Street Fighter V Kolin hands-on: Unique, technical, and mostly fun

Welcome to Street Fighter V Kolin
Welcome to Street Fighter V Kolin (Capcom)

Street Fighter V’s second Season 2 DLC character Kolin is out in the wild, bringing some much-needed fun to the game for this disenfranchised Ryu player.

If I’m being honest, Street Fighter V has been hard for me to pick up since the Season 2 update. Ryu, my main since the game launched, is a shadow of his former self. He has fallen on tough times.

I still believe an annual patch changing the game’s meta just enough to make the game interesting is a good thing for the competitive scene. But Ryu sucks now, and I have to move on. Is Kolin the one?

Can Kolin compete?

One of the best resources for Kolin tech right now is Twitter. Go search #KolinLab and you’ll find numerous tips for how to play Street Fighter’s first Ice Queen.

She is a technical character with what I believe is a high ceiling. That’s not the type of character I would normally play —my brain can only handle so much information and apply it to fast-paced play in fighting games. That’s why I don’t play the Uriens or Ibukis.

But while I may never fully tap into Kolin’s capabilities, I can already see how effective she can be. She’s very mobile, bearing similarities to Rolento from Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter IV. She has a command dash that can send her backwards, backward and then forward for a low attack, or backwards and then forward into the air where she can grab a player if knocked airborne.

Kolin’s biggest strengths are her counter abilities. She has a counter special move for low, mid, and high attacks, great for reacting to jump-ins or anticipating a move after an opponent blocks her attacks. Her V-Skill also functions as a counter, which is strange considering it essentially serves the same purpose as her special move. However, the special move leaves players vulnerable, while the V-Skill is fast and feels much safer when blocked. Plus it actually hits the opponent for small damage if they aren’t blocking and it doesn’t register as a counter-attack.

Kolin may be a technical character but she is fun.
Kolin may be a technical character but she is fun. (Capcom)

Mixing it up and playing neutral

I’ve seen quite a bit of talk about the strength of Kolin’s neutral game. Her walkspeed is slow, so when and where you throw out buttons is critical. Her standing normal attacks that start up combos have short range.

Crouching lights and medium punch are my buttons of choice. Her sweep is two hits and incredibly slow. If the first whiffs and you have enough space, you can likely punish before the second hit. However, it can Crush Counter and lead to options like Kolin’s V-Trigger.

Kolin’s mix-up game is most similar to Ibuki in that it relies on frame traps and confusion. In fact, that seems like the only viable use for her ice ball projectile. You won’t win any projectile wars with her against the likes of Ryu or Urien. Despite it also having an upwards start-up animation, it doesn’t function well as an anti-air either. I’d have to spend a lot more time in the lab working on mix-ups after knockdowns for it be more effective for me, but there’s potential here.

Street Fighter V’s V-Trigger mechanic has been hit or miss with some characters. Kolin’s is unique to Street Fighter because of its stun gauge freeze property. Once activated, Kolin can toss out two ice waves that do small damage. If you’ve harassed your opponent enough to build up their stun gauge, it’s a great way to try to force a stun because the freeze doesn’t go away unless Kolin gets hit. It also works as an OTG (off-the-ground) attack after a throw or a Crush Counter sweep similar to Urien’s Critical Art.

Kolin's V-Trigger does damage, has OTG properties, and freezes the opponent's stun gauge
Kolin’s V-Trigger does damage, has OTG properties, and freezes the opponent’s stun gauge (Capcom)

Ryu, it’s time to move on

Kolin will be a dangerous character in the coming months. She may have contributed to players demoralized by the focus on persist offense and lack of defense inherent in Street Fighter V. Right now, it just doesn’t pay to be a defensive player because offense is the best defense. She has a steep learning curve, however, so I don’t expect to see her in high level competition right away, which is the same thing that happened with almost every DLC character in Season 1.

I love how Capcom is going in a new direction with Kolin, and I hope that it continues to do so with the rest of Season 2 DLC. Despite the fact she’s not entirely new to the series (she’s a background character who got her powers from Gill, the boss in Street Fighter III,) Kolin represents a fresh approach to the series as a whole. I’d love to see more unique properties in Street Fighter V with upcoming characters; for a lot of people (myslf included), that’s sadly missing from the game.

Will I make the switch from Ryu? Absolutely, unless a patch comes along and re-buffs Ryu or maybe Capcom rethinks the bad ass realistic Ryu. But I don’t think Kolin will be my new main. I’m not sure I can excel with a technical character like her. She’s built for someone like Ho Kun Xian, who is still finding a way to compete at the highest level with FANG, arguably the worst character in Street Fighter V.For now, I’ll just sit back and have a fun playing someone fresh while I await more of the “all-new” Season 2 DLC characters.

Michael Martin wonders if Gill gave Kolin ice powers, who got the fire powers? Follow him on Twitter @Bizarro_Mike.