Guard Cancel: omegaryuji

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 admin@dreamcancel.com

1. How long have you played KOF? Which KOF was your first? Which is your favorite?
I’ve been playing KOF since 1996, starting out with KOF96 (what a shock), but I had to step away from fighting games in general for personal reasons for a long time (from around 2003 until last winter), so I missed everything between 2002 and 2002UM. My favorites are 98 (though I don’t play it much anymore), 2002, 2002UM, and XIII, but if I had to pick just one, I’d probably go with XIII. Hoping that the console release can turn that “probably” into “definitely”.

2. Why KOF over all of the other fighters?
KOF games let you have some flexibility between being aggressive or being defensive, whereas something like Guilty Gear Accent Core forces most characters to favor being offensive or something like Capcom vs SNK 2 forces most characters to play a midrange poking game a lot of the time.

Secondly is just how individually unique a lot of the characters are, in terms of gameplay. Even among characters of the same archetype, they each have their own different feel (like Clark, O.Yashiro, Vice, and Shermie are all grapplers in 98/2002, but Clark is a straight rushdown beast, O.Yashiro has some nice pokes and crazy reset mixups off of hcf+P, Vice has tools to be a threat even if she can’t get right in your face, and Shermie is the most stylish despite kind of being left in the dust). Then you have the characters who are more or less unique to KOF, like Angel, Jhun, May Lee, Blue Mary, K’, and so forth. I think that, no matter what fighting game background you come from and no matter what type of playstyle you prefer, you will always be able to find at least one team that feels good to you in most KOF games, which is not something I can say about many other fighting games.

3. Are you a tournament player? If so, list your tournament rankings.
I used to play in some local arcade tournaments in the past, but I have not really been involved in the tournament scene for any game in such a long time that it seems unfair to refer back to that time. Since getting back into fighting games recently, I have only been involved in some local tournaments for Arcana Heart 3, but it has been very fun to get that competitive spirit fired up again. With the release of XIII coming up for consoles, I definitely will be involved in tournament play for that.

4. Do you have a local scene or do you rely on online play?
Toronto has pretty active local scenes for most of the currently popular fighting games, but to the best of my knowledge, there is not much of a scene here for KOF aside from 98, despite having an arcade here with XIII ver.1.1. I have heard that one of the suburbs has a fairly active scene for XI, but I can’t really comment on that personally. There is a scene in Waterloo (college town about 1-1.5 hours away) for less popular games like Arcana Heart 3 or Melty Blood that I visit on most Saturdays, though, and all of them are looking forward to getting XIII once the console version comes out, so we’re hoping to get something started there. I pushed them to try out some of the other KOF games, specifically 2002UM and XI, and they have been having a lot of fun with them, so it seems like a promising place to start.

Online play is a good option to have, but unless technology can improve to the point of truly lagless play, it can’t ever completely replace offline play.

5. Do you prefer pad or stick? Why is that your preference?
Being an old arcade player, I prefer to play on stick. I can play on pad (in fact, I used to use the PS2 ports to practice at home for KOF 99-2002), but I just find that I can play longer sessions on stick before my fingers get tired or sore.

6. What advice do you have for new players?
I think the most important thing to learn when starting to play KOF is the same as most other fighting games, fundamentals. Yes, it looks cool to do flashy BC combos with Vanessa or to juggle your opponent for half a match with Kula, but if your characters are constantly ending up dead before they can really do anything, all of that combo training is worthless. Learn to use the different movement options, learn to judge risk/reward for reversals, learn the uses for all your characters’ normals in a general sense, and you’ll have a good base to build up from. I think this is a big part of what separates a lot of the older and newer players in any fighting game. The older players who grew up with arcade scenes are more used to keeping things streamlined and efficient to make their quarters last in a environment that didn’t have much handy access to training mode, while newer players tend to be a lot more unsafe and just go for fancy combos because they look cool if they work and (outside of tournaments or money matches) there’s nothing on the line aside from some pride.

All of that having been said, I am not a strong player right now (coming back from such a long time away will do that), but this is where I’ve been spending most of my focus, and I have seen definite improvement even in the little time I’ve been playing for.

7. How do you choose a character and team? How do you choose the order?
Assuming we’re talking about a game with a home version here, I like to just take everyone into practice mode and take a quick look over their normals, specials, DMs, movement speed, and try out some basic combos to get an idea of their typical damage and meter gain. It’s hard to say what I’m really looking for, but I just have a general feel for what I like and what I don’t, so I try to pick out a handful of characters who appeal to me. From there, it’s a matter of playing against people, watching match videos to see more of how others play, and just letting my teams develop over time.

Choosing the order comes down to two or three factors for me, depending on if it’s a casual/practice match or a tournament match.

Firstly, I look at my characters’ options with or without meter. For instance, if I was using Andy in 2002, his DMs don’t add much (they’re basically slightly more damaging versions of his specials, and the damage increase isn’t much) and he can freely chip with qcb+C if his opponent has no meter to GCAB, plus his normals gain meter at an above-average rate, so I’d favor putting him first. On the other hand, 2002 Yamazaki gets some vicious new options with his DMs (an invincible antiair, a decent unblockable that is difficult to punish, and a 0-frame grab DM), GCCD is one of his best ways to push aggressive opponents back out to mid/far range (which tends to favor him), and his BC combos are very damaging, so I’d favor putting him second or third.

Secondly, I look at my opponent’s characters and try to determine what their order will be (with the same method, adjusted for any knowledge I have about the player). From here, I’m trying to judge how the matchups will be to consider if I might want to reorder things slightly. For instance, if I was using Kula in 2002, I would normally want to put her first since she gains meter very quickly and she can do fairly nice combos without DMs. However, Kula’s qcb+K is punishable on block by 0-frame or 1-frame grabs, which is one of the reasons why she tends to do worse against grapplers than she does against other characters, so if I was going against someone playing O.Yashiro (a character who tends to go up first, in my experience), I might want to put someone else first for a better matchup.

Finally, if it’s a casual game, I usually put the character who I feel is my weakest first to guarantee that I’ll get more experience with that character.

8. Which type of character do you prefer?
I typically prefer characters who have a variety of tools and who don’t fall into standard archetypes. Yamazaki is probably the best example, but also characters like Leona, Jhun, Heidern, Blue Mary, Elizabeth, or Duo Lon. Of course, I can enjoy some of the more cookie-cutter characters like O.Yashiro or pre-XII Ralf, but they are definitely in the minority of my character choices. For the most part, though, as long as the character can be competitive against the rest of the cast, I’m usually willing to at least try him or her out.

9. From a purely gameplay perspective, who is you favorite character?
Leona, without a doubt. I’ve been using her on my main teams since KOF96. Aside from how she seems to always be the high/top tier character who everyone sleeps on (not counting her in 96), I like how she’s always able to do pretty good damage in quick chunks, how solid she is defensively (something which not only draws a lot of other players into being overly aggressive, but is also very useful if you have a life advantage with time running out so that you don’t give away a win on a lucky reversal), and the pure greatness that is V-Slasher (whether in combos or just by itself, I feel that V-Slasher has consistently been one of the best DMs in every KOF Leona’s appeared in). Granted, I also happen to be a big fan of her character design, but it’s her gameplay that’s kept me addicted to her through all the KOFs.

10. How often do you practice or train in KOF alone?
Since I’ve been getting back into KOF, I’ve tried to spend at least an hour in 2002’s training mode every day. I wish I could spend much more time with it since I have a lot of (re)learning to do, but working a full-time job and having other personal commitments gets in the way of that, sadly. I used to also try to spend at least a couple of hours each week at the arcade playing XIII, but with the vast changes happening in the console version, I have been neglecting that lately. Not the best thing to do since I could use all of the practice I can get, but other things in my life have priority over playing a game that will soon be completely outdated.

11. How do you gain new techniques, strategies, setups and combos? Do you watch match videos?
Of course, with the internet being what it is, there is a lot for everyone to learn just from sharing knowledge and videos. However, aside from looking up frame data and move properties (which, while they can both be implicitly learned through experience, are a lot easier to just see written up), I tend to favor trying things out for myself in training mode. First and foremost, that’s the best way of developing new stuff that either nobody else knows or just nobody has yet openly shared (like how, when I started trying to learn Jhun in 2002UM, there was nothing in his thread here about what he could do off of (A)D guard crush or qcb+P…in just an hour or two by myself, I got a pretty good idea of most of his options). Secondly, I think that it’s useful to gain as much knowledge as you can. In a real match, the other player might not always do the “best” setups, so it’s important to know as many of their options as possible, so that you’re not taken by surprise by some “bad” tactic that you wouldn’t expect a good player to do. Third, even if you read about or see something new, you’ll probably have to practice it yourself anyway, so why not jump straight to that?

Also, for myself personally, since I’m not a good player right now, any sort of practice is worthwhile. Of course, this doesn’t apply as much to the more skillful players.

This might sound a bit hypocritical after everything I said about, but I do watch match videos fairly regularly as a way of learning. However, I do it with the intent of seeing what options are available for how to play a characters and what those options are effective or ineffective against, not just trying to copy some other player’s style.

12. Have you played KOFXIII yet? Did you like? Will you buy it?
Fortunately, Lovegety Station in nearby Markham got XIII around the end of May, so I have been able to play it. Unfortunately, the button settings are a bit screwed up and the operating hours on the arcade’s door are a lie, but still, I got to play it some. In my opinion, it has the potential to be the best KOF to date. It did take a little while getting used to the pace of the game compared to 2002, but once I got through that initial hurdle, I have an absolute blast playing it. As far as buying the console release goes, I preordered it for PS3 pretty much as soon as it got announced.

13. Will you continue to play older KOF games while playing KOFXIII?
While XIII will definitely get most of my attention, I intend to continue playing 2002 and 2002UM, and I would like to start playing XI as well at some point. My main focus will be on XIII, but if I have time to spare on the side, I don’t see why I would want to completely stop playing the older KOF games. They all have their own appeal, whether it’s characters who aren’t in XIII or game engine elements that are unique to that particular KOF, and just because I’m playing one doesn’t mean I can’t also play another.

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