‘Tis the season to be jolly…and also very much the season to rip the flesh off your opponents velociraptor-stylee. Say hello to Riptor, December’s Killer Instinct Season 2 character.
A returning fan favourite character from the original Killer Instinct with some creative new twists to her original design, Riptor, or to give her full title, the ‘Riptor Advanced Combat and Infiltration Unit’, is a cybernetically enhanced velociraptor. I’ll repeat that again in caps for coolness’ sake; RIPTOR IS A CYBERNETICALLY ENHANCED VELOCIRAPTOR. Fuck yes indeed.
Developed as a rival bio-military asset to Ultratech’s Terminator-like Fulgore units, Riptors are designed to be all-terrain infiltration attack units that are used to attack as frontline weapons in jungle environments – i.e. places where the more expensive and delicate Fulgore units don’t function as effectively. In other words, she’s fast, lethal and absolutely one hell of a clever girl.
Her personal stage, Hatchery 09, is a dark mountainous rocky path outside a presumably top-secret Ultratech facility. The dark purple hues of the stage create a lush yet sinister mood, complete with the flickering orange embers from the burning wreckage of a crashed aeroplane and bright yellow phosphorus trails from a salvo of missiles which rain down on the stage when an Ultra is performed.
Mick Gordon’s music on this stage has taken more of an orchestrated and cinematic turn, which is great – it’s full of bold brass and jagged string strikes, which sound like something that could be right out of Jurassic Park.
In my opinion though, this is the first musical track in the game that is just ever-so-slightly disappointing; due to my own unhealthy fascination with dinosaurs and the knowledge that Mick has a consistently impressive track record of producing some brutally heavy robo-themed metal beatdowns, I was champing at the proverbial bit for some epic new metal chugs ‘n’ dubstep wubs. After the djent-flavoured hypnotic brutality that was Kan-Ra’s theme, the more subtle orchestral treatment of Riptor’s theme feels a little anti-climactic – but nonetheless, it still sounds very cool.
So without further ado, let’s tear open Riptor’s command list and feast upon the juicy moves contained within.
As you might expect from a terrifying robo-raptor, Riptor is primarily a rushdown character – she wants to get in close to snap, claw and tear away at her opponents with her claws, talons and teeth. She’s extremely fun to play; you get to hit a lot of button combos very fast and frequently in a similar fashion to Sabrewulf, and completely overwhelming your opponent with a flurry of claw slashes, bites, headbutts and tail whips feels incredibly satisfying. However, thanks to that lethal techno-tail of hers, as well as some other tricks up her scaly sleeves, Riptor also has some interesting ranged/keepaway options, as well as some context-specific projectile attacks, making her stand apart from previous rushdown fighters.
Incidentally, Riptor’s command list is almost entirely preserved from her original one back in 1994, so those players who mastered her control inputs in the original game will feel right at home here…as long as home feels like a fire-breathing 6’2″ muscly mass of teeth and claws.
Everybody Walk…ahem, Run the Dinosaur
Okay, so let’s start with the basics. The first thing you’ll immediately notice when playing as Riptor is that you’re actually playing as a fucking dinosaur – neat huh? Once that monumental fact has sunk in, the next thing that you’ll notice pretty quickly is that Riptor is the only character (so far) who can run both forwards and backwards. That’s great news for you, and not so great news for your opponent – i.e. Riptor’s lunch.
Known as the Primal Run and the Survival Run, these two run manoeuvres offer up some special and command attack options; this is naturally a fantastic thing, as it allows you to get in close, slash/claw/maim/tear/disfigure your opponent for a bit before running backwards to get some breathing room when you need it. I found that the two most useful attacks to pull off when in Primal Run were hitting Heavy Punch to get Riptor to shoot out a jet of flame which is great for opening combos, whilst Heavy Kick makes her lash out her tail to tackle your opponent to the ground for a hard knockdown.
What’s fantastic about the backwards-moving Survival Run in particular is that it allows you to apply pressure to your opponent even when retreating. Just like with the Primal Run, pressing different attack buttons when running backwards allows you to quickly get an unanticipated strike in – particularly useful if you’re being pursued across the screen. Heavy Punch makes Riptor spit out a slow moving downward fireball projectile behind her, whilst Heavy Kick performs a whip-like tail attack to a pursuer which can launch them into the air, arcing over your head only to leave them sprawled out on the floor in front of you like some kind of prehistoric buffet. Time to turn up the heat.
Heavy (Flaming) Metal
Okay so running around the screen is cool and everything, but just what can Riptor do when she’s up close and in for the kill? Well, her Light and Medium Punch attacks aren’t particularly spectacular, but her Heavy Punch causes her to shoot out a stream of Flame Breath from her viciously sharp jaws. This can be used as a great combo opener on its own, from both standing and running positions, or defensively as an effective and quick way of creating space. You can hold the button down/press three times to get a five-hit opener which you can then cancel into a special move and keep the combo rolling.
On the more defensive side of things, pressing Back + Heavy Punch shoots flames upwards in an anti-air fashion, and pressing Down + Heavy Punch arcs Riptor’s flame jets towards the ground. Crucially, Flame Breath can be used to destroy incoming enemy projectiles as well, which can be great when faced with an endokuken-spamming jerk from across the screen…grr…
Riptor’s kick attacks are similar to her punches in the sense that whilst the Weak and Medium attacks are okay, it’s the Heavy Kick which felt the most useful to me. Known as the Tail Zip, this is a powerful tail swipe which has really good range, making it useful as a poking tool/opener which can then be cancelled into combo, as well as having the additional benefit of slightly reeling your enemy in closer to you, regardless of whether the attack hits or gets blocked. Additionally, Pressing Down + Heavy Kick makes Riptor go for a low Tail Zip, which is a good way of quickly getting a heavy knockdown.
Having said that, to get slightly technical for a second, Riptor’s close-range Medium Kick (actually, it’s a headbutt if we’re being picky, but what the heck) is also worth bearing in mind when you’re in very close proximity to your opponent, as it is +1 frame advantage on block; meaning that if you’re opponent blocks the attack, it actually works out in your favour timing-wise. In other words, you’ll recover one frame faster from performing the attack animation than it will take for your opponent to recover from performing their block animation. It might not sound like much of an advantage, but trust me it is; without getting too technical, any time that you’re in position where you have frame advantage, no matter how small the number of frames, it’s always a good thing, as it means you’ll be able to potentially recover attack faster than your opponent will. So if you’re up really close to your opponent, that close-range Medium Kick could be just the thing you need to get a combo going.
Both Riptor’s flame and tail-based attacks become enhanced whilst in her Instinct mode, as we shall see later on. Before we talk about that however, let’s have a look at Riptor’s third movement state if you will; the Predator Stance.
You Got Time to Duck?
By pressing Left Trigger (All three Kick buttons) Riptor crouches close to the ground in what’s known as the Predator Stance. This is a special attack position which opens some additional ranged options to Riptor’s moveset – it’s great because it provides you some alternative longer distance openers and attacks to contrast with your standard rushdown attacks. One of my favourite moves from the stance is the brutal Tail Sting move; pressing Medium Punch whilst in Predator Stance makes Riptor stab forward with a trio of overhead Tail Stings, which can be great for catching out opponents who are tending to just block your low attacks.
You can make one move whilst in the Predator Stance before Riptor reverts back to her normal position, meaning that you can’t indefinitely attack or run in this ranged position for extensive periods at a time. As a result, you’ll want to carefully pick when you want to use it. From my experience, it’s best adopting the Predator Stance when you’ve got a bit of space between you and your opponent, or you risk getting battered in the time it takes Riptor to transition from stance to stance.
Handily, you can still walk forward (just not run) whilst in the Predator Stance, which makes it a fantastic way of dodging projectiles and gradually getting in close on characters like Glacius, Kan-Ra and keepaway Jagos who would prefer you to be trapped at the far side of the screen.
Knowing when to drop to the Predator Stance is a vital part of using Riptor effectively; in fact, some of her moves automatically transition to the Predator Stance upon block, so knowing how to operate from this deadly crouched position is a must. Before we get to that however, (don’t worry, we’ll bring all these tactics together at the end) let’s talk about those special moves that Riptor’s been hiding up those scaly reptilian sleeves of hers.
Looking broadly at Riptor’s special moves, they can be roughly divided into two groups. You’ve got three moves which fall firmly in rushdown territory; Shoulder Charge and Talon Rake and Clever Girl, whilst Tail Flip is slightly more of a ranged option, albeit one that’s slightly easier to punish if blocked. Naturally you’ll want to be playing Riptor in rushdown mode, but the Tail Flip and some of her Predator Stance moves can be used as great poking tools to pressure your opponent from further out.
Let’s start with the Shoulder Charge (the following control inputs assume that the player is on the left side of the screen). Performed by pressing Back – Forward + Punch, this move sends Riptor lunging forward for a brutal headbutt; It’s a good combo opener, linker and when used as an ender, the move acts as Riptor’s wall bounce combo concluder.
What’s interesting is that if the Shoulder Charge move is blocked, then Riptor automatically transitions to Predator Mode, allowing you to potentially get in a rapid-fire mix-up before your opponent reacts; it’s essentially a second chance to land an attack if your first fails. If they blocked your Shoulder Charge low, then quickly press Medium Punch for some eye-pokingly painful overhead Tail Stings. If they blocked high, press Light Punch for some low and nasty Shin Bites instead.
Clever Girl is a ground bounce attack, which is a great mid-combo linker, a decent opener, and (you guessed it) Riptor’s launcher ender. Performed with Quarter-circle Back + Punch, Riptor violently head-butts her opponent into the air, before grabbing them in her jaws to slam them back onto the ground, allowing you to recapture your opponent and keep on pummelling if you’re mid combo, or launch them straight up if you’re using it as an ender.
The Tail Flip is an overhead forward-roll attack, performed with Quarter-circle Back + Kick, that functions as Riptor’s knockdown ender. In addition to its use as an ender, the Tail Flip is also good as a combo opener from range as the move is one of Riptor’s further reaching attacks. Be aware though that move has quite a significant number of recovery frames, meaning that if the Tail Flip misses or is blocked by your opponent, you’ll be vulnerable to a battering yourself.
The Talon Rake is Riptor’s damage ender – Riptor launches up at her opponent and, as the name suggests, claws at them with her viciously sharp talons. Useful as a combo opener, linker and a hard-hitting ender, the move is performed by pressing Left – Right + Kick.
What’s really cool is the fact that if the Talon Rake is blocked, in a similar manner to the way the Shoulder Charge operates, you have the chance to potentially get in a sneaky mix-up attack immediately after. If your opponent blocks the attack, you bounce backwards back in the air – in a similar fashion to the way Sadira bounces off her opponent when her Heavy Widow’s Bite is blocked. Whilst you’re still airborne, pressing one of the Punch buttons launches a fireball projectile down at your opponent, which is a great way of making the Talon Rake a tad more safe, and potentially catching your attacker off guard in the process.
Heavy Punch sends the fireball flying fast at a long angle, Light sends it down in a slow but acute angle and Medium is somewhere in between at a steadily-paced 45-degree angle.
Alternately, pressing one of the Kick buttons whilst in the air after a blocked Talon Rake makes Riptor perform a Tail Flip instead. Light Kick lands the Tail Flip in front of your opponent, whilst the Heavy Kick version sends the move over your opponent’s head to land on their far side. Possibly the most useful option is the Medium Kick version; depending on your timing, the Medium Kick Tail Flip acts as a mix-up which can land either in front of or behind your attacker, making it a perfect cross-up tool. It’s a really effective way of catching your opponent off guard, time and time again – trust me.
Last but not least is Riptor’s Instinct mode – Rage. Activating Rage makes Riptor run faster in both directions, and her fire and tail strike attacks have increased range. Her tail starts sparking electricity and has an increased attack range for all her flame-based attacks and tail strikes; the extended tail strikes look particularly cool as Riptor’s tail segments into separate sections which reveal more of her intricate robotic skeleton. When you’re in your Instinct mode, you can play Riptor at a slightly extended range, which is great if a keepaway/zoning character is managing to keep you at arm’s length and you need a way of fighting back, or you can ramp up the rushdown pressure to ridiculous levels due to your increased speed. Both methods work pretty damn well at turning a battle in your favour.
I personally found Riptor to be quite a hard character to get to grips with. She has a mixture of rushdown-style Left-Right-Punch/Kick special moves, but also some which require Quarter-circle Forwards/Backwards + Punch/Kick inputs. She’s pretty much the only character to have these style inputs in the same command list, and for quite a while this really messed with my head. I’d find that in the flow of combat I’d often struggle to pull off the moves I’d intended, and as a result, the first couple of hours spent getting to grips with the rhythm of her fighting styles was frustrating and awkward; completely whiffing moves after successfully getting a combo opening or dropping combos before I could finish them (story of my life).
However, even when I’d somewhat managed to get my easily perplexed head around her controls, playing online matches with Riptor was still pretty tough. Although Riptor is very adaptable to the various combat challenges thrown down by each fighter, I found that I would struggle against Glacius and Fulgore players in particular. In fact, up against a skilled zoning character, I sometimes found it difficult to get in close and dish out pain – such is the plight of any rushdown player when faced with an expert zoner attacker I suppose, as your only option really is to try and get in close. When you do manage to get in close to your attacker however, you can apply pressure pretty relentlessly; going for hard knock downs with the Tail Zip and Tail Flip, setting up recovery traps with the Flame Carpet and punching out fast chains of Shoulder Charge, Clever Girl and Talon Rake.
A Goddamned Sexual Tyrannosaurus
The main piece of advice I’d give to fellow noob-level Riptor players (like me) is that you have to be prepared to adapt to your mistakes as fast as possible. Like with any aspect of Killer Instinct (and fighting games in general) you need to be constantly thinking several steps ahead if possible, anticipating both your own mistakes as well as your opponents. The further that you can mentally plan ahead, the better. This is especially true when playing Riptor. I found that as I gradually became more confident and familiar with her capabilities, a key thing I noticed about my most successful Riptor victories was that they were the ones in which I managed to consistently seize upon the opportunities to get in cheeky second chance mix-up attacks that resulted from my Shoulder Charge and Talon Rake attacks being blocked. Don’t be disheartened if your opener attempts are blocked; you can quickly seize control back with some Shin Bite or Tail Stings.
The triple Heavy Punch attack of Fire Breath is a great combo opener (it’s also a great aerial opener as well), and it was the most common way I’d find myself starting off my dino beatdowns, but beware your opponent cottoning onto it. It’s an easy to recognise set of Heavy Punch attack animations, so you’ll want to avoid solely using it as way of opening your combos, or you’ll most likely find yourself being combo-broken very quickly.
Whilst we’re still on the topic of flambéing-based fun, Riptor’s Flame Carpet is a great tool to use immediately after you’ve delivered a hard knockdown to your opponent – if you time it right, it means they have to instantly block upon recovery. Whilst they’re blocking, you can go for a low/overhead attack and hopefully start another combo off, or attempt to land a cross-up as they’re stuck in block or hitstun. However, once enemies are in really close range you won’t have time to roll out the Flame Carpet as it has quite a long start-up animation, so just go for the standard Flame Breath attacks instead.
Like I briefly mentioned earlier, the Predator Stance is awesome for adding some ranged poking tools and combo openers to Riptor’s arsenal, but it can be hard to integrate into your plans on the fly. I found that unless I was at least half or full screen away from a character, it was often too risky to try and manually drop to Predator Stance when in close quarters combat. Better to stick to her normal and special moves when up close and personal I reckon.
I think my initial problem with Riptor may have been that I was trying to play her pretty much identically to the way I play Sabrewulf; relentlessly rushing my opponents and hoping to overwhelm them with a barrage of non-stop attacks. Whilst this certainly is a viable (and successful) strategy for Riptor, I’d say that she’s probably best when operating ever so slightly further out than Sabrewulf; you want to be close enough to pressurise effectively, yet with enough distance to leave all your options open. Riptor’s a clever girl, and success with her will depend on whether you’re as clever as she is at exploiting not only your enemies mistakes and stumbles, but your own.
Rip-roaring Raptor Ruckus
So there we go – Riptor is another fun, interesting and unique rushdown character that compliments the existing Season 2 line-up. That’s all the Killer Instinct Season 2 characters for this year, but according to the classic ‘post credits’ tease in Riptor’s launch trailer, it looks like in January we’re going to be reacquainted with the delights of Shadow Jago in some form – or, to give him his full title, the Herald of Gargos. Gulp. In the meantime, enjoy Riptor and have a rip(tor)-roaring Christmas.