Jose “Romance” Navarrete’s trip to Indianapolis was born out of a friendship in the FGC with one of the top players in the world. Several weeks before the event, it was announced the Echo Fox|Justin Wong was sending him out for Naptown Clutch 6 to test his mettle in Street Fighter V and The King of Fighters XIV–the two titles he has been training in recently.
The result of that partnership showed potential, as Romance took 1st in KOF and 5th in SFV, showing that he’s a force to be reckoned with in both titles. While at Naptown Clutch, I sat down with him to talk about his progress with the games, and how his partnership with Justin came to fruition.
Corey “Missing Person” Lanier: Congratulations on your win at Naptown Clutch. You looked like the man to beat during the top 4. How did you feel going into it?
Jose “Romance” Navarrete: I have to admit I felt a bit of nerves at first. I had to play against my teammate, TCYoshi, who is a really strong player. It could have went either way.
Missing Person: At the start of Grand Finals, you made a switch off of Nakoruru to Leona. What prompted that change?
Romance: I actually put Benimaru as battery and put Leona in the middle, and wanted to test out Leona. I don’t really like the character, or play her a lot. However, she’s really strong and I felt like it was worth it to try her out as a pocket character.
Missing Person: When you brought Nakoruru back in, you put her as anchor, as opposed to battery in winners finals. Was there a specific reason for this?
Romance: I feel like Nakoruru is one of my best characters. When I play someone who isn’t used to her, I try to use it as a strategy. If they’re not ready for my style of Nakoruru, they’ll be in trouble with her as my battery. In the case of TCYoshi, he knows the way I play her. But since she is my best character, I can leave her as an anchor to finish off what’s left.
Missing Person: With the recent patch to The King of Fighters XIV, how do you feel about the game?
Romance: I am super excited about all the work that SNK Playmore has put into the game. Everyone has noticed how active the company has been in patching the game. They have been giving a lot of support, including into esports. They’ve also been assisting various tournaments, including giving pot bonuses. I’m still looking forward to one more patch prior to Evo. If they release another balance patch, it’ll be helpful.
Missing Person: I actually had talked to Xiaohai in Canada, and he had talked about preferring KOF XIII to KOF XIV. Do you have a preference?
Romance: To be honest, KOF XIII was where I first got my name out there. I traveled a lot for the game and won a few tournaments and made top 8 at Evo twice. So KOF XIII definitely has a special place in my heart. At the same time, I want to play KOF XIV. I really want to support SNK Playmore for doing a good job in working on the game. It’s about adapting to the new mechanics rather than saying, “I don’t like this game. I would rather play KOF XIII.”
I actually like the mechanics that KOF XIV has to offer. I know it requires different strategies than KOF XIII, but I’m just putting in the time to adjust and enjoying the game. I want there to be more titles in the franchise. Especially with all the promotional effort they’re putting forth, including the KOF World Cup.
Missing Person: What would be the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make coming from KOF XIII?
Romance: I feel like the damage you get is different. With Max Mode in KOF XIV, you can get 30-40% damage from one bar of meter. You can get more damage with one bar in KOF XIV than with KOF XIII.
Missing Person: You actually got sponsored by Justin Wong personally to come out here to play. How did that deal come about?
Romance: Justin actually invited me to go to Canada Cup 2016. But because of work and other commitments, I was unable to make it out. But a few weeks ago, he texted me and said that he still wanted to send me out to an event to show me and King of Fighters some love. So I told him I wanted to go to Naptown Clutch because I had never been to Indianapolis, and I have a few friends that live here. He told me he believed I could take it down, and thanks to the effort, I proved him right.
Missing Person: With this win, do you believe he’ll be showing more support down the road?
Romance: I am more than thankful for what he’s already done, and he’s helped me a lot. Even in Street Fighter V, we both play Karin, so he always gives me advice on my play. I would never put my hand out asking for him to give me more than what he already willingly gave.
I’m actually moving to Las Vegas very soon to start a new job. So I’m going to try to manage my time and resources and try to do it on my own. I will be keeping my eye out for sponsorships, but regardless, I will be doing my best in KOF no matter what.
Missing Person: With Street Fighter V, how much time are you putting into Street Fighter with your main focus being KOF?
Romance: For the two weeks leading up to Naptown Clutch, I was at least playing a couple hours a night online.
Missing Person: And it paid off, as you made it to top 8 on the winner’s side. But you have Wolfkrone and NYChrisG still in the bracket. How do you feel about your chances?
Romance: I’ll be honest that I’m still a bit nervous. I’m just focusing on doing my best. I actually sent Wolfkrone to losers bracket. The hardest match on winner’s side is NYChrisG, and I have him to start things off. It’s no disrespect to anyone else in the bracket, but he’s well-known and I know his playstyle. I’ve played him a lot in many games. He’s a really smart guy and a smart player. I’m going to be trying my best.
Note: Romance lost to NYChrisG in winners semi-finals, then was eliminated by Wolfkrone—whom he had put into losers bracket—in the very next match.
Missing Person: With Evo coming up, given your experience, you’d be a favorite to make Top 8. But you also have to deal with the world’s best coming out, including Xiaohai. How do you prepare?
Romance: I’ll just keep practicing with the people around me. I play a lot with some of the best in the region, including TCYoshi and Luis Cha. I’ll be playing as much as I can to gain experience.
Missing Person: Who do you feel is your biggest demon in KOF?
Romance: The player who has been getting the best of me the most lately has been Reynald. But at the same time, I feel like he’s my teammate in trying to defend the US in the game. So while he’s my demon, I feel like it’s more of a friendly rivalry.
[Feature image by Corey Lanier]