Special thank you to NKI and Zhi for translation and Papasi and Hanasu for arranging the interview. Â Please note that due to significant background noise in the original recording, some answers were inaudible and thus have been omitted from this transcript.
Interviewer: What is your hometown?
TMF: Utsunomiya, in the Tochigi prefecture.
Mattsun: Takadanobaba, in Tokyo.
MAO: Aichi prefecture.
Interviewer: What type of work do you do?
TMF: I do maintenance.
Mattsun: My job is killing Claw.
MAO: My job is being number one.
Interviewer: How long have you been playing Street Fighter?
Mattsun: I’ve been playing since SF2 first came out.
TMF: Same here.
MAO: I’ve been playing for eight years.
Interviewer: What is your best character in ST?
MAO: Surely everyone already knows, right? [laughs]
Interviewer: Do you play any other characters at high-level?
TMF: Ryu, but only as a sub-character.
MAO: None. I only play Claw.
Mattsun: Yeah, MAO is married to Claw.
Interviewer: What are some of your major tournament accomplishments?
TMF: Mmm, none, really. I haven’t won anything major because I’m just a mysterious fighter from the countryside. [laughs] Or maybe I haven’t won anything major because I play Zangief? [more laughs] Being that I’m out in the countryside, I actually don’t attend many tournaments, but apparently some Western players know my name from GGPO.
Mattsun: I’ve gotten top 4 in SBO, and also three years ago I was on the winning team of X-MANIA’s three-on-three.
MAO: I won ToL 2012, the 11th Star Cup, and I was on the winning team for SBO 2010.
Interviewer: Is this your first time in the US?
Mattsun: [Points at each player as he says] It’s TMF’s first time, my first time, and MAO’s second time.
Interviewer: Do you have any hopes or expectations for this tournament?
Mattsun: I want to kill Claw.
Mattsun: After all, that’s my listed occupation.
MAO: I thought we were teammates! [laughs]
Mattsun: Yeah. Yeah…but I just want to fucking destroy Claw.
MAO: Well I just want to cheap out everyone.
Interviewer: How much time did you spend playing SF2 each during your peak, and how much time do you spend playing SF2 currently?
TMF: At the time when I was playing the most, I would go to the arcade around 6PM, play until they closed [usually midnight], then just loiter around until they opened again in the morning.
Mattsun: Well, SF2 came out in 1991, so we’ve been playing for 23 years now. But back in the day when I didn’t have to work or anything, I would just wake up, play SF2 all day, then go to sleep. Then wake up, play SF2 all day, go to sleep, over and over. That’s just the way it was back then.
TMF: Yeah, that’s how it was back then. Regardless of skill level, both beginners and top players just played all day long.
Mattsun: These days fighting games have declined in popularity, but back then, there were entire arcades with nothing but SF2. I mean, I was playing SF2 twenty-seven hours per day.
MAO: I only started playing ST after I’d already started working full time, so I’m only able to play about a thousand matches per week.
Mattsun: A thousand? Surely that’s an over-exaggeration.
MAO: No, I’m serious – it’s possible because Claw matches are over so quick.
Mattsun: Hrm. Well, these days, I only get to play once or twice a week for two hours or so.
Interviewer: Do you ever practice on console?
Mattsun: I own the console version, but I don’t actually play it.
TMF: I have the arcade version at my place, but I actually still go to the arcade to play.
Interviewer: How many years does it take to compete at high level?
Mattsun: Well, it depends on the person, and on their level of motivation. For example, there’s the well-known case of Taira [Japanese Dictator player], who was a KoF player and got into ST quite late. He stayed on that hardcore grind, hitting the arcade for three-hundred and sixty-three days out of the year [implying every day, because Japanese arcades are usually only closed two days out of the year, for x-mas and New Year’s Day]. In just that one year, he leveled up super quick.
Interviewer: Can you talk about some advanced techniques that players can use to level up?
MAO: More so than advanced techniques, it’s really about having fundamentals, and being able to consistently execute the basics.
Mattsun: And it’s about dedication. You have to keep playing. Usually once people graduate from college and start working full time, they have to either spend less time on their hobbies, or they have to just quit altogether. But high-level SF2 players have the dedication to keep playing. I mean, most people just don’t have that level of hardcore commitment to any hobby, except perhaps masturbation. But even with masturbation, you would get tired of only looking at one porn star for twenty-something years, right? Yet with SF2, I’ve played only Ken for twenty-something years, and it’s still fun.
Interviewer: Do you have any recommendations on porn stars?
Mattsun: We’ll have to ask MAO about that one. [laughs]
MAO: [laughs] I have no idea.
Mattsun: You know what…edit out this whole section. [laughs]
Interviewer: Should O.Sagat or Claw be banned because of how powerful they are?
MAO: Well, [as a Claw player] of course I can’t say, â€œYES! Claw should be banned!â€
TMF: I don’t think they should be banned. I mean, I wouldn’t start winning all of a sudden and beating everyone just by picking Claw.
Mattsun: Akuma is unbeatable and should be banned, but Claw and O.Sagat are merely annoying, so no – I don’t think they should be banned. But I dunno…maybe there should be a tiered-pricing system: if a game of ST costs $0.25, then maybe playing Claw should cost $0.50. [laughs]
Interviewer: Did you do any special training in preparation for this tournament?
TMF: Well, in the small town where I live, there isn’t a lot of competition, but I did manage to practice for about two hours a day with a local player.
Mattsun: Mmm, not especially. I practiced a bit against the few O.Sagats that we have in Japan, but that’s about it.
MAO: [Didn’t answer.]
Interviewer: Are there any foreign players who you want to avoid playing in the tournament?
Mattsun: No, I’m looking forward to playing everyone, regardless, since it’s a rare opportunity to play against high-level competition from outside of Japan.
TMF: Same here. Especially because I don’t have much competition in my home town, I’m really looking forward to playing everyone. Even if I’m consistently losing matches, I enjoy just playing new people.
Mattsun: So yeah, there aren’t any foreigners who I want to avoid, but there are certain Japanese players [points at MAO] who I want to avoid. [laughs]
Interviewer: What are some common mistakes or bad habits that players should get rid of in order to level up?
TMF: I think it’s important to play safe, and only take calculated risks. Sometimes I’m surprised to see players take big risks that they’ve already been punished for in the past.
MAO: I think that in situations where people aren’t sure what to do, a lot of players will just throw out moves. [Implying that when unsure, doing nothing is your better option].
TMF: People also get flustered, which is a weakness. If there’s a technique or move that your opponent doesn’t like, or if he’s stubbornly using the same move repeatedly, you can use that against him to win more easily.
Interviewer: With so many arcades closing, what is your opinion of SF2’s outlook in Japan?
Mattsun: [sarcasm] No, no – arcades are doing great! There’s a big boom right now, and it’s very profitable!
TMF: [laughs] That’s just Mikado!
Mattsun: No, no – we’re in the midst of an arcade boom! [laughs]
TMF: In all seriousness, yeah, they’re dying out. And actually my hometown game center will be closing next month. If we want to keep arcades around, we just need to keep playing, having tournaments, etc. It wouldn’t do much good to just stand around our arcades like cheerleaders, saying â€œYeah! We support you!â€ We have to actually play to keep the arcades alive.
Interviewer: If console/online were the only option left, would you continue to play?
TMF: Mmm, no – I think I could only play at arcades.
MAO: Same here. The game itself is important, of course, but a huge part of the fun is having a common ground to hang out with other players and talk face-to-face.
Interviewer, to Mattsun: There are many people around the world who want to watch X-Mania but cannot. Will you release this footage for them sometime?
Mattsun: Oh, if there is a misunderstanding that I am intentionally keeping the footage from foreign players, please let me clear that up. The X-Mania DVD’s are available for sale to anyone, foreign players included, and I’d be happy to ship internationally. Actually, I prepared a bunch of past X-Mania DVD’s to bring with me for distribution at Evo, but unfortunately in my rush to get to the airport, it wasn’t until halfway there that I realized I’d forgotten to pack the DVD’s.
(Note: You can contact Mattsun through Twitter:Â @Mattun_Ken)
Interviewer, to TMF:Â What are some tips to play the neutral game with Zangief?
TMF: Because Zangief’s walking speed is so slow, you can’t just rush down an opponent. The key is to threaten the opponent, punish his limbs, or punish any attempt to move forward. Once you instill some fear in them – fear of attacking, or fear of walking forward – then you can go in for the grab.
Interviewer, to MAO: Your games vs Kusumondo in ToL1 were really intense. This year there’ll be five other Japanese ST grand masters joining, and we’re anticipating even more intense matches. Which of the Japanese players to you think poses the biggest threat?
MAO: Hrm…I dunno. I think they’re all equally threatening. I mean, in ToL1, it was only me and Kusumondo, so I could focus on watching him, learning his habits and play style, etc. This year, because there are many top-level Japanese players, I can’t focus on any one person. Their collective threat is greater than any one individual.
Interviewer, to MAO: Do you ever get bored of hyoubal?
Mattsun: He has no choice – it’s his profession! [laughs]
MAO: To be honest, sure, it gets boring sometimes, but that’s how Claw wins. Hyoubal itself might not be fun, but it’s fun to win, and that’s the point of the game, right? To win? So as a Claw player, it’s just something that I have to do.
[TMF laughs; Mattsun rolls his eyes]