|As EVO is coming up rapidly, I decided to field a few questions to our most well-known top ST players: Damdai and AfroLegends. Hope you guys enjoy!|
|Jason Nguyen A.K.A. AfroLegends|
MuffinMan: First off, congrats on winning SoCal Regionals! We all appreciate the show of skill that both you and Damdai provided in the finals!
AfroLegends: Thanks, man! That was truly a grueling set. Damdai is a tremendous player and I take my hat off to him. He’s really grown as a player since our money match years ago and it showed. He used to be a very wreckless player but now he’s become very safe and well-rounded. He’s definitely earned my respect after playing him more
MuffinMan: Now we have EVO coming up, and some of the OG players have talked about making an appearance.
Which player would you most like to see make a comeback from retirement in ST? Why?
AfroLegends: To be honest, there isn’t one certain OG that I want to come back more than others. I want ALL of them to come back, period. Tomo Ohira, Jeff Schaeffer, Thomas Osaki, Mike Watson, John Choi, Alex and Graham Wolfe, Norm Ho, Apoc, Joe Zazza, Jason Nelson, David Spence, Jesse Howard, Wes Truelson, Jumpsuit, Jason WIlson, Shirts, etc…the more the merrier. We will be hosting some of the greatest Japanese ST players this year at EVO and it would be nice if we had all of our greatest players from past to present on deck to represent.
MuffinMan: Many of the famous players we know now either learned from players of the early days or are players who never really retired from those days.
If you were playing seriously in the early 90s (WW/CE/HF), at the same skill level you’re exhibiting now, do you think you would’ve been able to compete with the top OGs?
AfroLegends: That’s hard to say. I consider myself a student and I have such an appreciation for the history of the game. I do believe players of the new age, myself included, are given an unfair advantage over players from the first generation due to all the information and data out there right now. Now we have frame data, YouTube to study matches, and the ability to play online against pretty much anyone you want. The first generation of players didn’t have that luxury.Â They did things because it felt like it worked but they didn’t know why it worked.Â There was no information on safe jumps(which is an integral part of today’s game), nor information on hitboxes/hurtboxes, kara-canceling, renda-canceling, throw ranges, proximity blocking, and the like.Â That’s why I put players of the older days in higher regard because they had it so much rougher. With all that being said, I think I would have been able to hold my own due to my intelligence and intuition. I’m a very safe player that relies on reactions and I believe that would have translated well to any generation of Street Fighter.
MuffinMan: Which currently active ST player would you like to see rise and possibly surpass the level that you and Damdai have set for ST in America?
AfroLegends: I think the player with the most potential out of everyone is definitely Shotosallday. That dude is a natural for the game and can pretty much play the whole cast. I’ve been in tournaments with him where I’ve seen him use like 6 or 7 characters, which is pretty incredible. I think that actually holds him back to a certain extent, though, because he doesn’t really have a main or a character to fall back on.Â He should instead focus on 2 characters and concentrate on leveling them up. It probably wouldn’t be as fun but he would be stronger in the end if he did that.
MuffinMan: You moved up the ranks in ST and HDR pretty quickly, but at what point did you feel like you earned yourself title of “top player” in ST?
AfroLegends: It would have to be my performance at EVO West 2K7 where I basically had to go through a black bracket of death fighting top players like Graham Wolfe(twice), Buktooth, Valle, Watson, Choi(twice), Sirlin, BlueTallCans, Jason Cole, and Alex Wolfe. I ended up losing to John Choi in the grand finals and placing 2nd. Even though I didn’t win, I felt like I had made a mark and I was now a name to be reckoned with. That tournament was very memorable for me beause it was the year it was held at the Comic-Con and the final 8 was played in a boxing ring in front of thousands of spectators. I will never forget that feeling of being in the ring and seeing all the lights and cameras on you. All we needed was Michael Buffer, man..haha. Definitely a wonderful experience and I wish we could do something like that every year!
MuffinMan: Piggybacking on the topic of skill level and improvement:
You’ve played and watched many of the top Japanese players in both ST and HDR (Classic Mode). What do you differs between the American style of play and the Japanese style of play?
AfroLegends: The Japanese have really set the bar in terms of skill level and I have the utmost respect for them. I have played many of their top players online and offline like Mao, Sasori, Kusumondo, Daigo, Aniken, Otochun, YuuVega, AFO, Shogatsu, Opemai, Adachi, and Hazi among others. The one thing that pops up in my mind when I play them is their execution.Â Insane would be the one word to describe it.Â You know it’s not your day when you get nailed by standing fierce x super by Aniken, haha. In general, they are very agressive and fast but at the same time, they play very safe. It’s hard to explain.
The American players, on the other hand, have similar mind games but, overall, weaker execution, spacing, and knowledge of the game. We are closing the gap day by day in those aspects but I would say there is still a significant gap right now between the typical American player and the typical Japanese player.
MuffinMan: The significance of matchups is a heavily debated topic in ST. What is your opinion on whether or not matchups can be the determining factor between two near-skilled players?
AfroLegends: It would be ignorant for me to say matchups don’t play any role at all because they definitely do. Of course, knowledge is important and a match is never unwinnable(that’s why I love ST!) but at the end of the day, you can not ignore matchups. You can only hope to gain as much knowledge as you can of that character to make the matchup closer.
MuffinMan: Do you feel that your dominance in ST is more attributed to the characters that you play, or do you feel you are simply outplaying your opponents in every aspect?
AfroLegends: I think it’s a little bit of both. Of course, Boxer and DeeJay are incredibly strong characters but they also take skill to play like any other character. You still need to know the correct counters, have the spacing down, the mind games, and the execution to win so it’s definitely not luck!
MuffinMan: Do you think you’d have different levels of success if you played characters like Ryu or Guile?
AfroLegends: I think I would be a top player but not the most dominant.Â It takes a lot of discipline to consistently win with Ryu. He is the most popular character and everyone and their mom knows how to fight him. You would have to really know each match and the little nuances that will give you the edge. DeeJay, on the other hand, is a way less popular character and was rarely seen or used for years in the US.Â It wasn’t till 2005, when I came on the tournament scene and put him on the map, that people started to realize he was a solid character. Nobody knew how to fight him back then and I used their lack of experience to my advantage.Â I was playing solid players and winning simply because they didn’t know the match. I believe it would have been different if I used Ryu.Â I definitely would have worked harder for my wins.
I actually use Ryu and Guile for fun but I’ve never really studied them in depth like I have with Boxer and DeeJay where I have spent over a decade and countless hours honing my skills with them.
MuffinMan: After the first Tournament of Legends, things seemed to simmer down in the ST scene a little bit, and life seemed to catch up with a lot of the players in the scene.
Were you one of those players?
AfroLegends: I was definitely one of those players.Â The first Tournament of Legends was mentally and phsycially draining. As soon as it ended, I knew I needed some time off to recuperate.Â The WNF weeklies were great but just exhausting for me due to the drive and just having to go after long days of work. But not even that, I was playing pretty much everyday on GGPO to prepare for TOL and I was burnt out.
MuffinMan: You had an amazing performance at the ST Games (EVO 2013), but you also mentioned possible retirement prior to the event. What was it that made you want to continue?
AfroLegends: I was going through a dark time in my life prior to the ST games and didn’t care about playing anymore. I was drinking and partying everyday and just being unresponsible. I knew it was getting outta hand when my friends started giving me interventions and told me I needed to change up.Â I didn’t really care though and continued about my ways..haha. Street Fighter was the last thing on my mind and I didn’t practice for months or go to Super Arcade.Â I was MIA and I seriously contemplated retirement. My crazy partying lasted for months and it was now a week or two away from EVO. I knew I wasn’t in practice and was on the fence with going or not. My friends finally convinced me to go and I signed up at the last minute thinking this would be my final EVO. Performance wise, I don’t think I did too hot and my rust showed but I was able to make some good reads and pull through.
MuffinMan: What was it that kept you playing ST?
AfroLegends: What kept me playing ST was because I rediscovered the hunger and the drive after winning ST Games. I felt I could still improve as a player and I wanted to work on my weaknesses and do just that. Also, the game was still fun and I live for the next challenge!
MuffinMan: If you were to retire, would you prefer to be taken down by an up-and-coming player, or would your rather retire as the undisputed champion of ST in the United States?
AfroLegends: If I was taken down by an up-and-coming player, I would never retire..haha. I’m very competitive by nature and I would keep on playing and grinding to find a way to beat that person consistently.
MuffinMan: Thankfully, we know that you will not be retiring prior to the X-Mania/Tournament of Legends 2 event at EVO this year.
MuffinMan: Lastly, with EVO around the corner, how are you preparing for the high-level comp expected to attend?
AfroLegends: I’ve been watching videos of the Japanese players expected to attend and seeing what they like to do in certain matchups and situations. I’ve also started going into training mode to polish up my execution and timing. Lastly, a bunch of us have been getting together every Thursday night at Digital Infamy’s place to practice and that’s been good.
MuffinMan: How do you prepare for big tournaments in general?
AfroLegends: I prepare for big tournaments by just working on my execution, spacing, and timing in training mode. The knowledge is already there from years of playing so it’s just a matter of executing for me.
MuffinMan: What are your plans after EVO? Will you continue practicing for and competing in Super Turbo tournaments?
AfroLegends: I love the game unconditionally and will be playing for the forseeable future. There’s no reason to stop when the game is still fun and there are still people playing it.Â I also enjoy hanging out with all the ST heads. Everyone’s cool and that’s what makes our scene so great. I just wish Zoolander had a mute button though, haha, j/k man.
MuffinMan: That’s it! Is there anything you’d like to add?
AfroLegends: Yeah, thanks to everyone who continues to play and support this 20 year old game. The “revival” wouldn’t be happening without you!Â Big shout outs to OG Kuroppi and the rest of the STR staff for doing their thing and making TOL2 and X-Mania USA a reality. I am super stoked and can’t wait to see everyone in Vegas!Â Drinks on me!