The King of Fighters XV/Kula Diamond/Strategy
As a balance-type that excels in neutral and plays ‘KOF’ very well, Kula has the offensive, defensive/anti-zoning tools to deal with a wide variety of situations. So, being able to actively move in and out of your normal and diamond breath range to bait a response in your favor for a combo, is key. Given that she does not have a standing overhead or a command throw, the strategies discussed below will help you achieve victory.
Kula plays a strong neutral between her multiple pokes, her 236A/C, 214A/C, and 22A/C. Her mixup on offense is very weak, so keeping your opponents on their toes by throwing out normals like 5A/5B, 2B, and 2D to keep them out is important. On block you can cancel into things like 236A to generate some frame advantage on block and also as a frametrap, or cancel into 623C for a combo on hit. Outside of the range of her 5A/5B, 236A and 236C make for some strong zoning tools. They're both very active and give better reward than the average fireball, but obviously have much shorter range. 2D is also more useful at this range, and cancelling into 236A is similarly useful, but be wary of getting hopped as she cannot whiff cancel her sweep. Rolling and backdashing can be a great way to get back to Kula's comfortable range, and make the opponent commit to riskier ways of approaching such as a run or superjump.
Notable moves to use in neutral:
- 5A/5B: Very similar moves, both far reaching jabs that don't whiff on crouching opponents. This allows Kula to break one of the KOF triangle rules (sweeps beat jabs) while also still being effective anti-hop tools. Playing around or just outside the max ranges of these moves is good, as it easily allows you to keep their movement in check while still threatening options like your own 2D or reactive anti-airs.
- 2C/5D: Your anti-air normals for when you can't get a 623A/C out in time. 2C covers slightly higher above her, while 5D is gonna be more reliable around the opponents superjump range. Neither are cancellable at all, so Kula can't do things like cancel into a projectile that hits meaty as they land, and are low damage, but keeping an opponent grounded is important for starting your own offense.
- 5C/2D/3D: Committal but rewarding moves. 5C steps her forward very far after some startup, and can cancel into 214A or 623C for a combo. 2D gives her a knockdown and cancelling into 236A can make you safe on block if it gets blocked. Great if they hit or get blocked, but be careful not to whiff. Her slide is very committal, but being able to low profile other moves and quickly travel forward is undoubtedly useful, and also throws out a far-reaching low to discourage the opponent walking backwards.
- h.B/D: Hopping in place and throwing out a h.B or h.D is a great way to build a wall in front of you, and discourage random hops from the opponent.
- 236A/C: The closest thing to a fireball she has. In practice these are more like incredibly active disjointed pokes, great to take up space right in front of her and zone opponents out, as getting around them can be difficult. A well timed superjump will still get you hit, so be wary of how your opponent is moving.
- 623A/C: Being able to uppercut jumps on reaction is very strong, since Kula's fireball game can be weird to deal with by just rolling. Her uppercuts are also quite strong. The A version is slower but fully invincible, however the faster C version should usually be your preferred anti-air.
- 214A/C: Not having a standard fireball means Kula can be very weak in fireball wars. Luckily her reflector is very good, and the projectile thrown out from it is very fast and can catch opponents by surprise.
Kula has weaker than average offense but is still fully capable of putting on a strong pressure game. In exchange for lacking a standing overhead option and any great crossup tool (her j.A and j.C both have very small crossup hitboxes), Kula is able to generate plus frames on block and has various ways to safely frametrap that will disengage her back to neutral if the opponent blocks and allow her a knockdown if they hit. 2B is a fast, chainable, and cancellable low kick that's great for pressure and is only -1 on block. 2A reaches far and is 0 on block, and 236A is very safe and frametraps off her light normals. 236C is much slower on startup but is very rewarding on hit and block. 214B/D/BD is a riskier pressure tool, the stand followup leaves her safe but leaves a decent gap. The EX version is the most useful, as the kicks alone leave her safe and the stand followup leaves her plus.
Notable moves to use in pressure:
- 2B: Go-to move in close range. Hits on frame 4 (tied with cl.A and cl.C for her fastest normals) and also hits low. Her combos from it are generally weaker, but with meter can still lead to good damage and knockdowns.
- cl.C: Nice to frametrap and hitconfirm with, as the two hits gives her a lot of time to recognize a hit and cancel into 214A, or recognize a block and cancel into 236A. On it's own it is negative but has high pushback, still be wary of this.
- 4/6C: Kula can rely on strike/throw a lot, so be sure to toss these in. 2A is nice for tick throws, as the 0 on block means you can still be safe even if they reversal.
- 2D: Reaches far enough that you can still use it after a 236A in some blockstrings (i.e. 2B > 2B > 236A, 2D > 236C). 2D is also very fast, and can make for a good way to catch someone trying to jump or run out of the way.
- 3D: Very risky, but mixing between this and h.C is good to keep your opponent guessing high/low outside of 2B range. Just be sure to mix them up, and remember Kula is a zoner: resetting to neutral and playing it safe is usually gonna work out better/
- h.C: A well timed hop C is your best way to re-establish close range and is her best overhead option. Risky against an opponent who knows you'll do it, since at best you eat a jab and at worst you eat a reversal into super, but is well worth the risk when mixed in with her other tools.
- 236A/C: Frametrap tools and safe on block enders. The A version is faster and will trap better, and on counterhit (if close enough) you can juggle into a 623C. 236C is much slower, but is very rewarding on both hit and block: +5 on block allows you to run another pressure sequence like a runup 2B or h.C, and on hit you can combo off of it.
Kula has plenty of defensive tools, but they tend to be a bit riskier, so your first option should almost always be block. Don't be afraid to block out pressure for a while, as the more you block the more you get pushed back. This isn't as true in the corner, but regardless of corner or not, your opponent is gonna have to commit to something to get back in like a run or shorthop or far reaching normal. Wait for the window where they have to commit to that.
Notable moves on defense:
- 5A/5B: Great jabs on defense as well as neutral. Can be used to beat hop pressure at small risk to yourself if they whiff, and also can interrupt some sweep pressure as long as they were negative on block beforehand (lab where you can jab sweeps!). Be wary of the close versions, as despite being faster they have worse hitboxes for beating hops.
- 2B: Good for mashing, as it's one of her fastest normals and can chain into other lights to build space or even combo if you confirm the hit. Be wary of hops if you plan to mash, as a well timed hop will still beat these.
- 4/6C: KOF XV has one frame throws, which means a reversal throw or even just a well timed throw mid-blockstring will beat a shocking amount of things. If you see them playing very close next to you, try for a throw to get them away and build some space.
- 623A/C: Very committal but very reliable tools. 623A is your fully invincible reversal, good for beating a lot of things at once and obviously also a nice wakeup option. Be wary of the slower than average startup, it can be safejumped very reliably. The C version is great to beat hops and runs as it's faster, but will lose to meaties and sweeps. The EX version combines these as a faster DP with full body invincibility.
- GCCD: Guard cancels are a great way to get an opponent off of you and get back to neutral. The cost is a little high, but Kula is more than capable of building a lot of meter, so don't be afraid to guard cancel back to neutral against characters who are more suffocating.
Running in after a knockdown and mixing between a meaty cl.C, 2B, or h.C is going to be your basic strategy. Meaty cl.C will lose to any good reversal throw/DP/super, so don't go for it everytime. 2B with some mixup on the timing of it is what you should usually go for, as it hits low and is fast enough to interrupt wakeup buttons. You can also space it a bit more to beat out wakeup throws. h.C is your preferred jump-in, and the tool to use in any safejump situation. This is also your only way to really hit overhead, so it's important to do this every now and again to keep the opponent mixed up between blocking high and low.
Kula's 22A/C/AC summons a snowman that hits after a short delay. The A version is the least useful for this usually, but after a knockdown you can get this to hit meaty. This is great for forcing options out of your opponent. Your main setup for this is any BNB combo that ends in 214A. This will set up perfectly for a 22C that hits meaty and allows you to run in for mixups or a combo if they get hit by it. They can roll to avoid this, but if they roll in you can grab them, and if they roll out you get back to neutral which is where Kula likes to be. The only downside to this is that you aren't very close, so you have to use more risky movement options like a superjump to get close enough to pose scary pressure. 22AC can solve the problem of range as it summons anywhere. It can also be exchanged for 22C in the normal setup, which can be very rewarding as the second snowman can give you time to run in further, and it also allows you to do snowman oki in the corner which is otherwise impossible. In the corner, only 22AC works. You can threaten with a near instant overhead in an instant hop C and score 117 damage if they block low, while leaving you safe.
It's important to note ending your combos in 214A leaves a lot of damage on the table, possibly not worth the oki provided. Most of these set-ups will still lose to wake-up DPs as well.
Diamond Breath C
Backdashing into Meaty 236C after a hard knockdown in the corner, usually after 214A leads to either a CD which catches jumps or 4C which easily catches rolls. On a grounded CD hit against a jump attempt, this can be followed up by another Ray Spin loop into the same situation. On a hit against someone who is airborne, you can utilize snowman oki with 22A. Certain characters have horizontal-moving invincible reversals that can reach you, but this can be countered by microwalking back, then throwing out 236C then blocking and punishing.
Tips and Tricks
After a 214B > 6D, you can do a 2B cancelled into 236C. This will reset them into a meaty 236C, which is safe against most reversals and gives you a combo on hit or plus frames on block.
Converting from 236C
236C leaves you plus enough to combo, but these combos can vary based on range. Generally, 5C is your best option as it's fast enough to combo, gives you good damage, and has good range. At max range however, you cannot combo from it at all.
Snowman in neutral
Snowman has mostly use for okizeme, but can actually be used well in neutral, specifically the A version. Summoning this can sorta act as a deterrent if you can get to fullscreen and safely summon it. If the opponent wants to approach, they have to deal with the snowman, which can affect how they move and approach as a result. 22AC can be used even better in this sense, as it heavily discourages standing still. It can even cause some awkward situations (i.e. an opponent throws a fireball on reaction to the startup, and the snowmen fall and hit them).