The King of Fighters XIII/Systems/Movement: Rolling

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Rolls are a staple KOF mechanic dating back from The King of Fighters '96. You may even be familiar with them from Capcom vs SNK 2, or even Street Fighter IV (Abel). Let's go over how rolls work and what they add to the game.

First, to initiate a roll simply press both the A and B buttons simultaneously. If done from a neutral position or when holding forward, a player's character will roll forward. If done while holding backwards, a player's character rolls backward. If a roll is done from a character's running animation the roll will travel a longer distance, but while running only a forward roll can be performed. Every character shares a standardized roll length and recovery, although some roll animations don't visually involve the character rolling on the ground.

During this time, the player's character will immediately become invulnerable against all attacks; no attack hitbox will affect you at first. However, the rolling player is completely vulnerable to throws throughout the entire duration of the roll; startup to end. Attack invulnerability continues until near the end of the roll, at which time it is lost. The player's character is still completing a roll and cannot act until the roll is completely recovered. During this ending period the rolling player can essentially be hit by any move in the game, from throw to full combo.

The main key to rolling is that a player can avoid attacks at the risk of being punished by either being meatied into a combo, or simply by being thrown. Certain situations are safer to roll through than others; if an enemy Joe uses a 'C' Hurricane Upper(hcf+p) projectile at a neutral situation, the opposing player can roll through the projectile and recover before the enemy Joe can recover and punish the roll. The rolling player in this situation closed the distance between the two players while taking no chip damage while also not giving frame advantage to the Joe player. If the Joe player uses a 'A' version Hurricane Upper - which recovers faster - and the opposing player attempts to roll through it, then the Joe player has enough time to confirm the roll, run forward and meaty the roll with a full combo. Another more cut and dry example situation: an Ash player has knocked down Ryo. As Ryo is waking up on his last pixel of health, Ash uses his Thermidor (qcf,qcf+p) DM as a meaty to chip out Ryo. In some games this would be a checkmate scenario, but Ryo could perform a reversal roll to escape the situation and possibly punish Ash.

Knowing when to roll is more about knowing when to risk a roll. Not all situations are as cut and dry as above. Rolls can be used defensively to say, roll backward out of an incoming hop mixup or even roll out of the corner if a player is feeling very risky. Likewise they can set an offense from ambiguous roll setups to pulling an abare 'roll and pray' method. The idea is to take smart risks. A successful roll can score a player a way out of pressure, a better approach, or even a full combo. A poor roll likewise can lead to the opposing player landing a full combo.

The most important fundamental skill to work at first is punishing rolls from opposing players. There is a certain sense of sniffing when a roll is coming and the easiest way of understanding this feel is by playing, finding setups, and reacting out of experience. Let's go over some basic ways to punish rolls:

  • Normal Throw - Fundamentally the most simple answer to a roll due to throws being as simple as the press of one button as well as rolls being throw-vulnerable all the time. While the least damaging option (10% of a lifebar), many normal throws net a hard knockdown and damage while discouraging future roll attempts. Throws are also easy to incorporate into offensive option selects. Performing an empty hop into a normal throw during high/low pressure is always a viable option and doing so automatically catches sleeping opponents, catches roll attempts, and beats Blowback Counter attempts.
  • Command Grab - Command grabs follow the same rules as normal throws, only they net more damage, can set up better positioning, and can still be easier to land than a meaty. Likewise they can be used from empty hops to defeat roll and blocking attempts, as well as done from a run. The standard KOF grappler oki is scary enough as a 50/50 between command grab and meaty combo to command grab. A roll in this situation would either result in getting grabbed or rolling away out of immediate pressure at best: a pretty poor risk to take for the potential roller.
  • Meaty - When punishing a roll, this is your strongest option. The idea is to be positioned in the area that a roll will be recovering, and then use a meaty move (usually a Crouching Light Kick hitconfirm, or a Close Heavy Punch/Kick hitconfirm) on the recovery. If timed correctly it's guaranteed damage, ranging from a poke a minimum to a full Hyper Drive combo at best. When getting a feel for where to meaty a roll, it helps to have a setup that should force a roll in one direction. Cornering an opponent while throwing projectiles is an easy way to sniff out a roll as the only way to roll is forward. Less predictable rolls such as rolling out of a meaty hop as an opponent is waking up, comes down to reaction, experience, and awareness of the possibility.

That about covers the basics of rolling, be sure to check out the section on Guard Cancel Rolling.