In terms of neutral, Kokonoe is a somewhat complex character. In terms of difficulty to learn and master, she's definitely closer to Rachel and Carl than she is closer to characters like Ragna and Jin. The path to mastering Kokonoe's neutral game involves a lot of learning how to create space, intercept pursuers and how to strategically use her Graviton drive. Only when you've gotten great at these skills will you be able to reliably use her Banishing Ray and fireball in neutral to help you cover an approach.
Creating space is a key part of Kokonoe's gameplan because she has good tools to help her win the neutral game if she can create enough space to safely put them out. Creating space mostly comes down to two things.
Creates a lot of space but you're committed to it until you land
While it won't create as much space as an IABD, it does give you more control over how far you go and gives you a better ability to react to the situation as you retreat.
Intercepting opponent's trying to chase
As far as good pokes go, Kokonoe doesn't have many good options. A lot of your buttons aren't all that good at poking in a straightforward poke vs poke situation. So a lot of playing Kokonoe's neutral game comes down to learning how to move in ways that'll help you overcome the shortcomings of your pokes by taking advantage of the element of surprise. This will in turn give incentive to your opponents to be cautious of blindly chasing after you and will give you time to setup stuff like B Banishing Ray.
Jump forward/falling j.B
A good option to intercept pursuers at closer ranges. The jump forward is meant to make a poke whiff and then punish it with your falling j.B.
Jump Back > Air dash j.B
A good option to intercept pursuers from further out. The jump back is to convince opponents that you plan to continue to run away and catch them off guard when you air dash forward.
Another good option when you have 50 meter to rapid cancel on block because of how huge j.2C's hitbox is
Probably her best option for a ground poke because 2A has decent range, quick startup and low recovery. Doing dash 2A after walking back, back dashing or air back dashing can be a great way to intercept an opponent trying to chase after you.
3C has great reach and hits low, making it great to use as a poke sometimes. However, it's important not to overuse it. 3C might have great reach but its reach is only low to the ground. Opponents can jump over it and punish it more easily than most ground pokes. Choose your times to poke with 3C wisely and always make sure to have it well spaced to minimize chances of getting punished on whiff
Kokonoe's Drive: Graviton
Kokonoe's drive is a subtle but very powerful tool in neutral. When used strategically, the graviton's that Kokonoe can place on the stage can be very useful.
Perhaps one of her most useful Gravitons in neutral is 6D or j.6D. 6D/j.6D has a number of uses that can help you out a lot in neutral. It's primary use is to hinder approaches. By placing a graviton at the other end of the screen away from Kokonoe, the gravity will always be pulling opponents away from Kokonoe and will slow down the rate of their advance regardless of whether they approach from the ground or air. In addition to slowing their approach, it can mess up the opponent's spacing for their footsies. In situations where an opponent might usually perfectly space a ground poke or IAD jump in, they might find themselves just barely whiffing as the graviton pulls them away just those few pixels they needed to connect.
As an extra bonus, 6D can also be great in neutral as an emergency escape option. If you're being rushed down and don't think it's a good time to try and intercept the chasing opponent, you might consider using your teleport to escape to your 6D graviton
Another important use of Graviton's in neutral is using the activate special to push opponnents where you want them to go. A good example of this is the above situation where you use 6D/j.6D to teleport away from an opponent. If the opponent still insists on chasing after you after teleporting, you can activate the graviton you just teleported over towards to push them away and give yourself a chance to toss out something. In more tight situations, you can do stuff like super jump back > j.1D > j.236D to forcefully create space between you and your opponent
While activate can be good for creating space, it can also be just as equally good at opening up your opponent though it's a bit more risky. Lets use an example situation where you've set a 6D/j.6D graviton and your opponent is still somewhat at the other side. If you have banishing ray down on the ground, you could try activating the graviton while an opponent is approaching you to catch them by surprise and force them into Banishing Ray. If they get opened up, you'll get a full combo, corner carry and oki. If they blocked, then you have a chance to start pressure or throw out a fireball. In situations where you don't have a Banishing Ray down, you can also try taking advantage of activate surprising opponents and messing up the spacing to open them up with a dash 2A or a well spaced 3C.
However, as mentioned earlier, activate can be a risky option to use offensively. On the one hand, a good activate can open an opponent up but if you misjudge your opponent's intentions, a bad activate can also end in you getting opened up or it could end up putting the opponent right next to you, where they want to be. Be sure to use it very wisely.
Something you should also look out for is matchup specific uses for the graviton's pull and activate's push. A good example of this is Arakune. For a character like Arakune that wants to be in the air, you might consider using 3D instead of 6D just to weigh him down and keep him at lower heights where he'll be easier to reach.
Banishing Ray B (22B)
Because sometimes you need to forcefully draw a line in the sand to make people understand that you don't want them in your personal space.
This is usually the end game of successfully creating space between you and your opponent. Banishing Ray B is a strong option to discourage people from approaching Kokonoe. On block, it'll let her start pressure and on hit, it leads to a pretty damaging combo as a starter. Opponents won't be able to approach without being very cautious.
While Banishing Ray is keeping them at bay, this is a good time to summon a fireball and use a graviton to guide it towards an opponent to cover an approach.
Although Banishing Ray is hard to get around, quick movement can still be used to get around it without being harmed. Air dashing is the best and only option for most but other characters may have more options. Characters like Taokaka and Valkenhayn that have extra movement options and speedy movement can make strategic use of these options to get around Banishing Ray.
Also, make sure to always remember what you learned about creating space and intercepting people trying to give chase. Without this as a basis of your strategy, it's easy to choose poor situations to try and put down Banishing Ray B that can easily result in you getting hit out of placing it, followed by a punishing combo.
So, lets cover her round start options which should now make a lot of sense now that I have explained all the pieces of Kokonoe's neutral game explained.
Microdash barrier is a good basic round start option to dash under people trying to jump or IAD towards you expecting you to try and run away to put down Banishing Ray. Depending on what they did, you might be able to punish them on reaction to what they were doing or start your own pressure.
Microdash Barrier > 2A
Small variation of the above tactic. This one aims to catch people being passive at round start to see what you do. If you confirm that they're doing just that during your microdash barrier, toss out a 2A to try and get pressure started early.
Attempt to retreat to create space between you and your opponent. During this time, be sure to confirm the situation
A variation of the above tactic. During the instant air backdash, if you see that the opponent is chasing after you from the air, use j.C to catch them
Another variation of the core instant air backdash to create space tactic. This one has you setup a j.6D graviton at the end of the air backdash to hinder any attempts to chase after you
IABD > confirm that the opponent isn't chasing > land 22B
Another variation of the core instant air backdash to create space tactic. This one focuses more on what to do when you've successfully created space. During the instant air back dash, observe what the opponent is doing. If they aren't chasing you, then you can put down Banishing Ray
Superjump back > 6D > Use additional air options based on situation
Instead of instant air backdashing, super jump back and summon 6D. While this is happening, you can confirm the situation to decide how you want to retreat with your remaining air options. This option is more dangerous than the IABD routes because it's slightly easier for most of the cast to reach you but it can be a good option to use against people who have already been trained to expect an IABD and are already expecting to have to chase you back pretty far.
Walk Back and Observe
A low commital round start option. It won't create space or put you in a position to go on the offensive but it will put you in a good spot to react to round start jump ins with 6A as well as give you a chance to see just what sort of things the opponent likes to go for at round start.
Kokonoe's only character specific reversal is Super Fireball (214214A/B/C), which should only be used if you see the opponent pressing buttons on your wake-up as it can be very easy to dodge the giant fireball coming down if they use a move that will make them invulnerable (such as landing a throw on Kokonoe for example). If the opponent does go for the grab but it doesn't result in a Throw Counter, tech the throw and put out a 1D or 2D Graviton to keep Super Fireball out on the field and to protect yourself from any other attempts from the opponent to pressure you.
Safe basic blockstring due to 2C being +1 on block.
Beware of using 2C against DP characters, since it has a slow start up of 19 frame start up. (Stated in the overview tab)
5A/2A > 5A/2A > 5B > 2B > 5C > 2C
Sometimes you want end your blockstring with 3C because it will catches your opponent lacking if they are stand blocking and if delaying 5C/2C during a blockstring, you want to throw out your 3C to catch them off guard thinking that the blockstring is over. 3C it pretty sneaky low at times but since she is also extending her hurtbox, it's also pretty risk to use.
(pretty good button in netplay/online)
5A/2A > 5A/2A > 5B > 2B > 5C > 2C > 3C
Kokonoe's both 5A and 2A are really good for staggering your opponent during blockstring due to both being -2 on block which could lead into frame trapping sometimes, they cancels into 6B (her standing overhead), they can be follow up into TK j.2C, and especially when her graviton (Kokonoe's Drive) is place behind her by inputting 4D, you can continue the pressure.
Barrier block is thing so it's better to shorting it something so you don't get push back to lose pressure or getting counter hit.
5A > 2A > 5A > 2A > 5A > 2A
Kokonoe's main focus before she can run her setplay options on her opponent is to force them into the corner either by using her Gravitons to fling them towards it, or to open them via pressure/fireball/lightning and carry them towards the corner. Your Gravitons will constantly pull the opponent towards them which slow them down and lower their overall jump height, meaning that you'll need to manipulate their movement options so that they'll end up in a position that will allow you to get things rolling.
Kokonoe's primary two specials that she'll be using for her okizeme are Flame Cage (214A/B/C) and the B version of Banishing Rays (22B). This can be done off of 5C or 3C to give Kokonoe a knockdown.
- XX>5C>22B can be a good option as it forces the opponent into an immediate 50/50 on Emergency Tech. The two buttons you'll be using for this are 2B (low) and TK j.2C (high), both of these normals can lead to good damage on hit while on block it allows you to start your pressure. If you choose not to start with the 50/50, you can do Microdash 5A/2A and start your pressure there since both 5A and 2A have access to their own highs and lows:
→→ j.2C (High) ↑ 5A→→ 6B (High) ↓ →→ 2B (Low) →→ 6B (High) ↑ 2A→→ ↓ →→ 2B (Low)
- XX>5C>214A however is a bit different from Banishing Rays. Since the fireball doesn't come down immediately, you'll have to rely on staggers and your own pressure to stall until the fireball comes down. This in return, allows Kokonoe to be a bit more creative with her pressure since you can control when the fireball comes down with your Gravitons. You can use this as a way to set up another trap on top of your opponent, reset your pressure, or even make certain moves safe like j.2C or Broken Bunker. It can also be great against characters that have a projectile invuln move such as Azrael as they won't be able to absorb the fireball and will lead to a CH.
Both of these can work well with Kokonoe's Bunker oki whenever she gets Bunker Loops, as the Bunker Bomb can act as a second trap that can allow Kokonoe to set up something whenever it goes off. The bomb will always go off after 3 seconds once it's planted, by basing your pressure around the bomb, you can get pretty creative with your strings.
- XX>j.C>j.3D>j.B(1)>j.C>j.214A, or j.3D>j.214A for short, is a variant on Kokonoe's fireball oki. Kokonoe will instead rely on a j.C knockdown in the corner while using both a Graviton and fireball as her oki. The fireball does not hit meaty, but in return it prevents the opponent from fuzzy jumping out and can lead to a myriad of mixups.
The options you get on Emergency Tech are:
-High (6B, TK j.2C) -Low (2B) -Grab -22C Cross-up -IAD j.B/j.2C Cross-up
- 1. j.2C can be converted off of by doing 236D and can lead back into another j.3D>j.214A setup. Even if j.2C is blocked, you can still continue your pressure with 5A.
- 2. Both 6B and 2B can be used as a way to get Bunker loops as long as the Graviton is still active. 2B on block will allow you to reset back into 5A, while with 6B, you can choose to do 236D as a ghetto rapid cancel, or if you have the 50 meter, you can rapid cancel the first hit of 6B into 2B which can make your pressure safer.
- 3. Grab can be tricky to convert off of as the fireball and the varying hurtboxes of the BB cast can make 236D whiff. But on the flip side, it can be a great way to end out a round.
- 4. Planar Haze (22C) is another amazing tool to use with this oki set-up as the 3D Graviton pulls them out just enough for you to steal the corner. This can be great since 22C will immediately reverse your opponents inputs, and can cause a Counter Hit if they were trying to use their reversal. Characters with DPs that hit both sides such as Jin's, Izayoi's, and Kagura's DPs can tag you out of it, this can be solved by slightly delaying your 22C on their wake-up.
- 5. IAD or safe jump forward j.B can be a more trickier to do depending on the character, but you can use Solid Wheel or Activate as a way to convert off of it. Doing a safe jump over the opponent when combined with j.2C's hitbox can allow Kokonoe to perform a somewhat ambiguous cross-up that will still allow her to convert off of it or allow her to use Solid Wheel to get back down safely.
On late tech, you get to put down Banishing Rays (22B) to add in another layer or do a second teleport to cross them up again. Be wary that for the latter, the opponent can roll out of it and leave you in the corner. -(Side Note: You can do j.3D>j.214A>22B against Platinum regardless if she does her counter as you'll recover before the doll hits you).
Now what about at midscreen? Well at midscreen, Kokonoe's oki isn't as strong due to the ability to roll backwards, so you can't really do 5C>22B as a means to do a mixup on them. However, you can still put out a fireball or a Graviton off of a 5C or 3C knockdown which can give Kokonoe the chance to move in.
At Midscreen, you also have the option to do a restand with Bunker. By ending your combo with 236[A] on a standing opponent, it'll force them into a crumpled state which will cause them to tech. This gives you a couple of options:
- By tagging them with 5A, the game will auto-block the attack to prevent them from getting hit. This can allow you to start your pressure with the Bunker bomb.
- Go for a grab. Which can give you a 3-Rep Bunker Loops combo and will bring them to the corner, giving you another round of Bunker oki.
Opponents can choose not to tech which will cause the combo/throw to turn blue/purple. Characters with reversals will most likely try to DP you, but you can also bait it by jump cancelling 5A or doing 22C (which is a bit more risky).
Tips and Tricks
- You can use Deactivate (214D) during Activate (236D) to shorten the recharge time between Gravitons. This can be useful if you're low since it'll mean you'll get a Graviton back sooner.
- Never over extend yourself on your traps. Putting down Banishing Rays or a Graviton by itself can be fine since it forces the opponent to wait back a bit, but putting down Flame Cage, Banishing Rays, and a Graviton can give the opponent the opportunity to get in on you mid-set.
- Always pay attention to your Graviton stock. Depending on how many Gravitons you have left, you may have to use routes that deal less damage and give worse oki in order to replenish your stock. If you have Overdrive however, you can activate it to gain back most of your stocks while making it harder for them to approach.
- Try delay teching if you see a 236A > 22C crossup setup
- If Kokonoe has a graviton and Banishing Ray set in the corner, delay tech! They'll often use 22C to cross up
- Wheel can still be antiaired if Kokonoe pulls herself towards a Graviton
- Watch Kokone's Gravitons. You can usually get an idea of potential mixups based on her traps on Graviton Positions
- Each character has a specific punish for Super Fireball. Some punishes use throws. Lab it!
- Kokonoe's 3C is a great round start button, but it has limited cancel options. Try crouch blocking at round start and escaping afterwards.
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