Guard Cancel: Laban
Guard Cancel is an interview series profiling KOF community members. The goal is to get to know the people behind the tags. Guard Cancel will be published every Monday. If you’d like to be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. How long have you played KOF? Which KOF was your first? Which is your favorite?
I’ve been playing King of Fighters seriously since 2009 when DandyJ released his “Beginner’s Incomplete Guide to KOF.” After that, I decided to learn King of Fighters 98 first to get ready for KOF XII (oh boy was that a disappointment) because it seemed to be the most solid of the editions and I didn’t want to deal with Athena/Billy/Choi/Kim/Angel/Kula/Ramon in King of Fighters 2002. To this day, I’d say King of Fighters 98 The Slugfest is still my most favorite KOF game; but if I actually played 98UM Final Edition or actually got the console version of XIII, most probably those games would top 98 The Slugfest in regards to fondness.
2. Why KOF over all of the other fighters?
I like the dynamics of movement KOF has but retains a solid, fundamental ground game much like Street Fighter. So, it’s like a faster paced Street Fighter game but the defensive/neutral game is still strong but more proactive. After the mess that was KOF XII, I figured that there will inevitably be another KOF game and I hoped that it would be good (thank goodness KOF XIII did come out) and I continued to play KOF 98 to up my fundamentals and basics of general KOF while dabbling in KOF 2000, 2002, and XI to heighten my overall understanding of the KOF series and its characters. So when the next new KOF game comes around, I could figure out characters quickly even without much gameplay and be able to do write-ups to help other new players to learn KOF quickly. During my process of learning KOF, I just really fell in love with the game. The only other games that draw close is the Virtua Fighter series, Vanguard Princess, and maybe Under Night In-Birth when that comes out. Although Street Fighter 3 Third Strike was my first serious fighting game and I still hold it close to my heart, I’d say that KOF ultimately trumps it by a long mile.
3. Are you a tournament player? If so, list your tournament rankings.
I would be more of a tournament player if I could actually make it out at events. The Friday right before I left for EVO, I just earned my driver’s license and currently I’m looking for a job so I could actually pay for my gas and insurance. So the only real offline KOF tournament I’ve participated in was the EVO tournament for KOF XIII Arcade Version and the tournament for KOF XIII Console Version. I tied for 25th in the Arcade Version tournament while I lost my second match in the Console Version tournament to Kane317.
Hopefully I could make it out to more events such as Norcal and Socal Regionals as well as to the South Town Arcade ranbats, especially if the ranbats extend beyond one season.
4. Do you have a local scene or do you rely on online play?
Outside of two fellows living in Salida, which is near by Modesto, I don’t really have anybody to play with locally. So, I mainly relied on online play to get the current skill that I have. Luckily living on West coast, I have decent connections to Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, and Hispanic players. Meaning, I have passable access to more experienced players and be able to learn from a variety of styles and habits. If there was a new scene here in Modesto that sprouted out of nowhere, I would assume their skill levels won’t be quite as high as the people I’d play online and that I think the local players would learn more from me than I would learn from them. Hopefully though, if a scene does pop out of nowhere in the 209 area for KOF XIII, I’d be more than willing to come out and teach new players how to play KOF.
5. Do you prefer pad or stick? Why is that your preference?
When it comes down to it, I play stick with fighting games that I could picture myself playing seriously in an arcade. Sadly to say though when it comes to KOF, I could only play it on my laptop. Why sadly? It’s because I invested in a PS3 SFIV TE Arcade Stick that is incompatible with my hardware on my laptop so I can’t really play or practice KOF with a stick (I didn’t know…) So when KOF XIII is out, I’d be able to practice and main the game on stick (maybe if I get a job I could indulge in a HRAP VX SA.) Otherwise, all my optimal gameplay is done on my Dualshock 2/3 pad. Ironically though, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the first and only game that I could play optimally on stick and not at all on pad (not that I’m good at the game or anything, just comfortable with the movement and controls).
6. What advice do you have for new players?
Watch DandyJ’s “Beginner’s Incomplete Guide to KOF”, read all of Maj’s Footsie Guide on Sonichurricane.com, and periodically do both now and then to refresh the new information that goes on in one’s mind. Pragmatically approach each concept and apply it to one’s match. Have patience and set goals for one’s self when playing each round, game, and set as well as long terms goals (such as learning how to block Iori’s Yuri Ori cross-up or learning how to punish each bad roll). Liberate one’s game and feel free to experiment but play with discipline and earnest. Know how to properly play KOF defense so that one could create a good offensive gameplan that goes around great defense. Importantly, love and revel in not only one’s wins, but in one’s losses and appreciate the moment. Earn the most one can out of that moment as each is very educational.
7. How do you choose a character and team? How do you choose the order?
My personal game philosophy isn’t the best catered towards winning and it’s dangerous to keep thinking the way I do. But when I play the match, I don’t really play to win. I just hate losing. I play to not lose. So it’s selfish in a sort of way, but I won’t blame my losses on any other medium but myself. I’m headstrong and I play the way I want to play and will play within that context. So when it comes to team order and choosing my characters, I throw most logic out of the window and I play the characters I want and whatever order I want. So I’m ignoring characters with optimal damage outputs without meter, those that do well with meter, those that are easy to play and reap maximum reward, meter synergy, playing batteries as batteries or anchors as anchors, and etc. I take my situation as I have it, play out the match up no matter how disadvantageous, and “deal with it.” What I reap out of this is knowledge, experience, and a chance to learn something new out of the game. To me, that’s the best reward. So of course I play hard, but I don’t pay mind to what characters I’m playing and I don’t really organize my team to the optimal meter management order. I will only really play to win if someone somehow motivates me to do so, and that usually involves me getting pretty angry, which is a feat in itself.
So to others that really want to be most effective and ride the easy street with easy characters and truly “play to win”, know which characters do really good damage without meter and put that character in front. The last character should be the strongest anchor of the team that benefits the most with having tons of meter and could really bring back a team just in case the player needs a reverse OCV. The middle character should be a secondary Anchor that could do a bit better without meter than the primary anchor, but has enough finishing power just in case the player could close out the game early against the opponent’s last character. Characters such as Iori in KOF 98 The Slugfest covered all ranges actually so he could be put in any spot, while characters such as Benimaru didn’t really benefit or need much from meter could be put first as battery unless the player preferred to put him in Max Mode often. Then there are characters such as Heavy D! that are most optimally played as anchor because he could good damage with DMs that knock down from lengthy hitconfirms. Otherwise, if he had no meter he can’t really do much from his hitconfirms at all let alone score a knockdown.
For me, I disregard these facts and experiment by placing the characters in their worst (or haphazard) positions and try to work around their weaknesses by experimenting and finding other tools to cover their disadvantage. In addition, I’ll even play disadvantageous match ups such as Benimaru vs. Chris and really try to expand my understandings of the characters I play and get comfortable in situations that most people would try to avoid. I’ll play the game in whatever context of the situation I’m put in. That’s interesting and I’ll play to win within those contexts, although they’re situations I could have just avoided by “truly playing to win.”
8. Which type of character do you prefer?
I really like simple/moderate execution characters that have all the fundamentals to win. So characters such as Iori, Heavy D!, Kyo, and Terry are my most favorite ones for now. I’m particularly fond of Benimaru and Leona for their zoning abilities but have taken more of a backseat in my repertoire in recent months. Otherwise I avoid characters such as Angel and May Lee because it’s too much of a hassle memorize so many options and “waste” too much time on execution. Though, I would, inevitably, like to learn 2002 UM Angel and 2002/XI Vanessa down the line though. It’s just the time to build good habits with those characters take a bit out of my time to actually play real matches with my characters such as Iori and Terry. I’m not picky when it comes to aesthetics, it just really boils down to my complete control and understanding of a character. Though, I lean towards “swag” characters like Oswald or Terry. Ash has such a “trolling” and “smug” kind of swag so I dig that and I play him. Also helps that he’s one of the most fun “Guile archetypes” that I’ve played in a while since 2002 UM Heidern.
9. From a purely gameplay perspective, who is you favorite character?
This is a tough one. Most recently, the most fun character I’ve been playing is XIII Iori because of his reset game after his 203 Shiki : Tsuchitsubaki (HCF+P) command throw. I can do a hyper hop j.D reset and be able to run underneath the opponent and meaty with a cr.B or cl.B as if I did an air-to-air hyper hop j.B/D and ran underneath. Then I could fake out the run under and slightly delay my timing so that I’d land in front. It helps that I could combo cl.B (that hits low) into another command throw to extend my mix-up game. Since alternate guard is weaker, tick throws are a bit more viable to do in XIII with less risk so I could go for a tick throw with a command throw almost at any point. Then going back to my hit reset mix-ups, I could fake out the frontwards cr.B/cl.B and go straight for a hyper hop Yuri Ori (j.b+B) and cross-up on the other side. Then the mix-up would be to do a safe hyper hop and land in the front with a j.C instead, or mix-up with a j.C that actually crosses up. Again, I could tick throw from my jump-ins as well. Then from any sort of low, high, or cross-up attack, I could throw out an unusual overhead (Gaishiki: Kui [df.C]) and either go straight into an EX DM/Neomax, or go for a Hyper Drive combo that leads back into a command throw early on in Hyper Drive Mode, go for one more reset and then into a mix-up > hitconfirm > Neomax. Then, there are mix-ups where I do hop-in or go for a low meaty, then I could hyper hop again for more cross-ups, normal hop-ins, or empty hops into lows or command throws. The possibilities are crazy. I see most people just opt for optimal damage combos from command throws, I’m the opposite. The only way to make this version of Iori really and absolutely FUN is to extend his range and invulnerability to that of 98 Orochi Yashiro’s Tempering Earth (HCF+P). XIII Iori’s doesn’t have the invulnerability so it gets stuffed at times by abare normals or reversals, but has better speed than Tempering Earth (though not by much.) Otherwise, I like how XIII Iori doesn’t have a f.B overhead so I can kind of mash running and f.B and get tons of cl.B and far B and do some funky frametraps and blockstring control with it. He didn’t have much of that in past games but had a fireball to replace his sweep (since sweep is terrible) as a low far reaching poke. So this new Iori could more liberally barrage with cr.B, cl.B, and far B. Also, XIII Iori’s Yuri Ori cross-up now hits all crouching characters. It never did that even in 98 and the cross-up progressively got worse against crouching characters as the KOF series went on.
Overall, this new Iori has been the most fun I had in a while all because of his reset, mix-up options. Certainly don’t sleep on this Iori when Classic Iori comes out as DLC for KOF XIII Console. I have a feeling most people will lean towards the Classic Iori because he has hard knockdowns, easy confirms, fireball zoning, and all the tools and just ignore the new Iori. Watch out.
Other characters that come close are Oswald, Heavy D!, Kyo, Mai, and Terry not only in gameplay but in aesthetics as well.
10. How often do you practice or train in KOF alone?
When I first started, I’d say I’d play about maybe 3-7 hours a day for perhaps 5-6 days out of the week. Note that I’m 19 years old as of this interview and I started playing KOF 2 years ago so I had plenty of time then. Half of my session would be on GGPO, so the other time I didn’t play with anyone at all (even online) I just spent in practice mode. Most people seem to practice combos and hitconfirms in practice mode, which I’ll admit I did a bit too; but, I spent even more time learning spacings, creating set-ups, and practice approaches and defenses. One example is that doing KOF cross-ups are a bit more minute than they are in Street Fighter for example. It took me a bit more time to learn how to space a j.B or Naraku Otoshi (j.d+C) to cross-up with Kyo in 98 that it does to learn how to cross up with Rose’s j.MK in Alpha 2 or Ken’s j.MK in Third Strike. So in the beginning, it takes a great deal of commitment time to learn all those nuances and habits to really learn the game “rapidly” in a short amount of time as I did. Recently, I haven’t really been playing much nor have I the need to do more executional exercises outside of learning new characters. So other than EVO, it’d be perhaps 1-5 hours a week now and I’ve been “relaxing” by playing other games such as Catherine and Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds recently. Most probably when XIII Console comes out and if Online is good, I’d be playing perhaps 1-5 hours a day depending on schooling, actually having a job, and other daily routines.
11. How do you gain new techniques, strategies, setups and combos? Do you watch match videos?
I try to access every facet of learning. I read about it, watch other players play in match videos or on GGPO, listen to other players and their knowledge, and experience it for myself in actual games. The most growing I’ve done is when Emil puts me on blast for doing “stupid” things and I take his advice to heart and try to ask him questions now and then (though I’ve been dodging more recently, haha.) That and always reviewing DandyJ’s guide to make sure I’m covering all my foundational bases before I move onto higher level meta-game stuff. Then try to watch videos of smart players such as Dakou, Xiaohai, Kyappu, and etc. and not only watch their videos, but try to think along with them as the match goes on and try to emulate their mental progressions. Though it’s important to learn these things, it’s also important to get strategies that shuts out most “stupid” stuff that could happen in KOF, since it’s notorious that many stupid things can happen at bottom and low level play that blows my mind to the point I can’t recover. So being able to create a strategy, usually a lame one, that covers a lot of ground to stop “dumb stuff” is just as important as to learn all the crazy set-ups that only seem to really apply to the high level, thinking kind of players. Other than videos, I gained mine mainly from experience and asking questions. Thanks GGPO KOF 98 Room 1! Thanks for the dumb and for the smart players.
12. Have you played KOFXIII yet? Did you like? Will you buy it?
Yes I have, and I love it. Damn straight I’ll buy it and all of its DLC.
13. Will you continue to play older KOF games while playing KOFXIII?
Perhaps, but I think my fondness of 98 will wane the more I play XIII. Though, if 98 UM Final Edition does come out to the states, I’ll play both XIII and FE with similar frequencies.