Wouldn’t you know it? Just a week after I put up my list of Street Fighter characters I don’t want to see return in Season 4, Capcom releases the first DLC character of the bunch. To add insult to injury, the first Street Fighter V Season 4 character is one of those people I didn’t want to see! I know he’s a fan favorite but why did it have to be Evil Ryu? Oh, sure, Capcom is calling him Kage and he’s the embodiment of the Satsui no Hado and not Ryu overcome by the Murderous Intent. But look at him! Kage is Evil Ryu!
But looks can be deceiving. After I ranted and bemoaning Evil Ryu’s return, I eventually got Kage and tried him out for myself. From my time with the character, yes. He’s definitely got some elements of Evil Ryu but he’s a little bit of Akuma from Street Fighter V, a little bit of Oni from Street Fighter IV and, strangely enough, some little sprinkles of Dan! The biggest question is: Is Kage any good? Well, here’s my review of the first Season 4 character, Kage!
The first thing I have to discuss is his physical design, which can be summarized in two words: Evil Ryu. Oh, you can futilely try to argue that it’s not by pointing out Kage has horns and a huge overbite. But, really! Other than those two features, Kage is just Evil Ryu with a different name when it comes to design. I can’t help but be disappointed. The very least Capcom could’ve done was make him a little more distinct from Ryu/Evil Ryu! They did it with the Simba-Akuma hybrid (I call him SimbAkuma!) from Season 2!
Even though Kage looks a whole lot like Evil Ryu, Capcom did tweak him in some interesting ways to kind of make him his own character. Yes, he’s generally a Shoto, a guy with a Fireball, Hurricane Kick and a Dragon Punch. But they do have interesting twists and move variations that makes Kage more than just your garden variety Shoto.
Kage has three kinds of fireballs. Basically, he’s kind of like Akuma and, well, Dan, frankly speaking. He basically copies Akuma’s Shakunetsu Hadouken AKA Red Fireball as it’s a charged up fireball that can his several times. Kage can also toss a horizontal fireball while jumping forward but will dissipate over some distance. But at least it travels much farther than his grounded “regular” Hadoken! Kage’s Hadoken is kinda funny as it’s a point blank projectile with virtually no range! It’s like Dan’s in that sense, which is really strange that Kage is supposed to be the embodiment of the Satsui no Hado. Yet, he has the shortest ranged fireball! I guess it’s useful in nullifying other projectiles and the EX version causes a crumple state.
Another thing that Kage does much like Dan is his version of the classic Hurricane Kick, the Kurekijin. Unlike the classic multiple hitting spinning kick other Shotos do, the Kurekijin is a powerful jumping spin kick that launches the opponent in the air, which Kage can juggle into for a combo. It does travel really far but unsafe on block. In this respect, it reminds me on the light kick version of Dan’s Dankukyaku but with more juggle potential. You can also do this while jumping and, if done close to the ground and with the right spacing, it’s a great way to crossup the opponent.
Kage also has the classic Shoryuken and, well, there’s nothing really to say about it. It’s a great anti-air and combo finisher, much like other Shoryukens out there. It does function like Akuma’s version as it doesn’t have all that much forward range but it can hit several times depending on the strength of the punch button used. Oh, I do have to mention that Kage does the Shoryuken with his leading hand, making it look like he’s copying Dan’s Koryuken! Come to think of it, a lot of Kage’s moves mimic Dan! It’s really weird!
Probably Kage’s best move is stolen right from Evil Ryu’s movelist: the Ryusokyaku. It’s basically a big stomp and, like Evil Ryu, it’s Kage’s best way to tack on the damage. The heavy version of the Ryusokyaku is so slow to come out, you can combo it only from his crouching heavy punch. But, if it connects, you can easily do a crouching medium punch and cancel that into either the medium version of the Ryusokyaku or the Kurekijin. Another thing that makes the Ryusokyaku so scary is that the EX version is an overhead! This means that you’re going to train yourself to block high and, once the Kage player catches on, he’ll start mixing in some low attacks!
Kage’s V-Skill is kind of a weird mixed bag. It’s basically a lunge punch with 1-hit of armor on high attacks. Yet low attacks will pass through and cause a counter state. I wouldn’t advise you using this at random times even with the armor. I guess it’s good for closing the gap against projectile attacks at the right ranges or someone spamming/whiffing buttons in the hopes of catching Kage dashing in recklessly.
I will say that I love Kage’s V-Triggers as they feel really functional and useful. They’re both install V-Triggers with great applications. The first one, Taigyaku Mudo, uses two bars and allows Kage to perform the Ashura Senku, AKA Akuma’s teleport. The great thing is that is can be canceled from most of his normals and even his special moves, both grounded and air versions! This serves many purposes! You can make Kage safe if some of his attacks are blocked. You can teleport forward and continue the combo. You can even use it to avoid attacks to get in!
Kage’s second V-Trigger, Rikudo Osatsu, uses three bars but it unlocks his ability to do the Misogi and the Shun Goku Satsu. The latter is very familiar to Street Fighter veterans as this is just Kage’s version of the Akuma’s Raging Demon Critical Art. The Misogi is a quick attack that causes Kage to do an invincible vertical jump to pounce on his foe with a diving attack that does a hard knockdown. You can also combo this from all his special attacks, regardless if in the air or not. This is also scary since it allows Kage to get in as it’s safe on block.
Kage has some outstanding normal attacks. His standing and crouching medium kicks are good pokes thanks to their range. He also has a very quick standing light punch, which is good for trying to sneak in between block strings. But the most outstanding normal has to be his crouching medium punch. Not only does it have decent range but you can link that into most of his other normals. You can even link it into a standing medium punch, which can be devastating in combos!
Even though it looks like Kage is a powerhouse, he has some really big weaknesses. He’s built for doing damage but is unable to take the hits as he has one of the lowest health numbers in the game. A few good combos and Kage is out! He’s also not really good other than close range as he’s meant to go in and do monstrous damage with his combos. Kage does have some great ways to get it but it can be a challenge against someone with superb defensive strategies. Still, once you get in, it’s damage heaven, baby!
I think the more important feature of Kage is that, well, he’s kind of a blast to control! It can get frustrating against characters with good keepaway like Menat, other opponents with high damage outputs like Abigail or high defensive specialists like Guile and even FANG. But, once you do get into Kage’s range, his opponents are in a world of hurt thanks to his ability for long combos, which are actually relatively easy to execute. I managed to go through all his trials in around an hour. That may be a long time to better players but I like to remind you that I’m kind of a novice; even doing something like an instant air-fireball took me a while to get a hang of while tackling his trials! But I did it eventually and it just made sense. I even made a bunch of other combos that aren’t included in the trials because there’s some room for creativity here.
All-in-all, I’m rather impressed with what Capcom did with Kage. He’s still a version of Evil Ryu but does feel like his own character. I guess the biggest question is where he belongs in Street Fighter V’s tier list. In my opinion (as a non-tournament level player), Kage is upper-mid tier. He can definitely do some damage once he gets in but he has to find a way to actually get close without getting hurt too much. I can see him doing well in the tournament scene in the right hands with his damage output and decent mixups.
What do you think of Kage, Street Fighter V’s first DLC character for Season 4? Let me know in the comments section below!