Without a question, one of the most talented players in the world of KOF XIII is Mexican player B.A.L.A., who has been appearing and conquering most major tournaments all over North America, including an explosive participation in EVO 2012, where he faced the finals against Korean wonder boy MadKOF and got the 2nd place of the event. Recognized by the fighting game community as an outstanding pro gamer and a skilled combo maker, B.A.L.A. kindly accepted to sit down with Cyberfanatix and grant us an interview with questions asked by the community itself.
CX: Thank you very much for allowing us to have this interview, B.A.L.A., first of all, would you like to introduce yourself to everyone, please?
B.A.L.A.: Thanks to you for you time as well, my name is Armando Castro Velázquez and I’m from Puebla, México.
CX: So, what made you start to play the KOF games?
B.A.L.A.: Well, back in the day, in a shop over my neighbourhood they had around 5 arcade cabinets with several Capcom games like the Street Fighters, Marvel Super Heroes, etc. and as the time passed by, less people were playing those games and more people were more interested in the KOF’s so I gave it a try and the rest is history.
CX: When and which was the first KOF game you started to play?
B.A.L.A.: That was around 2000 and my first KOF was KOF ’99.
CX: Which are your favorite characters? Not only the ones that make you win but the ones you enjoy most playing, or their design or their role within the KOF universe?
B.A.L.A.: Hands down Kyo, I also like Terry, Ryo, Kim, Mai, Billy, Ralf, Clark and of course K’ (except his XIII version).
CX: What’s your opinion about the competitive level in KOF XIII, especially now when it’s becoming a mainstream title and starts to show up more often in more international events?
B.A.L.A.: Well, for me is another game of the saga, it’s what KOF is now in this time, and I personally like it so much because it’s more polished and detailed in all aspects possible.
CX: And what do you think of other fighting games besides KOF? Is there any other title that thrills you to the point to be played competitively?
B.A.L.A.: Yeah, there’s Super Street Fighter IV AE and Mortal Kombat 9, those games are pretty good, just sometimes I don’t feel myself completely comfortable on them but I guess it’s mostly due of my gameplay.
CX: According to your experience in tournaments in Mexico and the States, and from the videos of other events in Asia and Europe, what’s your view about the competition level in KOF XIII worldwide?
B.A.L.A.: Pretty good. And I’m quite positive it will grow up even more. This is certainly a good thing for SNK since people will keep on playing the game for a long time.
CX: The KOF XIII event in EVO 2012 was something that built too much hype within the FG community. What’s your view about this event and the FG itself?
B.A.L.A.: Well, certainly the EVO series are hands down one of the best events worldwide and here you can see the whole community together and sharing this love for the fighting games.
CX: Do you think KOF XIII is a balanced game, compared with previous installments of the series or even other fighting games?
B.A.L.A.: Oh yeah, as I mentioned before, game’s quite polished and it has very few bugs that break the game. I feel the roster it’s lot more balanced and anyone could have the chance to win with any character. For me it’s one of the most balanced games made so far.
CX: The EVO 2012 experience made you change your idea about the tier lists in XIII?
B.A.L.A.: Nope, I’m usually based more into the character resources and features of the game rather than tiers, as I said, I think anyone could win with any character.
CX: And speaking of tiers, what are your personal top and bottom characters?
B.A.L.A.: Heh, that’s a good question. My personal tops, based in their resources, speed, damage and usage of stock meter are Benimaru, Mr. Karate, EX Iori, Kyo, Hwa, a properly used Chin, etc. As for bottoms, well… kinda hard to tell since I think almost everyone stand a chance. I guess Leona would be the one that needs lots of work but she’s still fun to use nevertheless.
CX: After the impressive side event South Korea vs. Mexico 5 to 5, where you evidently dominated, did you feel yourself surprised to see the members of CafeID reaching the top seats in the main event?
B.A.L.A.: No, definitely not, they brought a lot of players and having 4 of them in the top 8 is certainly an achievement for them.
CX: Many people said that you finally found your match in MadKOF. What’s your opinion about him and his CafeID team?
B.A.L.A.: He’s definitely a dedicated player, puts a lot of effort and concentration in his gameplay. And his team also gave me a very good impression. A lot of fair play and companionship between them. That was key for their team to be at the top. As for me, well, my aims were to be at least at the top 8 and well, ended up in 2nd place. Not bad at all.
CX: In a recent interview, the people from CafeID mentioned that Mexican players use a lot of out-of-game tactics such as the infamous “button faint” and they resented it. After they put their yellow t-shirt between the controllers, what did cross your mind in that moment?
B.A.L.A.: Heh, that was pretty smart indeed, and yeah, I had to change a lot of my gameplay since I thought many of my tactics wouldn’t work anymore. Honestly, I felt myself a little bit confused, not to mention I was seeing everything yellow due of the lights pointing through the t-shirt, heh. I should have asked Reynald for his shades!
CX: As a Mexican, do you think these out-of-game tricks like the button faint or the sound of the controller, very common in our country, should be erased from our way of playing?
B.A.L.A.: Definitely. These are tricks that only worked well in the arcades in Mexico, considering we always play side to side with the opponent. Hell, I even got myself elbow hits or shoulder rams, ha ha. I guess in console these tricks don’t work that well and we should focus in in-game skill mostly.
CX: What do you think of the role of Mexican players in the latest international events? Do you believe the performance in these events would inspire more players of Latin America to play more KOF XIII?
B.A.L.A.: Good, pretty good. Not only in KOF but also in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Soul Calibur V. And certainly this will be a huge motivation, well… there were already tons of people aiming to it, but I’m sure after these EVO there will be tons of new talents from Latin America showing up.
CX: And what are your tips for these new upcoming talents to level up their gameplay?
B.A.L.A.: Play versus over and over again. If they can have a group of players that play constantly among them the better. And certainly be imaginative and try to think out of the box, that tends to make the opponents be caught off guard.
CX: Are we going to see you in more tournaments soon? Is there any other legendary tournament where you’d like to participate such like the France Grand Prix or the Tougeki SBO?
B.A.L.A.: I wish! To be honest I don’t plan to play too much after the EVO since I have things to deal in my personal life, but if everything goes well, you might see my face in more events.
CX: Which games of SNK-Playmore would you like to see in the future?
B.A.L.A.: A new Fatal Fury/Garou, World Heroes would be great as well and of course more KOF!
CX: And to close this interview, would you like a rematch against MadKOF?
B.A.L.A.: Sure, would be fun, but frankly I’m not that thrilled about it. I’d rather play more in Mexico and beat Luis Cha, which is one of the strongest Mexican players and the current champion there. A good friend El Cha.
CX: Thank you very much for your time. I’m sure the community are happier to get to know you more.
B.A.L.A.: Thanks to you for your time and support!