Most Similar To: Jago, with C. Viper, Fei Long, and Sagat flavors, on a Marvel vs. Capcom team
Strengths: ARIA starts every match at her strongest. She can choose any combination of great footsies, great zoning, or great air mobility to approach the matchup at hand, switching as the situation warrants, and protect all her unsafe approaches and mixups with her backup drones. Because each body is among the best in the game at its particular skill, when ARIA strongly coordinates her efforts, it can be very overwhelming. Even though each body is given some unique tools, ARIA has a universal set of moves across all bodies that can be used to stabilize her game.
Weaknesses: ARIA is the only character in Killer Instinct that gets weaker the longer the fight goes on, meaning she has less potential for comebacks and she might not be able to weather the storm at the end of a close match when her opponent is stocked on resources. Managing the health of each drone is absolutely paramount to success with ARIA, which means ARIA is a rather unforgiving character to play; if you make a mistake and lose a body quickly, the rest of the match may be a struggle, and because ARIA's bodies have less health than other characters, a single mistake might be all it takes. You are also expected to flow between many different styles of play on the fly, even if it doesn't suit the matchup. Many of ARIA's universal moves need assists to back them up, because otherwise they can be easily shadow countered.
Best Counter-Breaker Combos
0 Meter: HK double > medium Explosive Arc > HK double > medium Explosive Arc > Shotgun Blitz ender (40%).
In Blade body, use Allegro ender (46%)
1 Meter: HK double > medium Explosive Arc > HK double > Shadow Explosive Arc > Shotgun Blitz ender (46%).
In Booster body and Blade body, repeat 0-meter combo and use Shadow Crescendo ender (Booster: 50%) or Shadow Allegro ender (Blade: 54%)
2 Meter: HK double > light Shotgun Knee > HK double > Shadow Explosive Arc > Shadow Explosive Arc > Shotgun Blitz ender (52%).
In Booster body and Blade body, repeat all-purpose 1-meter combo and use Shadow Crescendo ender (Booster: 56%) or Shadow Allegro ender (Blade: 60%)
( Damage calculation notes)
Notes: ARIA's kick doubles are faster than her punch doubles, so they must be used for these combos. Explosive Arc linkers do much more damage than Shotgun Knee linkers, but they take up an odd amount of time, so Aria is the only character in the game that likes to use medium linkers over light linkers in her counter break combos. The two-meter combo needs to squeeze in some shadow moves, though, so we make use of the faster Shotgun Knee linker here.
ARIA is unique in that her optimal punish depends on the body she is wearing. The main combos listed work in all bodies, so if you default to those you will do okay damage (and in Bass body, you have no choice). Blade body has access to the damage ender, so always use that when it is available if damage optimization is your goal. In particular, Shadow Allegro and Shadow Crescendo are preferred uses of meter over the Shadow Explosive Arc linkers.
Unique Mechanic: Drone Ensemble
ARIA is actually three characters in one. Unlike other characters who have two health bars, ARIA has the same total health pool split across three separate bodies, each being two-thirds the length of a normal health bar. The opponent must defeat each body to win a match against ARIA. ARIA's upper body changes appearance to signify which body she is wearing, and each form comes with a unique special move and movement option. Aside from a few specific normals in Blade body, ARIA's normals are the same across bodies, and she always has access to her Shotgun Blitz and Explosive Arc special moves, which are her only linkers. This means each body provides a unique flavor to ARIA but certain strategies and most combos are universally applicable.
If ARIA loses her health bar while wearing a body, that form will be permanently destroyed for the rest of the match, and ARIA will start the next round with a new body and be forced to fight on with her remaining forms. If all three forms are killed, the match is over. Interestingly, ARIA does not gradually recover potential damage on her active body like every other character; only the bodies she is not wearing are able to regenerate white life. If you are fighting a player who likes to perform resets or inflict lots of white damage, or if you find your current body's health low, you will have to switch bodies by pressing PPP or KKK. ARIA can switch in a neutral state or during a combo, which acts as a combo ender. If you switch in neutral, the switch animation begins with a brief period of invulnerability, but quickly becomes very punishable, so you will have to find ways to switch when your opponent is not near. As a bonus, whenever ARIA switches bodies, she removes all status effect curses she has incurred.
The bodies that ARIA is not wearing will float behind her as drones, and she can summon a drone to perform an attack for her with the +HP or +HK command normals. Termed calling an assist, each drone will perform a different predetermined attack which can protect ARIA's approach and make her safe, or force the opponent to block while ARIA performs a tricky mixup. Because assist calling is technically a command normal, this means you cannot call assists in the air, or while other normals or specials are being performed, but the assist call is very fast and ARIA is allowed to have multiple active assists at the same time. However, each drone can be hit by a single attack at certain points during its startup, active frames and recovery, and if a drone is attacked, the body form representing the drone will take massive damage (2.5x the strength of the attack). If a drone assist takes enough damage, it will die, and ARIA will lose access to that form, just as if she had died while directly wearing that body. Calling assists in ways to prevent punishment is important to learn as an ARIA player.
This is ARIA's default body at the start of every match. Signified by the giant wings on her back, this is ARIA's air mobility form. She gets access to the Crescendo special move, a charge tackle that leaves blue hexagons in her wake, which can be performed on the ground or in the air. The light version travels horizontally, the medium version fires at a diagonal angle either upwards (ground) or downwards (air), while the heavy version acts vertically either upwards on the ground or downwards in the air. If Crescendo hits the opponent grounded, it will also act as a combo opener, and grounded heavy Crescendo is invincible and can be used as a reversal, though it is slow and does not have much range.
More importantly, ARIA can hover in this form by simply tapping and holding the up direction at any point after the apex of her jump, and she can steer herself horizontally in the air while her hover is active. If she crosses over an opponent, she will turn around, which effectively makes her regular jumping attacks act like cross-ups while she is in hover mode; if you tap up and let go immediately, she will turn around and drop to the ground facing her new direction. The Booster assist acts as a fast tackle which will push the opponent away if blocked, and cause a knockdown on hit. It is useful to gain space and time if your opponent is rushing in, or to put your opponent in block stun during a corner mixup. Booster assist is vulnerable after it is blocked before returning to ARIA's side, although if ARIA is pressuring the opponent, he will be unable to retaliate.
ARIA fits a large blade on her arm for her ground mobility form. She gets increased walk speed and all her MP and HP buttons, both grounded and in the air, get considerably extended range due to the blade, which means she becomes a very strong whiff punishing and footsies character in Blade body. Of particular note, crouching MP is a long-range cancelable low, standing MP and HP take up half a screen of real estate, jumping MP crosses up reliably, and she earns a new command normal called Interlude (+HP). Interlude is a 20-frame overhead that is hard to react to, has long range, is special cancelable into combo openers, and has a fairly difficult to see startup animation. The Blade assist is an uppercut anti-air attack that is fully strike (though not projectile) invincible on startup and during active frames, making it excellent to cover the air in case your opponent jumps, or to blow through an opponent's attack if they try to escape ARIA's pressure. On hit, the Blade assist launches the opponent into the air, so ARIA is limited in her follow-up options.
ARIA gets outfitted with a chest cannon when she takes on Bass body, her zoning form. Her dashes become much faster in this body, suitable for quickly gaining space or dashing in for a surprise throw. Bass body's special move is Dissonance, perhaps the strongest projectile attack in the game. The light version is fired close to the ground and must be blocked low, the medium version shoots at head level, and the heavy version is angled about 45 degrees in the air. All versions shoot 3 projectiles that travel at sonic speed towards the opponent, destroying all non-shadow projectiles in their path and simply traveling through shadow projectiles. Although Dissonance has more recovery than other projectiles, ARIA can cancel into a shadow move at any point during the animation. For example, she could cancel into shadow Dissonance, which sprays 7 projectiles at varying angles across the screen, to try and keep herself safe from someone who jumped, or she could cancel into shadow Shotgun Blitz to hit-confirm a grounded projectile into a combo. While Dissonance is a great projectile, like most specials in KI, it does not do an overwhelming amount of chip damage, and you are awarded significant meter on block, so blocking a series of projectiles is not a bad idea. ARIA has no reversal attack in this form, so if you can knock her down, start applying your strongest pressure.
The Bass assist is ARIA's best assist. The Bass drone fires a triple projectile at waist height, leaving the opponent standing on hit so ARIA can follow up with a combo, and protecting ARIA from most retaliations if she is interrupted on a mixup. This acts very similarly to a traditional "beam assist" in other fighting games, and Bass form has been placed as the last body so ARIA will have access to the assist while wearing both the Booster and Blade bodies. From far range, Bass assist is good at putting your opponent in block stun while ARIA closes in with a medium Allegro or a medium Shotgun Blitz. From close range, it is great to call just before your opponent rises from a knockdown, such as a throw or the Explosive Arc ender. In Booster body, you can hover on top of their body for a difficult left-right mixup, and in Blade body, you can mix up between low crouching MP and high Interlude. In all situations, any hit will lead to a full combo.
Openers: Shotgun Blitz (shadow OK), Explosive Arc (shadow OK), Crescendo (in Booster body)
Apart from a situational use of Crescendo, ARIA's primary combo starters can be used in any body. Shotgun Blitz causes ARIA to leap off the ground, knee first, towards her opponent, firing a shotgun if the knee hits or is blocked. It acts a lot like Jago's Wind Kick; it is lower body invincible and travels at a similar speed and pace, and medium Shotgun Blitz will connect from even the farthest reaching normal attacks. Heavy Shotgun Blitz travels the farthest, but is -10 on block and will often be punished unless covered by an assist. Unlike Wind Kick, however, it always hits twice on block, and the second hit is rather delayed, so it will often be shadow countered by astute defenders. Shadow Shotgun Blitz, like shadow Wind Kick, is projectile invincible from nearly full screen, giving ARIA good ways around zoning on reaction, but shadow Shotgun Blitz is very punishable on block even without shadow counter. Explosive Arc has ARIA raise her leg far above her head and kick grenades from her foot. It is similar to Jago's Laser Sword; it is upper body invincible and the heavy version generates a large amount of frame advantage on hit, allowing you enough time to call an assist and still manual with a heavy attack.Other Combo Starters: Medium Allegro (requires a manual), Heavy Allegro (launches for juggle)
Medium Allegro in Blade body is not truly an opener, meaning you cannot perform auto-doubles or linkers after it, but you have enough frame advantage to easily land any manual of your choice, which will enter the combo system. This makes medium Allegro an important move in ARIA's arsenal, but typically only used in hit confirms or whiff punishes, since the move is very easy to shadow counter on block. The heavy version of Allegro launches for a juggle, but ARIA is often better off confirming a grounded combo instead.Linkers: Shotgun Blitz (shadow OK), Explosive Arc (shadow OK)
While ARIA is a complicated character in the neutral game, her combo game is quite simple. Her only two linkers are the two universal special moves; there are no form-specific linkers to remember, so if you enter a combo, you can execute according to muscle memory without worry. Performing a manual after Shotgun Blitz has similar timing to Jago's Wind Kick (a little slow), while manualing after Explosive Arc is a lot like Laser Sword (a little fast). Explosive Arc is the damage linker and it is fairly difficult to differentiate the linker strengths. The Shotgun Blitz linkers cause ARIA to drop to her knees and bend over backwards in a recognizable pose while firing weapons and saying "Blitz". Her MK auto-double also fires weapons out of her knees, but you can distinguish it because she starts the animation standing up.
Shadow Linkers: Shadow Explosive Arc is great in lockout combos for its very short duration and extra damage, but it is fairly trivial to break. With a 1-frame gap between the freeze and the first hit, it is very difficult to lock yourself out here. The real reason you're reading this paragraph is to learn how to break Shadow Shotgun Blitz, a staggered, bizarre-looking linker that is actually a lot easier than it first seems. The trick is to know that you are not trying to break the flashes of light that come out of ARIA's knees when she fires the shotgun, but rather a few frames later, when the shotgun shells actually hit your character. This means that breaking slightly later than you think with each hit is the key to success.
In particular, the first hit has a large (but late) window, emphasizing that breaking late is the way to go. The third hit, in my experience, is the hit you are most tempted to break too early, probably because of that large gap between the second and third hits. Don't deviate from the plan here, though; wait until after ARIA has stopped her forward movement and completed the firing of her shotgun before you press those buttons. And don't be fooled by the fact that hits 4 and 5 are a bit faster than the rest of the linker and jump the gun on breaking near the end.
Wow, that's a lot of enders! ARIA is the only character in the game with six enders, but because three of them are split across the different bodies, the length of this list is a bit misleading. You will always have access to the Explosive Arc or Shotgun Blitz enders, so if you lose track of what body you're in during a combo, make sure you always execute a kick special move for your ender to cover all bases. Explosive Arc is great for setups, because they will get launched high into the air and give ARIA a chance to call an assist and jump over their head, or do a high-low mixup in Blade form. Shotgun Blitz is her most damaging ender aside from the Blade body damage ender, and knocks the opponent away. ARIA can then call Bass or Booster assist and do medium Shotgun Blitz to close the gap and perform a mixup.
It is also fairly important for you to not ignore the Upload enders, which cause a body switch. Because switching forms in neutral is very risky and often not possible, if you are low on health, I recommend doing a short combo and finish with an Upload ender to safely switch out. If you focus too much on the other enders, you will lose ARIA's bodies earlier than necessary, causing you to struggle later in the match. As a positive, the Upload enders actually do a surprising amount of damage, so you will not have to sacrifice much to switch. Allegro in Blade body is her true damage ender, and is probably the most common non-universal ender, but you will only have access to it one-third of the time.
Recapture & Flipout: Standing LK & Jumping LP (flipout)
ARIA makes acceptable use of flipout, especially after her launcher ender, Explosive Arc. With no recapture, she has a choice to either perform a mixup over the knocked down opponent, or else intercept them in the air on the way down for a surprise mixup.
Instinct Mode: ARIA combines forms with all her drones, giving her all the special moves and movement options of any body that has not yet been destroyed. If she has all three bodies remaining, she gets a new type of drone she can call as an assist; called a Mini-Drone, it will fire a homing 2-hit projectile towards the opponent. For each body that had been killed before ARIA could activate instinct, she will gain an additional Mini-Drone, so if ARIA is fighting with a solo form, she will get three Mini-Drones to back her up. This alone is pretty cool, since staggering the assist calls can create some pretty strong rushdown or strong zoning, depending on the forms ARIA has remaining, but ARIA's instinct mode also breaks a few other rules of traditional instincts.
As soon as ARIA activates instinct, she will switch to the body form that has the most remaining health. From this point on, all forms will equally share damage that ARIA takes, which makes it difficult to build up ender levels on instinct ARIA since only one-third of the white life you normally get will be on the main form. Even better, your backup forms cannot die while instinct is active, so when a drone's health is fully extinguished, it will remain alive with 1 HP and continue to receive the split damage that is being dealt. This means it is possible to soak damage until instinct ends, and as a result, it is key for ARIA players to find a way to keep all bodies alive via clever switching until their first instinct bar is available. If you lose one of your forms, you will likely be unable to soak damage. However, if ARIA's main form dies while in instinct, the match will instantly end, even if some drones are in the background soaking damage. It is possible to cancel instinct mode by pressing HP+HK again; you will lose half of your remaining instinct bar, but if your main form is about to die, you will likely get a chance to see your remaining drones that survived on a magic pixel get a shot at a comeback. In general, though, it is best to use your full instinct time and use your Mini-Drones and soaking ability to get as much out of each activation as possible.
Normals to watch: ARIA's best normals, by far, are in Blade form, when the extended range on MP and HP give her exceptional space and air control, an overhead mixup with +HP, a long-range low button with crouching MP, and a good crossup with jumping MP. When not in Blade form, these normals (except the overhead) still exist, but their range is considerably lessened and their utility affected. Crouching HP works as anti-air in all forms, and is her fastest heavy attack, so performing heavy manuals with this button allows extra forgiving timing. ARIA's kick normals are the same across all forms. Crouching LK is a long range, fast, chainable low attack that is good for pestering opponent. All normals involving MK will fire a shotgun out of her knee that acts as a projectile, meaning it can destroy most incoming projectiles. In particular, standing MK and crouching MK are important buttons for ARIA since they can act as very long range footsies pokes, and both buttons are cancelable into Shotgun Blitz for pressure on block or a combo starter on hit. All normals involving HK will fire a bomb out of her foot. Jumping HK, for instance, can act as a good long-range air-to-air as she kicks a grenade towards the opponent's air space.
Specials to watch: The unique specials for each form were covered at the top of this page in more detail, but they deserve another brief mention here. Crescendo (Booster body) can be performed from the ground or in the air and will start a combo any time it hits the opponent. The light version on the ground is technically unsafe, but hard for most characters to punish due to the pushback, while the air versions are always unsafe on block, but the applications for whiff punishing using the medium air version are strong due to ARIA's hover ability in Booster. Allegro (Blade body) is a multipurpose move; the light version is a reversal, while the medium and heavy versions apply strong horizontal pressure, as long as the opponent is not ready with a shadow counter. Medium Allegro is not an opener, but timing any manual to start a combo after the last hit is a breeze. Dissonance (Bass body) is a strong projectile that has a low, mid, and air version and destroys other projectiles, but has more than average recovery, so it needs to be used with care against characters with strong projectile invincible attacks.
Shotgun Blitz and Explosive Arc are ARIA's two universal special moves, which will see a fair amount of use in combos and in the neutral game. Shotgun Blitz hops over lows and combos after ARIA's best pokes (such as standing MK) and shadow Shotgun Blitz is her only projectile invincible move, while Explosive Arc can beat attacks with high hitboxes and the heavy version can leave ARIA at good frame advantage on block or hit. Both can be shadow countered; Shotgun Blitz is fairly easy, while Explosive Arc requires fast reactions and good timing, so mixing it up during your pressure will keep defenders honest. Of particular note, Shotgun Blitz's landing recovery is quite low, which means pressing a button at range and canceling it into the light version will not connect with the defender and leave you at a surprise range for a fast throw. If your opponent is waiting for Shotgun Blitz pressure to shadow counter, this technique can throw them off.
General strategy: To play ARIA at a high level requires a fairly deep understanding of the concept of switching forms, managing the health of your assists, and some researched mixups involving Bass assist in Booster and Blade forms. However, to play ARIA at an intermediate or beginner level is not nearly as daunting as this guide would make it seem. In fact, in some ways, she shares similarities to Jago; Shotgun Blitz and Explosive Arc can act like Wind Kick or Laser Sword all the way down to the timing needed to perform manuals in combos, and she has some good space control normals to complement them, so ARIA can be thought of as three distinct "flavors" of the same character. Over time, you can learn to add in the specific aspects of ARIA's forms and learn how they interact with other characters in the game.
Booster form's hover mode can be great to fluster characters that prefer to fight you on the ground, and she can bait high recovery anti-airs by flying in and out of space and then punishing with a combo (or medium Crescendo from the air if you're at range). Blade form is exceptional at fighting on the ground, controlling space wonderfully with buttons and denying air access with light Allegro, the uppercut with perhaps the beefiest hitbox in the game. Bass form's zoning and hit-and-run tactics can frustrate slower characters or more impatient players, which can allow you to close the gap with her fast dash speed for some universally applicable close-range pressure. The understanding of the strengths of each form comes together a lot quicker than it might seem when reading a bunch of text, and I recommend performing combos with the Upload ender often at first; not only will you gain familiarity with the different forms, but you'll take less damage over the long run as your backup forms regenerate white life and soak damage in instinct for you. Learning to keep all your forms alive for as long as possible will serve you well at all levels of play.
After becoming comfortable with each form, the next step is learning the application of each assist. Unless you switch early, you'll start every match in Booster form with your other two assists. As mentioned, Bass assist is the one you should focus on first, since you will have access to it during both Booster and Blade form, and it's the assist that can create the trickiest mixups that additionally lead to full combos. Experiment in the corner by knocking your opponent down with a throw, calling Bass assist quickly, and then preparing for an overhead or low mixup (in Blade form). When you're at far range, calling Bass assist will let you perform a heavy Shotgun Knee to close the gap and prevent your opponent from moving away or attacking. If you are pressing footsies buttons at the mid-range and you don't want your opponent to jump over them and start a combo, call the Blade assist to protect the air while you try to engage him. There's no doubt ARIA is a deep, rewarding character, but unlike some other advanced characters, you can begin applying the strategy in layers and have success without needing to jump feet first into the deep end. You'll always have to be cautious of ARIA's smaller health bar in each form, as one counter breaker or knockdown could cost you a body, but the fun factor in switching forms and moving around the screen in multiple different ways throughout a match makes ARIA a shotgun blast to play.