Interview with Jumpsuit Jesse

Interview Date: NOVEMBER 2011
Hometown: Houston, TX
Occupation: Network Admin
Years Playing SF2: 20
Main Character: Fei Long
Other Characters: Ryu, Ken, Sagat, Guile, Zangief
Favorite Fighting Game: Super Turbo
Other Fighting Games: 3rd Strike, Garou, Samurai Showdown 2, HSF2, CE, HF
Weapon of Choice: Sanwa / Seimitsu sticks, Sanwa buttons.

STR: Welcome Jesse! Can you remember your first experience with Street Fighter and/or ST?

Jumpsuit: Absolutely! I remember like it was just yesterday. It was 1987. I remember I would rush home and watch episodes of both Transformers and Voltron and when those two shows were over I would beg my Dad or Grandpa for some money. I’d rush down to 7Eleven (back when 7Eleven was down here in Houston) and I’d buy a Slurpee and a bag-o-Cheetos! With the few quarters I would have left over I would play Ikari Warriors and Karate Champ.

One day I heard someone yelling “DAMN! WTF!” The noise was coming from the arcade section. So I walk over and I see this tall black dude playing this new game. I look up and it said “Street Fighter”.. I remember seeing the cheesy sideart with red-head Ryu, the six button layout and those amazing graphics! I thought “Wow! This is like Karate Champ but way better!? The guy playing kept smashing the stick and buttons around and said “Yo man! I threw out a magic ball of light earlier! I know how to do it but it ain’t comin’ out!” After an hour or so of getting his ass kicked by Lee he finally stepped away from the machine and I got to play. I had no idea what I was doing. All I remember was mashing the jab button and hearing Ryu make those cool sound effects “Hai! Hai! Hai!” and hitting roundhouse and seeing Ryu do that cool footsweep. I would die super fast but I didn’t care this game was awesome. I never got good at it because I was only 11yrs old. I didn’t even have an NES yet. I would have to run to a friends house just to play NES lol! By that time friends were playing Karate Champ on NES along with Ring King and Pro-Wrestling! I begged my parents to buy me an NES and they saw the $200 pricetag and laughed. What did they buy me A $99 Radioshack Tandy 64K Ram Computer and a Mario clone called Downland! FML! Thanks Mom n Dad!(shakes fist) lol!

We moved away from that area and I never saw Street Fighter again ’til 1990. We moved to a small suburb outside of Houston called Pasadena. I walked to the local arcade in the mall(Tilt)and I walk to the back of the game room and what do I see STREET FIGHTER! But what’s this It has 2 GIANT RUBBER BUTTONS? And again I see a really tall dude(white dude this time)and he’s pouring sweat from pressing the buttons so hard. I see him throwing fireballs, doing hurricane kicks and even Ryu’s signature Dragon Punch! I was in awe! This guy was a real guru at the game and we quickly became buds. He taught me how to do all of Ryu’s moves and I finally started to understand the game more deeply. I remember the rubber button covers would be torn up from other abusive players and I would get cuts and calluses on my hands from hitting those buttons so hard. I was so addicted to Street Fighter I would beg neighbors for quarters and when times got really hard I would get a quarter, change it for five nickels and bash them with a hammer and make slugs flat enough to pass as quarters! And when I didn’t have any money I would climb my own roof and cut quarter slugs out of those lead sheets from the roof shingles. I was bad! My Dad caught me a few times and whipped me til I was purple!

Now keep in mind, this was 87-90. Movies like Karate Kid 1-3, No Retreat No Surrender, Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Bloodfist, Angel Town, Perfect Weapon were all the rage in the theaters. Kids LOVED the martial arts cheese back then. So playing Street Fighter and Pit Fighter were the closest we could get to playing a game related to those kinds of movies. The other games were always packed, but not Street Fighter 1. Nobody else really played the game since it was so hard to play and win. So when I would beat Sagat I would spend the rest of my time playing Final Fight, Crime Figthers, Double Dragon 2, Pit Fighter, Golden Axe, Afterburner, Shinobi, Shadow Dancer and Ninja Gaiden. I spent all my days at that arcade and that tall white guy had quit coming around as much. I remember the day he came storming into the game room looking for me. “Jesse! Jesse! OMG! I just got back from CES. Capcom is bringing out STREET FIGHTER 2!! All the enemies are playable! You go to China, Russia, Brazil, Japan,Spain and back again to Thailand! The game looks amazing! I didn’t believe him. I immediately thought he was just messing with me, but after seeing how nice Final Fight looked I stayed hopeful.

Then one day in 1991 I will never forget one of my childhood friends ran to my house out of breath gasping for air OMG! JESSE!(gasp, gasp) Tilt has STREET FIGHTER 2!! My eyes lit up and we both DASHED out the door top speed! I don’t think I ever ran so fast in my life! We got to the game room and saw a huge crowd around the machine. What I saw was a sight that would soon become common at every game room across the USA. A Street Fighter 2 Machine with a line of quarters lined up across the bezel and a loud crowd anxious to watch and play! I remember seeing Ryu’s new Sideart, back facing you looking like a badass!! Everything about the game was just amazing! From that point on all I would do is eat, sleep and live Street Fighter 2.

I stayed loyal to the series even when MK, KI and Tekken hit the scene. Finally in 94 when Super SF2 Turbo came out there wasn’t many people playing SF games anymore. The previous installment of SSF2 had pretty much turned everyone off because it was slow and not enough had changed to keep people playing. Everyone was obsessed with Killer Instinct and the MK series. But luckily I had a small group of hardcore player friends that never gave up and stayed sharp.

I still talk to those old locals and we still play. We ain’t dead yet, damn it! LOL!

STR: You’ve been around since the a.g.sf2 days. How do you think the community has changed since then and do you have any specific fond memories of those days (agsf2 / old tournaments / etc.)?

Jumpsuit: Oh wow now you’re takin’ me waaaay back lol! The community has changed quite a bit for the better and for the worse. Please excuse me if I sound like an old man, ok? Hehe! I remember reading about the bitter rivalries between players from different parts of the country. Especially in CA. Keep in mind, Texas had never made an appearance at any national tournament. I just remember flipping through old copies of Gamepro magazine and my old Street Fighter 2 Hyper Fighting Gamepro Strategy Guide always going to the back section and reading about how Tomo had his own manager reading the list of names in the top 10 and knowing someday I will play these guys. I was hungry, and so were a few other guys from Houston.

I think what I miss most about the old community as opposed to the new is the ferocity of the competition. Sure it’s very intense now, but back then it was raw. Some players really had a strong rivalry with one another and when players lost it was a real ego crusher. I miss the surprise factor. Nothing surprises people as much anymore because everything is so easy access now(thanks to the internetz!) so it’s easy to download a video, carbon copy and run with it. It’s both good and bad. I think a lot of what today’s community is missing is the real face to face interaction and experience facing raw opponents. I think there’s a humble understanding that all OG’s can relate too and that’s real life experience. Apoc can explain it so much better than I can, but in the end I really miss the rush of live unpredictable side by side competition. It’s something that the online community will never be able to replicate. I don’t care how great GGPO is. I love how big the FGC has gotten but at the same time I think it’s too chummy and spoiled sometimes.

Other memories? I really miss the heated debates on and the genuine trashtalk. They’re nothing like the flame/troll wars of today.

So while everyone was still playing SFA1, SFA2 I was busy playing Xband on SNES. If you don’t know what Xband is, please sign out of Xbox Live and PS Network and Google it. If it had not been for Xband I would have never stayed sharp enough to play in tournaments. Xband made it possible for me to play against great players like Jason Wilson(Dream Theater+), Vintage/Dark Gaiden and a ton of other players that are still active in the SF community today. Xband was way ahead of it’s time but came too late in the life of the 16bit systems.

Finally, I have to say that players like Alex Valle, John Choi, Mke Watson, Jason Cole, Seth Killian, Todd Dwyer, Omni and Jason Wilson have all made the visits to West, East and Midwest a blast to play with. The gaming is great n all, but nothing beats the after parties and outings before and after the tournaments.

STR: How did you get the nickname “Jumpsuit”?

Jumpsuit: There’s quite a bit of controversy about how I got this name. Back in the mid-90’s I used to dance quite a bit. I was into house, hip hop and even a little b-boy flavor. I used to wear a ton of comfortable jogging outfits like Adidas, Playboy, Fila, etc. When I attended my first tournament in 97(MidWest Championships)all I wore were those jogging suits. Well, at that tournament there were 2 Jesse’s who both played Fei Long. The infamous Jesse Howard, and me..Jesse Cardenas. So to specify which Jesse people were talking about you would hear “Jesse? Jesse who? Jesse Howard? Or Jumpsuit Jesse?” The name stuck like glue. Supposedly Choi coined the name but Sirlin also claims he gave it to me. I never agreed to it lol! But hey, I like the name Jumpsuit lol!

Now that I think about it, that was the tournament where PSI-Alex(yes, that crazy guy) saved me from getting killed by an angry Russian Mob father who’s daughter was out a little too late. Let’s just say I always smile when I see the brand CK in the stores. Kris and Omar Deloney know aaaalll about it lol! But I’ll save that tale for another time.

STR: How familiar are you with the Japanese scene? Any thoughts on their scene versus ours?

Jumpsuit: Eh, I always had a curiosity about the Japanese scene. I knew they had an edge on us in 2 major sections. 1. Access to competition. 2. Better gaming hardware to play on. I remember way back when players would bring their giant MAS sticks to tournaments. I HATED the original MAS sticks and buttons because their sticks were so damn tight and their buttons were rigid and hell. I remember my local arcade owner ordered a new Virtua Fighter 3 machine. That thing had original buttons and sticks and when I played on them I thought “Wow, I bet these controls would be awesome in a SF cabinet!” They were so smooth and took hardly any effort to make the controls do what you wanted them to. I remember making soapbox statements about how much better Japanese sticks and buttons are compared to clunky USA gear(yes, I know it’s still preference lol!) and nobody really grasped the idea. It wasn’t until I got all the Houston players to convert to Happ Convex buttons that the idea started to catch on. MvC2 had just come out and Happ convex buttons were perfect for mashing! So I like to think I helped bring the love of Japanese controls to the USA. Now Square gates and Sanwa are common names you hear among the great stick makers. It makes me happy.

Another thing I have always admired about the Japanese gamers are their standards for perfection. It was not uncommon to see players stick with one character only. I like how they endure and win with a “weak” character. To me that shows me that it’s not about winning. It’s about perfection. Not many players here in the USA stick with that kinda mentality. It’s all about the win and who doesn’t like to win, right? Well, I tend to give a little more props to the surgeon that works a little harder on his matchups than simply counter picking. It doesn’t bother me that players do counter pick, but it makes me smile inside when I see the hardcore endure those tough matchups and win. It shows character.

I remember being there when Daigo faced Alex Valle in SFA3. I called in sick and took the first flight to CA I could find. I didn’t want to miss this event at all. Matter of fact, it was Alex Valle himself that picked me up fro the airport just before the tournament. I think he was running late because of me! Talk about a true friend! But anyway, I remember seeing Daigo just WOW the audience. Anybody remember “PRESS SOME BUTTONS, COLE!” lol! The skill gap was pretty big back then, but now with so many more people playing and the world becoming smaller(thanks to the internet)the playing field is becoming must more equal. We are now up there in skill level in all the newer games. But when it comes to ST, I am still not sure if USA still has what it takes to beat them. That is part of the reason why the ST revival movement is super important. Think of it as us having “unfinished business”

I still want to visit Japan and check out the gaming scene there. It’s always been a longtime dream of mine.

STR: You’re considered the elite Fei Long player in the US. What made you take up that character and stick with him through all the years?

Jumpsuit: LOL! I dunno about all that! I took up Fei for a couple of reasons. First, I remember the day I played against a local guy named Pete. He was a really good player back in the HF days. SSF2 had just come out so the new characters were still lol! At a glance I didn’t think much of the new characters. When I saw Fei Long I noticed he didn’t have a projectile so I didn’t know what to think of him. Well, one day Pete walks into the arcade and I am owning everyone with Ryu. He puts his quarter up and says “I got a surprise for you.” I laughed because he and I were bitter rivals. He chooses Fei, the round starts and I am keeping him away with fireball spacing etc. He finally gets close enough and I will never forget how stunned I was when he landed that 5 hit Rekka combo on me. My jaw literally dropped. I won the match, but after seeing just how strong he was.

The second reason I was and am still am huge fan of Bruce Lee not only as action film powerhouse but as a philosopher, a coach and human being. I like to think that whoever designed Fei Long really tried to pay homage to Bruce. Not just in the details of the character sprite but his moves as well.

As SSF started to fade out of the spotlight, only the hardcore would play it. It was pretty obvious that Fei along with the other new challenger characters were not really being taken seriously. So I saw it as a fresh start. Once I started learning how to use him I read that infamous Gamepro article featuring Mike Watson and Jesse Howard. By that time I was already really good with Fei so when I read that Jesse Howard took Fei to the finals I was kinda mad! Not because I wanted to be the first, but because I was anxious to see how Jesse Howard used Fei. At that time we had no videos, no streaming, nada. So at that moment I promised myself that I would one day play with the best in the nation.

In my opinion, Fei Long is one of the best “flowing” characters in the game. In the right hands he has a rhythm that’s really effective and powerful.

STR: What area would you recommend new / intermediate players to work on to improve their game?

Jumpsuit: My advice? The cliche answer would be “practice, practice, practice” but I’m going to go with honing mental strength. You have to ask yourself “How badly do I want it?” “What am I willing to endure to get what I want?” I ask players that struggle with their game “What is it you want?” and of course the answer is always “to win/to get better. But I keep pressing.. “Why is winning so important to you? What will winning bring you?” In the end a lot players can’t give a real answer and some light up and realize that all they really want is to be loved, admired and respected as a person by their peers. The beauty of this is that once players realize they can have these things without having to prove themselves in a game of Street Fighter, it relieves a great deal of pressure. They can play their best at a comfortable level. That mental barrier of pressure just disappears and they are free just to BE. It’s one less thing they have to worry about.

That’s why so many great players have that charisma. They have that aura of confidence that draws other players to them. I think as a community more and more players are starting to look inward instead of outward for guidance on how to get to that level. It’s about acquiring that winning attitude. To win before you’ve even put your hands on the controls. And that is real evolution.

STR: What are some common mistakes or bad habits that you see players do that they should eliminate to improve their game?

Jumpsuit: With the easy access of videos I see a lot of players carbon copy what they see and run with it. Nothing wrong with that, but I think more players should put their own twists and innovations on what they take as well. Many players tend to get complacent with a strategy, and although it may net them a lot of wins they tend to fall to pieces when someone comes along and counters it. Don’t let your waters go stale. Keep moving. Keep flowing. Stay frosty.

STR: How much time do you spend playing ST/Street Fighter these days and how much did you spend at your peak?

Jumpsuit: These days? Wow, if I am lucky I get in a 3-4 hours a month. That is going to change now that I plan on getting back into the tournament scene.

Back in the late 90’s I would spend 2 hours a night by myself and 3-6 hours a day on the weekends with friends.

Life happens.. so it’s tougher to get that game time in. I am not getting any younger but as Rocky Balboa once said.. “There’s still some stuff in the basement” lol! I’m still hungry.

STR: Is there a routine you do in order to get ready for a tournament?

Jumpsuit: I do my best to get in good spirits, block out the mental noise and make sure I have eaten and slept well the night before. I like to watch other players and cheer them on. I love getting caught up in that energy of the crowd. It’s infectious!

STR: Why do you think ST has had such longevity and popularity?

Jumpsuit: ST is arguably the best of the SF2 series. It’s very unforgiving. There are no shortcuts, crutches and no excuses. It’s easy to separate the men from the boys, ya know? I think ST holds a great deal of respect within the community because of it’s purity and simplicity. Yet, on the other hand, the game is very deep and complex. The game has everything we love about great fighting games and in my opinion still sets the standard.

STR: What do you think about HD Remix? SF4?

Jumpsuit: HD Remix. Geeez? lol! I love and hate the game. I love it because it started with the best intentions. I hate it because it divided the ST community in a sense. There are some changes I love and some I absolutely hate. I have a huge problem with the widening of the input windows for special moves. I left HDR and went back to ST.

It’s funny now because so many players come up to me saying “hey Jes! Fei Long is top tier in SSF4 yo! Why aren’t you playing?” Ain’t gonna lie. Part of me wishes I woulda made more effort to stick with the game, but when I play Fei he just doesn’t have that same feel anymore. SF in general just doesn’t have that purity anymore. And while I am happy the community has blossomed, I am also disappointed that SF is becoming more “Marvel-esque”

STR: Who are the top 3 ST players in your opinion?

Jumpsuit: Well, I haven’t played against any Japanese players except Kuni and Ohnuki(did I spell that right?) But as far as ST players are concerned?

John Choi – His precision and consistency is unmatched. He’s a class act and he’s dreamy.

Mike Watson – Having played Mike just before he retired I can honestly say he is definitely one of the best SF players I have ever faced. Patient, aggressive and surgically picks apart your game. He’s always asking me if I wanna “hang out?” wtf? LoL!

Dark Gaiden (DGV) – I’ve been playing this kid since the mid-90’s on a dial up connection using SNES controllers over Xband. From whining about tick throws back in the 90’s to becoming one of the greats at Evo, his Ryu is 2nd to none. Oh and he likes Jem and The Holograms.

There are few others that I wanna mention are Alex Valle, all the Jasons(Cole, Nelson, Wilson, Gonzales, DeHeras), AfroLegends, The Wolfe Bros, NKI) I can go on and on.

STR: Who would you say has been your toughest opponent or rival?

Jumpsuit: Over the years I’d have to say John Choi followed by both Jason “Shirts” Deheras and Jason Nelson. All 3 of them are a blast to play and are very challenging.

STR: What is the fondest moment in your SF career?

Jumpsuit: I have 2 actually. First was at the US Fighting Game Championships in Las Vegas, NV. Apoc was hosting this tournament. I was really happy with how well I did considering it was my first real tournament competing in ST. The odd thing is that I went to that tournament to play SF3 2nd Impact not ST. But for some reason I was on fire that day. I remember beating Jason Nelson then David Sirlin and then facing John Choi. At that time I had NO experience fighting OG Sagat, nor did I know about the differences between OG and ST Sagat. It was a great match, and sadly nobody recorded it.

Second was qualifying for Team USA back in 2003. Seeing my name up there with a roster of other great ST pros really made me feel like I had come full circle. Sadly, I was unable to go but just being able to make the team was quite an honor.

STR: What is your involvement with the Street Fighter / ST scene these days?

Jumpsuit: Right now I am trying to get the ball rolling for small scale ST event here in the states. I think this can be a really great way to celebrate what the Street Fighter franchise has done for the FGC and for gaming in general. I am truly hoping this happens.

I also plan on helping out and coaching locally. Houston and Texas in general really needs to get back into it and make stronger showings. The local community is unlike those found in the EC and WC so it’s going to take some work.

STR: ST still has a nice hardcore following in Japan. There is still a dedicated scene in the US as well but it’s harder to gather for tournaments these days since the players tend to be older with families and more responsibilites now. But would you like to see at least one more big ST event with some of the legendary names coming back for one final showdown?

Jumpsuit: Hehe! What do you think I am trying to do? ?

I would love to see either an X-Mania USA or better yet, X-Mania Grand Master International Challenge put together. I think we owe some sort of homage to SF2 series, and this kind of annual event would be perfect for it.

STR: Oh, I have to bring this up. I can’t believe I recently just found out about your awesome game room! How did this start and can you tell us more about it?

Jumpsuit: Ah, the gameroom. Mine is quite humble and small compared to some of the setups other players have, hehe. Well, back in the late 90’s my ex had bought me an original SF2CE Cabinet. I restored it to it’s original shape and I would alternate between HF and ST. It was great to finally own one. I practiced mastering combo-ing supers in ST every day, which back then was very rare to see in the states. So I started with USA style cabinets before going with Japanese style.

Back in those days I was a real ebay junkie. One day I was browsing for “Street Fighter Arcade” and I came across an auction seller named ArcadeInfinity. A lot of West Coast players know who this guy is. He sold a ton of cabinets back then..mostly Japanese Cabs I think. I picked up my Capcom Impress CRT cabinet and my Neo Geo Mini 19 from him. I love the simplicity, mobility and versatility of the Japanese style cabinets. Once I went from USA cabs to Japanese I never looked back. Nowadays the newer flatscreen Viewlix style cabinets are the rage, but I still love my old CRT cabs. There’s just something about playing ST and HF on a CRT monitor that makes it cool.

All in all I have 4 cabinets. I used to also own a Nintendo Red Tent and an original Street Fighter 1 Cabinet but I sold them both. Just didn’t have the room. Now all I have are my Capcom Impress, Capcom Mini-Cute, SNK Neo Geo Mini 19 and my Ms. Pac Man Cocktail table cab. My heart has always been with arcade games. Consoles are nice, but they can never replace the real arcade experience.

STR: Anything else you’d like to tell us about you that people may not know (hobbies, special skills, trivia) or any final words?

Jumpsuit: Hobbies? I am into restoring old Japanese cars. Right now I am into 88-91 Honda Civics and CRX’s. I have a 91 CRX Si that I am still restoring and I also have an 89 4wD Honda Civic Shutte. I plan on moving onto a different car soon. I am also into movies. I have a huge movie collection, so movies and cinema are very dear to me. OH, and I have a small collection of Japanese Arcade games. I owe a lot of praise to for all their help in restoring my cabinets.

Special Skills? Yes. Outside of SF I am a Super Dodgeball pro. My brothers and I still have drunken tournaments on Super Dodge Ball for the NES. Come at me, Bro!

I am thankful for what Street Fighter has done for me. It’s taken me to places I never thought I’d see, brought new friends into my life and most importantly it’s helped me grow mentally and spiritually. Godspeed to all of you. SHORYUKEN!

STR: Thanks for your time, Jesse! Hope to see you again at a tournament soon!