|Interview Date:||October 2010|
|Hometown:||Chino Hills, CA|
|Years Playing SF2:||Since '91|
|Other Characters:||Ken, Dee Jay, Sagat, Chun-Li|
|Favorite Fighting Game:||SSF2|
|Other Fighting Games:||None|
|Weapon of Choice:|
STR: Why did you pick your nick Dark Gaiden?
DGV: Came up with the name during the Xband days/era…the same Xband Cigarbob mentioned. I was always a Ninja Gaiden fan, and thought the word “gaiden” sounded cool and unique.
I just added the “Dark” to it just to give some style to the name. Haha, I was young back then.
STR: Most people consider either HF or ST as the best SF2. What makes you think SSF2 is better?
DGV: In my local scene, WW and CE were a tremendous success. Once the hacked versions aka rainbow edition/black belt started to infiltrate the scene, interested started to die a little in SF2.
It seemed like everyone was waiting for the infamous SF3.
When HF was released, it felt like a beta/patch to CE rather than a new game. I remember at the arcades in the mall (Time-out Arcade), they would charge 75 cents to play HF when it first came out. No one touched the game, because to the masses, paying an additional 25-50 cents just to play a faster version of CE, with a few new moves, wasn’t enough to justify it. So many just kept on playing WW and CE and ignored HF.
The only reason I even touched HF, was because as most people remember, the snes version didn’t have CE, the only way to actually play the bosses was to buy HF. HF, just never felt like a new game to me.
With SSF2, I remember seeing all the early in game shots from EGM and how Capcom was essentially hyping it up as SF3. From the new characters, new moves, new stages, new music and new feel of the game (aka cps2), New challengers felt like a real sequel to CE for me.
When SSF2 actually arrived, I was disappointed in the speed like most people (after getting accustomed to playing with faster speed on HF on console).
Despite the speed, I actually was pleased at the overall presentation of the game…from the new character select screen (why in the world didn’t ST keep this!) to the stages, etc.
STR: ST didn’t keep the selection screen otherwise it’s hard to pick akuma ?
DGV: Haha. So when I heard that the SNES version would have the speed settings, I was set.
SSF2 to me, had a slightly different feel than the “rugged” feel of the CPS1 games, which I thought was a good thing to differentiate itself from its predecessors. More importantly, despite the different feel it still kept the core game play of SF2 intact.
Now, when ST was announced, I thought it was just Capcom’s attempt to add speed to SSF2. I didn’t think they would change the direction of the way SF2 was played.
I remember seeing screen caps in EGM2 and thinking…so this is a new update, but they’re (Capcom) not adding any new characters (Akuma didn’t really count IMO) or stages. The first thing that went through my mind was…”here we go again with another patch SF version”
STR: You’re one of those people who consider super a cheating move ?
DGV: I don’t think supers are cheating..it’s just that they remove a whole another aspect of the zoning game.
Playing Ryu vs Ryu on HF and SSF2 is night and day different than playing Ryu vs Ryu on ST.
STR: But new games nowadays fully embrace the concept of meter management. Once meter is built, it changes the game dynamics, and it’s more exciting for some people.
DGV: With ST you essentially want to build the meter to gain the advantage in the matchup..which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But with certain supers you can simply bypass the elaborate zoning pattern one may setup during a match.
With ST, there is no real reason to ever try to analyze your opponents fireball projectile throwing pattern or ratio in the ryu vs ryu match.
I mean, when was the last time you heard someone reading/describing someone’s ratio of throwing jab fbs to small, back to jab fbs and then onto fierce fireballs or judging a player based off their tendency to throw possibly 2 small punch fireballs from an exact distance…etc..is stuff I just don’t hear from players nowadays.
It’s almost like that aspect of zoning (the psychological) is a lost art.
STR: So super meter is the sole reason you prefer SSF2 over ST? What about juggles?
DGV: Juggles always seemed kind of funny to me in a SF2 engine..it just looks weird.
STR: What was your first experience with ST like?
DGV: My first experiences with ST made me hate the game haha.
I remember playing Jason Cole in AE back in 2004 in the BYOC room, he beat me with a reversal super with Chun to stop my cross up tatsu…and then he comboed into Chun’s up kicks…I was like this is SF2? or as I used to call Chun Li…’Game Genie Chun’
STR: You seem to grow up in the arcade, but play a lot more SF on SNES instead.
DGV: Back in the arcade days…I never could play on a joystick. Even with games like double dragon, pacman, etc, I never felt like I had control of the characters because of the joystick.
When WW came out…I always remember getting destroyed because I just couldn’t do anything on the joystick. However, with a Nintendo pad…things always felt natural
So when it was announced that WW was going to be released on snes, my brother and I went crazy haha. We saw it as a chance to avenge all those arcade losses.
Literally 5 months before WW released on snes, we planned our button config in anticipation of that game. To this day, I’ve never seen anyone with our weird config.
STR: That’s interesting. How weird was that? I believe the default is LP MP LK MK on the face buttons and HP HK on the shoulders.
DGV: Haha, we were young so we had a lot of free time Our config was: xabrly x = jab, a = small punch, b = fierce punch, y = roundhouse l trigger = small kick, r trigger = short kick… We actually based the config on the buttons we thought were most essential in SF2 combined with the buttons we hit most often when we played regular snes games…lol random huh
Back in the snes days, we only played our friends so we didn’t have much exposure to competition. Everything changed once xband arrived.
STR: For me personally, I bought WW on SNES first day it came out I played a lot of WW arcade (single player though).
DGV: But I immediately felt WW on SNES is totally different than arcade. Sort of like classic mode vs CPS2.
STR: So the difference between SNES and arcade don’t bother you?
DGV: Haha. It’s weird, but I actually prefer the SNES over arcade.
SNES felt smoother while the arcade versions felt “sluggish” to me. It took me awhile to transition to arcade/CPS2 style SF via emulation because I was so used to SNES SSF2. The linking on that version was faster than arcade. Probably because SNES had less frames.
STR: Yes definitely not running at 60fps.
DGV: Like tick into SPD is a much faster motion on SNES SSF2 then tick into SPD on ST with Gief That used to mess up my brother years ago
STR: What about XBAND on SNES? Are you already very good by the time XBAND come around?
DGV: As Cigarbob mentioned…Xband was crazy because it was so addicting. I’m thankful for it because it gave me my first exposure to different styles of play and player diversity. Before xband came, I was the typical shoto player with poor combo skills.
When the service was announced, I started to spend time practicing combos in versus. I remember always getting up on Saturday mornings at 5AM to practice ryu’s basic bnb combos in anticipation of Xband.
Once Xband arrived, I did pretty well against other shoto players (after playing like literally a million battles against my brother, shoto battles seemed easy). However, against the other cast, I got destroyed haha. I remember getting beat by Dream Theater when he chose rog and gief…it was my first exposure to a real gief. Then there were numerous Guile players that gave me such a hard time.
After losing to those guys, I started to really “train” for the first time in SF. My brother and I would mentally play back all the matches and we would dissect every aspect of the match. We mostly focused on zoning back then. Our motto was to play a “nasty/boring” style of shoto that zoned like crazy. We actually enjoyed playing time over matches.
Winning matches with primarily projectiles became my style of play. I guess Schaeffer said it best once….”zone your opponents into submission”
STR: When did you transition from SNES back to arcade?
DGV: During college, one of the guys in my dorm room was into fighting games (at the time, I pretty much walked away from SF) and he showed me a tape of the B4.
One day randomly while searching for old Xband contacts, stumbled onto a page called “Javi’s Page of Whatever.” That site listed many og Xbanders that are now prominent players on SRK. That site eventually led me onto #capcom on IRC (which eventually became #capcom and then srk.com)
On the chat room, someone mentioned how tournaments were still going for SF. I eventually convinced one of my friends to take me to the B5.
STR: I remember Ponder called you random online warrior. He didn’t know you went to B5 since you didn’t enter.
DGV: Haha yea. I remember seeing Choi play Cole in the Finals of ST..and I remembering seeing Jumpsuit Jesse (famous TX ST player-he was also on Xband)
From that tourney, I eventually ran into an og Tekken 3 player in one of my pysch courses at Berkeley. He was the one that first showed me portable joysticks…aka Mass Sticks. He also introduced me to Choi at Sunnyvale Golfland. This was awhile ago (Choi was still at UC Davis). From that time, I’ve been lurking around the scene attending all the Bs/Evos I went UC-Berkeley at the time, back when Berkeley had an arcade lol.
STR: You cannot compete at arcade since you’re so accustomed to pad, and you become a spectator for a long time? But you really wanted to test your skill, right?
DGV: Exactly.. always wanted to play the OG legends, I was basically spectating till 04. That was the story of both of us for quite awhile.
That’s what made Evo 04 so special, they ran console.
In ’04, my brother and I must have played like 25 hours of PS2 AE casuals in the BYOC room. It felt awesome to finally be able to play against others without being limited by hardware.
Played Spence, Cole and Lethargy and a lot of other guys. It was fun chatting with Cole during that time, we compared Xband stories Since he was primarily on the genesis version. That was the first time I played Valle…haha, I remember him taking a picture of our modded SNES to Playstation pads. He was like ^_~.
Both Vintage and I could only play on SNES pads. If you gave me a Saturn pad or any other random pad, I would be screwed haha.
If you gave me a Saturn pad or any other random pad, I would be screwed haha.
STR: Do you still have that pad? you can use it on super gun.
DGV: We had 2 of them made by Mas, only one of them still works right now. The problem with those pads, is the encoder board is too sensitive. We attempted to use an ps2 to xbox adapter and it literally fried the board.
STR: What happened after evo 04 and when was the first time that?you actually competed in a tournament?
DGV: At Evo 05, didn’t have much time to play was only there for a few hours because of work. At that time, I still hated ST lol.
Even in AE during 04, we only played old chararcters / SSF2 mode. My first tournament is WCW in 09.
I was planning to enter Evo09 with HDR…but just wasn’t used to playing on the ground with a portable stick. Prior to that Evo, all I practiced was on my stand for year.
STR: When did you start practicing sticks?
DGV: Hmm, probably in 05-06 I started to dabble with them a little.
I didn’t put too much time into practicing because I just didn’t have the time (work) In ’07 when I purchased my HRAP2, I started to really practice but I struggled so much with the whole Square-gate vs Octo-gate.
STR: What can you say about your level of execution with stick now compared to your best day with pad?
DGV: Hmm, it’s hard to say..on pad I never played ST, so I don’t know if I could execute some of those combos as well.
With pad, I do feel that I have better footsie skills…I can maneuver much faster laterally on pad compare to stick.
For instance, just 2 weeks ago..I picked up our modded SNES 360 pad, which I hadn’t touched in almost 2 years and I did a lateral drill my bro and I used to do. It’s pretty much pivoting back and forth to the point where your character flickers constantly… my bro calls it blur footsies haha.
Even after not touching the pad in years…was able to do it instantly…however on stick…to this day I still can’t achieve that speed. Hence why my bro always says that I’m “too slow”. The thing about that technique is it’s a great way to hide your movements.
STR: Let’s change gears and get into sf specific questions: John choi said that Ryu is one of the easier character to learn but very difficult to master, do you agree?
DGV: Yea, that’s true. Ryu is pretty basic as a character, but it’s mastering the little nuances of the character that ultimately creates the gap in skill amongst the countless ryu players.
Like usage of normals in all situations. Knowing most/all the counters in all the matchups. For example..against claw..Ryu’s normals are essential in that matchup in stuffing wall dives, his jumpins and slide.
Utilizing safe jumps are also essential in a lot of the matchups. Being able to buffer into super from any normal adds another dimension to the mix-up game.
STR: Speaking of that, you have one unique combo into super: st LK, cr LK into super. Is that a hit confirm combo? Most Ryus just use cr MK – XX super.
DGV: I usually do the stand LK, cr LK and if they get hit by that, then finish off the super motion. I’m not sure if that’s technically a hit-confirm.
When people ask me did you “kara” that…I’ m like -_-
STR: OK, put it another way. Does that two lk buy you more time to see if you should follow up with super than just a single cr. Mk?
DGV: Yeah, it does. Besides understanding the matchups…being able to combo into super is a huge tool
Every Ryu player has a different style…some are really aggressive…some passive. Like Choi is just methodical and patient and consistent. Valle’s Ryu is aggressive with a wild style haha. He does these perfectly timed juice kicks that seem so random.
STR: Yeah he rocked the joystick like a mad man.
STR: Has your Ryu evolved to a style that you already satisfied with? Or you are still trying to add more elements into it?
DGV: To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied. I know it sounds cliche’ but you can always improve on some aspect of your game.
I’m trying to clean up my execution and of course add some more tricks. Finding new ways to incorporate links into super…whether it be something as random as cr strong, stand fierce super, etc. Or create some new funky block strings that incorporate all 3 kick versions of the juice kicks.
There’s still so much left to discover
STR: I never know ryu’s juice kick are that useful except for moving from one place to another.
DGV: Yeah, you can get create some weird block strings on certain characters with the juice kick and different kicks have different arcs/speed and distance.
STR: So you mentioned Choi and Valle, have you studied ShootingD , Daigo, Futachan’s Ryu?
DGV: To be honest, I never really watch Japanese footage of ST. I based my Ryu off Afrolegends and then just added my own style to it. A lot of people don’t know that Afrolegends has a really good Ryu.
The rest of the other stuff in my Ryu game is essentially just messing around or as my bro says: “You know what would be cool..if you could do such and such”. That’s how it usually works out..he usually throws out crazy variables for me to try out.
STR: Hmm, interesting. so your bro has a big impact on how your Ryu evolves. Back when Vintage still plays actively, who is better?
DGV: Hmm, I’m little better mostly on the combo aspects…since he watches a lot of my matches I have to keep him entertained too haha.
We were both pretty much even.. .but our matches back in the day would be considered boring by most…time over projectile wars. But since he still plays on pad occasionally, he’s way better than me at the footsie game.
STR: Does having a twin brother for moral support traveling to tourney around the country help you place better?
DGV: Yeah, it helps a lot. Sometimes when I start playing off, he’ll let me know…the conversation usually go like this:
“Dude, you know that you don’t have the lateral movement, so use more shenanigans” or the usual “dude, you just missed 3 straight juice kicks”. He calls me on my execution mistakes. When I start missing a series of stuff, he’ll tell me to hit training mode.
STR: You’re one of the few US players that stick with one character at a tourney. What’s your pick on counter pick?
DGV: I’m not sure if it’s an OG way of thinking (pre-ST), but I never believed in that stuff.
I feel that you can always overcome any match if you maximize all your variables (personal execution/reaction timing and knowledge of the matchups)
When I lose tough match or as most would say Ryu’s tough matches… I don’t see it was losing to a counter character… rather it was my lack of execution and knowledge of the match.
STR: Do you think it has anything to do with you using ryu since he’s a pretty well rounded character?
DGV: Hmm, not really, when I played my other characters I always had that same mentality.
When I used to play guile a lot, I never went into the sim matchup thinking…”oh boy, counter match”I just saw it as this matchup is going to be a grind.
STR: So you belong to the group that believe tiers don’t matters.
DGV: Yep, I always believed there is no such thing as 2 players of equal skill.. which is why I don’t believe in the number charts.
At the end of the day, there will always be one guy who puts in more time than the other guy…that’s just the way life works
STR: What’s your worst matchup using Ryu?
DGV: Hmm, don’t really have a worst matchup. I don’t really mind any particular character. It’s more a thing of the opponents I play.
For instance, I feel really confident Ryu vs DeeJay… EXCEPT when playing AfroLegends.
STR: Haha, I hope he is reading this. Ryu / Ryu mirror is very common, any tips for that match?
DGV: If you can know when to zone and when to rush you’ll do fine… also if you play the basic zoning game (aka WW-SSF2 style), you’ll realize that you can get a lot of Ryu players to land on fireballs if you just adjust speeds and take the occasional step back while mixing speeds. Obviously, once they land on the fireball, juice kick in close and apply the mix-up game.
STR: Another match that ryu player have trouble with is dhalsim, what’s your approach to this match?
DGV: Build meter asap, look for a bad spear or bad poke to DP and then start the high low shenanigans.. or if the sim is really disciplined use your meter as a way to make him block and then punish accordingly. Also, a lot of Sims tend to do an occasional jump forward during the projectile exchange…if you see that…juice kick sim out of the air.
STR: Intermediate Ryu players have a lot of trouble with boxer. He can fast rushes, whiff dash into throw, and build meter to shutdown all fb games. How to deal with all that?
DGV: Against Boxer let’s see… beginning of the round your options are cr MP, cr SP, roundhouse sweep, standing strong, block, psychic dp…juice kick away… Mix-up fb speeds aka zone to get him to land on a fireball. Once down…safe jump safe jump and safe jump.
Between all the safe jumps incorporate tick throws, block string into tick throw, block string into wait half a sec and low small fireball. Also you should definitely incorporate the cross up tatsu. If you want to really be a punk to Boxer, incorporate all 3 kicks in your air tatsu at different angles.
STR: I guess the key take away is to safe jump Boxer.
DGV: Haha yea. Of course if the match is in a neutral position and Boxer isn’t on the ground. If you have pretty good reaction timing, you can just stand jab punch Boxer’s TAPs to stuff them.
STR: How about O. Sagat ?
DGV: I actually enjoy playing that match. I usually just play it old school style and utilize normals when Sagat jumps at a distance that the SRK can’t reach. Standing strong punch and standing short kick are your best friends in this match. Again if you want to be a punk, change the arc of your air tatsu and utilize different kicks.
STR: Now the question that every newbie wants to know is, how to properly deal with wall dive.
I know you don’t watch much Japanese game play, but Shooting D sometimes like to back off to the corner so he doesn’t have to defend from both sides against the dive.
DGV: Yeah, backing up into the corner helps as it takes away one side of the screen for Claw. If you can consistently take one side of the screen away, it limits the effectiveness of the wall dive. Basically, don’t let Claw get behind you.
Do the dragon punch motion in the initial direction Claw is coming from and piano 5 inputs…jab, strong, fierce, short kick and small kick
If Claw ends the dive in front you’ll wake up dragon punch and at least trade with a knockdown…
If Claw goes behind you..you get wake up reversal Tatsu which will in most cases beat or create a trade knockdown situation with Claw.
In essence you’re covering both options of the wall dive. This also works with Boxer and his throw loops.
STR: Nice option select, good stuff! I remember you once said you train 8 hours a day just for dragon punch.
How did you practice the game before you become good?
DGV: Haha, the 8 hours a day thing was because I just generally sucked with stick.
As for basic practice tips, use training mode to perfect your basic special moves. One really good tool is too play the cpu in training mode. You’ll be surprised what counters you can learn from watching the cpu.
Training mode against the cpu also gives you an opportunity to test normals in certain situations. I learned about standing short kick beating the wall dive this way, as well as other counters.
I think it’s much easier to compete at/reach high level with the enormous amount of resources available to players.
With all the threads and youtube videos one can gain quite a lot. The only thing left to acquire after that is just match experience.
STR: How much time you spend playing SF2 each week during your peak and how much time you spend playing SF2 currently?
DGV: Peak, was probably 40 hours a week…now it’s like 3-4 hours a week tops.
STR: 40 hours is a full time job man.
DGV: Haha, that 40 hours was during the Zbattle days.
Wow, speaking of Zbattle, it was really huge around 2003-2005. I could go on for hours about that. Zbattle with ZSNES to this day has the best netcode for online gaming hands down. I think most people forget that the ggpo netcode algorithm was based on Zsnes.
There was a time, when a lot of good SF2 players were playing on it on a daily basis. Made alot of great friends on there (Pulpasis, Atmos, Gametip, Saibot, etc). I was just so happy to be playing the SNES version again and reliving the XBand days.
STR: What area would you recommend new / intermediate players work on to improve their game? And what are some common mistakes / bad habits players should get rid off in order to become better?
DGV: It’s always good to work on execution and if possible watch how other players handle matchups and watching vids of yourself to study your mistakes.
A common mistake is to think that you don’t need matchup experience. Every match you play (even against beginners) is an opportunity to improve.
Another bad habit to avoid…when in the corner don’t panic. If you have to block 10 straight projectiles in the corner before an opening presents itself, do so.
Or in some occasions, if you sense a round seems lost, don’t tip your hand on your next move. Sacrificing a round to win a battle often occurs.
STR: I do see that quality (block a lot and stay patient) in a lot of high level play. Do you ever wonder how you’d do at x-mania / SBO?
DGV: Haven’t thought about that too much until recently, when I started playing more on ST cabs at Denjin Arcade. A huge problem for me is most places that have those cabinets have small stools, which places my arm position towards my upper torso. I can’t really execute anything at that height.
Since I play on the floor, my arm position is angled lower which simulates playing on my stand; hence why I prefer Hanaho Dynamo Showcase cabinets.
With most American cabinets, you can either sit or stand. Whereas japanese cabinets are meant for only sitting. So not unless I fly to Japan with an adjustable stool, I’m out of luck ?
STR: Hmm you run into the same problem when you’re using pad, maybe you should go spectating first.
DGV: Haha, That’s the one good thing about pad…seat height doesn’t matter.
STR: Who is your greatest rival and what is your fondest moment in your SF2 career? (I think I know the answer.)
DGV: Greatest rival…that makes it sound so ominous. But the player I have the most fun playing is AfroLegends. It never gets old sparring with him. At times it feels like I’m training literally just to play him. The guy makes constant adjustments all the time.
Fondest moment in SF career, learning how to counter tick throws during the Xband days. And then using that knowledge to “punk” my local rival at the time ;D
STR: Tough question – Who are the top 3 players in your opinion. (If you’re one of them, don’t be humble and say so.)
DGV: ST: 1)Afrolegends 2)Choi 3)that’s a tough one… since not many guys still play ST actively, but if I had to throw a name out there it would probably be Valle.
HDR: 1)Afrolegends 2)Snake Eyes 3)Choi
STR: You ignored my instruction that comes with the question.
DGV: I’m not top 3 in ST ?
STR: Can you tell us a few things that people don’t know about you or not expected from you? (hobbies, other games you play, special skills you have, some trivia?)
DGV: As Jumpsuit Jesse can attest, I’m a huge cartoon collector (have vhs tpaes/dvds from every region of the globe) and old school cartoon trivia.
As for some random stuff, nearly cost a program director his job at major network affiliate abroad due to some old school 80s cartoons (that was some funny stuff).
Oh yea, Dub >>> Sub anime.
STR: Thank you very much for your time, you’re a gold mine for beginner and intermediate players.