gets nailed and
possibly floated.  However, this is a guessing game on the opponent's
part as well, because a high rising attack when Kage doesn't hop kick
virtually guarantees a TFT.

If your timing was a bit late, you may be hit out of the hop.  But
you may also major-counter the risen opponent, allowing a float
sometimes.  If your timing was a bit early, the opponent will probably
be standing and defending in order to block the hop kick, giving you
a very brief window of opportunity to throw.  In particular if you
input a b, f+P elbow you'll often get a faceplant.  Deliberately hop
kicking slightly early is sometimes a useful tactic for this reason.
Another tricky thing to do is mix in the occasional hopping sweep,
which will also hit standing defenders but without the telegraphing
aspect of an early hop kick.

Hop kick oki-zeme is more difficult against side-rolling opponents,
because the timing is trickier.  Hop too early and you will end up
off to their side; a defensive PK is usually best if that happens.
This oki-zeme is also inadvisable against enemies using muteki-oki.

Other valid oki-zeme attacks include an elbow just as the opponent
rises, a TA-TT sweep combo, or the shuto chops.  Faking oki-zeme and
then backing off to "bait" a rising attack is also a form of oki-
zeme.  In this case you should throw a whiffed high rising attack,
and sidekick stagger-PK a whiffed low one.  Remember that many
rising sweeps actually recover high; there is a chart in the Kage FAQ
detailing this.

Against muteki-oki you should use the shuto chops, timing the first
one to hit just when the muteki ends, or slightly before.  Hopefully
the second chop will interrupt the attempted attack.  In any case
it's quite safe, since the second chop is uncounterable.  Muteki-oki
is recognizable by the long delay as the opponent "plays possum" on
the ground before rising.


VI. Move Followups
------------------

I classify Kage's pounces, heel slam, and ground-sweep as a special
category of moves that, while useless ordinarily, can be used to do
extra damage to a fallen opponent.  Under this heading I also group
float hits that can be tacked on after a major counter.  Obviously
floats, especially PPK, are the most desirable and the hardest to
get.  Next are pounces which do either 30 or 40 points depending on
range.  The sweep does 20 points to an opponent "on the bounce".
Finally the heel slam does a meager 15 points, but is the easiest
(quickest) followup.

Note regarding floats: many people do PPPK as a float with Kage, but
try and train yourself to do PPK.  It can always be followed by a
brief dash forward and heel smash, and therefore does more damage
than PPPK.  It is also considerably more reliable, since the K in
PPK has a much larger hit detection zone than the third punch in
PPPK (this is especially noticeable in Lau floats; he has a similar
PPK kick to Kage's).  The second punch generally whiffs, giving this
float a damage of 10+30+15 (heel smash) = 55 points.

Second note regarding floats: not all floats are created equal.  The
float height is apparently computed based on the opponent's center
of gravity when he was interrupted.  Even among high-recovering
attacks, therefore, the float height varies widely.  For instance,
Jacky's hook kick is almost always PPK floatable when interrupted,
whereas his elbow never is (he crouches forward slightly when
executing it).  Obviously low-recovering moves generate the shortest
floats when interrupted; they are almost never float material.

I'll list all of the followups that are likely to be useful in a fight.

Heelkick:  Pounce guaranteed if major counter, otherwise sweep.  Sweep
may not always connect depending on range and how high the opponent is
floated.  It is barely possible to escape a midrange (feet) pounce after
an MC heelkick by side-rolling, or by kipping up if floated far away.
Very few players can do this at all consistently.

Sidekick (MC):  PPK float.  Try to learn to recognize instantaneously
whether or not the PPK will connect; if they aren't floating high
enough, sweep.  Always sweep against the heavies.  PPK will very
rarely connect against them but it's not worth attempting.

TT sweep (MC):  Heel slam.  Buffer it in immediately and it will be
guaranteed after a major counter and 90% guaranteed otherwise
(expert mode CPU can roll out of this, but the difficulty is on par
with escaping the Bryants' shin slicer (MC), boot to the head).

Kickflip:  There is no 100% reliable kickflip followup, even on a major
counter.  Obviously you can't float; a pounce will rarely connect, a 
heel slam sometimes, and a sweep never.  Connecting a knee pounce is
sometimes worth attempting just for the style value (this is one of
those never-seen moves, like Pai's crane kick).

Landing hop kick (MC): PPK connects quite reliably against all but
the heavies.  If it interrupted a low-recovering move, the PPK is not
as certain.

Back Heelkick [b+K+G] (MC): A kickflip float connects here.  However,
the b+K+G hits high and is very slow in execution, so this combo is
rarely seen among good players.  Sometimes accidentally done as a
result of attempting b, b+K+G (the TA sweep).

PPPK: If the spinning midkick major-counters, a sweep may be connected.
Also, if the PPPK is in a float (after the TFT, for instance), a quick
dash forward and heel slam may connect if the opponent rolls the wrong
way upon rising or gets up too slowly.  Beware rising attacks.

Shuto chops: A sweep connects if the second chop hits (even if the first
didn't).

PK: Sweep.  Probably the most useful combo Kage has, even though it is
a poor substitute for the PK-pounce of most characters.  Against
Akira, Jacky and the heavies, they are usually in range for a heel
smash after the sweep.  Be careful, though, because an opponent who
side-rolls into a rising attack will hit you if you attempt this.
Good against those who habitually use muteki-oki or back roll.

Rising attacks: Often PPK connects against lighter opponents who are
major-countered by a rising attack.  Otherwise a sweep will almost
always hit.  If a rising sweep "butt-drops" the opponent instead of
floating him, not even a heel smash will connect.  This effect is
similar to Akira's TT sweep.

All throws: Heel slam.  It's rare for Kage to use throws other than
the TFT, however.

Punch reversal: Heel slam.  This is strugglable by side-rolling, but it
is unbelievably difficult to do.  Always buffer the d/f+K and you will
probably never have anyone escape it.  (Yes, I know EM CPU can't escape.
This is because EM CPU is stupid and gets up the wrong way -- if it
did a side roll, it would get away.)


VII. The Fine Art of Ringout
----------------------------
Like Tan says in his FAQ, if your local arcade has something against RO
wins you can't play Kage to anything approaching his potential.  I
probably win ~40% of my rounds with RO.  Here are a few guidelines to
help you hone your ringout skills:

-- Always know where you are in the ring.  Keep this in mind just as
you keep in mind how much life you & your opponent have left.

-- Be aware of the exact range of Kage's TFT combos.  Note that swipe
combos *do not* push in a straight line, unlike the others.  See the
section on TFT.

-- Try to maneuver the fight to your advantage.  Generally, of course,
Kage is better at "pulling" to RO.  Therefore try to lure the opponent
to your side of the ring.  If you get ahead on life and can easily
disengage, back off and force him to come to you.

-- Take advantage of opponents' ignorance or carelessness.  The reason
many people bitch about RO being "cheap" is that it always catches
them by surprise; they didn't realize they were so close to the edge.
If the opponent doesn't fully understand the range of Kage's TFT
combos, or disregards them and follows you into the "danger zone", be
aggressive with TFT attempts.

-- Pushing to RO is most commonly done with PPP/PPPK rushes, or forcing
the opponent to block a corkscrew kick.  Wait until they begin to get
up (hopefully without a rising attack) and corkscrew kick into them.  Be
careful using this against opponents with position-switching throws,
such as Akira, Lau, Wolf, Pai, or (duh) Kage -- if they block the kick
and are not RO'd, in all probability you'll be the one leaving the ring.  
This tactic is useful after a TFT combo deposits the victim on the 
warning track.


VIII. Odds and Ends
-------------------

There are some fight situations that are rare or don't fit into a
definable category.  None of them merit a category of their own, so
I'll briefly go over them all here.

Back Facing Opponent
--------------------
After Kage does a TA move that fails to connect, he will be facing
away from his opponent.  Most of his turning attacks are very poor;
the TT sweep is throw-counterable, the TT double low punch nearly so,
and the flipover heelkick (which hits midlevel but is not technically
TT because Kage does not turn around) is too damn slow.  A back-
turned Kage lacks the versatility of Sarah or Lion, therefore.  The
up side is that he does have a TT senbon.  The TT senbon timing is
almost identical to the swipe senbon timing, so mastery of one will
help with the other.  After the senbon he has many options:

-- TT senbon, sidekick:  TT senbon, sidekick is the most common move.
Hopefully the opponent will either be crouch-defending, expecting
a low attack, or will attempt to counter and be interrupted.  Either
way the sidekick connects for good damage.  Unfortunately, this move
is likely to be expected by good VFers, and the TT senbon is slow
enough and distinct enough to telegraph it somewhat.  Therefore you
must mix it up with other moves.

-- TT senbon, TFT:  Once they expect the sidekick, start using this.
Hopefully they will brain-freeze long enough to be grabbed (you must
dash forward into throw range if you aren't there already, of course).  
This move is fairly risky.

-- TT senbon, TA sweep:  Can be very effective when mixed up with
sidekicks.  The TA sweep has good range.  The only problem is that it
may push them too far away for the TT sweep to combo afterwards.

Of course there are many other things you can do.  Try TT senbon,
PKG fake, sidekick.  Be as elaborate as you think is safe.  The one
great advantage of back-turned attacks is that the opponent may be
thrown off balance by this unexpected situation -- play this to the
hilt.  TA sweeps or TA high kicks at odd times can throw your
opponent out of his rhythm.  But in general, Kage is more effective
facing forward.


Rolling
-------
Kage has several rolling moves that I suspect were put in the game
more for variety's sake than anything else.  They can be very useful
though, especially the shinsodan.  It's a powerful ringout tool
against those who don't know how to deal with it.

First a few tips on getting the shinsodan.  I have just lately been
able to consistently shinsodan multiple (5-10) times in a row.  The
way it works is this: first Kage must roll, either forwards or
backwards.  Then he must input b, scr, f+P -- you should be pressing
punch at just past the midpoint of the back roll.  This will result 
in a second, faster roll that has no hit detection (not yet the
shinsodan).  Third, enter b, scr, f+P again.  This timing should be
faster than the second roll's, perhaps pressing punch slightly before
the midpoint of the second roll's animation.  This will cause Kage
to roll forward quickly again, making the distinctive shinsodan
noise (sounds like Sonic the Hedgehog, hence the name "hedgehog").
This roll does have hit detection.  Subsequent rolls with the same
timing as this one will result in further shinsodans.  Doing a back
shinsodan motion (f, scr, b+P) with the same timing will result in a
fast backwards roll with no hit detection; forward shinsodans can
then be continued.  I believe that actual "back shinsodans" are
impossible (why do them anyway?).  With good timing, Kage could thus
do forward shinsodan, forward shinsodan, fast back roll, forward
shinsodan, etc.  On most machines (in Japan anyway) there is no
limit on how many shinsodans you can do in a row.  I have heard that
on some machines only 3 in a row can be performed, which would make
it nearly useless.  On some machines (early versions?) of VF2.0 there
is a bug that prevents the shinsodan from coming out right -- Kage
will do one stuttered roll and then stop.

The use of the shinsodan lies in two things.  If it hits the enemy,
major counter or not, it will float them somewhat.  If they block it,
they will be pushed back like any other attack.  If floated, at least
one more shinsodan will always connect, depending on the weight and
interrupt status of the victim; the record number I have seen is
*five* shinsodans hitting Pai after the first major-counter floated
her, for a total of a six-shinsodan combo (and 97 points of damage!).
Practically, though, it's rare that more than three or so will
connect in a row.  If the shinsodan is blocked, it pushes the
opponent quite far.  Multiple blocked shinsodans can easily push to
RO.  The opponent can escape this shinsodan "rush" by either low-
punching out of it (harder than it sounds), or taking advantage of
the tiny window between each shinsodan where Kage is vulnerable to
standing throws.  He can also be hit by almost anything while he is
rolling toward the opponent, before the shinsodan is blocked.
Therefore you should be tricky and use forward & backward rolls to
confuse the opponent and hopefully land a major or minor counter
shinsodan to RO.  It's really useful only at the edge of the ring,
or (as always) against those who don't know how to deal with it.  One
thing you might try is using it as oki-zeme.  If the opponent doesn't
get up with a rising attack he may be forced to block it (Kage's
rolls do "track" toward the enemy).

The other rolling attack worth mentioning is the rolling Thunder
Dragon.  This is done by inputting b, scr, f+All while rolling, with
approximately the same timing as the shinsodan, perhaps slightly
more forgiving.  Usually it's not as good as the standing Thunder
Dragon due to the telegraphing aspect of the rolls, but it can be
effective on some occasions.  If the opponent expects a shinsodan
and tries to counterhit it, the Thunder Dragon may counterhit *them*.
A less risky use is the Shinsodoom combo, where a shinsodan that
floats the opponent high enough can be comboed into the Thunder
Dragon.  More style than anything, since Kage will often overshoot
the enemy and ring himself out first!  The 40 damage is worth
considering, though.  The Shinsodoom will always work on a major-
counter shinsodan, and usually on a minor counter (except heavies).
Against lightweights you can sometimes get two or even three
shinsodan hits, followed by the Thunder Dragon.

The shinsodan may seem impossible to get at first, but with
practice it will come.  Then it may seem useless, but it really does
have its applications.  I've heard of a Kage player called Shinsodan
Dancer who uses this move all the time, but I don't know if the
rumor's true or not.  Anyway, the shinsodan is something to consider.

Note: yes, I left out the roll into sweep.  Never, never, never use
it.  OK, you can use it in Ranking Mode, but that's all :).


"Whiffed" Reversals
-------------------
Occasionally you will tap d+P at the proper time to reverse an opponent's
attack, but the attack will never reach Kage (due to being out of range)
and therefore the reversal will not actually connect.  What happens here
is kind of weird.

As soon as you tap d+P, Kage will enter a kind of "ready state" that looks
similar to a normal crouch.  If the punch enters his contact zone while he
is in this state he will reverse it; otherwise the ready state will end as
soon as the opponent enters move recovery (I think).  Kage is then free to
act.  However, if the move being whiffed was a senbon punch, Kage will 
often recover only very slightly before the opponent.  In this case, if 
Kage holds guard, I am fairly certain that he is in the state known as 
"fuzzy block" -- i.e. he can and will block any incoming high, mid, or low
attacks.  I base this on observation of Kage's behavior after "whiffing" a
reversal vs. Sarah TT attacks (see the Sarah part of the vs. character 
section).  Otherwise Kage will almost immediately assume a standing-
guard position.

Note that Kage, unlike Akira, Pai, and Dural, cannot be reversal-jammed
for the simple reason that no punches can be guard-cancelled.


Round Beginning
---------------
What you do at the start of the round is very important, because it
usually determines which side of the ring you'll be fighting on.  Kage
is at an advantage here because his moves are so quick.  Here are some
of the options you have just as the action starts:

-- PK (hold forward):  Very powerful because, with the exception of
Sarah and Pai's punches, it will interrupt anything the opponent does.
Gets the round off to a good start if it hits, but don't use it every
time.

-- d+P:  Good against Kage, Sarah and Pai if you expect them to open
with a high punch (especially Kage).  Pretty safe.

-- d+K:  This move is just within range to hit at the start of the
round.  It will duck under most anything the opponent tries and tick
off a few millimeters of life, thus allowing you to back off and force
the opponent to follow you to your side of the ring.  Lots of Kages
use this.

-- Backward crouch dash:  Probably the most common round opener.
Basically this is completely safe.  It allows you to punish any whiffed
attacks besides things like low punches.

-- Forward crouch dash:  More useful for Akiras, but if you're feeling
brave give it a shot.  The shuto chops can be used but they're a bit
slow.

Once your opponent starts to expect a given round opener, surprise him
by switching up.  If you often PK, try PKG-sidekick.  If you often
open with anything slower than a high punch, try a back crouch dash
which will often catch him with his pants down (maybe in the middle of
a takeoff jump kick!).  Be as varied as you can without getting too
far afield -- opening with a Thunder Dragon or corkscrew kick is
pushing it.


Difficulty Levels
-----------------
Kage is most effective at the highest difficulty level (aka highest
damage setting, aka lowest life setting), simply because the ring is so
much smaller.  How can you tell exactly what difficulty setting your
CPU is on?  Well, the only easy rule of thumb I've come up with is the
following:

Play Wolf against the CPU.  Wait until it whiffs a throw-counterable
move and bodyslam it as a minor counter, following with the standard
elbow drop.  Then wait for another opportunity and minor-counter
bodyslam it again.  If this KOs, your CPU is on the highest difficulty
setting.  If an elbow drop after the second bodyslam is sufficient to
KO, it's the second-highest difficulty setting.  The vs. CPU life bar
on the highest difficulty level is thus:

62.5 * 2 (two minor counter bodyslams) + 15 (one elbow drop) = 140.

(Of course it could possibly be somewhat less, but I think this is
exact.)

But here's the rub: a minor-counter T&H and elbow drop should also be
sufficient to KO (also 140 points), but it isn't.  A minor-counter T&H
plus low pounce will, but that's 155 points.  Why the discrepancy?  I 
have no idea, but I suspect that minor-counter throw damages and pounce
damages are both not as cut and dried as they appear.

I'm not sure how much life a human opponent has on the highest setting,
but I believe it's in the vicinity of 160 points.  This is funny when
you consider that Lau has float combos that do over 200 points, against
Pai anyway.

I have no way of being absolutely sure that this is the theoretical
highest setting, but it's the highest one I've seen, and I've seen a
great many machines.


After the Bell
--------------
There are a few weird/funny things Kage can do after the bell, when
giving a mercy round, or whenever you feel like it.  Not useful in a
fight but I thought I'd include them anyway.

-- The guard-cancelled kick replay "feature".  This well known (bug?
Easter egg?) allows you to freeze your character in an odd position
after the replay.  Here's what you do:  guard-cancel a kick so that the
kick is retracting just as the replay begins (this is difficult and
usually random).  Then press start at some point during the replay.  It
will freeze and Kage will appear in some strange, and hopefully amusing,
pose that is determined by what move he was executing when the replay
was stopped.  Obviously it only works if you won the round.  Usually I
do several senbon swipes after the bell, to practice my timing, and
sometimes one of them will be guard-cancelled in time to activate this
feature.  One especially funny pose is if you KO the opponent with a
punch reversal; Kage will appear in a fetal position with his limbs
twisted inside his torso.

-- The hesitant kickflip.  Just tap u/b, then rapidly tap u/b+K.  Kage
will start a back handspring, then change his mind, start over and do a
backwards kickflip.  Kind of cute-looking.  You can actually do almost
anything after "aborting" a handspring this way, I think.

-- Leaving the ring.  There are actually a few things Kage can do that
put him *way* out of the ring after the bell.  The simplest is a Thunder
Dragon after RO'ing the opponent; if the positioning is right, you will
land on top of the fallen victim and slide forward across their body,
putting you farther away than you could normally be.  But to get truly
astronomical RO distances, do multiple shinsodans to roll out of the
ring (perhaps pushing the opponent in front of you) and buffer a rolling
Thunder Dragon.  It will begin after you've already rolled several
shinsodans' distance away from the ring edge, thus catapulting you
tremendously far away.  Using this technique I have been able to do such
things as stand on top of the water on Shun's stage (it's not actually
level with the edge of the RO platform, so you end up standing on thin
air about a foot above it); land inside scenery such as walls, often
making them disappear; and land on the sand of Jeff's stage.  Alternately
you can just keep rolling with the shinsodan, which puts you far out and
sometimes keeps hitting the hapless victim even after they're rung out.

-- The triple handspring self-RO.  When giving a mercy round to the CPU
or a weak human opponent, one stylish way is to stand with your back to
the ring's edge and tap u/b quickly three times.  If your positioning was
right, Kage will handspring out of the ring but, refusing to admit
defeat, will continue to handspring twice more before stopping and
assuming the classic "Doh!" self-RO position.

-- If your opponent stumbled out of the ring but kept his feet, resulting
in the above-mentioned embarrassed slump, you can nail him in the back of
the head with a b, b+K+G TA sweep.  Use only against close friends and
serious enemies :).


IX. The Competition
-------------------
First of all, this entire section is IMHO.  It reflects the tactics that
have been successful for me against "orthodox" players of the various
characters.  This brings up the second caveat, which is that many
players have individualistic styles that differ greatly from the main-
stream (though often this makes them weaker, not stronger).  Third,
much of this section is reiterative of Tan Wu Meng's vs. character
strategies in the Kage FAQ, but I included his information in the
interests of continuity and completeness; hopefully, having read that
FAQ, you will be able to tell which ideas are mine and which are his.
Finally, some of my opinions are contradictory of the FAQ, conventional
wisdom, or both.  Try everything and figure out what suits you.

In each character's section I have included the best TFT combo to use
against them, as well as the best way to escape their pounces (in
general).


Akira
-----
Probably the most popular VF2 character overall (he's the star!).
Akira's most often-used move is the SDE, so that's the most important
thing to deal with.  Obviously, try not to let it major-counter or
stagger you.  If you block it, *generally* the best thing to do is
elbow.  Many Akiras habitually go for low reversals after the SDE,
so he's ripe for staggering.  Of course, if he starts to try to mid-
reverse your elbows, a PK or low punch (MC)-PK are your best bets.
You will recover faster than him after blocking SDE, but not by much,
so don't try anything slower than an elbow.  Sometimes Akiras will
stand and defend after SDE; if you notice this, attempt a TFT.

The most popular Akira throws are the SPoD and SE.  There's not much
you can do about being SPoD'ed except try to avoid it, but Kage is
pretty good at escaping SE or 2-SPoD.  The deep bodycheck and SDE
followups are escapable by running (*not* dashing) away, and the
c-SgPm or Taiwan Backbreaker is escapable by rolling.  But if you roll
and he bodychecks, you die.  Therefore I recommend just running away
every time; the TB floats you far enough away that the SDE followup
won't connect (although Akira can just pounce for the same amount of
damage).  Just play this by ear.  The TB does less damage than the
SPoD in any case, so really good Akiras will usually just SPoD Kage.

"Pushy" Akiras are at a pretty big disadvantage against Kage, since
he's at his most dangerous with his back to the edge of the ring.
One whiffed SDE, sidekick or SgPm, or blocked DbPm, means the end of
the round at this point.  If he wants to play on your side of the
sandbox, by all means go along.

Akira's reversals are generally not too effective against a good
Kage.  Fifty points of damage doesn't warrant the risk of being
elbow-staggered or even PK'ed.  If you get reversed, ask yourself
whether you were being predictable or not.  If so, change your
tactics; if not, he got lucky and in all probability he won't next
time.  The heelkick and shuto chops are both unreversible midrange
attacks that can help against reversal-happy Akiras.

The Tai Step is a common Akira technique.  Basically it means he
crouch-dashes everywhere instead of dashing.  Despite the hype of
this style, it is not terribly stronger than using standing dashes.
The c-SPoD is the main thing to watch for here.  Elbows are probably
the safest thing to use -- my favorite tactic is to dash briefly in,
or anticipate his forward movement, and elbow.  If it staggers,
great.  If it whiffs I usually do a d+P low punch to attempt to grab 
the near-certain SgPm counter.  Also, train yourself to counter *any*
blocked SgPm with PK; the only time this will not work is if you
blocked the palm very deeply.  The Tai Step makes it much easier to
do palms, but slightly harder to do SDE, so adjust your anticipations
accordingly.

Option Select, or advancing with senbons that double as mid-reversals,
is another common Akira approach.  Rule number one, of course, is
don't sidekick.  The heelkick is an excellent alternative, since it is
unreversable by Akira and does big damage on a major counter.  Be
careful of using other moves, since canny Akiras will mix high and
low reversals in as well.  And don't assume that because he does three
or four mid-reversal senbons in a row, another one will follow.  He
knows as well as you do that predictability is deadly.  If all else
fails, the Thunder Dragon is sometimes useful here -- it will duck
under elbows and palms, interrupts low punches, and is about as
unreversible as you can get.

As you can no doubt see from the Kage FAQ tables & from personal
experience, Akira's rising attacks are pretty bad.  Learn what you can
counter and do so.  More importantly, you can often count on Akira to
rise without an attack, so keep that in mind.

One last important thing to remember:  Kage can PK counter Akira's 
sidekick.

Preferred TFT combo:  Swipe.
Pounce avoidance:  Actually ground punch avoidance.  Usually you can't,
but side rolling is the best bet.  If he hits you with PK, kip up or
roll back to escape the pounce. 


Pai
---
Pai has one huge disadvantage against Kage -- her weight.  She is very
easy to KneePPPK, and it can ring her out from unbelievably far away.
However, most Pai players give away few throw opportunities.  If she
is dumb enough to try combos like PPP, delay, d+K, make her pay for it.

She is also the most floatable character.  A major counter sidekick
will virtually always give a PPK, heel smash float.  Mix in more
sidekicks against her -- if you're lucky, she might even try to reverse 
them.  Just beware of whiffing and being DDT'ed or belly thrown.

Pai's reversals are a joke.  Most good Pais never even attempt them, in
my experience.  The mid-reversal doubles as a swipe punch, which is not
only the most eminently interruptible move in the game if her timing
was off, but also makes her vulnerable to throws *during its execution*!
The high reversal is OK, but usually useless against Kage-speed punches.
And she can grab your heelkick, but at midrange this is truly a crap
shoot -- if you sidekick when she tries a high reversal, or heelkick a
mid reversal, she's a hurting puppy.  Basically, don't even think about 
her reversals in a match.

On the other hand, Kage can quite often get reversals against Pai.  A
d+P low punch is the safest move close-in, since it will grab the
crane chop and interrupt nearly anything else (sometimes allowing a
PK).  It also prevents her from floating you off a MC sidekick,
although a pounce is still guaranteed.  Don't elbow much against her
at close range, unless you are countering a blocked sweep.  Her moves 
are too quick and she rarely crouches close-in.

The vast majority of Pai players play machi.  This style is sometimes
considered "cheap", but I've never understood why.  There are a few
simple methods for dealing with machi players:

1) Make them come to you.  Once you get ahead on life, give them a
taste of their own medicine and simply back off to your side of the
ring.  Forcing them to initiate an attack means they are operating in
an alien situation, and the advantage is yours.

2) Advance with very quick-recovering attacks such as elbows and low
punches.  Try and bait them into whiffing a move, or even letting you
block one (once you're at close range, machi is not a viable tactic
anymore).

3) If they play "harassment" (basically, machi with low kicks etc.
used to keep the opponent at bay and tick off life), take advantage of
this opportunity to advance.  If she whiffs a low kick, dash forward.
The object is to reach close range.  Eating a few low kicks is
definitely an acceptable price; one TFT will give it back in spades.

4) Consider using the Tai Step.  This style makes it easy to block
low harassment attacks, and makes you immune to throws.  It also lets
you whip out the shuto chops at a moment's notice, and they are a
powerful anti-machi tool.  Even if you get sidekick-staggered, you
will usually be too far away to allow a followup.

Beating a machi player does involve changing your tactics, but once
you've played against a few you'll see that they are definitely
beatable.  There aren't many of them in Japan, not because machi is
taboo or anything but because it simply isn't that effective if you
know how to deal with it.

Pais who don't play machi usually alternate between backing off, and
advancing in a berserk fury of sidekicks, sparrow kicks, and crane
chops.  The fact that the chop is reversible can take a lot of the
bite out of her "rush".  Blocking a sidekick gives you a significant,
if brief, initiative advantage in which a PK will interrupt anything
she tries.  Basically I don't worry much about Pai's rush because,
barring throws or major counter sidekicks, she has a hard time doing
much damage.

TFT combo:  KneePPPK, or KneeP-PPPK if you can.
Pounce avoidance:  Kip up.


Lau
---
Lau has the highest damage potential of any character in VF2.  In the
hands of a skilled player, a major counter UpKn or elbow stagger is
likely to spell the end of the round.  Fortunately this is made up
for by the fact that Lau has very little versatility or mid-range
capability.

Basically, your entire effort against Lau should be to make sure he
doesn't get an elbow stagger, m-UpKnP major counter, or trip throw.
The most obvious way to do this is to keep the game at midrange (Lau
is pretty much the only character you want to do this with).  Try to
make him whiff a sidekick or two-footed sweep, or failing that, try
to hit him with a heelkick or sidekick of your own.  The two-footed
sweep recovers low, but sidekick (stagger)-heelkick does considerable
damage (usually the sweep followup will not connect).  The other
midrange move that Laus commonly use is the LgKn, and one of the most
important skills you can learn is to reverse this move on reflex
(well, anticipation is definitely involved).  It's pretty slow, and
Lau usually follows it with one or more punches, so getting a reversal
is easier than it sounds.

If you are forced into close range, be very very careful.  The famed
Lau rush is less effective against Kage than, say, Jeff, but it is
still deadly.  Most of the possible outcomes are bad for Kage.  If
you attempt a reversal and he elbows, bye-bye.  If you attempt an
elbow and he does m-UpKnP, bye-bye.  Probably the safest move, believe
it or not, is PK.  This will interrupt an elbow or m-UpKnP and is
only counterable if it whiffs; this means Lau was either crouch
defending or low punching.  Good Laus will avoid doing this against
Kage, since they know the power of the elbow stagger and Lau's low
punch is quite ineffective in any case.  Sometimes Lau will use the
two-footed sweep at close range, but more commonly he will attempt a
throw if he suspects you will be standing and defending.  Crouch-
dashing backwards can help escape the rush, but personally I don't
advocate this for Kage.  It's not really any less risky than going
for a reversal, PK, or elbow stagger.

It is possible to struggle out of the m-UpKn followup to an elbow
stagger.  This is most easily done by holding down guard and spazzing
on the joystick and other buttons.  I can get out of it maybe 10-20%
of the time.  If you can do better, by all means struggle, but watch
out for stagger-throw.  The easiest way to train yourself to struggle
out of this stagger is to realize when you are vulnerable -- whenever
you try a low punch, prepare yourself to start struggling.

Oki-zeme should be pressed even more strongly against Lau, but beware
of being major-countered and floated by a rising attack.

TFT combo:  KneePPPK, but it is fairly difficult against Lau.
Pounce avoidance:  Kip up.  This will avoid the second stomp of his
high pounce, assuming he's stomping on your legs.


Jacky
-----
Jacky is probably the easiest character to use, making him a favorite of
low- and intermediate-level players.  You might say that he is the
standard or "template" character of VF2, from whom all other characters
are derived.

Jacky loves and needs major counters.  The punt kick, sidehook kick, LBF,
sidekick, kickflip, (elbow)-heelkick, etc. all allow high pounces on a
major counter.  So the secret to fighting Jacky is usually to force him
to commit himself, then punish him -- hopefully with a TFT.

His close range move of choice is the LBF.  It interrupts almost anything
(even low punches), floats on a major counter, and recovers extremely
quickly.  It also combos into a sweep but advanced Jackys will rarely do
this.  On the up side, an elbow will interrupt the LBF and stagger.  I use
a lot of elbows against Jacky close in.  Just beware of the sidehook kick,
which will interrupt nearly anything.  Kickflips are usually not a huge
problem due to the speed of Kage's close-range moves.  Be careful low-
punching, since an elbow stagger virtually guarantees a PPEK-pounce for
big pain.

At mid range, he'll try to get a major-counter punt kick/sidekick/hook
kick.  The former two are PK counterable; the latter is uncounterable but
can often be thrown if it whiffs, which it often does due to its short
range.  Do a lot of standing and defending vs. a midrange Jacky.  His
throws are to be feared less than his strikes -- his only truly effective
(i.e. damaging and unescapable) throw is the triphammer, which luckily
results in a throw-counterable beatknuckle if flubbed.  Don't try to
PK-counter the beatknuckle, since Jacky leans into the screen slightly,
causing the punch to whiff during his recovery.

Good Jackys tend to be fairly mechanical in their approach.  Use this to
your advantage.  Watch out for "bait" moves like LBF-kickflip and
rising sweep-kickflip (these are the two classics).  Be careful when
getting up, as the hook kick will interrupt most rising attacks.

TFT combo: Swipe.
Pounce avoidance: Always side roll.  Usually impossible if the player 
knows what he's doing, but sometimes Jackys will get greedy and go for
high pounces when they shouldn't.


Sarah
-----
Sarah is by far the most strike-oriented character; her throws, bluntly,
suck.  Like Jacky, she might be called a "normal" character (with the
exception of her unique shun-puri).

Sarah likes to close distance with her quick punches, then attempt to get
either a P+G throw, clothesline, or (preferably) elbow-knee at close
range.  Preferred means of doing this are the P+G high punch, d+P+G low
punch, and f, f+P elbow.  Sarah also has excellent senbon punches which
are often used to close distance and harrass at close range (a major
counter allows a free throw if Sarah is very quick and skilled).  But she
really can't compete with Kage at close range, since he matches her speed
and has considerably more damage potential.  Her hook kick is very
similar to her brother's, so again be careful of it.

At midrange, watch for the hopping roundhouse (uncounterable, but throw-
punishable if whiffed), the toekick or toekick-sidekick, and the quick
dash in-throw.  Use lots of sidekicks at midrange -- Sarah can be PPK
floated almost as often as Pai off a major counter.  Be very vigilant
for TFT opportunities, as KneePPPK is deadly (and easy) against her.

If you're good at escaping her P+G throw, you may force her to concentrate
on her only other throw -- the yucky clothesline.  It does negligible
damage and allows her no oki-zeme possibilities (at which Sarah excels --
her hop kick oki-zeme is even worse than Kage's).

Sarah's signature move is the shun-puri, or instant turnaround.  Good
players will be able to do this move from standing, at a moment's notice.
The primary reason it's useful is that it allows her to employ her
excellent TT sweep, a truly fearsome move that is quick, damaging, and
uncounterable.  If a player often employs her shun-puri at midrange, be
ready to dash in and TFT a whiffed sweep (this is almost as difficult as
reversing a move on reflex).  But beware of Sarahs who will use other TT
options such as the TT senbon, which floats on a major counter, or the
TT punch-sidekick, which staggers crouching defenders and can be followed
up by PPPb+K or other high-damage combos.  When you see Sarah turn around
you have to be ready for anything.  If she likes to dash around a lot
with her back to you, try and anticipate a dash towards you and sidekick,
hopefully major-countering a TT move or at least nailing her in the small
of the back and giving you the advantage.  Heelkicks are bad news because
they can't interrupt even the initial frames of the TT sweep.
Alternatively, you can hone your reflexes and use the Thunder Dragon when
Sarah turns away; it will, however, sometimes be interrupted by the TT
sweep.

The close-range shun-puri is another game entirely, and is probably the
more deadly application of this move.  At close range Sarah can easily
turn with strong high, medium, or low attacks.  Mostly this is a game
of reflexes and anticipation.  Her primary weakness is her inability to
defend while facing away; she makes up for this with the speed of her TT
moves.  When you see shun-puri at close range, a sidekick is probably the
best bet if you react quickly enough.  A d+P low punch will grab either a
TT senbon or TT punch-sidekick, but will be rather nastily interrupted by
the TT sweep.  Do this low punch as d+P, G if you can remember, the reason
being that the G will allow a fuzzy-block if Kage is out of range to grab
the punch.  If you're *really* close, a quick P+G will sometimes rear-
throw an unwary player for big style points.

The weakness of Sarah players is that they tend towards orthodoxy and
therefore predictability.  The best way to learn how to defeat Sarah is
to learn her "standard operating procedures".

TFT combo: Always KneePPPK.  KneeP-PPPK is good for style or when
absolutely necessary.
Pounce avoidance: Same as Jacky.


Wolf
----
Wolf can be quite nasty when well-played.  His most feared move is of
course the Twirl & Hurl, but he can also do cd-Ghostbuster and has
several nasty knee floats.  His crouch throws are also a force to be
reckoned with.

At close range against Wolf, beware of low-punching.  Not only can they
be interrupted by knees, allowing a high pounce, but a whiffed one can
be crouch-thrown by an alert and skilled Wolf.  Many Wolves will in fact
execute close-range low punches as d/b+P+K+G, knowing that the other
option of a d/b+P sidekick reversal is more useful at midrange.  Elbows
also are somewhat dangerous, because if whiffed they can be body-slammed
or worse.  On the bright side, most of Wolf's close-range moves (even
his low punches) are fairly slow to come out.  The f+P body blow doubles
as a body slam, but if blocked it is PK counterable.

At midrange, be careful of throwing out too many sidekicks or they will
start to be grabbed.  However, Wolves who attempt lots of sidekick
reversals at midrange will be vulnerable to heelkicks.  The other
benefit to the heelkick is that Wolf cannot PK counter it if blocked;
his punches are too slow.

The crouch dash-Ghostbuster doesn't often connect, but its damage is
sufficient to make midrange standing-and-defending dangerous.  If you
anticipate it, elbow.  Hopefully you get a major-counter elbow stagger.

The only time you should ever be vulnerable to the T&H is after the
feared PKG (major counter)-T&H, and Kage doesn't even have to worry
about that as much as other characters due to his speed and punch
reversal.  If you are T&H'ed, struggle like a madman to kip up and
avoid the high pounce.  The low pounce is unavoidable to my knowledge.

Wolf's low attacks, especially his normal low kicks, are quite damaging
and hard to punish.  Sidekicking works but beware of being slightly
late and being reversed.  You *can* sideroll away from the elbow drop
after the reversal; it isn't even all that difficult.  A low rising
attack will sometimes hit here.

Remember that your single greatest advantage is speed, and it can make
up for a lot.  Try to get ahead on life and pull Wolf into your side of
the ring.  Always try to PK counter blocked knees, and as always, throw
given half a chance (for example after a whiffed ballet kick -- tough
but doable).

TFT combo: Swipe.
Pounce avoidance: Kip up, except after throws, where you should sideroll.


Jeffry
------
Quite similar to Wolf in both style and specific moves.  His knees and
strikes are somewhat deadlier, but he lacks a single awesome-damage
throw like the Twirl & Hurl.

The most potent Jeff weapon is, of course, the Splash Mountain.  Just
like Wolf's Ghostbuster, it can be done from a crouch dash.  Apply the
same strategy to stopping it -- don't stand and defend at midrange.  If
you get Splashed, the low pounce followup is (barely) avoidable by
kipping up, but only if the throw was not a minor counter.  Most good
Jeffs just stomp anyway, it does almost as much damage (why, I don't
know).

You should be much less reticent about sidekicking Jeff players,
although they tend to be slightly more "machi" than Wolves so beware of
whiffing.  Use less heelkicks since Jeff is less likely to attempt
moves from midrange.  However, like Wolf, Jeff also cannot counter the
heelkick.

At close range, be aware that every low punch is likely doubling as
either a Splash or Powerbomb.  Elbows are useful, but again beware
whiffing them.

Jeffs tend to use very few moves.  Get used to recognizing and avoiding
them and you are pretty far toward handling even an excellent Jeff
player.

TFT combo: Swipe.
Pounce avoidance: Kip up to avoid the low pounce, sideroll to stop the
Butt Bomb.  If you get out of a low pounce you get a free TFT.


Shun
----
This little old guy can give Kage a surprisingly hard time.  The main
reason for this is his backpush.  It hits low, is uncounterable and
difficult to interrupt, and knocks down for a pounce on a major counter 
(or after three drinks).  If Shun gets too backpush-happy, try to
either make them whiff and punish them with sidekicks, or else
interrupt them -- heelkicks are your best bet (open stance is better).

Be especially attentive about escaping the P+G throw.  Watch out for
the forward dodge-throw (PK works well and will stop any tricky stuff
he tries, like scorpion kicking), and the run-in throw (again, PK).

The breakdance (d/b+K+G) sweep is elbow-counterable, but you must be as 
close as possible.  This usually means buffering a very brief forward 
dash after blocking it, which you should have plenty of time to do.

Shun has a regrettable lack of midrange attacks.  The Granpa Palm and
cartwheel kick are frequently seen, but the former is reversible and
the latter throw-counterable.  The mule kick has OK range but is quite
easy to throw if it whiffs.

Shun's strength lies in unpredictability.  A good Shun will always
try to keep his opponent guessing, waiting for opportunities to do big
damage.  Basically any knockdown will result in a 30-point pounce.

An interesting aside is that Shun is the only character who can't do
muteki-oki.  If he tries he just kips up.  It also takes him slightly
longer to rise than other characters.

TFT combo:  KneePPPK.  This combo behaves oddly against Shun.  It's
more difficult to connect than it should be considering his light
weight, probably because of his height which makes it easier for the 
punches to whiff.
Pounce avoidance:  Generally you can't, but try to side roll, or kip
up if he's fairly far away (Shun's pounce range is not all that great).


Lion
----
The "little pecker" can be a pain when skillfully used.  Most Lions
harrass with low attacks and wait for major-counters which allow his
fearsome high pounce.

Lion's close-range game revolves around low pecking moves such as the
low punch, double thrusting pecks (which Kage can reverse), and double
creeping pecks.  His problem against Kage is that he has to connect with
about ten thousand of these to make up for one TFT :).  In his favor is
the fact that elbows rarely hit him, even when as close as possible,
simply because he's so short and crouches so low.  But he can't just sit
and low punch all the time or he will begin to eat major-counter
sidekicks and heelkicks.  Be patient and don't get frustrated.  Wait for
an opening.

Lion's "power moves" that allow pounces on major counter are his dancing
kicks, sidekicks, turn-away dancing kick, "Death From Above" hopping
forward punch, and a few others that are more rarely seen (like the
knee).  Note that all of these, while uncounterable, are quite slow in
execution.  In particular learn to watch for the hip-twisting motion
that marks the initial frames of the sidekick.  Try and make him whiff
these moves for an easy TFT opportunity, or else sidekick-interrupt
them for a float.  While Lion's power moves are where he really does his
damage, he is correspondingly much more vulnerable when attempting them.

Lions like to dodge a lot, especially to avoid ringout.  NEVER attempt
to push Lion to RO using a corkscrew kick, as a forward dodge will almost
always escape it and send Kage flying out of the ring.  However, Lions
who dodge excessively (especially those who compulsively do so at the
start of the round) leave themselves vulnerable -- he can be thrown while
dodging.  Also, while his dodges are more adept at dodging attacks than
Shun's, they cover less forward distance, so dodge forward-throw is less
often used by Lion.

Learn to distinguish between Lion's three often-used midrange moves:
the spinning long-range sweep, spinning midkick, and thrusting poke.
Reversing the poke on reflex isn't difficult if you are expecting it
somewhat.  The other two can be differentiated because Lion makes a
low-pitched grunt before he sweeps, and a higher-pitched one before the
midkick.  Both are throw-counterable.

Several of Lion's moves have standing recovery but look like they
recover low.  The d+K+G sweep, P+G and d/f+P+G spinning fists, and
d/b+P (,P) thrusting pokes in particular are throwable if whiffed.

TFT combo: Always KneePPPK, it's quite easy against him.
Pounce avoidance: Sideroll.  However, if you're almost dead and he
knocks you down with something that guarantees a pounce (like an MC
sidekick), try just lying in place -- sometimes his heel will just
barely miss your forehead and the pounce will whiff.  Not a safe bet,
but when you've got no other option...


Kage
----
Heh :).  Well, if you've read this whole thing you have a pretty good
idea of his strengths and weaknesses; reiterating them won't help.
Obviously the outcome of a mirror match depends entirely on the skill
of the players.

TFT Combo: KneePPPK, difficulty on par with Lau.
Pounce avoidance: Kip up.


X. Credits
----------
Thanks to:               For:

Tan Wu Meng              The Kage FAQ, definitely the most comprehensive
(wumeng@pacific.net.sg)  document I have ever seen about a video game
                         character.  250K and all of it highly useful.

Chia Jin Ngee            The VF2 FAQ, which got me into this great game.
(mcblab47@leonis.nus.sg) By the way, you owe me $6,346.50 in quarters :).

Lars Sorenson            Maintaining The Home of Virtua Fighter, which
(larshs@vnet.ibm.com)    lets all of us lazy web surfers get our greedy
                         little hands on the newest VF stuff.  URL is:
                               http://www.w3masters.com/vfhome/
                         (for those benighted enough not to know it).
                         Also for his suggestions about the earliest
                         version of this guide.
Creed (Creed@UCLA.edu)   The Shinsodoom combo and its distinctive name.

The entire r.g.v.a       Advice, discussion and support about Kage and
community                all aspects of VF2.  Most of their names and
                         addresses are listed on the VFHome Masters'
                         List.
-- 
[     "Don't be misled!  Look directly!  What is this?"  --Bassui      ]
[    "I'm not a cat.  I'm a little psycho kitten." --Mioawara Shiro    ]
[   Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ in Water --John Keats' Epitaph   ]
[   Dirk Tebben     Disclaimer: I have no one else's opinion to use.   ]