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    Kage by DTebben

    Version: 1.1 | Updated: 06/19/96 | Printable Version | Search Guide | Bookmark Guide

    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)
    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
    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
    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-
      -- 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.
    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-
    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
    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
    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.
    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.
    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
    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.
    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
    -- 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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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 
    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 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
    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 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
    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 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 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
    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 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.
    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
    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
    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
    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.
    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).
    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...
    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:
                             (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'
    [     "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.   ]