Interview with kuroppi

Interview Date: April 2011
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Years Playing SF2: Off and on since 1991
Main Character: Honda
Other Characters: Zangief, Ryu, T-Hawk
Favorite Fighting Game: Super Turbo
Other Fighting Games: KoF ’95, KoF ’98, SF Alpha 1-3, 3rd Strike
Weapon of Choice: SF4 TE Stick. Any Japanese stick works for me.

STR: You recently posted what could possibly be the FIRST ST tournament in the world and you’re the first generation of sf2 players. Do you want to share with us some of the history in that era (from where you start playing SF2)?

kuroppi: It’s pretty amazing that the video could be the first ST tournament in the USA and even the world and thanks to Ganelon for doing the research on that. Since it was such a long time ago, I thought it took place a year or so after ST was released. I’ve gotten many messages thanking me for uploading the video and I’m glad people are enjoying it.

Anyway, wow. Where to start?

I started playing SFII at Yellow Brick Road arcade here in San Diego, with it’s two head-to-head machines, just like all the Japanese arcades had. All the best players played on those machines while the beginners and those who couldn’t hack it, went to go play on the standard machines.

Not too long after playing there, I met and became friends with the legendary Kuni Funada, who was attending college here at the time. And Yellow Brick Road held the famous, big SFII tournament, which was won by Tomo Ohira. I didn’t enter that tournament though. I was into Street Fighter then but I didn’t really start playing heavy until Champion Edition came out.

When SFII came out for the Super Nintendo, Kuni and I would spend countless nights playing until four or five in the morning. I can’t even imagine how many hours that added up to be and how many classes I missed because I overslept after those marathon sessions!

I think it was during SSF2 that I started with and soon after the #capcom IRC channel. This is where I first met virtually all of the OG players that we know today, like Seth Killian, James Chen, Julien Beasley, John Choi, Apoc, omni, the Cannons and the names can go on and on.

I think it was in 1995? that we organized an a.g.sf2 ST and SFA1 tournament. It was kind of the primitive version to what would become Battle by the Bay and eventually EVO. There were a few guys (I think Joel Frank and David Boudreau) who came all the way out from the East Coast to Vegas for the tournament. I think I even surprised myself by winning the ST tournament, pulling off the upset against Watson and beating Joel in the finals.

We really didn’t have any tournaments here in San Diego after ST came out, which was odd because ST was pretty popular here and we had weekly Hyper Fighting tournaments here with good turnouts. So I would frequently travel with Kuni and James Romedy up to tournaments in LA. They first introduced me to the World’s Finest Comic tournaments in Pico Rivera. All the top LA players would play there. But we went to other tournaments scattered all over LA, from UCLA to Little Tokyo. Anywhere that featured ST, since we were so starved for tournaments here in San Diego.

Going a little past the ST era, after Alpha came out, the ST scene here took a big hit. A group of us still played ST but just like before, we’d have to go up to LA for any tournaments or better competition and Southern Hills Golfland would become the hottest spot in Southern California, especially with Alex Valle making his mark on the Street Fighter world. Even though Alpha and later on SF3 would become the marquee game there, there was always OG’s and major competition on the ST machines there. It was so great just visiting there from time to time. It must have been heaven for the locals who lived near there and played there all the time!

5/1/1994 UCLA ST Tournament – The first ST tournament in the world.

STR: Your nickname sounds like Japanese, and you’re friends with Japanese players. Do you speak Japanese? Is there anything you want to say regarding Japan, its players, etc?

kuroppi: Long story short: My nickname really has no meaning. Many moons ago when I got on and #capcom on IRC I had to choose a handle so I just picked a name of a Japanese band I was listening to at the time called “Kuroyume”, which means “black dream”. I later shortened it to Kuro and then as a joke I changed it to “kuroppi”, similar to the Sanrio character and it just kind of stuck.

I’m part Japanese. I’m not fluent but I can understand it pretty well. As for Japan, I was born there but moved here soon afterwards so I haven’t lived there like a number of Street Fighter players have but I’ve visited there several times in the past decade and I’ve had the chance to play against some great players there including Gian, Kurahasi, Otochun to name a few.

STR: How do you practice the game before you become good? Do you leverage PC emulation or console version to practice your execution? How many years does it take to compete at high level?

kuroppi: Well, I learned back in the arcade days so you had to become good fast or else you were going to lose a lot of money! So it was trial by fire and you’d better learn quickly!

I never practice. What free time I have to play, I just like to play for fun these days.

I think it took me kind of a while before I considered myself playing at a high level. I didn’t really start playing a lot until late World-Warrior/Early Champion Edition and it was during Hyper Fighter that I started beating the best players here on a more regular basis.

But there were no Honda players around where I was so I had to figure everything out on my own, without a training mode, without YouTube tutorials and matches to study or the flow of information like we have now so it was a bit difficult. I see players raise their level of play so much faster now these days. It’s pretty amazing.

STR: E Honda is not a popular character. Why do you pick him as your main?

kuroppi: Originally, I started using him in Champion Edition. I was (and still am) a big sumo fan so his character intrigued me. His type of gameplay really seemed to fit my style so I stuck with him and kept working to play him at the highest level that I could.

This may surprise people who know me but my favorite character to play is actually Ryu. People think just because so many people (especially beginners) use Shotos, that they’re easy to use. I think to play shotos at a very high level in ST is really underestimated because there are a number of (especially top tier) characters that give him a hard time. I actually use Ryu most of the time when I’m playing online these days. I always wanted to use him as a main or at a tournament level but I just have never been able to learn to play him at that level consistently.

STR: Do you use fierce Hundred Hand Slap? Are there any tricks to pull that off consistently?

kuroppi: These old hands can’t do it very well anymore (and even back in my prime, I wasn’t that good at it) so I usually stick with the small HHS. ? But there are times where the fierce HHS is better for closing distance.

So it’s kind of funny when people occasionally accuse me of using turbo because I screw up HHS a lot more than I should be with all the experience I have!

STR: Is shoto the most difficult matchup for Honda? Do you have any strategy to share for this matchup?

kuroppi: Yeah, don’t pick Honda!

But yes, I think shotos are Honda’s toughest matchups. Along with Dee Jay and Guile.

The most important thing against shotos is you have to use his jump neutral fierce to steer over projectiles. I see so many Hondas that just try to “buttslam” through fireballs and that’s just suicide. It’s tough to steer over fireballs especially when your opponent is great at mixing up the speeds. You’re going to get smacked with a lot of fireballs and land on a lot of fireballs but that can’t deter you.

Crouching jab is his best poke against shotos and using his HHS to pressure is also very important, especially doing a quick HHS that’s blocked, into a second one.

STR: Zangief seems to be a lot more popular than T Hawk. But in recent years the Japanese have been picking up on THawk. What do you like about Zangief? You mentioned that T Hawk’s play is too one dimensional?

kuroppi: Yeah, what I meant with that comment was that from a game design perspective, I do not like the (though unintentional) option select loop trap that T-Hawk has because some characters really can’t get out of it so the risk/reward in that situation is problematic IMO.

I like Zangief because he fits my play style of working your way in and doing big damage. Cracking the turtle’s shell can be very challenging but so rewarding when you finally do!

kuroppi (O Honda) vs djfrijoles (T-Hawk)

STR: Which character has the best design and why? Should o. sagat / claw / boxer be soft banned?

kuroppi: Though he’s not the best in the game, I really think Ryu has the best design in ST. Of course, we all know about his zoning abilities so he can be played as a turtle but he can be so aggressive with juice kicks, his overhead, his dashing fierce punch, crossup HK or cancelling the short HK off of a normal for throw/SRK mixups or starting a new block string. And he has a great wakeup, great mobility with either forward or backward juice kicks and his normal moves are great but they also really make sense. They just feel so right.

My theory is that O Sagat/Claw/Boxer never got a soft ban here because of the way we ran tournaments compared to Japan. Since we could change characters and “counter pick”, people didn’t see this as a problem in the past. I’m not sure exactly why but I’ve noticed that over time, the scene here seemed to mirror the Japanese scene a bit, especially as we continued to evolve the gameplay to higher and higher levels. Later on, we saw less “counter picking” and more dedication to sticking with your character. I think most of the “soft ban” complaints that have arose recently is just a product of the online mentality that a lot of new school players have today because old school players never really complained loudly about that. IMO, these types of players don’t want to take their lumps and figure out how to beat the top tier characters and give up too easy and yell for a ban.

I will say this though, the game seems more fun and diverse without those three characters.

B5 Championships – kuroppi (Honda) vs. Pete Tally (O Sagat, O Ken)

B5 – kuroppi (Honda) vs. Apoc. (Claw, Boxer)

STR: What area would you recommend new / intermediate players work on to improve their game? What are some common mistakes / bad habits (can be specific to your main character or not) players should get rid off in order to become better?

kuroppi: I definitely recommend watching videos of top players on or spectate matches in GGPO of good players who use your character.

STR: We know that you play both HDR & ST. What’s your impression of both?

kuroppi: I know there’s a lot of things that went down behind the scenes with HDR which led to a lot of the OG players not supporting it, which I think really hurt it in the long run. It’s really unfortunate that this happened because HDR did have a lot of hype when it came out despite that.

I’ve gone on record both for and against different aspects of HDR. But I just treat it as a whole new game, which is really what it is. Despite it being so similar to ST, it isn’t ST. So I never had a problem playing both games, as long as I kept that in mind.

It’s strange. A lot of the changes that went into HDR made perfect sense on paper but I think it somewhat simplified the game in some areas. I think in a perfect world, we’d love a perfectly balanced game but it seems to remove some of the intrigue of a David vs Goliath type of matchup.

My mains being Honda, Zangief and T-Hawk, I liked the tweaks with Zangief and Hawk. I know Hawk isn’t as good as he is in ST but I think he’s a lot more fun to use because you have to really mix up your attacks and play style with him. Zangief is so much fun in HDR because of all the new “toys” he got to play with now. When HDR first came out, I was playing Zangief almost exclusively because you could tell immediately that he got so many improvements.

I have mixed feelings with Honda. I think removing his corner trap and dizzy damage on the Oicho was the right thing to do because those tactics could be a bit overpowered. But losing that dizzy damage really hurt him more than people realize because Honda needed that capability to deal all that damage when he finally got a chance to get in on his opponent. The single most scariest thing about Honda in ST was getting hit with the Oicho because you were dizzy or one wrong move away from a dizzy. And with other character’s improvements like Ryu’s fake fireball, despite Honda’s improvements, his toughest matches didn’t seem to get any better.

But I enjoy HDR overall. I especially enjoyed it in the first year or two so when the competition was really good. Those were probably the most enjoyable times I had playing Street Fighter online and it really brought me back into Street Fighter again.

kuroppi (Zangief) vs Jodim (Zangief)

STR: How much time you spend playing sf2 each week during your peak and how much time you spend playing sf2 currently?

kuroppi: I’m afraid to guess how many hours I spent on SF during my peak days. During college, I’d be at the campus arcade a few hours a day and then sometimes at our main arcade later on for a few more. And most of the day on weekends. I’d say it was like working a full time job, like 40 hours a week!

These days it’s much less but depending on how busy I am, I say anywhere from 5 to 15 hours a week. I’m mostly playing ST on GGPO but I’ll hop on HDR every once in a while and maybe a little MvC3 or SSFIV here and there.

Back in March, I was fortunate enough to acquire CigarBob’s old Super Turbo cabinet and though I only get a chance to play it about once every other weekend for a few hours, it’s been such a blast to play arcade ST again!

STR: You are one of the very few OG players from the era of Mike Watson, Jeff Schaeffer that still play this game and still ENTER tournament. What keeps you going?

kuroppi: Street Fighter is in my blood. ?

I’ve taken long hiatuses from the game off and on over the years and around 2004 or so, fighting games were getting really stale, arcades around here were pretty much dead and the online play was at its infancy but not very popular and not nearly as good as it is now and it was around then that I met my wife so for a few years I really didn’t play much Street Fighter at all.

But then GGPO, HF and HDR became such big hits for online play, it brought me back. I do like playing games from different genres here and there for a change of pace but the bottom line is that no other game has ever captivated me like Street Fighter has. You’re always learning new things and finding ways to improve your play. And while online play definitely has its problems with lag and troublemakers, overall it’s incredible being able to play against anyone from all over the world. It’s what we old school players used to dream about back in the day!

As for still entering tournaments, there are a couple of reasons. Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to enter a few tournaments in the past 4-5 years. Though, I’m not in my prime anymore and SF2 isn’t a big draw anymore, tournament play is still everything. Playing online is incredibly fun but it’s just that, playing online.

But the other reason is just to support the SF community as much as I can. I wish more online players could see it this way.

STR: Do you think there is a way to attract all these OG to come out and play the game in a tournament again? Maybe casually just for fun and not necessary playing to win?

kuroppi: I think that’s pretty unlikely because SF2 has pretty much sailed it’s course here in the US. Though I hear through the GGPO grapevine that there is something big in the works.

STR: What is your fondest moment in your SF2 career?

kuroppi: There is one moment that isn’t SF2 related. One was during the SF3 era (2nd Impact). I struggled early on getting a grasp of SF3. I kind of gave up playing SF3 for the most part but I forced myself to really learn the game when 2nd Impact came out and after the game was out for a while, there was a huge buzz about this ascending player named Mike Zavar who had a killer Sean. Apoc. held a big tournament in Las Vegas that year with all the usual big names showing up. Sadly I didn’t do that well in ST because I was focused on 2nd Impact. And I had to face Zavar in the tournament and I was just in the zone that day. My practice had paid off and I pulled off the upset against him and wound up placing top 5. That was a good feeling for me because I had struggled so much with SF3 in the past and my hard work paid off that day.

As for SF2/ST, there are so many great moments but I would have to say winning the SBO qualifiers here to represent the US team in Japan. Though we didn’t fare well in the tournament, it was special on a personal level since it was special for me to return to Japan and see all my friends and relatives again.

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

kuroppi: Everyone loves to debate about the Japanese players but I’ll just stick to the US players and I’ll base this on who I’ve played against.

Anyway, HDR: Snake Eyez, AfroLegends, DGV.

ST: John Choi (he demolishes Hondas like nothing – see Kusumondo at EVO – and I’ve never been able to beat him), Jason Cole , Mike Watson.

(Wow! I didn’t realize how hard it would be to pick just three! There are a bunch of guys who you could argue could be in there.)

And I’m going to give a shoutout to an unknown player only any old school SD player and a few LA players would know and that’s Wei Sit. He was a Ryu/Blanka player who gave me the toughest, most intense matches here in San Diego, from Champion Edition all the way to Super Turbo. Without the fierce battles against him all those years, I don’t think I ever would have learned to fight against Ryu like I was able to back then. He had a Ryu with tricks and setups that was similar to Mike Watson’s but with his own twist. It’s a shame he never travelled to any tournaments outside of San Diego because I think he would done really well.

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?)

kuroppi: A lot of the OG players already know this but I’m in the game industry and I’ve been working as a 3-D artist on EverQuest for ten years now (YES, TEN YEARS!)

As for my hobbies and free time, life with a family and busy job really limits my free time so what little I do have, I pretty much devote to Street Fighter. I used to go to the gym a lot but these days I prefer to stay outdoors since the weather is always beautiful here and either go running (with or without my dog) or biking. Other than that, just spending time with my wife and new baby.

One thing that is really great to see is a lot of the old school SF2 players who are still involved in the fighting game community and doing so much in various ways and I’ve been meaning to try to get involved in some matter for a while now and I do have a couple of things I’m working on that can hopefully give back a little bit to the fighting game community.

STR: Thanks for taking your time to share with us!