So, the Beta for Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm went live a few hours ago. At this point all the art, gameplay core, new sounds etc. are done. All that's left is balance testing and netcode. So let's talk about this game again, and what's changed!
Or rather, let's start by talking about parrying in this game. Parrying is performed by pressing either High Parry or Low Parry buttons. There's no animation for hitting the button, but if you don't catch anything there's a period where you'll take counterhit damage. If you whiff a parry in the air, then when you get hit you'll flash purple and can be juggled for way longer than normal. This is a pretty nifty penalty for stuffing up something that has no startup, no visual indicator besides a little light flashing at the top of the HUD and stops just about everything in its tracks when used right.
There's something else you should know about YTG's parries though. Since they're a button with no startup, if you slide from a Parry button to one of your normals, you'll basically tack a parry before the start of your normal. Thus, in high level play you'll see people sliding from parry to buttons every time they stick out a normal in footsie play. The japanese players call it "BL Shift". If you're from a Street Fighter 4 background, I think a name like Plink Parrying will convey the point of this. You're essentially tacking on a free parry attempt before everything you do in neutral, and if done right there's no downside. If the parry whiffed, the button's already out!
Third Strike players are certainly no strangers to option selects like this. After all, that game has this stuff going on all the time. It does mean that parrying is very, very strong. It also means that you need to design your cast's tools around such a system. In Third Strike, the player base found that the key was through kara-throws. That is, using a trick to give throws greater range by pinching the forward momentum from a normal before doing the throw. This meant that for the top characters like Chun-Li and Ken, the principle mindgame is "will they kara-throw, or will they just stick out that cr.MK?" Yatagarasu was designed with this sort of knowledge in mind, so the cast are built around having ways to blow up parrying even when it's OS'd.
Here's the old cast's examples of how they got around parrying:
Kou: Honestly, Kou was probably the worst character in the game precisely because he doesn't have many options to stop parrying beyond overheads that require him to be up close.
Crow: Slow moving fireball that he can walk behind to bait out a parry then just throw the opponent/hit them with the opposite sort of move to what they parried.
Chadha: Every type of command throw. Close, running, leaping, antiair, air-to-air. His EX air command grab even has armour so he can blow up Plink Parries! Add to that the threat of just dropkicking someone who's hitting button in footsies.
Jet: Being able to dart in and out with Dempsey rolls means he can whiff punish Plink Parrying once the actual normal comes out. High speed means lots of chances to throw. In other words, everything Dudley does well but without the rose giving him crazy momentum after knockdowns.
Jyuzumaru: EX rekkas and 214P~HK let him whiff punish the Plink Parries. Once he's in, he never has to actually commit to his rekkas thanks to them cancelling into 214P. In Attack of Cataclysm he even has a frickin command grab!
Hina: Being a Q or Boxer-style charge character means she can play a very reactive game if someone's Plink Parrying. Once she forces that respect, it's time to be a jerk with the low and high attacks. Can't parry if they come at you the wrong way!
Shimo: j.LK into her j.214 series is incredibly ambiguous stuff for both timing and which side she's actually going to hit you on. Combine that with a command run that she can stop at any time and ambiguous cross unders after combos and you're just going to die if you try to stick out buttons. You're probably going to die if you try blocking too, honestly. Shimo is a monster.
Hanzo: Essentially the Chun-li game combined with a divekick to mess up your timing on when you want to try Plink Parrying with antiair moves. Add to that a command grab and a teleport and ambiguous side switching after a combo and you get much the same misery Shimo causes.
In other words, Yatagarasu is a grimy ass game for scumbags. Let's keep that in mind as we look at the new characters!
Azure: Last time, his only option on a grounded opponent was cr.LK, st.LP st.HP. I wanted him to have something more than that piddly target combo damage, so they did two things. First, 214LP now hits grounded opponents. You can't combo into it, so it's clearly for when you parry something up close. It means that that situation leads to the combos into super/meaty super then guard crush/some sort of reset then cross under though, which is great. The other change is that 214KK now hits twice and groundbounces. This means that if he's got meter, the super pain train comes to town. At max footsie range. This makes him far, far more threatening and finally gives him a semi-metered option for causing misery.
They took away the horizontal air fireball and replaced it with a slightly different angled one. This might seem like a nerf, but what it means is that when you TK the air fireballs, you have one that hits in front and one that hits behind the opponent. In other words, he has some scary ambiguous crossups/parry bait off knockdowns now. This is the sort of janky gimmick that makes character in this game good, so I'm all for it.
Everything else is roughly the same. Target combo's still there. He can still cancel ground fireballs into EX teleport. He got exactly what I wanted for him to be a real threat.
Kotaro: Nakoruru meets Ibuki. She has a rush attack that puts her in the air afterwards, a spinning air-to-ground, kunai tossing and a command grab. Her gameplan at this point basically seems to be "do a rushpunch then either toss a kunai to be safe, catch them off guard with the spin attack or do nothing and let them whiff that DP into a punish. If any of this hits, do the air super or the other air super."
What's nifty is that the command grab is a leaping move (think Alex's or Lilith's from Vanguard Princess, or Hwa Jai's grab super in KOF13) whose range is roughly the same as the rushpunch. Get them in the habit of just blocking the rushpunch then grab them for a full combo!
At this point her tools seem fun, but are definitely built much more about conditioning an opponent than just running some monstrously good mixup that the opponent's not going to be able to block half the time. In other words, she's looking like a solid upper mid tier character, but isn't Shimo so she won't be top.
Aja: Big-ass sword normals. All her specials are giant slashes that cancel into each other. This means she has some mighty fun stagger options, which are handy to have in a parry game. Think of her like Foxy, but not stupid. She also has a Dictator Slide that reaches a huge distance.
I have no idea what her install super does.
The other week there was a location test at TRF Nakano. She could dash cancel most of her moveset then. It led to an easy infinite. Thus, no more dash cancels.
She looks solid and is probably who I'll play but again, her offense isn't as bonkers as someone like Shimo or Hanzo, so I don't think she'll wind up in top 5.
So finally, the new commentators. There's Kubo, Kaqn, Kamichang, UltraDavid, James Chen and Maximillian. They're all roughly what I expected. The first four remarking on stuff that happens in the game, UltraDavid saying stupid things that make me want to hurt him and Maximillian quoting Capcom games. Naturally, he'll be the pick for stream monsters the world over!
All in all, the game's fun and looking to have more diversity than just the Shimo and Hanzo show it can way too often wind up as in 4.3.