We start this post with Youmu Konpaku performing a jumping A attack with the hitboxes overlayed on the image. As you can see, that jump attack is rather good. And what you may or may not realize is that very few characters in the game have moves that can hit directly above them, and therefor if a Youmu player positions the j.A directly over your head there's almost no normal moves that can actually beat it.
Now, I came from a Fighting game background with such games as Super Street Fighter 2 (and Turbo), Street Fighter Alpha 3, Capcom vs. SNK 2, and Street Fighter 3;3rd Strike. And so I was extremely use to the fact that a simple down+heavy = free guaranteed anti-air. And so, diving into games such as IaMP and MeltyBlood where you don't always get to punch some one out of the sky was really giving me quite a headache. But, fortunately, I've learned that I was simply looking at it the wrong way.
My first instinct was to get under the opponent, since I normally play the characters in other fighting games who can usually use some sort of crossunder trick like a slide or something. This actually works pretty well for characters that go really low to the ground during a forward dash, like Sakuya Izayoi in the above picture. But first of all, this wasn't working too well for the characters that didn't go low to the ground like Patchouli Knowledge or Yukari Yakumo. And second it wasn't really flipping the situation in my favor since forward dashes have a cool-down period and therefor I was still at a disadvantage.
What I was looking for is what is seen in the above image. My precious one-button anti-air, Sakuya 2C. This move hits directly above Sakuya and it's what I thought to be the answer for all my troubles. However:
As you can see, bullets can be air dashed through via the graze function. And I began to realize when I started to use this move was about passive control over the opponent's air movement and the controlling of certain vectors. See, I started to use Sakuya 2C as seen in the above image, but that wasn't working since Youmu can airdash through it and smack Sakuya anyway. But that's when things started to trigger in my head; instead of moving myself, I could force my opponent to move instead. And it's this movement that I wanted to take advantage of.
Basically, if I positioned myself and fired 2C upwards at Youmu, the opponent would be forced to airdash through to bullets. But what I understood about airdashing is they only move in two directions, forwards and backwards. This essentially achieved the exact same thing I was doing in the first place, which was dashing under my opponent. But this was infinitely better because instead using forward dashing myself and losing my advantage, I was forcing my opponent to airdash and make them lose their advantage. As we see in the above image, if Youmu comes in at the angle in which to use j.A then Sakuya's 2C will hit, and a player paying attention would instead use an airdash to avoid being hit by the 2C. If the player does a backwards airdash then they are put well out of range to use any of Youmu's air melee attacks, and likewise if they airdash forwards they will overshoot Sakuya by quite a bit and Sakuya can hit from behind freely.
Now, while this isn't a direct "I'm going to punch you in the face" anti-air, it's still a very highly effective one. Especially in the case of Sakuya who can highjump cancel her 2C or special-cancel it as well, enabling Sakuya to hit Youmu out of the airdash or simply gain direct advantage and begin a lockdown string.
So, in previous posts I talked about how using bullets can prevent an opponent from using a melee attack, and so tossing bullets and then performing a jump-in will prevent the opponent from using an attack to anti-air you. And the fact is, mindlessly jumping in at your opponent is pretty scrubby play in just about every game, including IaMP. In order to prevent Sakuya from having such a free and effective anti-air, the Youmu player should have been setting up an array of bullets in which to prevent the Sakuya from attacking in the right place at the right time. What we see in the image above is Youmu having used 5C before doing a hj9.A, this prevents the Sakuya player from "camping" the ideal anti-air space because the bullets fired by Youmu prevent Sakuya from attacking.
Once again, it all comes back to controlling space and zoning. If Youmu shot bullets in the spot where Sakuya intends to anti-air from, then the opponent Sakuya could not stand there and fire 2C, making Youmu's j.A once again safe to use. But this is where the game gets a little tricky, since now it's Sakuya's job to limit Youmu's ability to set up bullets, which Sakuya can do with f.A and 236C and 214A and j.C, etc.
Thus, our midrange game is again filled with fun and interesting dynamics.
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