It’s Not Over ‘Till The Slim Robotic Lady Sings
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain…
That’s providing you survive through ARIA’s beatdown of course Frank. You’ve listened to the support acts, but now it’s time to make way for the headline act. ARIA is Iron Galaxy’s final Season 2 character and Killer Instinct‘s first playable boss character, and boy oh boy is she an absolute badass to brawl against.
Determined and skilled players who were able to best the secret Shadow Jago boss in Season 1’s Arcade Mode first caught a glimpse of the enigmatic ARIA in the ending cutscene, but her true form was only revealed just a few weeks prior to her May 29th release at Chicago’s Combo Breaker tournament. The robotic CEO of Ultratech, ARIA – or, to give her full title, the Advanced Robotics Intelligence Architecture – is an artificial intelligence program designed to carry out the noble duty of protecting and uplifting the quality of all human life. Originally programmed and built back in 1948 by Ultratech’s progenitor, the Ultrafine Atomic Technologies Company and the industrialist Ryat Adams, ARIA’s goals were to end disease, famine and poverty; or, as the UATC rather sympathetically puts it ‘to push humanity out of…the primordial muck and mire it wallowed in.’ Who says philanthropy is dead eh?
Unfortunately though, it seems that in the past sixty-seven years those noble original intentions have gradually morphed from benevolent conservationism into a ruthless embodiment of extreme Darwinism. In her trailer dialogue, she concludes that the other Killer Instinct combatants – a motley crew made up of interplanetary aliens, frenzied werewolves and demonic spirits to name just a few – pose a dire threat to humanity’s continued survival (a rather logical conclusion I might add) so she vows to drag humanity “kicking and screaming into the future” to save them. Gulp!
ARIA’s stage is The Pinnacle, and as the name might suggest, it’s a suitably epic stage to close out Season 2 on. It’s essentially ARIA’s office located at the top of the Ultratech tower, and it reminds me a lot of the Final Destination stage from Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series with its sleek futuristic angles and muted purple and blue colour tones. As the fight progresses, the window blastshields recede to reveal a twilight sci-fi city skyline, and a pair of Fulgore bodyguard units materialise in the background to spectate the fight (and thankfully not wade into the melee themselves). The Pinnacle also includes a fantastic Stage Ultra. The victor smashes their opponent through the glass window (as opposed to the glass ceiling) and watches as they plummet all the way down to the cold, hard ground. As Aussie rockers AC/DC once said, ‘It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n’ roll’, but man, it’s also a really fucking long way back to the bottom of Ultratech HQ, that’s for damn sure.
While it’s hard to top the awesomeness that was Cinder’s theme, ARIA’s theme still packs a mighty punch in the audio department. Mick Gordon has engineered a blisteringly fast blast drum ‘n’ bass aural battering for the players’ ears; while it might lack the strong, memorable melodic hooks of his previous character themes, the polyrhythmic cacophony of distorted beats, glitchy effects and screaming distortion of ARIA’s theme all blend together really well to create a brutal wall of sound. My favourite part of the track however is the moody multi-textured synth remix of the character select theme that plays when both fighters are idling, which acts as a lovely but ominous counterpoint to the complex aggressive sections that sandwich it.
Okay, so we’ve gone over ARIA’s character background, The Pinnacle and the kickass music that’s playing on it – let’s get down to business (hey, just like a human CEO might say) and talk about her command list. But first, before that – yup, you’ve guessed it – here comes my noob disclaimer. As I’ve previously written at the start of all my previous Killer Instinct character guides, I’m no expert at Killer Instinct. Though I have a huge passion for the game and I absolutely love writing about it, the sad fact of the matter is that I’m certainly no pro player. Hell, don’t just take my word for it – have a fight against my Jago Shadow (GT: TB321), who’s currently swimming around in the suspiciously murky yellow waters of the online baby pool with his six-nil losing streak, and experience my woefully amateurish skills for yourself.
Look, all I’m trying to say is that I can’t provide you with in-depth frame-by-frame analysis of each fighter’s moves, give detailed match-up tactics and advice, nor do I have an impressive win/loss ratio to boast about. However, despite my own personally mediocre skills, hopefully I can pass on a few beginner’s tips, tricks and observations about ARIA and her command list that might just help a new player get to grips with complexities of this cybernetic CEO. Okay, all that being said, it’s time to pick up your conductor’s baton, crank up your metronome to a solid 174/175bpm and get ready for band practice with ARIA.
The first thing that you’ll probably notice about ARIA is that she has three healthbars. This might look like a massively unfair advantage initially, but fear not, ARIA’s three shorter health bars are actually equivalent in total to every other character’s standard two. The catch is that ARIA’s health is distributed between her three Drones; Booster, Blade and Bass. These Drones each have their own set of special abilities and moves that ARIA can use either by uploading herself into a Drone to use it as a Body, thereby acquiring it’s specific abilities, or calling it out in battle as a Drone Assist. ARIA is only defeated when all three of her Drones have been destroyed.
In this sense, ARIA is perhaps best thought of as a core base character with supplementary modules you have to manage according to the ever-changing rhythm of the fight. Or, if you’d prefer a cheesy ’90s child analogy instead, she’s basically the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers‘ Megazord. Yes, ARIA is indeed that level of awesome. Before we go into the finer details of each of her Drones and Bodies however, let’s first look at her constant kick attacks that she has access to at all times, regardless of whichever Body she’s currently uploaded to.
These Boots Were Made For Blasting
What’s cooler than having robotic legs? How about robotic legs with shotguns for kneecaps? Medium Kick makes ARIA blast out a 12-gauge shotgun round at her opponent, the blast of which can handily destroy an incoming enemy projectile. On its own, this is a fantastic normal with great range which can be fired off both on the ground and in the air, and also works as a running auto-double when used directly after a forward dash. Additionally it functions as an excellent poking tool and combo opener which can be quickly linked into Shotgun Blitz (Quarter-circle Forward + Kick); a low-sliding attack which sees ARIA skid forward along the floor and fire off a shotgun blast into her opponent’s torso. It’s comparable in range to Orchid’s Blockade Runner or Jago’s Wind Kick, travelling across the screen at a distance equivalent to the strength of the kick attack used in the move’s input. Light Kick travels the shortest distance (but is the safest on block), Medium Kick goes a bit further across the screen and Heavy Kick travels really far – across pretty much half the screen.
Shadow Shotgun Blitz is a projectile invulnerable five-hit sliding attack which sees ARIA skid across the floor like a dangerously-pissed uncle at a wedding, firing off her shotguns as she goes. The arrhythmic pulse of the attack makes it a particularly tricky Shadow Move for your opponent to reliably break, making it really useful as a linker. Using Heavy Kick in Shotgun Blitz mid-combo executes ARIA’s Hard Knockdown Ender.
Surely nothing could possibly be cooler than robotic shotgun knees right? Wrong – ARIA also has a pair of grenade launchers installed in her robo-calves, making her legs easily the most simultaneously vicious and cool set of pins in the entire Killer Instinct character roster yet. Eat your radioactive heart out Fulgore.
Heavy Kick is a normal attack which makes ARIA kick out with her leg to release a cluster of grenades at her opponent. Like the shotgun kneecap blasts, these grenades will also destroy incoming enemy projectiles. This normal is also particularly badass when used in the air, as ARIA backflips before unleashing grenades; if timed correctly, the move will first hit your mid-air opponent with the flip shortly before they are juggled by the subsequent grenade explosion. I personally love to immediately follow up the grenade explosion with Medium Kick whilst the opponent is still airborne from the grenade juggle, as ARIA will shoot her opponent back down onto the floor with a satisfying thud. It’s a short little flurry that does hardly any damage, but it just looks so damn cool and stylish that it’s well worth messing around with and throwing into your attack patterns from time to time. It’s also worth noting that ARIA will pause slightly when doing the aerial flip, making it a handy last-ditch method you can use to dodge an opponent’s projectile in a pinch. It’s an extremely brief pause however, so don’t rely on it as a consistent method for dodging incoming projectiles every time they’re thrown at you.
Explosive Arc, performed with Quarter-circle Back + Kick, is pretty much exactly what the name suggests; ARIA swings her leg up in the air to scatter out a cluster of grenades in a…well, a literal explosive arc. The strength of the kick attack used affects the speed and range of the attack. Light Kick is the fastest version of the attack with the greatest range, whereas Heavy Kick is the slowest with the shortest range but also the most safe on block. Medium Kick falls in between the two extremes offering median values for range, speed and safety. Shadow Explosive Arc is a really fast five-hit version of the attack, which is great to throw into your combos as a speedy way of racking up your total damage cashout. When used mid-combo, the Heavy Punch version of Explosive Arc acts as ARIA’s Launcher Ender.
Boost Me Up, Before You Go-Go
We’ve looked at the attacks ARIA has at her disposal regardless of which Body she’s currently uploaded to. Now it’s time to check out the special attacks that are associated with each Body. As it’s the default one that’s already equipped when ARIA starts out each match, let’s also start out by looking at Booster Body first. This Body gives ARIA some very Gundam-inspired wings and makes her look like a vicious metallic Valkyrie of vengeance.
Aside from just making ARIA look cooler, the Booster Body grants ARIA some unique aerial movement abilities. If you hold Up after jumping with the Booster Body equipped, ARIA remains hovering up in the air for a short period of time. While you’re hovering, you can press Back or Forward to hover in that direction – making it a fantastic way to land cross-ups on your opponent. ARIA will instantly and automatically switch her direction when passing over her opponent’s head, allowing you to cleverly fake-out your opponent multiple times by passing back and forth over their head before landing your attack. Just make sure you’re watching out for your opponent’s anti-air attacks though if you’re spending a lot of time in the air. A good tactic you can use if you suspect your opponent is going to swat you down is to use the speed of the hover move to bait your opponent into anti-airing and then quickly float backwards as they attack. Correctly anticipated and timed, you will be able to punish your opponent in the lengthy recovery animation of the whiffed anti-air and start up a combo.
When in Booster Body, ARIA gets access to the Crescendo special move. Performed with Quarter-circle Back + Punch, the move shoots ARIA forward in a sonic blast of sound. The strength of the punch used alters the angle of the attack; Light Punch travels horizontally across aproximately a quarter of the screen and starts up a combo on hit, Medium Punch travels upwards at a 45° degree angle (a great anti-air attack), while Heavy Punch travels directly upwards and is invulnerable on start-up, making it a great reversal. All of these Crescendo attacks can be performed whilst ARIA is airborne too; The Light Punch attack still travels horizontally in the air, whereas aerial Medium Punch will travel diagonally downwards at 45° and Heavy Punch will travel directly downwards instead. Shadow Crescendo travels horizontally for a five-hit attack, but it also has the benefit of having one hit of armour – very handy indeed. Utilising all the various properties of the Booster Body, ARIA can take the fight to the air-dominant characters such as Sadira and Cinder and aggressively apply lots of pressure in the sky. Used in a combo, Heavy Punch Crescendo acts as ARIA’s Wall Splat Ender.
Sing Sing Sing (With A Sword Swing)
The pen might well be mightier than the sword, but I very much doubt your average Bic biro would give ARIA’s Blade Body a serious run for its money. This is ARIA’s rushdown body, which gives her a giant sword arm to slash at her foes with, as well as several interesting movement buffs and combat abilities designed for being up close and personal with her prey.
When uploaded to Blade Body, ARIA’s forward and backward movement speeds are greatly increased, allowing her to stroll around the stage a lot faster. Additionally, ARIA also gets an extra two normal attacks when she’s uploaded to the Blade Body – Medium Punch and Heavy Punch are two long-range sword swipes that have excellent range, making them really good poking tools to stab at your opponent from afar. Blade Body’s jumping Medium Punch is another great cross-up tool in her arsenal to be aware of, as well as Interlude (Forward + Heavy Punch), a unique command-normal overhead slash attack to Blade Body that’s similar in execution and speed to Fulgore’s Axis Slash.
Blade Body also has its own special attack known as Allegro. Performed with a Dragon Punch input (Forward, Down, Down-Forward + Punch), the strength of the Punch button used determines the specific nature of the attack; Light Punch is a single Shoryuken-style uppercut with the blade, Medium Punch is a three-part horizontally-moving swipe attack and Heavy Punch combines both the uppercut and triple-swipe attacks into a single fluid motion. Like other Shoryuken-style moves such as Jago’s Tiger Fury and Orchid’s Air Buster, the light version of ARIA’s Allegro is another fantastic reversal you can use to smack a body-hugging opponent away from you after they’ve dealt you knockdown. Inputting Allegro with Heavy Punch mid-combo performs ARIA’s Damage Ender, so make use of it often to carve away great chunks off your opponent’s health bar; if you need to cut really deep, go for a Shadow Allegro for considerably more damage output.
All About That Bass, ‘Bout That Bass
Bass frequencies can sometimes hertz your ears if they’re loud enough, but in Killer Instinct, they can also physically harm you as well. That’s thanks to ARIA’s Bass Body; this Body gives her a powerful chest cannon which allows her to fire bursts of rapid-moving sound pulses at her opponent, as well as greatly increasing her dash speeds.
As you might imagine, this combination of benefits makes Bass Body ARIA’s go-to zoning choice, allowing her to quickly retreat across the stage and keep an opponent at long-range with barrages of multi-shot burst projectiles. Known as Dissonance (Quarter-circle Forward + Punch) her projectile special move is absolutely fantastic for zoning, with three firing options according to the strength of the punch button used in the move’s input. Light Punch sends out a burst that shoots along the ground and hits low, Medium Punch fires one off at chest height that hits mid, and Heavy Punch fires a volley of shots upwards at a 45° degree angle. Shadow Dissonance sends out a burst of sound pulses in a wide scatter pattern that covers pretty much the full screen in its spread.
Although each shot of Dissonance has quite a long recovery animation which leaves you vulnerable to attack, due to the rapid speed and full-screen reach of each burst, these projectiles are easily some of the best in the game and will destroy pretty much anything being thrown your way. What’s particularly neat about Dissonance is that ARIA can cancel out of the move into other shadow moves midway through the firing animation to make them safe – e.g. you can protect yourself with a Shadow Dissonance or Shadow Shotgun Blitz etc. if your opponent dodges the incoming projectiles or you whiff the attack angle. As well as functioning incredibly well as a zoning tool, you can also use Bass Body to open up your opponent for some close-range punishment as well. Depending on the distance from your target, you can shoot your opponent with Dissonance before immediately sliding into them with Shadow Shotgun Blitz to start up a combo from quite a long way out. Dissonance acts as ARIA’s Battery Ender when the Heavy Punch version of the move is inputted during a combo.
Before we go into putting together all the various elements of ARIA’s arsenal of moves, another important aspect of ARIA we need to go over is how exactly her Drones function in combat. ARIA can switch between her three Bodies with Upload (All Punches/Kicks), a special move which transfers her into one of her available Drones (All Punches transfers ARIA to the top Drone, All Kicks transfers her to the lower one). Swapping between Drones is risky business – although ARIA is damage invulnerable during the initial animation of Upload as she disintegrates, she is very vulnerable upon re-materialising in the next body as the move has a long recovery animation. However, ARIA does have a special and much safer way of transitioning between Bodies when she’s in the heat of battle. Hitting All Punches/ Kicks when you’ve got a combo going will perform ARIA’s Upload Ender, which swaps her into the chosen Drone before finishing the combo. If you’ve taken a lot of damage and need to swap to a new Body as soon as possible, this is often a great way of making the switch, as by the time your opponent has recovered and got back to their feet, you’re already set up in your new Body and ready to keep up the pressure.
The two Bodies that ARIA isn’t currently occupying will hover behind her as Drones. Whilst inactive and floating behind ARIA, the Drones cannot be attacked by her opponent. However, ARIA can make limited use of their associated abilities by calling them into battle as Drone Assists (Back + Hard Punch calls in the top drone, Back + Hard Kick calls in the lower one). Each Drone has its own specific start-up, attack, invulnerability and recovery animations that you’ll have to learn in order to make best use of them.
The general idea is to use the Drone Assists to make your unsafe moves more protected, but beware – any Drone you send out can be injured by your opponent. If a Drone is hit, then it becomes inoperable for a short period of time and also takes quite a bit of damage. Knowing when to call the right Drone into action at the appropriate time is a tricky thing to get down at first, but with a bit of practice you can soon recognise decent opportunities to punish or trap your opponent with assists. It’s a bit of a risk/reward strategy; call one in too early or too late and it’ll likely just get swatted down, but time it well and they can really help you dominate your opponent. Here’s how each drone functions:
Bass fires off a volley of shots across the screen. It’s slow to start and projectile and strike vulnerable before it starts to fire, but if deployed correctly then it’s a great way of temporarily zoning your opponent, as it will pretty much shoot through anything. A cool way you can protect the Bass Drone from incoming projectiles as it prepares to fire is to use ARIA’s Medium Kick shotgun knee attack to destroy any fireballs/iceballs/plasma shots or any other ball-based nasties heading your way.
Booster swoops in and pushes the opponent away with a hard knockdown; the awesome thing about this last Assist is the fact that even if your opponent anticipates the Booster being sent out and blocks accordingly, they’ll still be shunted back across the screen. It is vulnerable however when it pauses after the attack, so you’ll need to cover it with projectiles from Bass or rush in and apply pressure with Blade.
Blade swings upwards in a corkscrew motion close to ARIA to act as a very nifty anti-air attack. The Drone is strike-invulnerable on start-up and only becomes vulnerable in the brief pause it has after the attack, making it hard for an unprepared opponent in close proximity to deal with. If your opponent blocks the Assist however, then it is easy to punish as it floats back down.
The most important thing to do when using Drone Assists is to observe your opponent’s position and tendencies during the fight, and let those dictate the right drone for the scenario. Facing an aggressive rushdown character who just won’t get out of your face? Send Booster out to get some breathing room. Fighting a jumping opponent who loves nothing more than to repeatedly hit you with cross-ups? Cut them down with the Blade Drone’s uppercut. Need to pressure a long-range zoner and keep them peppered with projectiles? Call out the Bass Body. There’s also some crazy combination techniques you can use the Drones for as well; try going for a Booster Body aerial cross-up at the same time as forcing your opponent to block a hail of sound bullets from the Booster Drone, or sending out Booster while rushing in with Shotgun Blitz to clip their legs. Experiment, and see what crazy concoctions of swords, wings and projectiles you can come up with.
Remember earlier I compared ARIA to the Megazord? Well here’s why – ARIA’s Instinct mode (Combat Symphony No. 9 to give its full title) combines all of her Drones into one mega Body in one smooth anime-style cutscene. In Instinct, ARIA automatically swaps to her Body with the most remaining health and gets access to all of her available Drones’ special moves and movement advantages, as well as being able to cancel moves into Drone Assists when in Instinct. If ARIA has lost any Drones during the fight, then she will generate Mini-Drones that act as replacements for the time Instinct remains active. They basically function like Bass Body in that they fire off a projectile attack, but unlike Bass Body, these Mini-Drones automatically track and aim their projectiles at your opponent, making them a bit trickier to dodge.
Best of all, the damage ARIA absorbs when in Instinct is shared out equally amongst her remaining Drones, which essentially means that your opponent will only be able to inflict a third of their normal damage to you when ARIA is in Instinct. What’s even more crazy about ARIA’s Instinct is that ARIA’s Drones can’t be killed off whilst it’s active. Drones will remain at 1 healthpoint and will continue to absorb damage for the duration of Instinct, effectively allowing you to absorb damage beyond the normal threshold.
However, if her main Body is killed in Instinct, then ARIA loses and the match ends, regardless of whether her subordinate Drones are still in play, so watch out. If things do start to go badly and you and your Drone fleet are taking a battering, you do have some alternative tactics in your titanium trickbag to try and pull things around. You can use Disband by hitting Heavy Punch + Heavy Kick when in Instinct to share out your damage between your remaining Drones, at the cost of half of your remaining Instinct. It’s a bit of a last-ditch survival attempt, but it might just help keep you and your Drones alive a bit longer to secure victory.
ARIA is an extremely versatile character who has what’s essentially the perfect set of weapons and tools for dealing with any situation or match-up the game can throw at her. She has a very flexible movelist which grants her a variety of options in combat, and with myriad Drones, Bodies and three varied fighting styles to draw upon, ARIA can tackle anyone, anywhere and from pretty much any angle. Although she might look and feel like a complicated character for a beginner to learn at first, the modular nature of her fighting style actually makes her rather easy for a novice player to pick up and practice. She actually plays very similarly to Jago and Fulgore, so some of the fundamental moves in her command list will immediately feel familiar to anyone who’s already gone through Killer Instinct‘s tutorial. With a bit of practice, you’ll soon be improvising your own increasingly complicated compositions of attacks, assists, covering-attacks and cross-ups, and fluently sight-reading when to punish your opponent’s mistakes.
The crucial thing any ARIA player does have to worry about, regardless of their skill level, is her health; keeping your eye on the distributed health of all her Drones is an absolute must when playing as the ultimate Ultratech warrior. In the wise words of KI‘s Lead Designer Adam Heart, ARIA is best thought of as not one but a team of characters. Thus, achieving success as ARIA comes down to how well you manage that team. Much like a real life sports team or an orchestra, focusing on one constituent part instead of the whole ensemble is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Remember, the team is only as strong as its weakest member, and your goal is to keep all three drones alive for as along as possible. Fail to switch your Bodies regularly and you’ll soon find those Drones are dropping like heavy metallic flies; lose one and you’ll be struggling; lose two and it’s probably goodnight Vienna.
Bearing this in mind, ARIA is strongest at the start of a match when she still has all https://tombennettblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.phpthree of her Drones available, and only gets weaker and forfeits entire portions of her command list as she loses them. On top of that, unlike the rest of Killer Instinct‘s fighters ARIA doesn’t automatically heal potential damage accumulated by her equipped Body. The only way for her to recover potential damage is to swap out of her current Body and Upload to a new one. On a side note, ARIA does also have some interesting beneficial side effects that somewhat offset the risks of having to regularly switch Bodies- for example, ARIA can actually nullify Kan-Ra’s Curse of Weight or remove Cinder’s Burnout Ender flames just by switching out to a new Body – swings and robotic roundabouts I guess.
Don’t let those concerns put you off playing as ARIA by any means though. In many ways, ARIA is theoretically the best character in the game. She doesn’t particularly have any major match-up worries that put her at a distinct disadvantage to any one character, and she can outperform each character’s specialist fighting disciplines if her resources are utilised effectively. In the right hands (e.g. not mine) and with all three of her Drones still in play, ARIA can tackle every single member of the roster with ease. Each Body is perfectly suited to its task; Bass Body is great for zoning out the rushdown characters, Blade Body is great for going on a rushdown offensive, and Booster is great at cross-ups and air dominance. Combine those three very different playstyles with her universal versatile kick attacks, Drone Assists and her damage absorbing Instinct, and she can be nigh on unstoppable.
Well, that’s pretty much all the beginner’s info I offer up about ARIA. As you can see, I’m no Grade 8 + player when it comes to Killer Instinct, but hopefully this guide might just help act as a textual rudiment to more advanced and skilled ARIA playing. So…that’s all folks! I’d better get back to the Shadow Lab and tinkle on the old ivories (i.e. whip my lousy Jago Shadow into shape).