The King of Fighters '98 UMFE/Advanced Strategy
Running Regular Throw
To perform a regular (C or D) throw quickly from a run, you can input the running throw as follows: run, back+C/D. Make sure you are close enough to your opponent for a throw to come out, and try to press C or D very close to the back input, lest you accidentally walk out of range for the throw.
Note: in 98 UM FE, after inputting a run (forward, forward), your character will enter a "minimal run" state for 10 frames during which your character will continue to run even if you let go of forward, thus you will not be able to do a running regular throw until at least 11 frames after you begin running. You can, however, cancel running to an attack, a forward jump, or a roll, at any time. You can get a feel for this minimal run by going into training mode and inputting a run, then holding down or down-back: your character will start crouching the instant they are able to stop running.
In 98 UM FE, buffered superjumps are airborne on frame 1: this makes them very useful as a defensive reversal or wake-up option, as you will be able to dodge many lows used as a meaty and if your opponent hits you with a mid or a jump-in, you will get hit in the air meaning you will bounce back or air-reset instead of being left standing in hitstun for a combo, plus since you're jumping you will also avoid any command grabs that throw grounded characters. If you are reversal superjumping backwards, you will also be able to air block.
Reversal superjumps are useful for avoiding mix-up situations such as the classic jump-in V.S. empty hop low or command grab V.S. strike, and for creating space between you and your opponent. If you are on offense, the easiest and safest way to counter someone using reversal superjump often is to perform a meaty j.CD: if they jump it will hit them and knock them down again, and if they block you have enough frame advantage to re-hop or run up and apply more pressure.
You can buffer superjumps during recovery frames or while you are waking up by pressing down-back/down/down-forward right before you are able to move and then holding up-forward or up-back.
Alternate Guard is a useful defensive technique against throws that exists in KOF games pre-XIV, including 98 UM FE. When your character is put into a guarding animation/guard stance, i.e. when you block an attack or an attack is whiffed near your character while you are holding back, you can quickly switch between holding back and holding down-back to alternate between standing and crouching guard, which will make your character continue to hold their guard stance. While your character is in this guard stance animation, you cannot be thrown by either command grabs nor regular throws: attempting to use a command grab against an opponent using Alternate Guard will cause it to whiff, and regular C/D throws as well as Proximity Unblockable moves (e.g. EX King's rdp+K) will not activate, making a normal come out instead. This makes Alternate Guard quite useful against grapplers or characters that want to land a command grab on you.
You can set up a practice scenario for Alternate Guard in training mode by setting the CPU to do an attack (say, HP/st.C), then standing near the CPU and either blocking the attack or letting it whiff near you while holding back/down-back, then you can begin to alternate between standing and crouching to maintain the guard stance: if your character stays in their guarding animation and you do not walk backwards, this means you are alternating quickly enough for Alternate Guard to work.
One weakness of Alternate Guard is that you must rely on the opponent attacking or whiffing an attack near your block in order to trigger it. If you are on offense, one way to counter Alternate Guard is by not giving your opponent a chance to enter their guard stance. If you can scare them into blocking, you can do an empty throw, for example from an empty jump or from a run/step, or after an air reset or a knockdown, without hitting or whiffing an attack on your opponent's guard beforehand, and you will be able to throw them. (Note: if they are waking up from a hard/unteched soft knockdown, they will have some throw protection after they wake up, so you will have to delay your throw a bit.) Another weakness of Alternate Guard is that you will be at least partially vulnerable to low attacks while doing it, since you must alternate between blocking high and low. If you are on offense, you can stagger lows and try to fish for a confirm against an opponent using Alternate Guard.
Note: you can cancel an Alternate Guard at any time by stopping your alternating between high and low guard or by doing anything other than blocking.
A carryover from the original 98, the Unblockable Fireball trick allows characters with a projectile as well as a command grab, teleport, or counter special to make their projectile unblockable.
To perform it, you have to throw a slow-moving projectile (usually it is the light attack [A or B] version) so you have enough time to recover while the fireball is still active on the screen, and then use a command grab, teleport, or counter special. When you do a command grab, teleport, or counter, even if you are nowhere near the opponent, they will not be able to block, so the incoming projectile will become unblockable. Note: the Unblockable Fireball trick will not work with Lucky Glauber, despite him having both a projectile and a teleport.
While this technique may sound very strong, it is not game-breaking by any means and it usually does not come into play very often in matches. As stated previously, it can only be done with the light attack (A/B) version of projectile specials since the strong attack (C/D) version will likely travel too quickly and not recover fast enough to get a command grab/teleport/counter out before the projectile reaches the opponent. This means to get hit by an Unblockable Fireball, you need to try to block a slow-moving projectile from near full screen, but at that range you can easily react and avoid the fireball using another method, such as jumping over it or rolling/dodging through it. Alternatively, if your character has a special move that reflects projectiles, such as Athena's qcb+K or EX Yuri's qcb+P, you can use that to reflect the fireball instead of trying to block it.
The Unblockable Fireball trick is most useful in situations where you knock down your opponent. If you are hit by a soft knockdown move against a projectile character with a command grab/teleport/counter, it's important to make sure you hit your recovery rolls, especially if they throw a projectile at you, so you will have as much time as possible to roll/dodge or move away from the fireball. Although, there are a few characters that have setups to force you to face a meaty Unblockable Fireball on your wake-up, such as Athena after her Command Grab, EX Geese after a regular C throw, or Krauser after his counter.
One option against an Unblockable Fireball if it is too close for you to move away or jump over it easily when you are waking up is to try and perform a roll or dodge as soon as you are able to move (although this can be difficult to time against meaty fireball setups such as the ones mentioned previously, since you need to roll or dodge on frame 1 after wake-up), or alternatively you can also try to go through the fireball with a frame 1 invulnerable move, such as a DP. In general, Unblockable Fireballs are never "guaranteed" to hit since rolls and dodges are invulnerable frame 1 and several characters have frame 1 invulnerable options.
Backturned Corner Cross-up
In previous versions of 98, the player on the 2P side had an exclusive ability to cross-up the 1P opponent at the corner and land behind them, however this has been removed in 98 UM FE, while the 1P corner cross-up on backturned opponents still remains and now works for both 1P and 2P.
In 98 UM FE, if either player is in the corner and is waking up from a knockdown in a backturned (facing away from the opponent) state, the other player will be able to cross them up and hit them on the opposite side that they jump from using a deep jump-in and a button with a good cross-up hitbox while still landing on the proper side (in front of the opponent), giving them access to another mix-up option. Furthermore, for a short period when the attacker is right above the backturned defender, the defender's inputs, and the direction of the defender's reversal, are also reversed. This phenomenon can occur midscreen too, but it's much more difficult and thus rare. The corner sets it up for practical and consistent usage.
One way to set up a backturned knockdown in the corner is through one of your character's normal throws if they have one that turns the opponent around or throws them backwards while keeping them facing the same direction, and is a hard knockdown: some examples being Kim's C throw or Kyo and Benimaru's D throw. You can also create this situation through a cross-up or rolling through the opponent for a punish.
Although some characters may be able to cross you up from a hop such as Benimaru, a general way to perform this backturned corner cross-up mix-up with any character is to do a superjump. How it works is, if you do a jump-in that is very close to the corner and hits about at the height of the opponent's head/shoulders, they will be forced to block towards you in order to block the cross-up, but if you delay the jump-in and hit lower, the jump-in will hit on the proper side and the opponent must block away from you, meaning that if you decide to block a jump-in while waking up backturned at the corner, you can be put into a 50/50 mix-up situation as to which side to block. You can also mix up between a move that crosses up, and one that doesn't, without having to attack later with your non crossup option.
Although this mix-up sounds very strong, you don't have to simply commit to blocking it. As stated previously, although some characters may be able to perform the backturned corner cross-up from a hop, most characters will have to do a full jump early on the opponent's knockdown which makes it easy to see coming. On defense, you have access to several options besides blocking: for one, if your character has an invincible DP, you can use an option select to cover both sides: you can buffer a wake-up DP using b,qcb+P/K (4124+P/K). If your opponent does a jump-in earlier to cross you up, the DP will come out and hit them, while if your opponent delays their jump-in to hit you on the side facing them, you will be able to block on the correct side. Additionally, if your character has a flash kick (charge d,u+P/K or 8+P/K) reversal, these can be performed regardless of which way the player is facing and they can hit your opponent regardless if they delay the jump-in or not, so this is also an option to beat the backturned corner cross-up. The player on offense has some options that can potentially beat this option select: if they perform the superjump earlier, they may be able to safejump and block your reversal which will leave you wide open for a punish, or they could go for an empty jump low which can open you up if you aren't ready to block low quickly enough.
If you do not have access to an invincible reversal, a universal defensive option that any character has against the backturned corner cross-up is to attempt to time a roll or a dodge on wake-up to avoid the jump-in and potential cross-up, although this can be difficult to time properly, and if you are using dodge this is even more risky as the opponent will land right next to you in the corner, making them able to throw you if they are holding forward on their close C or D after performing the jump-in. Another option that the player on defense has regardless of whether they have an invincible reversal or not is to use a forward Reversal Superjump (explained earlier on this page), which can be inputted the same way regardless of which way you are facing, and can let you escape the corner if your opponent is late with their jump-in on your wake-up. To counter this, the opponent on offense can of course still use a meaty j.CD, although depending on your character's jump arc and the hitbox of their j.CD, it may be prone to whiffing on a forward Reversal Superjump if you do it out of a superjump, so a regular jump or a hop may work better. In addition, if your opponent hits their jump-in at the right time, you will get hit out of your Reversal Superjump and air-reset in the corner, and although you won't have to take a combo since you aren't standing on the ground, this will put you in another mix-up situation that the player on offense can potentially capitalize on.
If you are using extra gauge, even if you have a fully charged meter and red health, you normally cannot do an SDM/level 3 super unless you are already in max mode.
In order to easily combo into an SDM outside of max mode using extra gauge, you can do a Max Bypass by performing the regular super motion then returning to neutral (not holding any directions) and pressing ABC. This will cancel the normal into max mode using quick max and you will get the super immediately after, allowing you to do an SDM. NOTE: you cannot Max Bypass from a command normal, only regular normals.
To give an example, let's say you were at red health with a fully charged meter and you wanted to combo Mature's cr.B, cr.A into the SDM version of qcfx2+P. Your inputs should be as follows: cr.B, cr.A, qcfx2+ABC, while making sure you don't hold any directions when you press ABC.
Because cancelling a normal into max mode using quick max reduces the recovery of the normal, in some instances characters can also use Max Bypass to combo into a super that might normally be too slow to work from certain starters. For example, Chang can combo into his qcf,hcb+P super from a light normal using Max Bypass: one such combo is j.X, cl.B, qcf,hcb+ABC.
More on Air Blocking
What determines whether a move can be air blocked is whether it activates the air blocking animation or not.
Projectiles, as well as aerial normals and specials are air blockable as they trigger the air blocking animation. All grounded normals and grounded physical specials are air unblockable, as they do not trigger the air blocking animation. For supers it varies, but in general supers that have some purpose as an anti-air seem to be air unblockable while other supers are air blockable, although this isn't completely uniform: for example, Geese's qcf,hcb+P is air blockable, while Takuma or Krauser's qcf,hcb+P are air unblockable. For specials that have both grounded and aerial parts like Mature's dp+P, the grounded parts are air unblockable but once the character doing the move is in the air, the special becomes air blockable. In general, if both you and your opponent are in the air, you will be able to air block their move. Another thing to note is If you are very far away from your opponent, say a full screen away, the air blocking animation will not be triggered, so you will not be able to air block things such as fireballs from a very long range.
If your air blocking animation is activated by your opponent using an air blockable move such as a jumping attack, you will be able to air block for the rest of your jump regardless if a move would be air unblockable when used by itself, with the exception of most supers, which will go through the air block. To give an example, if your opponent back jumps near the corner and you hit them with a jump attack which they air block, and you do a cr.C afterwards, they will be able to air block the cr.C, but if you do a super afterwards, such as Takuma's qcf,hcb+P, they will not be able to air block it.
It can be risky to rely on air block too much, as moves hitting an air block will consume more guard meter, meaning you can get guard broken faster from air blocking moves. In addition, if you are guard broken while in the air, you will suffer additional vulnerable recovery upon landing, longer than the usual recovery for getting guard broken on the ground, meaning your opponent will be able to punish you more easily.
Variable height of knocked down characters
When you are knocked down, your height depends on whether you stood or crouched when you got knocked down. If you stood, then your knocked down body has standing height, but if you crouched, it has crouching height. This allows for short jump crossups against opponents who were knocked down crouching by characters who normally can't short jump over other characters.
Wakeup hurtboxes and crossups
When waking up from a knockdown, your hurtbox will, for one frame, be as high as it is when you are standing, unless you hold down back away from the opponent. However, if you hold down or down forward, then even though you are crouching, you will have a standing hurtbox for one frame on wakeup. This means that attacks that can cross up standing opponents, but whiff on crouching opponents, can still cross up and hit crouchers if done meaty.
Back turned wakeup and reversal command grabs
Certain knockdowns put the opponent in a state in which their back is turned towards you when they get up. If an instant reversal command grab is executed in this state, then it will whiff, even if you are in range and on the ground. However, a reversal grab of the type that is not instant will still work. For example: Vice's half circle forward will work, but her other two won't.
Attack cancel rolling and frame advantage
CD to attack cancel roll is slightly positive for many characters. This is because the CD causes so much blockstun. You can test whether your characters are positive in training mode by picking the character with both parties, blocking a CD to attack cancel roll, then holding up for both players and seeing which one lands first.
Even if you are only neutral after roll cancelling a ground CD, it's still a safe way to try to beat guard cancel CDs.
Heavy attacks and command normals are slightly negative on attack cancel roll, but still unpunishable except by grabs (and they can be positioned to not end up in grab range). Light attacks to attack cancel roll are very negative, and can be punished.