With the revival of the SoulCalibur scene, it was inevitable that its most-famous competitor would be in the spotlight again. Known for her top-notch Xianghua play, Marie-Laure “Kayane” Norindr grew up with the series, like many gamers in the fighting game community. The six-year lapse post the somewhat-disappointing SoulCalibur V only seems to revitalize the French TV show host, who wants to step back into the fray again, stronger than ever.
I took the opportunity to sit down with Kayane at Evo 2018, a fitting opportunity, given the relatively-large Bandai Namco presence, with their SoulCalibur VI stations. We go back in time a bit, we discuss her opinion of the newest title, and even talk about mentorship in the fighting game community.
Woocash: What was Evo 2018 like for you?
Kayane: This Evo was full of SoulCalibur VI. I had the tournament on Friday, Saturday was all about exhibitions. I had a “Play a Pro” exhibition. I also had a team tournament exhibition fighting BxA|PartyWolf’s team, my team won! Then I had a FT5 against him.
I definitely know that he is much stronger than me, I’m doing this to have more experience in the game. I think US now is only playing SCVI, while France, for example, we still need to get used to new mechanics like Reversal Edge. We don’t use that at all. It was a really good experience to come here and play and see what the level is. Now at Evo, I made it to 5th place, I wanted to better! When the game is released, I want to be able to train and get my character better than that.
Woocash: What are the big differences between the French and US scene?
Kayane: Actually, in the US, there are plenty of fighting games and majors where the [newest] game is a demo and anyone can play. In France, we don’t have any public events or tournaments that showed the game. We only had Bandai Namco France invite us for a day in the office; it was me, Hayate, Kiev, and Keysona playing. I only played the game at Evo Japan and in San Francisco. Not much, compared to what I wanted to, but still more experience than some French players.
One day is not really enough to share things and discover tech and get used to new mechanics. The US has much more experience, with events where Bandai Namco was showing the game; I think they are doing a fantastic job showing the game. Thanks to America, we can see how the game is balanced now and how the new mechanics will fit the SoulCalibur universe.
Woocash: What are your honest impressions of the newest SoulCalibur game? You’re somebody the international community really looks up to; do you feel like Kayane “officially” endorses this as a worthy successor?
Kayane: First of all, you guys have to know, I am not in any contract with Bandai Namco, so what I say is always honest. I’ve played all SoulCalibur, from 1, and it’s my favorite fighting game ever. It’s precious to me. I’ve been waiting for six years for the new SoulCalibur.
I have to say, I think they are doing a fantastic job, because they respect all characters, the gameplay styles we love them for. The universe is like how we’ve always liked it. You know the feel when you play the old SC, I think we feel that in VI. To me, SCVI is more like II and IV. Especially for the speed, the movement that is very fast. Even if you play someone like Nightmare, you will feel he’s very fast! That’s how we felt when playing SCII. Speed has been the main difference when playing any other 3D game like Tekken, where movement is more “robotic.” And SC is so much easier. I also think they are paying a lot of attention to solo modes, like Story, and Customization.
For this game to be successful, it needs to reach the main public, not only the competitive players, but casual ones that not only play fighting games. I think it’s important for those casual players to have good matches even if they’re not competitive.
Even if I’m still 27, I feel like a mentor of the community, like a Big Sister. Still not a Big Mama!
Woocash: Speaking of single-player modes, fighting games nowadays have such robust Training Modes. What would you like to see in that mode, and let’s say in Online Mode?
Kayane: I think that in Training Mode, I’d like to see frame data, like it’s in Street Fighter V. I think it’s a great feature to see if [moves] are positive or negative. What they’re doing with Tekken 7 also is really good. I think they have many features for the competitive players, like for recording. You can set the computer react differently or wake-up in specific ways. I would like a computer that is smart enough to be able to train alone at home.
As for other modes, I’d like to see a good Customization Mode. I’d like to make Griffith and Guts from Berserk.
Woocash: You’re liking Geralt, right?
Kayane: I love The Witcher 3, I’ve had such a good time with that game. I even played one of the main songs on piano. He really fits the game. His stage, Kaer Morhen, is perfect. The character really feels like a SoulCalibur character. The movement is nice, they respected his Signs, he has a really nice music theme. Lots of Witcher fans will buy the game to play Geralt.
Kayane: I have my ideas! I was a Viola player in SCV. I loved Viola, because she has a unique style with the orb. She was really fast, and that’s the character I like to play.
Woocash: Wasn’t she a little too strong?
Kayane: She was strong, but to face characters like Alpha Patrokolos and Algol, I had to play her, because my Leixia [Xianghua in SCV] was not strong enough to compete against them. But, for sure, if SCVI is balanced enough, I hope so, then I think any character would be able to win. I think in VI every character has a really gameplay and power, and I think they would balance Viola in another way. If not Viola, then Amy, who was quite popular too.
I would like Setsuka. I don’t play her at all, she’s a really complex character. But I really love her style, her kimono, hairstyle, music, all the story of this character is really dramatic. It’s all about her taking revenge against Mitsurugi, for killing her husband. I love this character very much, and she’s really fun to watch. If we don’t have Alpha Patrokolos because Sophitia is here, we need a Setsuka style. If she is here, it will be in DLC, because she won’t be in story. Mitsurugi didn’t kill her master until later!
Woocash: What is it about Xianghua that draws you?
Kayane: Actually, I was seven years old when I started playing SCI. It was the first fighting game I ever loved, it was so beautiful on the Dreamcast. It’s the kind of game that really made me dream and feel like I’m in another world. When you’re a child, I feel like you really need a model to aspire to. Since I didn’t have any singer or actress to really admire, I felt that in characters from video games.
Xianghua was the Asian, 16-years-old, so cute and kind, really cute, happy-go-lucky. I wanted to be just like her when I was seven years old. Those details made me think that I want to grow up to be exactly like her. I really love this character a lot, I wanted to learn all her moves and combos. I was really faithful to her.
Woocash: You have such a long history with SoulCalibur now, there are many players now that are big that you’ve met as children. You tweeted about some, like you met SonicFox a long time ago. I’m wondering if you’re starting to see yourself as a mentor to growing, younger players? Do you think there’s room in the FGC for personal mentoring?
Kayane: I met a lot of players, like Aris, when I was very young, 12 years old. Seeing how far he’s come now, I feel like wow, in 15 years, you can do amazing things. In my own way, I succeeded in walking into the video game industry in France as a TV host. I now can compete, and I have my own sponsor to compete in SCVI when it will be released.
I just feel like there are many players that have inspired me before, and now I’m getting old, ha ha. Almost 30 years old, I am 27. A lot of people tell me, “I grew up watching your matches in SCII!” and I’m like, “Oh god, how old are you now?” And they say, “18 years old!” “Whoa! So you were a baby when you were watching those.” Now, they are adults, but they still me as, I don’t know, maybe a fighting game model that they have seen when they were young.
But that’s also a good sign, because I also admired players when I was younger. Now I can travel and compete and even see them or play against them. I hope that someday people, who used to be children when they discovered me, will be champions later, like SonicFox. I played him when he was 12 years old, and we played the same character, Viola. I think I was 21 years old. He was not famous at the time, and we played at some bar. He was so strong! I was like, whoa, he’s 12, and he can compete against me in a mirror match? But I started competing so young too, so I know how it is, and I know that you can’t underestimate even children. Now I see how far he’s going in different games. He may compete in SoulCalibur, he’s one of the people that old me that he’s going to come back to VI. I’m really looking forward to that.
Even if I’m still 27, I feel like a mentor of the community, like a Big Sister. Still not a Big Mama!
Woocash: Any final comments? SoulCalibur VI is probably finished by now, but do you have any balancing suggestions or feedback that you would like them to make before release?
Kayane: During the SCVI top 8 on Friday, we have seen that Ivy and Kilik are in the top. Ivy has two new moves that are really strong and define her gamplay: her low throw, and she has a circular move that goes out really far, it looks so strong. Kilik has very, very strong Soul Charge, where he turns into Necalli, ha ha. It lasts until the end of the round, but he loses life at least. In that, he has a free Critical Edge, and he can punish almost every move.
I think these moves are crazy, but we started to discover ways to beat them. I’m pretty sure that with Training Mode, we will find ways. Like with Ivy low throw, you can step, or block crouching. Her circular move, you have to be at the right distance [the move has a blind spot where it can whiff]. These kinds of things. LinkRKC played her well because at the time when you get close to her, he will use Soul Charge to push you back. Knowing that we didn’t have time to practice against this, I think we already have some solutions to beat that. It’s not like Hilde from SCIV where you don’t really have solutions given how crazy she is! I think that any crazy thing that we’ve seen in SCVI, we will find a way to beat that. You have to be patient and wait for Training Mode.
For now, I don’t want to say I want things to be changed. For now, we just see that there are crazy things about every character, like Yoshimitsu using Brave Edge moves, whereas Xianghua doesn’t. I want to see the final balance. Every character has some unique way to fight with the SCVI mechanics. I can’t wait to find out the entire Command List, because Xianghua is a really tricky character that has hidden moves.
Video source: evo2kvids