Street Fighter 5's second season begins in earnest today when Kolin joins the playable cast. As with any addition, her arrival signals a shift in high-level play, and competitors are already doing everything they can to suss out her capabilities in preparation for the 2017 tournament circuit.
A pseudo-newcomer to the Street Fighter universe, Kolin first debuted in Street Fighter 3 as Helen, the personal assistant of main antagonist Gill. She flirts between two identities, each with wildly different personalities, and bolsters her Systema fighting style with a strong affinity to ice. She'll be added to Street Fighter 5 as downloadable content, available for $44.95 alongside Akuma, four as of yet unrevealed characters and a variety of outfits in the Season 2 pass.
The fighting game community got their first extended look at Kolin last week during a joint exhibition hosted by Capcom and rapper Lupe Fiasco. In addition to providing builds with the upcoming fighter unlocked, the developers also gave competitors a chance to try Kolin in quick, single-elimination tournament brackets. While a handful of players did just that, Long "LPN" Nguyen was by far the best, placing third with the newly-playable character.
"She looked slow in her reveal trailer, with a bland moveset," Nguyen told me. "It seemed as if she had a good amount of startup and recovery on her special moves, which reminded me of Street Fighter 4's Decapre, a character I don't like at all.
"But after getting a good amount of hands-on experience with her, my thoughts changed instantly."
A strong competitor over the past several years, Nguyen has used his multi-character knowledge to find success in Street Fighter 4, Street Fighter x Tekken and now Street Fighter 5. His ability to quickly determine a character's strengths and then exploit them in a short amount of time has made him a constant threat in tournaments across the United States.
Nguyen's visit to Capcom's launch party gave him almost two hours of play time with Kolin, and he believes she's likely to make waves in Street Fighter 5 competition despite a weak first impression.
According to Nguyen, Kolin's parries, which absorb incoming offence and counter-attack, dole out a good deal of damage, especially the EX version. Her unique V-Trigger move, he says, also has a ton of utility. When activated, Kolin creates a trail of ice spikes that, on hit, keeps the opponent's stun gauge from depleting as normal. Once maxed out, they will freeze in place, allowing her to land a massive combo. Players will only be able to get rid of the status effect by landing a successful blow on Kolin herself. Used in conjunction, these two techniques can quickly end a match.
"Kolin's V-Trigger is really good for keeping pressure on an opponent, as they will be cautious about getting stunned," Nguyen continued. "Alongside that, her parry, with its three versions, should keep the opponent from throwing out unsafe attacks or being overly aggressive. They pack a punch, especially the EX version; it deals about 200 damage and 250 stun, if I recall correctly."
In theory, Kolin's V-Trigger puts opponents between a rock and a hard place. An emphasis on offence to rid themselves of the freezing effect could lead them into a trap at the hands of her parries. Sitting back on defence to avoid stun might allow a competent Kolin player to lock them down even further with skills like her air fireball. It's a truly scary scenario that will take a good deal of practise to counteract.
After launching with 16 characters, Street Fighter 5's roster was expanded with the release of six additional cast members. From Urien's confining plasma walls to Guile's projectile barrage, each character fundamentally changed the landscape of Street Fighter 5 competition, for better or worse. Kolin, Nguyen says, definitely has what it takes to make her mark on the evolving title.
"I think she will fit into the Street Fighter 5 universe just fine, especially with her unique traits," he explained. "I've been theorizing about potential matchups, and I believe Kolin can contend against a majority of the cast with her skill set. She should do wonderful against Dhalsim, for instance, due to the fact that she can quickly rack up stun and [can] contest his long limbs from all ranges with her counters. I look forward to seeing that matchup play out once it's polished."
Adding characters to a fighting game is a much larger endeavour than in other genres. No matter where Kolin ends up in Street Fighter 5's spectrum, her mere presence adds 23 new matchups for the developers to keep in mind and every player will now have another character with which to contend. Even the weakest fighter can surprise an opponent if they don't know what to look out for, and Kolin's arrival marks a new round of studying for the serious Street Fighter 5 competitor.
"I have a pretty concentrated rotation of characters that I will be taking into the Capcom Pro Tour circuit this year," Nguyen said. "I will have to dabble with Kolin a bit before making any commitment to adding her to my circle of characters. But if she turns out as good as I predict, it's going to be one cold tournament season."