I think Riptor is strong, but I don’t think she compares with the Top 5 in the game (or realistically, the top 7 or 8 since we can never agree on the top 5 ). The characters at the top of KI have some combination of ridiculous setplay, damage, comeback potential, and/or neutral control. Riptor is good in these things, but she doesn’t really overwhelm like they do in any of these areas.
Looking at your takes on her offense:
True. Riptor has generally solid damage
Eh, decent aerials is more like. She’s like Sadira - pretty good at locking down a grounded opponent, but not so great at contesting in air-to-airs. HP and the medium buttons are shallow, and jump+HK arcs downward and is fairly slow. Jump+HP is hurt by shadow counterability. Note: jump+HP shadow counters are never punishes - it’s just that it will beat any non-block option Riptor does after the jump+HP.
-A high damaging grab
True. Eff that grab, and the run that makes it so far-ranging and hard to tech.
Riptor has solid mobility, but it’s also pretty linear. She only really moves in straight lines, and that can be pretty damaging in this game. If Riptor runs at you, shadow forward-traveling special on reaction will usually beat anything Riptor tries to do.
-Great anti-airs, including a shadow one that recaptures
Meh. Decent anti-airs, but coupled to what’s probably the widest horizontal hurtbox in the game. Riptor loses hard to ambiguous or deep jump-ins.
-A shadow reversal and a decent back dash
Shadow clever girl is one of the easier reversals to cross up in my experience. Riptor’s back run is fanstastic though, and she’s got a half decent meterless reversal coming out of it.
-Anti-zoning tools like predator stance, running and mortars
Truth. Riptor is relatively difficult to zone to my understanding. Predator stance can be punished pretty hard though since Riptor can’t block while she’s in it.
-Many plus normals
I can’t say that I think she’s got a particularly impressive suite of plus-pressure options compared to some of the other characters in the running for Top 5. Her buttons like that are very close range in general, which means that while they’re good in oki situations, they’re of limited use in neutral.
Riptor only has “decent” meaties in my opinion. They’re annoying for my main to deal with, but they’re not all that special against the rest of the cast. Flame normals can be shadowed through, flame overhead is unsafe on block, headbutt->stuff can be shadow countered, low bite is shadow counterable, heavy tail and jump+HP are shadow counterable, etc. Riptor is certainly good on knockdown, don’t get me wrong, but her pressure definitely has holes.
-A flame carpet to back up her offense
Flame carpet is good, but it’s not overwhelmingly potent IMO. It adds a nice “please sit still” layer to her mixup, but realistically all it does is encourage you to block in a situation where you should probably already be blocking anyway.
-Great range with tail attacks
True, and especially true in instinct.
I dunno. I think Riptor is a good character, but I don’t find her to be overwhelming the way those other characters in the running are. Against a Fulgore or Aria you sometimes just flat-out won’t get to play, Mira can kill you in a single mistake, Omen’s space control in the neutral is ridiculous, etc. Against Riptor, you always get to play, and you can make more than a couple of mistakes against her and win. You might get outplayed by a good Riptor, but very rarely will you just get rolled.
And yes, I consider Riptor’s shadow counterability to be a bit worse than most characters, even heavily frame trappy ones. Those characters have a choice to do things that you can shadow counter - with Riptor, a lot of what she does commits to 3 hits whether the Riptor player wants that or not. I consider that a real and relevant weakness, though there is obviously room to disagree on that point.