Players who have been keeping track of the fighting game scene in Singapore may have witnessed the Road to Evo Championship held last April. While not the winner of that tournament, Kun-Xian Ho (or "Xian" to his friends and peers) made his mark at Shadowloo Showdown 2011 in Australia by being one of the top 10 players in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition with his prowess and skill in using Yun. His current claim to fame is beating top Japanese player Mago who used Fei Long, as well as beating eight consecutive players during the recent International Versus: Hong Kong vs. Singapore 2 Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition tournament.
He will also be one of the representatives of Singapore for the upcoming Evolution 2011 fighting game tournament held in Las Vegas on July 29 to 31, together with "Gackt" Eng Ghim Kee (Fei Long) and Leslie Cheong (Sagat). GameSpot Asia managed to catch up with the tournament-level player.
GameSpot Asia: How long have you played fighting games? What was the first game you picked up and played on a competitive level?
Xian: The first game I played competitively was The King of Fighters 2000. I headed out to the arcade more after checking out the PC version of the game that my brother owned. I was placed within the top 16 in a local KOF tournament when I was 10. At the time, I felt drawn toward the game's striker system and eclectic characters. I used a team consisting of K', Lin, Clark, and Joe. However, I stopped playing fighting games because the scene eventually died out.
It was back in 2008, one month before I had to head off for National Service, when my friend introduced Street Fighter IV in the Ang Moh Kio arcades. All the machines were linked up nicely and a lot of people were in on the action. I jumped in after much goading and never looked back after that.
Xian, centre, with Ryan "Gootecks" Gutierrez and Mike Ross. Image credit: Kan Mun Yung
GSA: Were there other overseas tournaments you've participated in apart from Shadowloo Showdown 2011? Tell us about your first experience in an international tournament. Xian: The first was definitely Dreamhack Winter 2009. I competed in Street Fighter IV. After winning the Dreamhack qualifiers organized by entertainment centre Tornado, I won free tickets to fly and compete in Sweden. Unfortunately, the qualifiers prize didn't include hotel accommodation so I was left without a roof or a bed to sleep in. Luckily, I managed to stay in a room at the last minute with the team from France. I was deprived of sleep the following days due to practicing and playing in the tournament. I came in second place using Dhalsim.
I also participated in Super Battle Opera last September in the Street Fighter IV team tournament held in Japan. My team was eliminated right after beating the first two teams; we were defeated by Mizuteru's sole Blanka.
GSA: How does it feel being one of the representatives for Singapore?
Xian: It feels good, definitely. If there's something I learned from participating in overseas tournaments, it is that I'm less nervous than before. Back then, I had this mental block and fear of the skill level of outside players. After fighting them, that's basically out of the window. Part of the fun is going out of the country to compete and taking a break in the country after the tournament.
GSA: Who are your sponsors? Are you even sponsored in the first place for Evo? If not, how are you getting there?
Xian: I'm going on my own budget. I'm using all of my savings just to compete at Evo.
GSA: What's your current training regiment like?
Xian: Well, thanks to the folks at SGFinest, I have a training area located at Balestier road that's filled with nothing but consoles, a TV, and an Xbox Live connection to face-off against the top players in the game. My practice hours are varied: Under normal circumstances, I practice two to three times a day for an hour or two. Just a week or two before any major event, I bump it up to six days a week and eight hours.
GSA: So, what is it about Yun that draws you to use him in tournaments?
Xian: I picked him because, simply put, he is broken. There really weren't any good Yuns to fight against in Singapore for the purpose of training back when AE was out in the arcades, so the natural thing to do was just use him. My train of thought for overseas tournaments is basically that mirror matches with other Yun users are better than bad matchups, seeing as Yun right now has little to no bad matchups.
Way before Arcade Edition, I used Ryu, Dhalsim, and Akuma. Dhalsim is really weak now in AE. The last few moments of the casual match between Daigo and Filipino Champ at NorCal Regionals 9 further highlights Dhalsim's weaknesses, especially since Filipino Champ is a high-level Dhalsim player. Akuma is still strong. His mix-ups and setups are still left untouched and viable. But like I said before, I'm not familiar with matchups against Yun using other characters.
GSA: What are Yun's best and worst matchups?
Xian: I feel that his worst matchup is against Sagat. Some may argue that fighting Zangief and T.Hawk is tough, but because of Yun's priority and dive kicks, it's more of a fair matchup than anything else. As for Sagat, it's hard to pull off cross-ups and dive kicks since the reach of his normals (standing medium and heavy kick) can snuff out most of Yun's going-in options. He also has high stamina when compared to Yun. Once Sagat gets a hit in and then pulls off a focus cancel dash attack, followed by a forward-plus high kick and the tiger destruction ultra, the tides really shift over in favor of him.
As for best matchups, I guess he can beat almost the entire cast without much of a hassle (laughs), especially against Dhalsim like I mentioned.
GSA: Do you have any tactics for Yun you wish to share from your end?
Xian: The best method for effective Yun play is to put your opponent in a 50/50 situation, either after a knockdown or when you get in via dive kicks. With his EX tenshin grab, frame traps, and great option selects, the tools are all laid out. It's just a matter of practice and getting familiar with the characters you fight against.
GSA: Who do you think will be your biggest roadblock(s) in Evo this July?
Xian: Daigo Umehara's Yun would be a dangerous mirror match for me. While I'm very familiar with Yun, I may still need more practice, especially after seeing his play style in recent US matches. Mago's Fei Long and Tokido's Akuma are also others to watch out for.
From the US side, I'm definitely watching out for Justin Wong and CompLexity/Cross Counter's Mike Ross. The former is because of his reputation, and the latter is because I'm still not used to fighting a really top-level E.Honda player like Mike.
GSA: You also were placed fourth in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at Shadowloo Showdown. Let's switch gears a bit. Tell us about your main team?
Xian: Currently, I'm using Magneto, Wesker, and Akuma. I believe that this team has strong delayed hyper combo glitches to exploit, as well as being "one hit kill" characters. When I land a hit using one of them, the opponent's as good as dead, thanks to the combos and off-the-ground methods of keeping an opponent in a juggled state. They also have strong assists, with Akuma's tatsumaki zankukyaku assist being a highlight, thanks to the pressure it deals and the high/low mix-ups a player can use to his advantage.
The drawback is that these guys have low health, so I have to always keep the offense piling. It especially stings that my team is useless if two-thirds of them are dead. Making a comeback, even with X-Factor, is near impossible.
GSA: Any bad matchups on your end?
Xian: Wolverine and Phoenix are cheap, especially the latter. I have a hard time getting around Phoenix's level five Dark Phoenix super. Even if I snap back Phoenix when she's tagged out, there are still mix-ups the opponent can pull off to counter that effort.
GSA: What are your current thoughts on the local fighting game scene?
Xian: I will say this: SGFinest has been very supportive with my training.
GSA: Between the US and Japan players, who do you think would have the upper hand given the current scenario of the fighting game scene worldwide?
Xian: It depends on the game. If it's for Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Japan definitely has the upper hand due to their diligence in training in the arcade, as well as the community. For Marvel vs. Capcom 3, it's the US, hands down.
GSA: Any advice you wish to give to anyone wanting to enter the fighting game scene competitively?
Xian: If you want to get into Street Fighter IV, just make sure to have a good connection so that you can test your worth against Japanese players online. As for MvC 3, execution matters because you can blow an entire match because you dropped a combo once.
GSA: Suppose a site like Broken Tier were to make a shirt based on your reputation. How would this shirt look?
Xian: As long as they highlight my bushy eyebrows on the front, I'm game (laughs).