KoF '97 Leona guide v0.00000001
===============================  ~O
                                  Tx/  <-- Leona.
T. Wedd  Jan. 11th, 1998         /^\       My ASCII art rocks with skill!


Copyright notice: As if this is worth nicking stuff from. However, feel
free to rip this document off for all it's worth. Cut and paste liberally
into your own web-pages, and then claim you wrote it. Publish it in
magazines. I really don't care. The mere fact that anyone considers it
worth ripping off will be gratification enough for me :)


Version History
===============

Urk! Forget it. These things are just annoying and no-one reads them.
Every time I update it, I'll add an extra zero. How about that? :)


Contents:
=========

I won't bore you with a page or so of contents. It's not that long
really. Hmm, OK, so maybe it is. Basically it's set out as follows:

Introduction
  Context
  Character Background
Moves
  Special Moves
  Normal Moves
  Throws
  DMs
  Combos
  Rolls
  Taunts
  Victory Poses
General Strategy
  The Poke/Running Slash Ground Game
  Jumping
  Walk-in Throws
  Cheeseballs
  V-Slasher Fakes
  Dash-in combos
  Corner Trapping
  Wake-up Game
  Punishing Mistakes
  Meter Management
  Team Selection Issues
  Opening the Round
Matchups
Appendices
Closing
  Acknowledgements


Introduction:
=============

Context
-------

The subject of this guide is the KoF'97 version of Leona. She has
appeared in one game before this - KoF'96 (surprise surprise). However,
since being a Leona player in KoF'96 carried only slightly less of a
stigma than being a war criminal, not too many people picked her in '96.
Therefore, I won't assume too much familiarity with her KoF'96
techniques. I may mention them in passing, occasionally, but there won't
be anything that says "just do what you did in KoF'96" and that's it.

This guide is aimed at players of average level and above. That's not to
say that beginners won't be able to derive any benefit from it, because
they will (hopefully), I just mean that I won't explain every little
thing in exhaustive detail. i.e. there isn't going to be a Glossary at
the end going like "Aardvark:... Advanced Mode:... Buffering:... ...
X-Caliber:... Xylophone:..." etc etc. [1] A fair bit of familiarity with
KoF'97 game mechanics will also be assumed.

Another thing I should mention is that I play in Advanced Mode almost
exclusively. Therefore this guide is written from that perspective. So
you won't find anything in here about the horrors a dodging Leona can
inflict, and I'll be mentioning POW-exploding [2] and rolling quite
frequently. There will still be a fair bit of generic stuff applying to
both modes of course. Who knows, maybe one day I'll take up Extra Mode
Leona.

Oh yeah, it should also go without saying that this guide has nothing
whatsoever to do with that stupid "Orochi" Leona abomination. If you
actually "play" that character in vs-human fights and came here looking
for tips and stuff, go away. And, while you're at it, kill yourself :)
Even better, read on and perhaps you'll be convinced to take up the much
much cooler and much much much _much_ fairer "normal" Leona.


Character Background:
---------------------

Arrgh! I'm not going to bore you with pages and pages of "plot" stuff,
nothing puts me to sleep faster than that. Consider this a
Heidern-replacement, parent-killing, Orochi blood free zone. In truth I
don't really care about the "plots" of fighting games. I just pick
characters I think are cool. Sure, I like to see their endings - once -
since it sometimes gives a bit of insight into their "personality". But
all that centuries-old battle vs. Orochi stuff, bah, who cares.

I just thought I'd include this little section and explain why one might
pick Leona. A lot of people think she's boring, or perhaps haven't gotten
over her hellish debut (KoF'96) incarnation. I'm not going to argue
whether her gameplay is "interesting" or not, or whether she's
overpowered, underpowered, or wombling free, because none of those are
the main reason I play her. As I said above, I just play her because I
think she's cool. To try and explain why, and perhaps gain a new convert
or two in the process, I'll just be lazy and include an extract from a
post I made on the subject to the Neo-Geo mailing list about two hundred
years ago (in the KoF'96 era anyway):

"I think it would be fair to say that I took up KoF because of (Leona). I
like both her appearance and attitude. Being a Guile player in my early
Capcom days, the fact that she's a charge character (which seem to be
getting rarer and rarer these days) added to the attraction. She is one
of the few females in any fighting game I've seen who looks like she
would be capable of giving the likes of say Goro Daimon a run for his
money. Her personality is refreshingly different for a fighting game
character (especially a female), too. She doesn't flounce around the
screen, giggle, strike studiedly "cool" poses [Editor's note: Hmm, OK,
well she sort of does now] or taunt her opponent before or after the
fight. She doesn't have a cute squeaky voice. She doesn't dress
flamboyantly, fashionably, or scantily. Nor does she look like she just
walked out of a salon. Not that there's anything wrong with any of these
things, you understand, but I find such an understated character cool.
How many other introverted fighting game characters can you think of?
She's there to kick ass, pure and simple, nothing else.

Her fighting style reflects her personality well. Compared to many other
characters, she fights almost silently. She doesn't do anything for show
or effect [Editor's note: Hmm, OK, well she sort of does now]. Rather
than a constant narration of which special move is being employed, the
most you'll hear from her is a grunt of effort [Editor's note: OK, maybe
a "Sayonara" or two]. To me, this adds to the impression of deadly
efficiency she puts across. Her sprite and her move appearances are cool
too. I especially like the X-Caliber [Editor's note: I meant the '96
X-Caliber, not the lame '97 one] and her backward-walking animation. Also
I'm the only person I know who likes the look of the ReasonablyOKBall and
thinks it fits in with her character. The idea of someone like that who
has been trained to fight in military special-forces style, but
hereditarily also has this awesome mysterious inner power and uses that
as well, that's just so cool."

I wasn't going to include one of those "bios" of Leona, but after reading
it, I just have to put it in, you'll see why :)

                    NAME: Leona
          FIGHTING STYLE: Martial Arts & Heidern style Assassin Techniques

             NATIONALITY: Unknown
                BIRTHDAY: January 10, 1978
                  HEIGHT: 176 cm
                  WEIGHT: 65 kg
                  3-SIZE: B-84 W-57 H:85
              BLOOD TYPE: B & Orochi

                 HOBBIES: None
          FAVOURITE FOOD: Vegetables
         FAVOURITE SPORT: None
  MOST VALUED POSSESSION: None
THING SHE HATES THE MOST: Blood

"Hobbies: None  Favourite Sport: None"
Bwahahahah! I love it! That's my girl :)

On the other hand, what the hell's up with her age? 19? That makes _Yuri_
older than her, for Christ's sake. Yeah, right. To me, she looks like she
should be in her late 20s or even 30s.


Gameplay
========

Just do what you did in KoF'96.

<End of document>









































EeehehEheeeQEEE! Just my little joke. Sorry.

Hmm, by waffling on so much up there, I've risked having the "gameplay"
section turning out shorter than the "background" section - the sure sign
of a scrub's guide o_o; I know, I'll start by listing all of her moves
with a few comments. That's always good to pad out a guide :)


Moves
=====

Special Moves
-------------

1. Cheeseball.
The actual name of this move is either the Voltaic or Baltic Launcher,
but you won't hear those terms used very often. Um, yeah, the motion is
charge back, forward + P. The main use of this move is to get people to
jump into it and then hit them with the V-Slasher. For all you combo
freaks, neither of the Cheeseballs combo. Nyahh! :)
A Version: The most useful version. It comes out quicker than the C
version (you still have to anticipate jumps rather than doing it on
reaction though), and Leona stands in place as she throws it. She can be
hit out of the start of the move if the opponent is close, even for a
couple of frames after the ball has actually appeared. Mid-size (and
smaller) opponents can also crouch under it and sweep you if you do it
from too close. Unlike the C version, it doesn't travel, and you have a
much shorter time to follow up with a juggle (but it can still be done).
It can also be used as a sort of defensive shield during a ground game,
since it can't be jumped or rolled through (once it has fully
materialised). Some characters (coughKensouYamazakiLeonacough) can
simply walk up and low D you under it for free though.
C version: Comes out slower, and Leona leaps forward as she throws it
(landing _in front_ of the Cheeseball) with huge recovery. Eminently
avoidable/punishable. The only way you'll juggle someone with this thing
is if they jump _after_ you've launched it for some reason. So, a Chris
Finnie advisory: If you ever get hit with this move, you should kill
yourself. On the bright side, if someone _is_ foolish enough to get stuck
in the thing, you have two hundred years to line up and whack a big fat
"V" over the whole mess. This move may also be useful for taking tick
damage off of people as they get up, if you somehow knock them over right
next to you and have it charged. Be wary of trying this on Extra Mode
players though, as they can wake-up dodge it [Anecdote 1].

2. Running Slash.
Charge back, forward + K. This move is actually called the Grand/Ground
Saber or something like that, but I just call it the Running Slash. The
startup to this move has been in slowed down in '97, so that to date it
is not known to consistently combo off of anything. However, connecting
with this move in the corner can set up some nice juggles (see later).
The move has good priority once the slash part is actually unleashed, but
a quick opponent can see it coming and poke (or even command throw) you
out of it beforehand if done from too far away. It can be rolled through
and dodged - um, yeah, a lot like most other moves, I guess. In
particular, however, both a back roll (making the slash whiff) and a
dodge can leave the opponent in a position to punish Leona afterward, so
you don't want to get too predictable with this move.
If blocked, it is mostly unpunishable (in fact, sticking out a low D
right afterward will stuff attempted sweep retaliations from most
characters; this is a great way to beat scrubs and cheese some CPU
characters). If you do it from too close into the corner though, you can
be command-thrown afterwards.
The D version also has a finisher: fwd + D as the move hits. Leona
launches herself into the air, juggling the opponent with another slash.
Obviously, you don't want to do this if the move is blocked. I don't find
myself using the finisher that much in '97; since you rarely _know_ a
Running Slash is going to connect (it's no longer comboable), you have to
do it on reaction, which I find difficult (reflexes ain't what they used
to be, you young whippersnappers :>).
The only other difference I can find between the B and D versions is
the distance she scuttles before slashing. If the "scuttle" doesn't reach
the opponent, she won't do the slash and it appears identical to her
forward dash (Advanced Mode). Because of its longer "dash" range, the D
Running Slash can be used to scuttle under some full screen fireballs
(Athena's and Kensou's for example, but NOT Iori's obviously) from
longish range and hit the offender, as long as you start it early. Other
than this, I rarely do a Running Slash from further than just outside low
D range, so I tend to stick with the B version. That, the A Cheeseball,
and the Moon Slashers are the specials I use the most by far (actually,
pretty much exclusively).

3. Moon Slasher.
Charge down, up + P. This thing is a great air defense if done early. If
you do it too late, you can be hit out of it. Ideally, you want Leona's
arm to be well out of the way when the opponent's body part arrives,
leaving the residual slash to hit them. For air defense, use the A
version if you need it quickly (it comes out faster), and the C version
if you can do it early.
It's also got surprising range, speed and priority on the ground. The C
version has more range and priority, while the A version is quicker to
start up and recover. The C version, because of its range, is good for
punishing slightly laggy whiffed/blocked moves from your opponent. Be
wary of just letting it go during a ground game _hoping_ to hit, however,
because the recovery has been increased from '96. If it whiffs, you can
be punished. Basically, only stick it out if you strongly suspect your
opponent will flinch. If I'm going to stick out a "do it and hope"
ground-to-ground Moon Slasher, I'll usually use the A version. But I
don't try that trick much.
The Moon Slasher is Leona's only comboable special move. Most often
you'll be comboing it off a low C after a close jumping attack hits, or
off a low A, possibly linked after a previous low A or even a low B. This
latter (low A) combo can be used after blocked Running Slashes, walk-ins
(you'll need to hit them with two linked moves to charge the Moon
Slasher), dash-ins (same applies), roll-ins, whatever. Any time a low A
hits, you should be able to combo it into a Moon Slasher if you're quick/
expecting it. It also helps to be charged of course :) You can also
juggle with a Moon Slasher after a Running Slash connects in the corner.
The C version seems to combo just as well as the A version, so in combos
I tend to go with that.
Also, if you're really desperate for a wake-up move, a Moon Slasher can
sometimes work. It's not that reliable, but it's probably the best she
has along with the Revolver Spark DM. Worth whipping out occasionally as
a surprise. Generally though, you'll find yourself blocking a fair bit
with Leona as you get up. She doesn't have really great wake-ups like say
Ralf's DM.
Doing repeated A Moon Slashers is Leona's fastest way of charging POW
meter in Advanced Mode. You tend to get meter in larger chunks from
charge moves, and you can do A Moon Slashers quite rapidly one after the
other. So if you get a few spare moments and want to charge some meter,
that's the way to do it.

4. I-Slasher.
The infamous "boomerang". I won't bother including the motion for this
thing because you should literally never do it, unless you're trying to
throw the round or make your opponent look like an absolute idiot. The
only time I get this is sometimes when I'm trying to buffer the Revolver
Spark during a punch (there's a hint to the motion :) ). Actually, that
could be why they put it in - as a punishment for buffering screw-ups. If
you like fighting the CPU, it seems to be moderately useful for turtling
as most CPU characters will just meekly block on the other side of the
screen until it's finished. But if a Leona player does this move against
you and you fail to punish it with your biggest combo (don't worry if you
get hit, it's pretty sad, but you'll still have time to kill her),
immediately bring your head down on the machine with great force,
impaling your eye socket on the joystick and ending your miserable scrub
life.

5. X-Caliber
As above. Argh! Why did they do this? In '96 this was a cool-looking,
fair and useful move. Now it's been changed to some stupid looking air
fireball type rubbish, and slowed down to the point where it's virtually
useless. The B version used to be useful up close for hopping over and
hitting anticipated sweeps. It also comboed off the low C. Now it does
neither. The D version was useful for punishing mid to full screen
fireballs. It was your best friend versus Iori. Now it's too slow to
work. Both versions still have huge recovery. I think I've seen the B
version act as a crossup from certain ranges, and it is occasionally
useful in one particular matchup (see the matchups section). The D
version does have one very specific (but redundant) application which I
might mention later as well. But overall, don't bother with this move;
your game certainly won't suffer much.

That's two of Leona's specials you should never use. If you count the C
Cheeseball or the D Running Slash as well, that's half of them. Sob. That
certainly doesn't help add variety to her game.


Normal Moves
------------

Her normals are pretty much unchanged from '96.

Standing A: I don't use either version of this move. She can link a low B
into a standing A.

Standing B: This is my move of choice for poking Clark out of Rolling
Cradler attempts. I'm not sure why but it just is. That's all I really
use this move for.

Standing C: The close standing C is a two-hit move, the first of which is
interruptable. For comboing the Revolver Spark DM though, the close D is
superior since both its hits are interruptable. As for the far standing
C, I don't find it useful. Generally I'll only do either standing C by
accident if a throw attampt whiffs, which leads me to the next point.
One thing to note about her standing C is that it (or one of them, at
least) involves a swipe _upwards_, and will actually hit opponents above
the level of Leona's head. This comes in handy in the fairly common
situation where you're going for a walk-in C throw on a cornered
opponent, and they jump upward/backward at the last minute. If this
happens, obviously your standing C will come out instead, which for
most characters could lead to trouble. But in Leona's case, the standing
C will _hit the opponent if they jump upward/backward just as you go for
the throw attempt_. I've seen this happen a lot. Handy.

Standing D (Far): Leona leaves the ground in sort of a splits/scissor
kick, moving quite a way forward as she does so. I like this move. It's
her longest ranged normal (edging out her low B by just a couple of
pixels), so you can sometimes just do it from longish range and catch
your opponent twiddling their thumbs. Make sure you connect though,
because there is a bit of recovery if it completely whiffs. You can also
use it in an anticipatory fashion within the opponent's sweep range to
step over their low poke and hit them (although used in this fashion it
will whiff against a lot of characters). Finally, since this move steps
forward so far, it's a good way to advance while maintaining the charge
for a Running Slash or a Cheeseball. Some people might see you standing
and think it's a good time to jump, so a Cheeseball after one or two of
these from longish range can be a good idea. But remember the game
engine quirk whereby if you go from crouching to standing you lose your
back-charge, even if you keep the stick in the back position. Oh yeah, I
should mention that this move isn't an overhead even though it might
look like one.

Standing D (close): A sort of double knee, both hits of which are
interruptable. The Revolver Spark DM comboes off this as well. One trick
is to dash in from close-medium range and execute a standing close D;
since both hits can be interrupted, you have time to react and buffer
the Revolver Spark if the D connected. This same dashing combo can also
be used to punish laggy whiffed moves from your opponent. You can do
the same sort of thing after a blocked Running Slash in the corner;
execute a close standing D, and you will have time to react to it
hitting and interrupt it into the Revolver Spark DM.
You can also use this as a followup to a jumping attack when attempting a
jump-in Revolver Spark DM combo. As noted earlier, it's better than the
close C because it can be interrupted of either hit. If your jumping
attack was blocked you'll get the far standing D instead, which you won't
be able to interrupt, so there is a safety factor in your favour there as
well. Whether you use this or the low C is a matter of personal
preference I guess.

Standing CD: I find this too slow coming out to be useful. One thing
about it is that it does move Leona forward, so it can be used for
advancing while back-charged in the same manner as the far standing D.
Although it doesn't move as far forward as the D, it has the advantage of
being interruptable (even when whiffed).

Low A: This is the button you mash like crazy when a grappler gets in on
you :) It's your all purpose "too close for comfort" move. Although not
as long as the low B, it's faster (both to come out and retract), and
best of all it's interruptable. The Moon Slasher combos nicely off this
move. You can also link it after a low B.
You should adopt doing a low A after a blocked Running Slash as SOP,
since it beats almost everything in such a situation, and it's too fast
to successfully roll through and punish without being hit by the next
one. If your low A hits, be ready to interrupt it into a C Moon Slasher.

Low B: This is your best all-purpose poke. Leona has one of the longest
low Bs in the game, and it's fast enough that you can usually at least
block if your opponent happens to jump right as you do it. Be warned
though that a grappler can roll through it and command throw you if they
time it just right (usually a matter of luck). The low B links into both
itself and the low A. It is not interruptable, however.

Low C: I could never quite understand what Leona was doing in this move.
It looks sort of like an uppercut done from a crouch, but she seems to do
it with her whole upper body. Weird. Anyway, the main use for this move
is in jump-in combos. Both the Moon Slasher and the Revolver Spark DM
will combo from this (careful you don't get a boomerang :) ). Jump C, low
C, C Moon Slasher and jump C, low C, D Revolver Spark DM are two of my
favourite combos. If the jump C is blocked, though, I might try to follow
up with a low light attack or two (low A or low B, low A; again if a low
A hits be ready with the Moon Slasher), after which numerous options to
continue the offense (or pause to tempt the opponent to jump/whiff) are
available.
The low C is fairly short-ranged, so make sure you jump in nice and close
or it will whiff (a buffered Moon Slasher will still reach the opponent,
but will be blocked). Another thing that can happen if you jump just a
bit closer than the above case (but still from marginally too far away)
is that the low C will connect (barely) but will push the opponent out of
range of the Moon Slasher, which will whiff completely. This is probably
the worst case. If in doubt about your jump spacing, it's probably better
to go for a low A followup.
Oh yeah, the low C can also occasionally work as a sort of half-assed air
defense. When it works it usually trades, but that's better than letting
a grappler get a clear jump-in on you :)

Low D: Leona has one of the better low D sweeps in the game. Stick it out
basically whenever you feel like it if they're just outside low B range,
or if you're just outside their sweep range. Of course, you're vulnerable
to a roll or even a coincidentally timed jump, but that's true of most
low Ds. Curiously, the low D doesn't seem to combo after a jump attack,
but that shouldn't matter since you should be going for a standing D, low
C or low A followup.
The low D makes an OK followup to a blocked Running Slash, as it will
beat most sweep retaliation attempts (even that of another Leona, but
Kensou is a notable exception). Don't do this if you think they'll be
expecting it though, as it's roll-bait if they are. Generally, if you're
going to follow up a blocked Running Slash with an attack (which you will
often be doing), I recommend the low A. It's the only way to be sure.
One more thing, remember that in '96 her low D worked as sort of an air
defense? In '97 it still does. It only works against certain attacks
though. For example, a low D will beat the jumping D of an enemy Leona,
but will be hit cleanly by an enemy Leona's jump C. You'll need to
experiment to find out what particular moves it beats if you want to use
this much.
A word of warning: since Leona's low D is angled slightly upward, it
tends to trigger mid-counter moves, for example Yamazaki's Sado-Maso.
So, er, avoid using it in such circumstances.
Lastly, the low D isn't interruptable.

Jumping A: I don't use it. However, I have seen it trade with Iori's
infamous Maiden Masher DM used as air defense. So if you stupidly jump
in on a stocked/MAXed Iori and he fires up his DM, stick this out as a
token gesture of defiance.

Jumping B: This is a good thing to stick out in an air-to-air battle.
It's large, angled slightly upward, and has good priority. It will beat
Clark and Ralf's normal air-to-air, for example.

Vertical jumping B: I didn't enumerate all her vertical jump attacks
separately, because I don't specifically use them that much. But this
deserves an honourable mention because it looks so weird :)  She turns
completely upside down in mid-air and sticks her foot down past her
head for a hit. As you might imagine, it hits down a long way. So for
style points, you might try getting a few hits by using this as a
vertical hop jump overhead. Careful you don't get an X-Caliber though
:)

Jumping C: This is my jumping move of choice for air-to-ground. It has
a fairly broad "hit zone," and huge priority against anything under it.
It also option-selects with the air throw if the opponent leaves the
ground at the last minute, muhahaha. But again, what the hell is she
doing during the jump C? It looks like she's pecking them or something
[Useless fact 1].

Jumping D: Fairly long range, angled slightly down. You can get an air
throw from this as well. I tend to use the jumping C for combo-range
jumps, and the jumping D if I'm jumping from further out, or jumping
as a buffered V-Slasher fake (see later). Personal preference I guess.
For jump-in combos they're pretty much interchangeable.

Jumping CD: What can I say, I don't use this much. Haven't quite gotten
over my revulsion at the jump/hop CD-fest that was '96 I guess. Plus I
prefer to go for Ko0L kOm8oZ d00D2!!! However, the jumping CD is still
(almost) as fast as in '96, and has almost as much priority. Her foot
glows as she does it, that's kind of cool :)

Command attack: She doesn't have one. This seems to be the exception
rather than the rule in '97. Poor girl. Ah well, at least it... um...
makes writing this guide easier. Yeah, that's the ticket. Always look on
the bright side.


Throws
------

Leona has both C and D throws. I really like the C throw - she takes a
lunging step into the opponent with her shoulder lowered as if she's
going to ram them, but you hear a stabbing sound instead. Then for a
couple of frames she turns her face toward the camera and it's spattered
with blood, hehehe. Unless you're playing a blood-free home version, in
which case it looks like she's sneezed all over herself :) [3]. Anyway,
it's much better than that lame bite from '96. [Useless Fact 2]
As mentioned earlier, the C throw is especially good to use when you're
walking in to throw a cornered opponent. If they jump up/back at the
last second, the standing C will come out and hit them.

Her D throw cannot be AB recovery rolled afterward. She also tosses them
to the opposite side from which they were thrown, so it is useful for
keeping your opponent cornered if they manage to roll past you.

She also has an air throw (dir + C or D in the air). Really useful.
Beats just about any other air attack if you (fluke out and) time it
right.

She doesn't have a command throw.


DMs
---

1. V-Slasher (QCF, HCB + P in air).
This is the DM she had in '96. It seems mostly unchanged, except for
perhaps a bit more recovery when it's blocked. God I love this move.
There's nothing I like better than jumping up in pseudo slow-motion
(caused by Cheeseball-juggle slowdown) and finishing someone off with
this. The SDM is even better to kill someone with because there's a huge
pause at the bottom of the "V". The slash also looks gorier (and the "V"
has _serifs_, ouch!). And let's not forget that it also does absolutely
massive damage, of course :)
So, a fairly important use for the move is hitting Cheeseball victims.
However, for me the major, major, _major_ use of the move is air-to-air.
I don't know how to emphasize this enough. Because of this DM, once you
have stock, Leona becomes Queen of the Air (TM). Jump whenever you damn
well like - forwards, backwards, straight up, it doesn't matter much -
and buffer the motion. If your opponent leaves the ground, whack the
appropriate punch button and teach them a lesson (don't worry, the
V-Slasher isn't air-blockable). If they don't, simply don't do anything,
or stick out a D or CD as you're landing if they're nearby. This is the
"buffered V-Slasher fake" I mentioned earlier. You can even catch people
doing moves with any sort of lag _on the ground_. Candidates include low
Ds and standing strong pokes (Ralf's standing C, for example). If you
jump just as your opponent does something like this, the V-Slasher can
probably nail them if done quickly [Anecdote 2].
Just to repeat, since it's so important, once you have stock, you can
basically jump at will, buffering the V-Slasher motion as you do. Your
opponent, on the other hand, doesn't dare jump or even use their air
defense (if you can react to it) too freely. If they don't understand or
appreciate this concept, you'll find yourself winning rounds very
quickly :) Some moves (like the Shingo Kick and Iori's jump D) can trade
with the V-Slasher, meaning you get hit and lose a stock, while they get
away with very little damage. But I stress the _sometimes_; I don't know
of any move which will _consistently_ trade with it. Which means it's
_always_ worth trying.
A word about targeting the V-Slasher. The C version is the version
you'll be using most often - it will track and hit the opponent if
they're anywhere but above your horizontal level, or almost directly
below you. For the latter case (opponent directly below you, or almost
so), use the A V-Slasher (it has a much steeper descent angle). For the
former case (opponent above your horizontal level), you're probably out
of luck. Actually, you can sometimes even miss with the C version if
the opponent is close to the ground (after being juggled late by a
Cheeseball, for example) and you do it too early; as shallow as the
trajectory is, it does have its limits and you might find yourself
landing before reaching the opponent. There can be a _bit_ of timing
involved in hitting with it. Don't always do it ASAP if the opponent is
close to the ground, wait until you're a bit higher (only if you think
there's time, of course). This mainly applies to Cheeseball juggles.
For completeness I'll mention that, as in '96, you can do this move
virtually straight from the ground by going down, half circle back,
up-back, and then hit C (or A). But now that Leona has a (comboable)
ground DM, there's not much point to it.
One final thing for absolute completeness: If you're absolutely
desperate to get out of the corner and can manage to get a vertical
jump off, the C V-Slasher can be used in a pinch to propel you safely
across to the other side of the screen. Particularly useful when
there's about three seconds to go in the round, and you're ahead on
energy.
Buffered V-Slasher fake. Just thought I'd mention it again.
Her best DM by far.

2. Revolver Spark (QCB, HCF + K).
I love this move too, it looks so awesome [Useless Fact 3]. It combos
off the low and close standing Cs and the close standing D anywhere on
the screen. Pick whichever of these combos you find easiest and learn it
well, both from jump-ins and from the ground. You'll (hopefully) be using
it a lot.
You can juggle with the Revolver Spark after a connected Running Slash in
the corner. It's also great for punishing laggy whiffed moves from your
opponent from reasonable distances away, since it starts up reasonably
quickly and the lunge is damn fast. It's readily punishable if blocked,
but I don't consider that a bad thing; remember there are Extra Mode
Leona players out there :)
It can even be used to catch people out of jumps in a way analogous to
Iori's infamous Maiden Masher. It's not anywhere near as reliable though.
It works best if you do it late in the opponent's jump. As a guide, you
want the top half of Leona's body level with the bottom half of the
opponent's body during the "flash" animation. For that reason, it's
easiest to do against straight up or backward jumps. Even then you can be
hit out of it, but it's worth trying occasionally.
As a wake-up DM I find it rather average. There are _some_ invincible
frames in there, but I've been hit out of it very frequently. I think
that the startup "flash" animation is invulnerable (to attacks), but the
lunge isn't. The thing that really kills it though is that she can be
thrown out of the "flash' animation bit, so it's absolutely terrible
against grapplers. Lots of other DMs are like this too, so if your
opponent has one charged and you suspect they'll wake up with it, walk up
and toss them as they get up. It's pretty funny, if a bit risky :) This
tactic worked better in '96 where just about all DMs were great wake-ups
(unlike '97). Getting back to the subject at hand, try pulling out a
wake-up Revolver Spark only if you're desperate, definitely not as SOP.
One final note: in the fairly common situation where you're a bit behind
on energy and the timer is ticking away, the Revolver Spark is _not_ the
move to pull out for a miracle last second comeback. It takes forever for
this move to go off, and all the damage happens at the end. If this
occurs after the timer hits zero, you won't get credit for it.

3. Gravity Storm (QCF, QCF + P).
This DM is mostly redundant. It's also not as cool-looking as the others
IMHO. The thing that hampers it is the absolutely tiny range. It seems
to connect only if your opponent is crammed right up against you - for
example, after a blocked Ryuuko Ranbu-type DM. It comes out slightly
quicker than the Revolver Spark, so it might be useful in situations
where your DM absolutely, positively has to be there overnight (and your
opponent is right on top of you). In particular, its one redeeming
feature is that, unlike her other DMs, it will combo off a low A (even
after a jumping attack, but not after a blocked Running Slash unless
done into the corner).
Other than that, and the fact that is usually unpunishable if whiffed
or blocked (since it both recovers quickly and leaves you a long way
from your opponent), there's not much more to be said. It is not useful
for air defense, nor is it a particularly good wake-up move, at least
against jumping attacks.
As with the Revolver Spark, you can juggle this after a connected Running
Slash in the corner. If you like variety then you might always want to
use the Gravity Storm in this situation, just so you get to see it
occasionally :) [4].


Combos
------

She hasn't got that many. This list may not contain every single obscure
little combo, but these are the ones I find most useful:


Jumping combos:

Jump C/D, low C, C Moon Slasher
Jump C/D, low A, C Moon Slasher
Jump C/D, low B, low A, C Moon Slasher

Jump C/D, low C, Revolver Spark DM
Jump C/D, standing (close) D, Revolver Spark DM
Jump C/D, low A, Gravity Storm DM

Jump D, V-Slasher DM (actually I don't find this one useful, I just put
it in because people kept mentioning it :P)


Ground combos:

[Low A or low B], low A, C Moon Slasher

Low C, Revolver Spark DM
Standing (close) D, Revolver Spark DM
Low A, Gravity Storm DM


Corner combos:

Running Slash, C Moon Slasher

Running Slash, Revolver Spark DM
Running Slash, Gravity Storm DM
Running Slash, V-Slasher DM


Rolls (Advanced Mode)
---------------------

I preferred Leona's '96 roll. Now, for the forward roll, she sort of
slides around like she's trying to do SFA Bison impressions or something.
And for some reason, that makes her briefly invulnerable to attacks.
Whatever. The backward roll is a more traditional tumble. It looks almost
identical to the startup of the I-Slasher, which has fooled me a couple
of times (God knows why I was expecting them to throw a boomerang).


Taunts
------

Her taunt is OK, nothing great. There's no reason to taunt in '97 anyway.
I sometimes taunt out of resigned frustration when I know I'm about to
lose to a timeout.


Victory Poses
-------------

Ahah! The important bit :)

A button: The old "hair adjusting" pose from '96. Use it if it was a good
fight.

B button: The old "shoe adjusting" pose from '96. This seems to show a
bit of contempt for the opponent, so use it if the fight was a
cheesefest, or your opponent cursed and swore, or abused the joystick or
buttons, or played Orochi characters or Benimaru or <insert personal hate
here>. Of course these kinds of players usually skip past all poses
anyway :P

C button: I think this pose is absolutely classic. It's sort of similar
to the hair adjusting one, except Leona takes a brief sidelong
bemused/contemptuous peek at the fallen opponent, as if she's sharing a
private joke with the player at how weak/stupid/whatever they were. At
least, that's how I interpret it :) So use this if you absolutely walked
over your opponent, or if they did something really unfortunate/stupid/
weird that lead to their death :) (like, oh... threw a boomerang,
perhaps).


General Strategy
================

There are a number of things you can do when playing Leona. You might go
for a straight poke/Running Slash based ground game. You might focus on
trying to land a jump-in combo or two. You might spend your time on
jumping fakes, hoping to land the V-Slasher air-to-air (or
air-to-ground). You might throw A Cheeseballs liberally, looking for the
V-Slasher juggle. You might want to try for a dash-in close standing D +
Revolver Spark combo. Or, for the most variety, fun, and arguably
effectiveness, you might mix up all of the above.


The Poke/Running Slash Ground Game
-----------------------------------

Leona's ground game is based around the low A and B pokes and the B
Running Slash. In a nutshell, you want to be poking away at your opponent
with low As and low Bs, mixing in Running Slashes (often from
interrupted low As) to keep yourself in range and possibly hit them. Mix
up the low B/low A sequence, and vary the point at which the Running
Slash comes. Occasionally insert a brief pause in case the opponent wants
to whiff something. Watch for a connected low A and combo it into the C
Moon Slasher. If they jump, use a Moon Slasher if you have it charged,
otherwise roll out of the way, or possibly just block. Watch out for
grapplers who like to jump or hop in without attacking and command/DM
throw though. The low C (or even low D against certain attacks) can be
used as a surprise air defense to deter such tactics.

Unless you're doing it into the corner, a blocked Running Slash will
leave you spaced such that you can do one blocked low A (which will push
you out of low A range), followed by one blocked low B (which will push
you out of low B range). So naturally the two patterns that spring to
mind are Running Slash-low A-Running Slash (you can use this to push your
opponent all the way across the screen if they don't do anything about
it), and Running Slash-low A-low B (after which a Running Slash can be
used to get yourself back in close). The first one can be used if you
want to keep constant pressure on your opponent, the second if you want
to push them back and give yourself some breathing space. Before doing
another Running Slash from outside low B range it's sometimes a good
idea to do a whiffed low A or two as a fake, in case your opponent has
an uppercut or something else nasty ready. This might even get them to
jump at you :)

You should _not_ let the above patterns and variations of them constitute
your entire game, however. If you do this, your opponent will start to
counter and punish your neccessarily predictable Running Slashes, or even
start uppercutting/whatevering your low As. Furthermore, if you're behind
on energy and your opponent is turtling, this is a fairly slow way to
inflict damage and you'll probably lose. The low A/Running Slash pattern
should be considered as the very basic core of your game, something to
fall back on when you're not trying anything else. To both avoid being
consistently countered by your opponent, and to inflict any appreciable
damage, you will need to vary what you do at various points in this
pattern.

Some examples of how you might go about this are given in the following
sections. First, here's a slightly more systematic summary of the ground
game described above, as well as the various ways of mixing it up. Each
set of dashes, asterisks, etc. signify the alternatives available at
various ranges.

Blocked Running Slash.
  (possible pause) then...
  - low A, interrupt into Running Slash.
  - low A, interrupt into C Moon Slasher if it connects.
  - low A, (possible pause) then...
      * Walk-in throw attempt or fake (see later).
      * Hop jump combo attempt (see later).
      * Low B, (possible pause) then...
          # Running Slash.
          # Low A fake.
          # Jump-in combo attempt (see later).
          # A Cheeseball (see later).
          # Jump V-Slasher fake (see later).
          # Dash-in combo attempt or fake (see later).
          # MAX yourself, if desired.


Jumping
-------

I find one of the best ways to mix up the ground game is to suddenly jump
or hop in at some point in the poke sequence. Leona has some excellent
jump-in combos, and jumping from A/B poke distance gives you an excellent
shot at landing them. After a blocked low A followup to a blocked Running
Slash you are well spaced for a hop jump combo attempt, especially since
your opponent may be likely to stick out a sweep at an inopportune
moment. Similarly, after a low A + low B followup to a Running Slash, you
will be at a good distance to jump in with a regular jump.
The basic idea is that the opponent hopefully can't have their full
attention on the ground game and be watching for jump-ins at the same
time. It will vary from opponent to opponent how much of their attention
they'll have on each, and thus how often you'll be able to jump.
Combos to look for are jumping C, low C, C Moon Slasher and jumping C,
(your choice of strong hit), Revolver Spark. If your jumping attack is
blocked you'll be left at about the same spacing as after a blocked
Running Slash, so follow up with a low A or low B and go from there.


Walk-in Throws
--------------

To further mix up the ground/air game dichotomy I tend to make liberal
use of throws. A lot of players will go into "block mode" after one or
two low A/Bs, prepared to just block the rest of the sequence and take it
from there. Well, the _second_ you think someone is doing this, walk in
and throw them. Don't let them take a breather. Advanced Mode players will
probably escape such throw attempts, but at least they'll think twice
before mindlessly blocking your poke sequence next time, and that is to
your advantage as well.
If your opponent is on their toes it's unlikely that you'll get too many
walk-in throws without being hit or command thrown yourself. So to mix
_that_ up you can take a step or two forward (or even just stand up for a
moment) and then do some attack of your own to try and beat their
anti-walk-in-throw attack. It's all very complicated isn't it :)  Low A or
low B are reasonable choices as they are both fast and high priority
attacks (if you walk in a bit first, ideally you would do a low B + low A
+ conditional C Moon Slasher link). If you've got stock then a standing D
is also not a bad idea; if you got in close enough the close standing D
might come out and we all know what you can do if that hits. If they get
uppercut happy when you approach like this, next time just walk in a bit
and then block.


Cheeseballs
-----------

Once you've got stock, as well as being ready to substitute the Revolver
Spark in your combos, you should be on the lookout for V-Slasher
opportunities. These will come in the form of Cheeseball juggles and
jumping buffered V-Slasher fakes.
As far as Cheeseball throwing goes, clearly you can't do this from close
poke-war sort of ranges or it is likely to be stuffed. So what I like to
do is either go through with a full poke sequence out to extreme range,
or roll or even dash backward right in the middle of a poke sequence, and
then launch an A Cheeseball. Suddenly given a bit of breathing space, the
opponent will hopefully be tempted to mount an offense of his own, for
example by jumping. You know what to do if he does :) You can pretty much
jump with impunity from behind an A Cheeseball, and it's usually a good
idea to do so in preparation for a possible V-Slasher juggle. Although
sometimes sticking out your long low D from behind an A Cheeseball can
catch people off guard as well.


V-Slasher Fakes
---------------

These I more or less discussed to death in the V-Slasher section.
Basically, you can do them anytime you can get off the ground safely. Try
not to jump over your opponent in doing so, or things can get confusing
:) Actually, I like to keep out of range of their air defense when doing
such a fake, since it makes them more likely to want to jump at you. So
generally if I do it from close to my opponent I'll jump back, and if I'm
a reasonable distance away I'll jump forward. A vertical jump is an
acceptable and common substitute in both cases too.


Dash-in Combos
--------------

Again, there's not much more to say here. These are a stylish and
sometimes effective way to mix up your game. The most important dashing
combo Leona has is dash-in close standing D, Revolver Spark. Another one
you can try is dash-in low B, low A, C Moon Slasher. Fakes are
accomplished by simply dashing at the opponent and stopping short to try
and get them to whiff something.


Corner Trapping
---------------

On a cornered opponent, the poke/Running Slash game really comes into
its own. Or disappears entirely, if your opponent's character has a
command throw. Let's consider the second case first, since it's the
simplest.

Simply put, characters with command throws (who make up about a third
of the total roster) can command throw Leona after a blocked Running
Slash done into the corner. Even 'kick dance' type moves (Andy, Ryo,
Robert) can nab her before she can do anything. So you should probably
never Running Slash into the corner against these characters, I guess
it's that simple.

For the more interesting case where the opponent's character doesn't
have a command throw or equivalent, cornering them will give you
multiple chances of landing a DM with the poke/Running Slash game. Let
me count the ways...

1. As described earlier, Leona can juggle with _any_ of her DMs after a
   Running Slash connects in the corner. If you don't have stock, the
   best juggle is probably her C Moon Slasher.

2. You can follow up a blocked Running Slash with a (close) standing D,
   and then buffer the Revolver Spark on reaction if it hits.

3. If you follow up a blocked Running Slash with a low A and it hits,
   you can combo in the Gravity Storm DM! IMHO it's quite tricky, but
   there you go. Note that you cannot do this off the second or third
   such low As (see below) as the DM will whiff.

4. Additionally, you still have all the other ways (jump-in combos,
   Cheeseball juggles, buffered V-Slasher fakes).

Clearly, it's nice to have your non-command-throw-endowed opponent in
the corner.

After a blocked Running Slash done into the corner, you can do up to
_three_ blocked low As or Bs before being pushed out of low A range (to
the 'asterisked' range in the summary above). From there you can still
follow up with _another_ low B which will push you out of poke range
(to the 'hashed' range in the summary above). So you have a lot more
scope to vary your Running Slash pattern. Mix this up with walk-in
throws and hop jump combo attempts and it becomes quite nasty for the
opponent.

Certain characters with quick uppercut-like low Cs (eg. Yuri, Leona)
can beat or trade with the usual low A followup to a Running Slash when
cornered if they time it right. However, a low B followup to the Running
Slash will beat such low Cs. So if you've cornered a character like this
and you think they might try and exploit the aforementioned fact, it
might be a good idea to follow up your Running Slash with a low B
instead (you could attempt the low B, low A, C Moon Slasher link combo,
for example). If you hit their low C a couple of times, they
should be sufficiently cowed (if they're not, keep hitting 'em :) ) and
you can start mixing in low As again.


Wake-up Game
------------

Every character faces the dilemma of what to do to your opponents as
they get up from a knockdown. Leona hasn't got a particularly deadly
wake-up game. I tend to mix up the following:

1. Low B + low A, then Moon Slasher if it hits or maybe a Running Slash
(or tick throw attempt) if it's blocked. This will give you a nice combo
if it beats their rising attack, and will at least give you the
initiative without any undue risk if they block. If I can't get close
enough for a nice low poke barrage (or I don't want to, since my opponent
is a grappler), I often just do a low D.
This option can be countered by a roll/dodge/good wakeup move.

2. Throw. This will get them if they block, roll or dodge. Best of all,
you can throw some DMs during their opening frames :) It will be
countered by a quick wake-up move or a counter throw. I'd advise against
trying this on grapplers. Generally you'll get a pretty good idea how
well this will work on a particular opponent after a couple of attempts.

3. Just block (from outside their grab range, naturally). This allows you
to punish them if they try a laggy wake-up move. If you're quick, you can
still grab them if they roll/dodge. If they block as well, you haven't
gained anything and it's a standoff. If they do anything else, they've
got the initiative. Watch out if they try for a step-forward throw.

On the receiving end of things, again Leona hasn't got any particularly
good wake up moves. I tend to just block if I can get away with it. If
you must try something, either a Moon Slasher or a Revolver Spark are
probably the best options. For characters with really nasty wake-up
games (coughYashirocough), don't forget about wake-up rolls either.


Punishing Mistakes
------------------

Here's a list of good things to do if your opponent screws something up.
There's four basic situations that could arise, depending on whether you
can get to them before they recover from their whiff, and on whether you
have stock or not.

If you can get (walk/dash) to them and have stock:
Strong hit (low C or close D) + Revolver Spark DM.

If you can get to them but don't have stock:
low B, low A + C Moon Slasher.

If you can't get to them and have stock:
D Revolver Spark DM, this will reach almost anything.

If you can't get to them and don't have stock:
Um... D Running Slash + finisher might work, if you're charged, but only
do the finisher if you're sure it will hit.
Alternatively, try sticking out a standing D, it has surprising reach.
If they're absolutely miles away, just do something to charge some meter
(like a few A Moon Slashers), or possibly MAX yourself. Maybe even taunt
:)

Obviously, if they're actually _dizzy_, go for a jump-in combo.


Meter Management
----------------

This little bit applies to Advanced Mode only. Extra Mode players avert
your eyes :)

It's extremely important to have a stock in the bank as Leona. The
difference that one stock makes to the threat she poses is huge, most
notably due to the various V-Slasher set-ups that become available.

The poke/Running Slash ground game will tend to charge your meter at a
reasonable rate. As mentioned earlier, if you get a bit of breathing
space Leona can charge meter extremely quickly with repeated A Moon
Slashers. This is a good thing to pull if your opponent is hanging out
on the other side of the screen (unless they have some super-fast
rushing attack), especially to get you to your first stock.

Since Leona has a multitude of ways to land DMs, I prefer to wait for the
third stock before MAXing myself. Against an extremely conservative,
turtly opponent I _may_ do it after two if I'm behind and not really
getting anywhere. I usually go out to at least Cheeseball range to MAX
myself, as there is a bit of a delay on it (yes I have been hit by DMs
while POW-exploding :P).

It's difficult to state the case for CD counters and MAX rolls because
their use is fairly opponent-character dependent. In general, I'm loath
to use them because Leona's DMs are so useful. But against characters
with great corner trapping potential (eg. Kyo, Joe, Robert), I won't
hesitate to whip out a MAX roll or CD counter to get out of the corner.
Also, if you're forced to block a particularly nasty recovery-free
tick-damage move (eg. Benimaru's Shinkuu Katategoma, Mai's Fan Dance,
and I should mention Yashiro's SDM even though it _has_ recovery, the
tick damage on that thing is just insane) it might be a good idea to do
the same rather than take umpteen gazillion points of tick damage,
depending on the circumstances. It should go without saying that I would
rather pull my own guts out than use my _last_ stock for a non-DM, unless
it will win me the round (by KO or even by timeout - CD counters become
very potent weapons in the closing seconds of close matches) or save me
from a tick-damage-induced fatality.


Team Selection Issues
---------------------

Again this section is relevant to Advanced Mode only.

Being the Leona-o-phile that I am, you may find it surprising that I
generally tend not to open matches with her [5]. It's not that I hate her
first round intro pose (though I liked her KoF'96 one better :P), it's
more to do with the importance of having that first stock ready to go.
IMHO Leona gains a bigger advantage than most characters when she gets
her first stock, so why not have some other schmuck to who whom it
doesn't matter as much charge it up for her? With this in mind, to get
the most out of Leona I suggest putting her second or third, behind
someone who will pass stocks to her. No-one actually likes her (sniff),
but most characters are neutral to her (the only exceptions being the
New Face team, Iori, and the Orochis) so you have a fair amount of
flexibility there.

As far as the other side of the coin goes, Leona will give bonus stocks
to Ralf, Clark, and Benimaru, and is neutral to everyone else except the
NFT, Yamazaki, Iori, and the Orochis.

So to spell out the blindingly obvious, stock-optimised Leona-containing
teams will generally have one of the following formats (where X is any
character neutral to Leona):

X - Leona - Clark/Ralf/Benimaru (eg. Yuri - Leona - Ralf)
Someone who likes X - X - Leona (eg. Shermie - Choi - Leona)


Opening the Round
-----------------

Finally, just a quick note about the start of the round. As you may know,
in KoF you cannot begin charging a move before the round starts - you
have to charge from scratch once you're off and running. This is
unfortunate for Leona because her only useful specials are charge moves.

You can't open the round with a Running Slash or Cheeseball straight
away, which is a pity because the start-of-round spacing is more or less
identical to that achieved after a low A, low B followup to a blocked
Running Slash (which is a convenient point to do either of the
aforementioned moves). So you'll have to think of something else to do
for a couple of seconds. A jumping buffered V-Slasher fake is an ideal
choice, but not always possible due to stock availability or your
knowledge of it. Alternatively you could walk/jump/dash in to poke range
and poke while charging, or maybe charge during a vertical or back jump.
Or you could of course just sit there like a rock :)  Whatever takes your
fancy.

Neither can you have your standard air defense ready immediately. Keep
this in mind and don't try whipping out a Moon Slasher when Blue Mary
does her jumping D first thing :)

Another thing to note for Advanced Mode players is that between rounds,
you won't see how many stocks you have until the next round actually
_starts_. So (as hinted at above) it's fairly important that you take
note of how many stocks you have at the end of a round leading to the
(re)appearance of your Leona, and remember. That way you know if you have
the luxury of being able to open the round with a jumping buffered
V-Slasher fake. It's especially important in Leona vs. Leona matches :)


Matchups
========

Here are some random notes on Leona vs. a few selected characters. As a
preliminary, I find Leona has an easier time fighting Advanced Mode
players than she does against Extra Mode players. The fairly simple
reason for this is that the dodge is a _very_ good counter to a Running
Slash (allowing virtually guaranteed punishment). When fighting Extra
Mode players, I tend to cut down considerably on the Running Slashes, and
try and discourage rampant dodging by using a _lot_ of throws (they can't
escape them, either :) ). The same thing can also help against roll-happy
opponents, but they're not generally as big of a problem (unless they've
got a command throw).

Kyo.
This is a tough fight for Leona. With autoguards streaming out of every
bodily orifice, Kyo's firefists are very effective at snuffing Leona's
close poking game. Not only that, but the firefists will stuff jump-ins
from Leona's ideal range. You'll probably find yourself having to stay on
the defensive most of the time, and take your opportunities where you
can. I tend to try and roll more than usual in this fight, hoping to get
behind the firefist barrage at an opportune moment. If you get really
desperate try jumping from further away, and mix up jump D with no attack
to try and get him to whiff an uppercut. Alternatively, hyper-jump from
just outside of Firefist range, and if he starts one you'll land behind
him.

Benimaru.
This guy is God. Who doesn't have trouble fighting him? From the ground,
you can't do much about his jump drills. Just try and roll or dash out of
the way. Throwing A Cheeseballs liberally can discourage him from jumping
around too much, as can lots of buffered V-Slasher fakes. Your usual
close poking game doesn't work too well because of his spinning kick and
near-instant Raijinkens (without even mentioning his Raijinken DM). Try
to stay a bit further away (hanging out just outside his Raijinken range
is good) and attack with low D or Running Slash + poke followup. Punish
whiffed Raijinkens with a standing D or (if you can time it) a Revolver
Spark DM. Try and save a stock to MAX roll out of a spinning kick.
Dash/roll back a lot from close range - if you can make him whiff a
spinning kick, then you can D X-Caliber him at your leisure (woohoo, an
opportunity to actually use that move), or wait for him to bounce away
and time either a D Revolver Spark DM or a hyper-hop combo to hit him as
he recovers.
Be very careful once he gets stock. If you knock him down, try and sit
just outside the DM fireball range as he gets up - don't even think about
attacking him. And don't EVER jump in when he's got stock. Just don't do
it.

Goro.
Argh! Leona dies in this fight. I hate to say it, but it's true. His QCB
+ B roll seems made for getting past her low B. You can't jump in much at
all because the Cloud Tosser and even the down-forward + C will both take
you out of the air perfectly. Extra Mode Goro is even worse. The only
advice I can offer is try to stay away from the damn guy, and throw lots
of A Cheeseballs (watch out for the A minelayer, which will knock
you out of A Cheeseball attempts; for this reason it's best not to try
the Cheeseballs from too far away where he's likely to do the minelayer).
Be cautious when trying wake-up Moon Slashers (hmm, I guess what I'm
saying is "don't" try wake-up Moon Slashers :P) as both his stand CD and
a well-timed jump D will stuff them. If he gets too roll happy go for a
walk-up throw out of the blue, but _don't_ try this twice in a row.
Generally if he rolls in and you're not otherwise occupied it's a good
idea to get off the ground, or start up a scrubby low A barrage :P

Robert.
Again, it might be a good idea to save a stock for MAX rolling out of the
HSK corner trap. Do vertical jumps sporadically to discourage random
HSKing. Always try and counter his jump-ins (low C if necessary) because
of the danger of the big-damage kick dance if you don't.

Leona.
Just a couple of notes on this fight. After you have blocked a Running
Slash, an A Moon Slasher will beat an attempted low A followup from the
opposing Leona, unless you are in the corner. In the corner, the low A
followup will beat the A Moon Slasher, but can in turn be beaten by a
well timed low C (but a low B followup beats this). Clear as mud? Good.
Another fairly important fact to note is that the V-Slasher will go
through an A Cheeseball cleanly. As you might guess, it's pretty
important to get a stock first in this matchup.

Ralf.
Your Moon Slasher will take everything he can throw at you out of the air
(including the Ralf Kick). Jump D will also stop pretty much everything he
can counter with from the ground (yes, including the Ralf Kick again).
His legendary stand C poke is very vulnerable to you-know-what fakes if
you happen to jump just at the right time. Remember his near-perfect
wake-up punch DM and be cautious about attacking him as he gets up (ie.
don't :P). I'd say the fight is definitely in Leona's favour.

Clark.
This guy is still top tier in '97 IMHO. Use standing B against the
Rolling Cradler. Jumping B is a good move to use air-to-air against him.
And I'll risk sounding like a broken record and mention buffered
V-Slasher fakes again :) On the ground, use A Cheeseballs a lot from
mid-range to keep him away from you. Make sure you counter all his
jump-ins somehow. Trades are OK. Trades are great. Just don't let him
land next to you :P

Athena.
Punish a blocked C Phoenix Arrow with a C Moon Slasher. You can do an
early D Running Slash to go under her Psycho Balls and hit her. A hyper
jump can also punish a Psycho Ball on reaction from almost anywhere on
the screen. Of course, good Athenas won't throw a lot of Psycho Balls, or
indeed do many blocked Phoenix Arrows :) If you're up against a poke-poke-
poke-teleport throw type, counter with your own low poke game, which
should be more than up to the task. Watch out for her fwd+B hop, though
(the one with autoguard).

Kensou.
You've got to watch this guy, because his low D is better than yours.
Sheesh, the nerve of some people! :) Go easy on the A Cheeseball
because he can trivially low D you under it. His low D also beats yours
after a blocked Running Slash. Again, your early D Running Slash can
go under his fireballs. He has slightly better recovery on his FBs than
Athena, so to hyper-jump and punish you need to be quicker, or
anticipate.

King.
If you time it right, you can hit King with your Revolver Spark DM
between the second-to-last and last hits of a blocked D Trap Shot.
Yes, you do come out of block stun for a brief instant there, so
practise that timing :)

Billy.
This fight can be surprisingly tough, as he can keep you out of range
of your poking/Running Slash game (Leona's strength) with his low A
pokes. One thing to note is that an anticipatory Running Slash will go
under/through his Pole Extend move and hit him.

Yamazaki.
A Yamazaki turtling behind Snake Arms can be tough to get in on for
Leona, because his Snake Arms will hit her cleanly out of any Running
Slash or jump. What has worked for me before is sitting just outside
his Snake Arm range, and when he starts charging one, do a _B
X-Caliber_. Yes, you heard correctly, do not adjust your monitor.
That's the one and only use for that move I can think of [6]. It will
actually hit him if he unleashes the Snake Arm. If he blocks he will be
unable to retaliate from that particular range, and you will be in close
enough to start mounting some kind of offense.
Oh yeah, don't low D if you see him Sado-Masoing either, because it will
trigger the counter.

Iori.
Your jumping D and B will work reasonably well air-to-air in this fight.
But, as with Benimaru, once he gets stock or MAX it's time to whip out
your sonic screwdriver and disable the up-forward direction on your
joystick, because you won't be needing it. If you're fighting the
garden variety fireball trapping, Maiden Masher-as-air-defense type,
_don't_ try the X-Caliber over his FBs. Roll through them or _vertical_
jump over them and advance. If you do stupidly jump forward at the
MAXed Iori and he fires up his Maiden Masher, stick out a jumping A,
I've seen it trade before.

Shingo.
His Shingo Kick can sometimes trade with your V-Slasher. But don't let
a little thing like that stop you :) You won't be able to jump forward
much before you have stock though.
Play your ground game more cautiously than usual, because his
Shingofists are blindingly fast and have almost unquestionable priority.
Finally, watch out for his power-cancellable SDM. Always try and jump,
either up or back, away from it. Or CD cancel it. Especially if he can
follow it with another DM.


Appendices
==========

[1]
Actually, if you'd like to read such a document, EX Andy has written
a fine example of that very thing. You can find it here:
http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Alley/4810/BEGIN.TXT

[2]
OK, so I didn't mention POW-exploding much at all.

[3]
Thanks to KoF MLer Chris Hammond for this observation :)

[4]
Personally, I also find this DM to be the easiest to connect with in
this situation.

[5]
There are exceptions, of course. For example, when playing the unedited
Ikari team you gain the maximum number of bonus stocks by putting Leona
out first.
BTW thanks to KoF MLer YuriMai for that particular label. I'll take
that as a compliment :)

[6]
Hmm, since the X-Caliber may have a use I suppose I should actually
include the motion for it now, shouldn't I? Charge down, up + K.

[Anecdote 1]
I was once playing Leona against an Extra Mode Iori. It was both of our
last characters. I had knocked him down in the corner on about 4 ticks,
while I was still on 70-80%. I decided to finish him off with a C
Cheeseball. So what happened? He did a perfectly timed wake-up dodge, a C
into Scum Gale to put me in the corner, another C into Scum Gale to rip
me out again, then an SDM Maiden Masher and _I_ died. Argh! But I was
pretty impressed.

[Anecdote 2]
Just to illustrate how deadly this can be, consider the following tale
of woe: I was Ralf up against a Leona player who had just jumped
backward. I was looking to MAX myself, and thought this would be a
good opportunity. Should be safe enough, right? Wrong :P

[Useless Fact 1]
Here's the story behind the jumping C: It's a double handed "poke/chop."
She places the palm of one hand on the back of the other hand and leans
forward during the jump. It's based on Heidern's corresponding move, as
is her close D, close C, and low A (which is based on his slower and
non-interruptable low C). Thanks to EX Andy for clearing that up :)

[Useless Fact 2]
Apparently in the C throw, she's _stabbing the opponent in the face with
her fingertips_. Ouch! Cool or what? Again thanks to EX Andy for the
info.

[Useless Fact 3]
The Revolver Spark DM might look strangely familiar if you've played KoF
'96 on the Neo-CD or Saturn. You know how, after Leona has stuck the
bomb or whatever into the opponent and is waiting for it to go off in
sort of a half-crouch with her arm raised? That's the loading picture
you got when playing her on the left hand side in the CD version of '96.
Similarly, the pose after the bomb goes off, where she straightens up
and brings her arm down, is the loading picture from the right hand side.
Believe it... or not (cue Twilight Zone theme).


Closing
=======

That's about it for the Leona guide. I hope you enjoyed reading and/or
got something useful out of it. Please feel free to send any comments,
corrections, additions, typo disocveries, whatever, to me at
miku@camtech.net.au.

Sayonara,
Tony W.


Acknowledgements
----------------

Thanks go to the following individuals/collective entities:

- The membership of the KoF ML, where I've picked up lots of useful info.

- Nene, ex-KoF ML member and fellow Leona player, for a couple of
  suggestions and for helping me test out various things.

- EX Andy, current KoF ML member, for a _lot_ of useful info and
  suggestions. He is also a Kim expert, and you can find his Kim guide,
  as well as numerous other KoF'97 FAQs and character guides he has
  collected, at his KoF help page:
  http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Alley/4810

- Ranma-chan, ex-KoF ML member, for a couple of corrections and
  suggestions.

- Olivier, current KoF ML member, for some corrections and suggestions.

- Chika, owner of Chika's King of Fighters Zone, from whence I copied
  Leona's profile data.
  http://members.aol.com/iorin/chika/index.html
  "Hobbies: None." Hehehe, I still love it.

- Chris Hammond, current KoF ML member, for a couple of combos and
  other comments.

- K. Megura, author of a very comprehensive KoF'97 FAQ from whence I
  nicked a bit of character relationship info. You can find his FAQ on
  EX Andy's KoF help page.