So, it’s no secret that Fulgore can pip-cancel into a DP if a special move is shadow countered.
(As an aside, why only a special move, you wonder? It’s because when a move hits a shadow counter, the game treats it as if it whiffed, which means you can’t pop instinct or do other things to save yourself. Fulgore (like most characters) also cannot cancel a normal if it whiffs, which is why Fulgore cannot do anything special if his fwd+HP is shadow countered. But Fulgore can (and often does) cancel special moves into each other on whiff, which is why this works.)
But if you play Fulgore, you’re probably wondering why pip-canceling into DP is more inconsistent in S3. For example, sometimes it works like this (Fulgore blows through it) (video not showing? click here):
And other times, it looks like this (Fulgore gets counter hit) (video not showing? click here):
Why is that? I thought they normalized all the shadow counter startups in Season 3 to be 8 frames? (Did you know? In S2, Aganos had the fastest shadow counter at 7 frames, and only four characters had shadow counters that were 9f or faster (Aganos 7, Shago 8 [built for S3, probably!], Wulf 9, Sadira 9). Everyone else was 10 or slower, average was about 11 or 12, and the slowest were Maya at 17 and Aria at 17)
Well, let’s take a look at why this is happening, with the magic of 60 frames per second, starting with Fulgore’s SC.
Here is the first frame Fulgore’s SC becomes active. You can see Fulgore is trying to DP, but is currently in his startup invincibility frames (he has no hollow hurtbox of any kind, which means he is invincible, and no solid red hitbox trying to hit anything). The defensive Fulgore, meanwhile, has a hollow red hitbox (which means it is projectile invulnerable, as shadow Blade Dash is), and you can see the solid red hitbox of his shadow counter hanging out in front of him.
The next frame, Fulgore’s DP becomes active, but Fulgore himself is still invincible. This is the important frame to study. You can see that Fulgore’s DP has a massive hitbox that goes all the way to the floor, overlapping in large part with the defensive Fulgore, so he should get tagged here.
And yes, the next frame, the game resolves the situation and Fulgore’s DP works.
So, what happens with Aria’s shadow counter? If shadow counters really are the same, we should expect the same situation right? Let’s take a look.
As expected, Aria’s shadow counter becomes active one frame before Fulgore’s DP does (which indicates, yes, these SCs do start up in the same amount of frames). Notice that Aria’s shadow counter is also a hollow red hurtbox (meaning it is also projectile invincible), but the location where she hits is different. Here it is:
What happens next frame? Fulgore’s DP becomes active, just like in the previous example, and he is still invincible like before. Fulgore’s DP is overlapping nicely with Aria’s hurtbox, and has no hitbox of his own to be hit.
And the frame after that? Fulgore gets hit somehow!
The key here is the 2nd image in each sequence; the one where Fulgore’s DP is active. And it’s because of the priority system.
In KI, all hitboxes are also hurtboxes, and when they trade (that is, they run into each other on the same frame), the winner is determined by a priority system. In particular, grounded shadow moves > grounded special moves in this priority system.
And here’s the crux; in the Fulgore example, his shadow counter is really far forward, such that it dodges the actual hitbox of Fulgore’s DP. Aria’s shadow counter is considerably stubbier, and it happens to magically coincide with Fulgore’s DP hitbox, which means it actually wins the trade outright (despite Fulgore being “invincible”). Note that this has to be a grounded shadow attack to work! No other move in the game can out-prioritize a grounded special move. If this situation somehow occurred with a normal attack, Fulgore’s DP would win the priority trade.
Also note that this only works on shadow counters that are 9f of startup or faster. These shadow counters are all 8f, which become active 1 frame before Fulgore’s DP; if they were 9f of startup it would still work, but 10f or slower is no good because Fulgore’s DP would have nothing to trade with and would just win directly. This is why you rarely saw this happen in S2 (except for Aganos, which did this same thing!); only Wulf and Sadira had fast enough shadow counters, and my guess is that both of those shadow counters extended the hitbox very far forward, not unlike Fulgore’s in our above example. But now, every shadow counter is fast enough to do this, so whether Fulgore can pip-cancel DP and beat a shadow counter depends on where the hitbox for the shadow counter is located. If it happens to overlap in any way with Fulgore’s DP hitbox, the shadow counter will always win. If not, the shadow counter will always lose.
And now you know!