With new developer Iron Galaxy in place, the first character reveal for Killer Instinct's second season of content is a crucial one. After all, bringing in a new team to continue another's work is always risky business, especially when there's as many subtle mechanical details involved as a competition-grade fighting game has. Thankfully, it looks like the folks at Iron Galaxy have a solid handle on things so far with TJ Combo, the first of eight new characters who will be joining the KI roster. Being only 50% complete, he's obviously still a work-in-progress, but like the eight characters that came before him, he already has enough interesting tricks up his sleeve to give him a distinct feel.
At the center of his game is Powerline, his old, Balrog-esque dashing straight punch. Be prepared to use this one a hell of a lot, because pretty much all of his offensive options branch out from this one move. With tons of range, and one hit of armor, Powerline allows you to close just about any gap to get in your opponent's face.
Of course, it wouldn't be too helpful if you always had to commit to a move that left you wide open on block, so you can cancel out of Powerline into a wide array of other offensive and evasive options. There's a high-priority flying knee that's safe on block, an evasive forward roll that's immune to everything but throws, an invincible backdash, and more. Using all these options intelligently to work your way in is step one for TJ.
Once you're in striking range, TJ plays mostly standard KI, and he does that well with a decent overhead, a command cross-up off his jump, and most potently with a move called Tremor. TJ rises forward through the air, and lands with a crushing fist attack. It doesn't sound interesting, but it has a wide variety of applications. Depending on the range you do it from, Tremor can be either an overhead or a low attack, making it confusing to defend against. In fact, at certain spacings, it will actually go over an opponent's head and hit behind them, adding a left/right mixup as well. Thankfully, it's fully punishable on block, but with a little work, some really ambiguous setups should be possible.
That's not even Tremor's most important attribute though. What really sets this move apart is the fact that it can be used as an anti-air or during juggle combos, and if it hits successfully in those situations, your opponent lands standing and dazed, allowing you to continue into a full ground combo. This makes his juggle ender more dangerous than that of other characters, allowing him to continue his combo in earnest, or get a wide-open reset opportunity out of it at the very least. Along with his Winding Upper, it also makes TJ a scary character to jump against. Bunny-hoppers beware!
The fun doesn't stop there either. Like many of the other characters, TJ has a unique combo mechanic as well. His is called Auto-Barrage, and it allows you to cancel out of an auto-double into a freeform sequence of timed button presses. The timing is fairly strict, and you can't repeat buttons, but if you cycle through all six basic attacks, you get a special, insanely damaging ender. Because the animations are unique, and can come in any order, it's really tough to break an Auto-Barrage, so you can use it to force a lockout, and then just transition back into a regular combo if you like. Last but not least, if TJ's instinct meter is full when he loses the match, he gets back up with a small extra bit of health to continue the fight. Dark Combo rises?
With only six weeks of work done on him, the folks at Iron Galaxy still have a ways to go, but they know it. Like Double Helix before them, the team is comprised of tournament veterans and fighting game nuts, and they're actively seeking feedback from top players and the community as a whole. Season two looks like it will get off to a good start this coming fall.