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Guard Cancel: Austin Howe | Maryland

Guard Cancel is an interview series profiling KOF community members and players. 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 admin@dreamcancel.com or PM me in the forum.

1. How long have you played KOF? Which KOF was your first? Which is your favorite?
I’ve been playing KoF since late 2012, and XIII is my first game. I really enjoy XIII and I think it is my favorite of the ones I have played, but this is largely a result of it being the only one that people play offline around where I am (aside from two folks who occasionally play 2002 Ultimate Match). I also enjoy watching high-level matches of 98, 2000, and XI where they can be found.

2. Why KOF over all of the other fighters?
Complicated answer. Contrary to popular opinion, I would actually call KoFXIII very beginner friendly because conceptually the game is very simple. Pretty much every character is “get up in that ass” and there are very, very minor variations on that from character to character. There are “matchups” in the sense that you have to approach grapplers, raw rushdown characters and characters with good approaches differently, but I would say that these matchup differences are much more subtle than in games such as Street Fighter IV where it can feel like the entire design ideology of the game changes depending on what characters are on screen. (C. Viper and Guile have no business being in the same fighting game.) As well, getting out of the corner is shockingly easy in KoF in general, which makes it a fair bit forgiving to newer players who lose in the neutral easily (which is not to say that they don’t get put back in the corner just as quickly)

The character balance, as a result of this, is pretty immaculate, and the tier list feels largely marginal as a result. (The top tier characters do, on average, really just do more damage easier than other characters) The mantra of players mattering a lot more than characters seems to really hold true in this game, and though certain characters go through phases of popularity (Evo 2013 was the age of Kim, Evo 2014 was the age of EX Iori) it doesn’t seem like the top competitive players are resting too much on the same characters. The combo system is a lot of fun because it involves linking specials together more than normals, and that means that characters move in a lot of different ways to do damage. Combos are a nice medium difficulty as well, making it just enough work to learn really hard combos that that still feels rewarding. Combos also reward the amount of work with massive damage, and I’ll admit I prefer games that emphasize big damage on smart conversions over games that allow players to achieve victory by a thousand papercuts (intense knockdown oki, endless corner pressure and such)

On top of that, I really like the art, which is largely unhindered by 3D objects (the 3D effects in other fighters make them difficult for me to look at, especially as a colorblind person), and wisely chooses bright colors and fairly low contrast. The game doesn’t service the art design, the art design services the game. The soundtrack is also quite good, though I usually play at fairly low volume so I can discuss matchups or I wear headphones to play music from my phone.

3. Are you a tournament player? If so, list your tournament rankings.
Due to my income I don’t make it out to tournaments much, and local tournaments for the game are extremely rare. The one time we did have a KoF tournament at the Xanadu monthly, I went 2-2 by beating two players who had been playing the game for less than a week, then losing to two players who had thoroughly wrecked my shit the night before.

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