The King of Fighters '98/Mai Shiranui (Real Bout 2-Era)
Much like the "default" Mai, Real Bout 2-Era Mai has about the same normals and tools for zoning and spacing like default Mai. Mai, from far, sets the means of control by using her Kachou Sen (qcf + P, and preferably A version) to control the ground space as she approaches. If the opponent is coaxed into rolling, hopping, or jumping after the projectile is thrown, the opponent is susceptible to many of Mai's long reaching, horizontal anti-air attacks as well as to her plethora of air-to-air moves. Once Mai is able to close in towards the opponent, she uses her far Standing A and fart Standing B to control the opponent's options from a moderate distance, limiting the ability for the opponent to escape and/or counter poke. Mai then continues pressure with her Ryuu Enbu (qcb + P), which is a very meaty and relatively safe move, as well as chipping the opponent's health. When properly used, Ryuu Enbu should be able to stuff hop-ins and hop-outs as well as punish mistimed rolls and force the opponent to block. Although a more "mid-tier" character, Mai is able to handle the top and high tier characters with less difficulty than most of the characters that are labeled to be better than her. Ching Lung is a Chinese King of Fighters player that exhibits great usage of Mai (primarily default Mai) under these circumstances.
What sets apart Real Bout 2-Era Mai from default Mai is that Ryuu Enbu (qcb + P) causes knockdown on hit; Mai's' lack of Mizudori no Mai (qcf qcf + P), Hou'ou no Mai (qcb qcb + P), Hakuro no Mai (dp + P), and Hishou Ryuu'en Jin (dp + K); the addition of Hana Arashi (qcf qcf + P) and Sachiyo Dori (qcb + K). The essential differences between the two are that Real Bout 2-Era Mai can knockdown opponents upon hitting with Ryuu Enbu and that default Mai could anti-air, with her Hishou Ryuu'en Jin (dp + K), certain moves that are more difficult for her to punish, such as Chris' Jumping CD or Goro's Jumping D from a hop, from angles she doesn't normally cover as Real Bout 2-Era Mai. However, both characters are still quite viable and worth noting.
- b or f + C - Breakable, forward knockdown, face forward, rollable.
- b or f + D - Breakable, reverse knockdown, back turned, un-rollable.
- b or f or d + C/D in air - Unbreakable air throw, front knockdown, face forward, un-rollable
D throw is preferred, since the startup doesn't have the blue grab 'effect', making it a bit harder to break on reaction.
- Standing A - One of Mai's best normals. Functions in the similar manner such as Kim's far Standing A, Standing A in general in Garou: Mark of the Wolves, and Balrog's (Boxer) Standing Jab in the Street Fighter IV series. It pressures standing and crouching characters from afar and is fast enough to lock down the opponent without much chances for the opponent to counter hit or escape via jumping. Also a good move to follow up meaty attacks. In some certain, few circumstances, this move could be swept or slid under. Upon trapping an opponent with a plethora of far Standing A and far Standing B, Mai may earn the opportunity to lock the opponent from the air with early jump-in attacks such as Jumping D and Jumping CD, or hop in anticipation against these sweeps and slides that would normal punish far Standing A.
- Standing B - A great compliment to Mai's far Standing A. It covers that range right above Mai's far Standing A that far Standing A can't reach and works quite well as an anti-air attacks. It catches most hops and works well against jumps and super jumps that were spaced to land about mid to mid-close range from Mai's position. If an opponent full neutral jumps in mid-close range, the tip of far Standing B will anti-air that kind of jump as well. Against most crouching characters, this move will whiff except against large characters such as Chang and Goro. Blockstringing far Standing A and far Standing B are great tools for controlling the frontal space and especially pressure cornered opponents. The whiff on against crouching opponents may be used to give the opponent a false sense of freedom to try to move or attack and Mai may recover in time to punish an escape or counter poke with a Ryuu Enbu (qcb + P), far Standing A or Crouching A, or a run up Crouching C that is spaced at the tip and canceled into Ryuu Enbu, or a whiffed Crouching C canceled into Ryuu Enbu.
- Standing C - Mai waves her fan upwards from in front of her face. It's a somewhat slow move that works as an anti-air similar to far Standing B but has a slight bigger vertical hitbox in exchange for horizontal distance. Could be used in the occasional frame trap to preemptively stop an opponent from hopping out but isn't reliable as an anti-air on reaction.
- Standing D - Mai takes a step forward and it acts like a kick. Meant to be used as a pressure move that moves Mai forward but lacks the horizontal coverage it needs to be decent. Also is held back by its lack of vertical range and could be easily hopped over and punished. Not used much if at all.
- Standing CD - Typical Standing CD attack. Although this move seems as if it would have sobat kick properties, as in going over low attacks, it loses to most sweeps. This move inches Mai forward a bit, even when Mai cancels into a special move.
- Close A - Covers about the same area as far Standing A but is closer and has about the same frame advantage as far Standing A on block. The key properties of this move is the fact that it combos from Crouching B and that it is cancelable and combos into Ryuu Enbu (qcb + C), but not A Version, as well as supers.
- Close B - Hits mid. In comparison to Close A, this move is redundant and is actually harder to confirm cancels from it than Close A. Not much point to this move.
- Close C - A standard, quick Close C attack. Doesn't have as much vertical range compared to Kyo's or Iori's Close C but still at least has some to an extent. What this move has over Close D is that it comes out faster and it has less push back on hit and on block. One of the kinds of Close C attacks that actually have a big enough cancel window to combo directly into a super afterwards, in contrast to Kyo's Close C for example.e
- Close D - A Close D attack in the same vein as Iori's Close D. It is slower than Close C but has a better vertical coverage to hit more jumps in general. Unlike Iori's Close D though, Mai's Close D is cancelable. Still a good move but the vertical hitbox is pretty deceptive and seems a tad bit shorter than the actual sprite of the leg.
- Crouching A - Another tool to use in conjunction with far Standing A and far Standing B. Used in blockstrings in a similar manner as far Standing A but has less range. The difference is that it's harder to actually sweep this move once it is already stuck out where as there could be some lee way with far Standing A to sneak in a sweep if positioned correctly.
- Crouching B - A quick, low hitting attack that combos into itself as well as Close and Far Standing A. Hard to do running Crouching B pressure, this move is used more from jump-in attacks and empty hops to break opponent's defense.
- Crouching C - In terms of application, this move is similar to Close C in regards to pressure and combos. This move trades in the vertical coverage that Close C has with more horizontal space. Due to its wide horizontal distance and its cancel-ability, it could be used to mix up blockstrings by frametrapping an opponent and respond to a counter-poke by having a hard-hitting, far-reaching normal stuffing it and canceling into a safe, pressure move such as Ryuu Enbu (qcb + P) or into a super if the player is sure that Crouching C will hit. A common set up is: Blocked > cr.B, cr.A, far A, small run, cr.C > Ryuu Enbu.
- Crouching D - Compared to most sweeps, this move is moderately short and won't reach well enough to punish most far Standing A attacks nor whiffed Crouching C attacks. It generally is fast and safe in contrast to Mai's Kou'en no Mai (df + B) slide attack, which has a longer distance and is about as fast as the sweep, but is very unsafe on bock and punishable by most, if not all of the cast.
- Jumping A - A small, quick air-to-air attack. Doesn't have much purpose amongst the rest of Mai's air-to-air attacks. Can cancel into Musasabi no Mai (qcb + P in the air).
- Jumping B - Great ambiguous cross-up, jump-in attack. Doesn't have much range in general and it's akin to Kyo's Jumping B in application but can't be used too often since Mai's hop has too much of a vertical arch to apply the same type of pressure. As a cross-up, it's mainly done on okizeme from a full jump. Still, it is a good attack nonetheless.
- Jumping C - An air-to-air attack that bats opponents away from Mai horizontally and from below. The hitbox extends just slightly beyond the sprite of Mai's fan and is pretty deceptive in this manner, but this move doesn't have the same downward distance as Jumping D and Jumping CD have as jump-in attacks. It is cancelable into Musasabi no Mai (Kuuchuu) (qcb + P in the air).
- Jumping D - Mai's main jumping normal attack. It's a means of air-to-air as well as forcing the opponent to block high by doing the move early, near the apex of the jump, as it will be harder to anti-air due to the angle of Mai's attack. Due to the arc of Mai's hop, the arc gives the opponent a bit of space to be able to stick out a preemptive anti-air against a rehop but this is not the case if Mai uses a deep Jumping CD attack beforehand. Supplementing pressure, this move is not meant to be the key component of it and is not to be used in this manner generously. Against a really honest opponent that won't option select Close C/D Mai's hop in, an empty hop may be set up for throw or low hitting mix up although quite difficult to earn. Could be used in conjunction with Jumping C to option select air-to-air attacks with Mai's air throw, Yume Zakura (When close, b~d~f + C / D in the air). This move as well could be canceled into Musasabi no Mai (Kuuchuu) (qcb + P in the air).
- Neutral Full Jumping A - Similar to Mai's Neutral Full Jumping B but with less horizontal range for ever so slight vertical range. Not worth using at all.
- Neutral Full Jumping B - Mai sticks out a large fan horizontally that covers considerable range. The move of choice to use from a neutral jump as Mai lands upon a grounded opponent or to keep out jumping opponents at the height about near Mai's waist and below.
- Neutral Full Jumping C - Mai angles her fan downward but above her head. In similar application to Neutral Full Jumping B it is an air-to-air except for opponents above or horizontally adjacent to Mai, but it is mainly if not strictly used for air-to-air since it won't reach most grounded, crouching opponents.
- Neutral Full Jumping D - This is the air-to-air move that is the in between of Neutral Full Jumping B and C in terms of vertical height but has the furthest horizontal range. This wouldn't be use much as an air-to-ground attack compared to Neutral Full Jumping B though as its hitbox slightly curves upwards and will not hit as soon as Neutral Full Jumping B would, thus giving the opponent more time to anti-air. Overall, a good keep out move similar to Shermie's Neutral Full Jumping D that is well used paired with air blocking. Cancels into Musasabi no Mai (qcb + P in the air).
- Jumping CD - A Fast Jumping CD attack that has a similar hitbox as Jumping D. As a Jumping CD attack, it induces considerable blockstun and is used to lock down the opponent on the ground as well as use the large active frame window to beat out a number of moves. To note visually, Mai's active frames during this move last as long as both of her legs are extended. Once Mai's bottom leg is no longer parallel to the top leg, the move is no longer active and will whiff during the remaining time the move is stuck out. Also cancels into Musasabi no Mai (qcb + P in the air).
- Dairin Fuusha Otoshi - (d + A in the air) - A hammer-fist attack similar to Kyo's Ge Shiki: Naraku Otoshi (d + C in the air). Can't be used often in the same application though due to Mai's high arched hops but functions well as a high priority air-to-air attack. Against large characters such as Goro, it could be used as a cross-up although the spacing is really specific. Like Ge Shiki: Naraku Otoshi and other aerial command normals, Mai's backdash could be canceled into her Dairin Fuusha to extend the backdash's length as well as reduce the recovery frames considerably. An important aspect to Mai's ground movement and control. Could cancel into Musasabi no Mai (qcb + P in the air) and combo as well. Much stricter spacing upon crouching characters, Dairin Fuusha Otoshi must be done early but as close to the opponent as possible.
- Benitsuru no Mai - (f + B) - Mai leaps forward with one leg lunging forward as an overhead attack. Moderately slow, this move is still a good enough overhead to use as a mix up. If this move hits a crouching opponent in the corner, it may be followed up by a Crouching C that is further canceled into a special or super move. Otherwise, from mid-screen and in the corner this move could be followed up by a Ryuu Enbu (qcb + P, preferably C version). This move may be canceled into from normal attacks. Once canceled into, this move may cancel into Musasabi no Mai (Kuuchuu) and combo upon hitting. As a blockstring, this may not necessarily be safe and Mai would rather be better off accomplishing other goals during a round.
- Kou'en no Mai - (df + B) Mai's sliding attack that has moderate speed. Not necessarily as fast or far reaching as King's, Chris', or Chizuru's slides and is completely unsafe on block. It's a two-hit move and the first hit counts as a low attack while the other is meant to knockdown the opponent. As a sliding attack, this move should exclusively be used as if the player knows that this move will hit (such as conditioning a an opponent to block high excessively, an opponent throws an airborne projectile, etc.). This move may be canceled into and combo from a Crouching and Close C attack but it cannot be canceled out of on either hit regardless. Even when canceled into, this move retains its low properties but is still vastly unsafe on block. Use sparingly yet intelligently.
Other Normal Moves
- Jump: Mai is able to triangle jump.
- Kachou Sen - (qcf + P) - A projectile attack in which Mai throws a fan. In a fashion, it could be compared to Guile's Sonic Boom (charge b, f + P) from the Street Fighter series in terms of using the slow version to not necessarily hit the opponent, but to force the opponent to either block while Mai closes in to her optimal range or coax the opponent to circumvent blocking by jumping or rolling, then giving Mai the opportunity to punish the opponent. The fast version is only really used from far screen to follow up a blocked slow version of the fan to make the opponent try to jump over the second fan only to mistime the jump and be hit by the second one. Unlike later games, this move's recovery is actually larger than its successors and the only time Mai could start running afterwards is when the fan is just about to hit the opponent. Still a good means of pressure and approach, it's just that it is a bit stricter/difficult than in later games. Not to really be used mid or close distance as Ryuu Enbu serves a similar purpose within that range but with better hitboxes, recovery, and damage. Every time this move hits the opponent, Mai bends time and space using some of the powers she gained from staring into the Time Vortex and while temporarily subsiding in the TARDIS to return her thrown fan back to her bosom. Thus Mai could indefinitely throw fans without having to manually retrieve them.
- Ryuu Enbu - (qcb + P) - Undoubtedly Mai's most important special attack. This attack's active frame window, hitbox, speed, recovery, and the amount of blockstun generated by this move makes it one of the best, safe pressure moves in the game. It is almost on the same level of zoning and spacing as Chizuru's 212 Katsu: Shinsoku no Norito (hcb + P/K) as it's quick, mostly safe, and hits hops, most grounded attacks, badly spaced jumps and super jumps, the recovery of rolls easily. In Chizuru's case, the folly of her move is that it could be counter poked on the start up preemptively, forcing Chizuru to mix up and try to gain mid-close range to get her own momentum to pressure rather than turtle. As for Mai, the weakness of this move is perfectly spaced rolls and full jumps. Full jumps will have the right landing speed and angle to land on top of a Ryuu Enbu to punish it unlike certain sloppy super jumps that come in at too much of a horizontal angle. To prepare for this, Mai will have to mix-up between just doing Ryuu Enbu and pressure with safer moves but in return don't do chip damage, such as far Standing A. If the opponent jumps and Mai didn't commit to a move such as Ryuu Enbu, she could easily anti-air with a Close D or do a hop/jump back air-to-air attack. So the opponent has to commit to full jumping and will have to know when Mai will Ryuu Enbu and Mai will have pay attention to her patterns and well know when an escape or counter is coming to appropriately deal damage with her trap. As Real Bout 2-Era Mai, this move may be better than default Mai's Ryuu Enbu in the sense that this version knocks down on hit. From the other perspective, default Mai's Ryuu Enbu might be preferable since once the opponent is hit by it, they're standing up and still in a disadvantaged state and Mai will force the opponent to make a decision more quickly afterwards. Also default Mai could meaty a Ryuu Enbu on okizeme, and if it hits Mai could link attacks afterwards. So for one's intents and purposes in conjunction with one's own play style, this would be one of two or three factors of why to choose Real Bout 2-Era Mai or default Mai.
- Sachiyo Dori - (qcb + K) - Mai slashes with her fan in a manner similar to Hibiki's Standing B attack in The Last Blade 2. The move isn't at fast though and is susceptible air blocks and punishes on whiff. D version is even slower but it reaches slightly further than B version. The main application of this move is a mix up in between Ryuu Enbu (qcb + P) pressure. This move could preemptively catch opponents trying to jump out between Ryuu Enbu attacks. Upon hit or block, this move could cancel into Ryuu Enbu and will combo if the opponent is hit while grounded. The B Version of this move could combo from a Crouching and Close C attack but once Sachiyo Dori cancels into any version of Ryuu Enbu (qcb + P), the Ryuu Enbu will whiff. If this move counter hits and airborne opponent near the ground, the follow up Ryuu Enbu may combo. If the counter hit occurs too close to Mai, the C Version of Ryuu Enbu will only have the first, weaker part of the move hit as a hit reset; and in this case, A version would be prefer during this distance. From mid-range distance, either A or C version Ryuu Enbu could catch the counter hit with the most damaging part of Ryuu Enbu. In practice, this move isn't nearly quite as useful in lieu of default Mai's Hishou Ryuu'en Jin (dp + K) in certain match ups in which Mai needs to have an invincible "Flask Kick" like move such as against Chris and his Jumping CD. Between this move, Hishou Ryuu'en Jin, and having stand-up and knockdown Ryuu Enbu are deciding factors between choosing Real Bout 2-Era Mai and default Mai.
- Hissatsu Shinobi Bachi - (hcf + K) - Mostly used by most incarnations of Mai as the special attack that does the most damage in a combo without meter that induces a knocked down state on the opponent. It could be used as a preemptive/guess anti-air or to hit something as a Kachou Sen (qcf + P) zones the screen, but the risk of it being blocked and punished into a full combo isn't worth the reward at all. B version does two hits and is more reliable in a combo. D version does one hit, that being on what would be the second hit of the B version, and travels a much further distance. Each version is incredibly unsafe on block regardless of spacing and has pretty sizable recovery.
- Musasabi no Mai (Chijou) - (Charge d ub~uf + P; hold P to attack - This move is similar to Vega's (Claw) Flying Barcelona Attack from the Street Fighter series as Mai tracks down a wall. If the punch button is not held down upon execution, Mai will touch the wall and fall down and have little or not recovery upon landing. This makes a good, occasional escape option for Mai to use when she needs to quickly get away from a close, dangerous situation. Although she could hold down the punch button to do her dive attack from the wall, this part of the move isn't necessary as its chance of actually hitting the opponent is slim and unsafe on whiff and hard to space to make it safe on block.
- Musasabi no Mai (Kuuchuu) - (qcb + P in the air) - This move is good for changing Mai's aerial trajectory and tricking the opponent. If spaced correctly, this move will be mostly safe on block without many attacks capable of punishing it. This move is mainly used as an anti-air to hit an opponent that is trying to get the better of Mai in the air with a well placed air-to-air attack but is foiled due to the sudden change of hitbox and trajectory. This move also temporarily stalls Mai in the air so it also messes up the timing of certain anti-air attacks, leaving the opponent vulnerable. Could cancel from Jumping A, Jumping C, Jumping D, Jumping CD, Full Neutral Jumping D, Dairin Fuusha Otoshi (d + A in the air), and from a Benitsuru no Mai (f + B) that was canceled into from a normal.
- Chou Hissatsu Shinobi Bachi - (qcb hcf + K) - Mai's most damaging super attack. Doesn't have much utility purposes; it's mainly hit-confirmed from a normal attack into super. SDM version is relatively fast and could catch a moderately floaty hop on reaction. Otherwise it shouldn't be used outside of a combo.
- Hana Arashi - (qcf qcf + P) - Faster than Mai's other super and could catch the recovery or long start up of an attack. Despite its speed, this move doesn't have good invulnerability and will trade with many attacks. Both DM and SDM versions combo from Crouching C but it doesn't do as much damage as Chou Hissatsu Shinboi Bachi in their respective DM and SDM modes. It could catch opponents from awkward angles as an anti-air, but the final hit of the move doesn't connect and the damage is greatly reduced because of this let alone the lack of hard knockdown what would normally be done. A minor factor between choosing between Real Bout 2-Era Mai and default Mai. Default Mai has Mizudori no Mai (qcf qcf + P) in lieu of Hana Arashi and is a much more practical utility super as it could set up for some decent check-mate situations on an opponent. Either supers aren't used that much and don't affect Mai's main gameplan.
- cr.C / cl.C >
- (S)DM Super Killing Ninja Strike (qcb hcf + K)
- (S)DM qcf qcf + P
- qcb + B > qcb + C (Very close.)
- Killing Ninja Strike (hcf + D)
- Ryuu Enbu (qcb + C)
- cr.B, cl.A >
- (S)DM Super Killing Ninja Strike (qcb hcf + K)
- (S)DM qcf qcf + P
- B Killing Ninja Strike (hcf + B)
- C Ryuu Enbu (qcb + C)
- f + B, cr.C >
- (S)DM Super Killing Ninja Strike (qcb hcf + K)
- (S)DM qcf qcf + P
- Killing Ninja Strike (hcf + D)
- Ryuu Enbu (qcb + C)
- qcb + K > qcb + C
Note that cr.C is hit-confirmable, so never do hcf + K or qcb hcf + K on block obviously. For the cr.B combo, input cr.B, qcb + A, hcf + K for the super input.