Another month, another new Killer Instinct character to learn; it’s time to peel back the bandages on November’s fighting neonate, Kan-Ra.
Despite being teased by Iron Galaxy as #NotAMummy on Twitter, Kan-Ra is, ironically, exactly that; he’s a mummified age-old rotting Babylonian sorcerer. His decaying body is held together by his multitude of rotting bandages, which he uses as useful fighting appendages, naturally. His stage, the Forbidden Archives is pretty nifty too, featuring a special Stargate-like ‘death portal’, as dubbed by fans, which acts as the special stage ender/ultra.
He’s a bit like a long range zoning version of Thunder (with a generous pinch of Spinal and Glacius thrown in for good measure), only with bandages instead of tomahawks for weapons. Kan-Ra has been described by the Iron Galaxy developers to be the hardest character to use in Killer Instinct so far, and he certainly can feel very complicated when you first pick up the controls. I’ve been learning Kan-Ra’s command list via that most instructive of methods – being repeatedly punched in the face – so hopefully I can offer up some noob-level advice for those looking to get to grips with this ever-crumbling combatant.
Everyday I’m Grapplin’
Described as a ‘trap-grappler’ by the Iron Galaxy developers, Kan-Ra is definitely a bit of a challenge to get to grips with. Kan-Ra’s normal attacks are generally underwhelming, he doesn’t cash out an awful lot of damage compared to other members of the cast, and you’ll have to work hard to set up and pull off even the most basic of combo chains. However, much like Season 1’s most complex character, Spinal, those players who take the time to master this sorcerer’s skills will be able to maniacally cackle along with Kan-Ra himself as you absolutely dominate your opponents from afar.
Kan-Ra is a long range zoning character who has the ability to quickly divide up the playing field into heavily defensive zones with his traps, making it a challenge for those characters who have to get in close (like TJ Combo and Sabrewulf) to deal damage. Ideally, you want to be playing Kan-Ra at the full screen distance away from your opponent, zoning your opponent and putting as many traps between you and them as possible.
Unlike a mix-up character such as the aforementioned Spinal or Fulgore, Kan-Ra has to overtly block off areas of the stage with various environmental and projectile traps. Yes, you’re still hoping to catch your opponent off guard in a similar fashion to a mix-up character by making them stumble unknowingly into your traps, but there’s less surprise involved here, as your strategy is always visually apparent on the stage. The idea is to force your opponent through your tightly woven nest of traps; to make the other player really anxious about their character’s placement and proximity to your devious deathtraps, and to bamboozle them into having to decide between blocking, attacking and trap dodging all at once.
What a Load of Old Trap
The most important ace you have tucked up those rotting sleeves of yours as Kan-Ra is probably the Sand Trap. By simply pressing Heavy Kick to perform a Sand Punt, Kan-Ra will kick out a cloud of sand directly in front of him as an attack, which also places a Sand Trap on the ground simultaneously; you can also get a Sand Trap by performing an anti-air Sand Geyser by pressing Down + Heavy Kick, or Heavy Kick in the air to perform a plummeting aerial Dune drop attack, similar to sultry spider queen Sadira’s Widow’s Drop move.
The Sand Traps can grant you access to special attacks and moves, whilst also operating as hazardous no-go obstacles for your opponent to avoid. These Sand Trap moves range from manoeuvrability boosts (you can conjure up giant sand hands to springboard you super far across the stage) to extensive projectile and zoning techniques; performing the Whirl move (Quarter-Circle Forward + Punch) whilst stood on a Sand Trap for example, will send a fast-moving hurricane projectile across the screen, which is particularly useful when you want something to hurl at your prey from long distance.
Additionally, you can use the Sand Traps to really put pressure on your opponent in other clever ways; a favourite move of mine is to conjure up a barbed scorpion tail from a nearby Sand Trap to sting my attacker (Down-Forward + Kick), which if it successfully makes contact, inflicts a ‘Curse of Weight’ on your opponent, temporarily slowing their movements. The Light Kick version is an upward-aimed anti-air sting, whilst Medium Kick jabs the stinger out in a horizontal fashion, allowing you to prod and poke to your heart’s content from a variety of angles. You can only have one Sand Trap out at a time however, so being accurate and flexible with its placement is key.
The other major trap attacks that Kan-Ra has are the rather disgusting Swarms (Quarter-Circle Back + Kick). Kan-Ra can exhale these clouds of locust-like insects which act as air traps/static projectiles for your opponent to avoid. The shadow version of the move gives the Swarm the ability to slowly home in on your opponent, which is great at putting the pressure on your attacker and ideally forcing them to move into another position; preferably one where you’ve already laid down a Sand Trap in advance. Unlike the Sand Trap, you can have up to three Swarms out at a time, one for each strength of attack, so you can be a bit more liberal with your sandy fly vomiting.
The best tool in your mouldy arsenal for creating space between you and your opponent is the Spike special move (Quarter-Circle Forward + Kick); as the name suggests, it’s a big spiky ridge of sand that you can use to shunt your opponent around the map with. Each strength of the attack launches your opponent slightly differently; Heavy Kick sends them away from you, Medium launches them towards you and Light version launches them really close to you, ideally, into a previously placed Swarm projectile.
Performing the Spike move will also drop a Sand Trap at your opponent’s feet, regardless of whether they have blocked the attack or not, meaning that you can quickly summon a scorpion sting or antlion bite right on the finishing spot after the move. What’s particularly great about the antlion attack is that if it is unblocked and successfully connects with your opponent, it will instantly pull you in from across the map and allow you to go straight into a combo. Once you’ve finished dealing out your damage up-close however, you ideally need to quickly scuttle back to the far side of the screen as you can quickly feel overwhelmed when caught in a close-quarters brawl, particularly when fighting against an angry and pissed off Sabrewulf.
Rounding out Kan-Ra’s special attacks is the Clutch move (Quarter-Circle Back + Punch), a vital part of your Kan-Ra pugilist vocabulary. It’s Kan-Ra’s damage ender, so you’ll be wanting to use it a lot as he isn’t great at dealing out really heavy-hitting combos; played correctly, victory will come from a series of smaller but well executed combos instead.
Kan-ra throws out his tentacle-like bandages for an extended grapple move, which hoists your opponent high into the air before slamming them back down onto the floor. Each strength of the attack alters the angle of the grab; Heavy Punch performs a high anti-air grab, Medium Punch is at about a forty-five degree angle from the ground, and Light Punch goes straight out in front. The shadow version is particularly nasty looking, as Kan-Ra will repeatedly slam your opponent back and forth around the screen for a five-hit combo, which is both hilarious and brutal. You actually have to be fairly close to make a grab with this move, despite what you might think from the screenshots – if you’re any further away than about quarter of the screen from your opponent then the grab likely won’t connect.
Finally, Kan-Ra’s Instinct mode is called the suitably biblical sounding Curse of Drought, which upon activation, the description delightfully notes that Kan-Ra’s body begins to continually leak sand. Although that is neither a pleasant mental image, nor something that sounds like a particularly useful trait to have as an Instinct ability, it’s actually great news for the Kan-Ra player, as it means you can temporarily use all of your sand-based attacks, leaps and traps without first having to place down a Sand Trap.
So what’s the catch? Well, as you might expect with a hardcore zoning character, Kan-Ra really struggles when up-close and personal in fights. You can definitely cope whilst playing him at short ranges from your opponent, but it’ll be hard work, and without the versatility and heavier damage output that other ranged characters such as Glacius and Fulgore have, things will start to feel pretty desperate if you can’t keep your opponents at arm’s (or should that be bandage’s?) length.
Kan-Ra’s throw is a bit weak in comparison to the other characters’, and it doesn’t particularly give you much breathing room for a specialist zoning character either. However, by performing a throw, you give your opponent a stronger version of the scorpion stinger Curse of Weight, which will noticeably slow them down for a slightly longer period, giving you time to get in and keep attacking, or fall back to lay more Sand Traps and Swarms. Slowing down your attacker also makes their combos a lot easier to read, giving you a much greater chance of getting correct strength combo breakers.
Although you do have a sort of teleport-like ability, Sacrifice (triggered by pressing all three kick buttons whilst a Sand Trap is active), whereby Kan-Ra can disintegrate into a cloud of sand only to re-appear at your last Sand Trap, it’s not really fast enough to particularly get the drop on your opponent unless it happens to be really close by, plus, as the name suggests, the disintegrating explosion actually causes damage to you as well as your opponent, so it’s not something to repeatedly fall back on. It’s more of a last-ditch escape attempt you can use to escape a beating in a corner…again, most likely from a very angry Sabrewulf.
Fight Like an Egyptian
So, here’s a few things I’ve picked up on a very basic noob level that might be helpful to a struggling Kan-Ra player to let you kick some sand in your enemies’ faces…both literally and figuratively.
From my own experimenting, Kan-Ra’s Whirl attack is remarkably easy to get air recaptures with, allowing you to quickly keep pummelling an enemy who’s been flung into the air with a Spike launcher, or stuck on a mid-air Swarm. If you can get your opponent stuck in a corner, then alternating between the Whirl and Swarm attacks is a fairly safe way of keeping the pressure up and keeping them wedged up in that corner whilst you deliver a beatdown before retreating. Alternatively, with a bit of practice, you can use the Spike ender to launch them up and out of a corner and recapture them mid-air with a Swarm or hurricane to continue the pummelling in the opposite direction.
A particularly useful command normal that Kan-Ra has is a nasty-looking spinning bandage buzz saw move which can be performed by pressing Back + Medium Punch. This is a great combo opener, and also when blocked it’s a good tactic for creating a tiny bit of space if your opponent is trying to get in close. Another great way of getting into a combo is to use Medium or Heavy Punch on their own for some long-ranged normal attacks which you can cancel into a combo linker, or Down + Medium Punch, which can be cancelled into a Spike linker to combo from a distance.
Just fooling around with him in Survival matches like this led me to pull off several 30-hit plus GODLIKE combos with ease, which felt great. Online however, things were much more difficult as expected. Playing against the teleporting characters Spinal and Fulgore can be very tricky indeed. You’ll constantly be fighting to create some space on the screen, only to have them just pop up right beside you and dodge any traps you’ve laid. However, with a bit of practice (and in my case, a great deal of luck), you can still usually deal out a fair bit of punishment if you’re observant, and your Swarm traps are very useful for absorbing any ranged projectiles they might send your way.
The Long and Short (Bandages) of It
I think what makes Kan-Ra difficult to use for me personally is the fact that you’ve got to be aware of a lot of separate systems all at once whilst simultaneously trying to read your opponent. You have to be totally confident with his full set of moves, and know exactly what angles your attacks will and won’t reach, plus, when you have an opponent in mid-combo punishment, knowing which direction the combo ender will send them flying off to is vital if you want to recapture them. Whilst all this is going on, you want to be aware of where your Sand Traps are, and where your insect Swarms will best be placed, and trying your best to keep your attacker at the other end of the screen. Not only that, all the while you have to keep track of what your opponent’s doing, what strength combos and linkers they are prioritising, when to try and throw in a cheeky C-C-C-COUNTER BREAKER! etc. It’s a lot to mentally juggle, but if you can get to grips with Kan-Ra’s fiendish trap mechanisms, then you’ll find yourself being able to totally dominate the screen space and your opponent with fiendish glee.
If you’d like some noob-friendly advice and observations on the previously released Killer Instinct Season 2 characters, TJ Combo and Maya, then feel free to click on the highlighted links to get my two cents on the first two fighters. As the comedically audio-gore heavy Ultratech advertisement teaser at the end of Kan-Ra’s trailer ever so subtly reveals, the next character to be released is the fan favourite dinosaur, Riptor. Well, I’m going to have a quick lie down in this comfy looking sarcophagus for the time being, but I’ll be ready to go exploring Jurassic Park with the cyber dino of the moment next month.