Interview with Riz0ne

Interview Date: December 2012
Hometown: New York, NY
Occupation: Starving Artist, Editor
Years Playing SF2: 6 years on and off
Main Character: Dictator
Other Characters: Ryu, Guile
Favorite Fighting Game: SF2CE, Super Turbo
Other Fighting Games: SFZ3, MK2, UMK3, Tekken, SSBM
Weapon of Choice: Anything Japanese, preferably on cab.

STR: Riz0ne, congratulations on your performance at TOURNAMENT OF LEGENDS. How was the experience?

Riz0ne: Thank you. Actually, thanks to kuroppi and all who participated in organizing, competing, spectating or had anything to do with the ToL program. EVO 2012 was my first ever EVO and I hope not the last. Getting a spot on that poster, and slowly making it to the main stage was really a pay off after all the hurdles in the past couple of years. It was also great to be with a crowd of ST enthusiasts, and finally meeting a bunch of people in person. Yeah, EVO should be a longer event.

STR: So, how did you come to start playing ST?

Riz0ne: I could give you a very detailed story, but I’ll keep it short and sweet. 2006. Downloaded Mame. Played SF2CE, MK2, etc. via Kaillera. Folks (Nomrah, Immortal, etc.) got me to play ST. Didn’t see any progress until a guy by the name of dino (best MK2 player) told me to buy an HRAP2. Dino put me on to NH2’s blog, negative edge typhoons, walking double-typhoon, short short super, and psycho magic before it was a very “known” thing. He mailed me a copy of the DC version of ST for training mode, and then disappeared without a trace. Entered locals at Web2Zone (RIP), met NH2 and Co., and started playing ST weekly at CTF. Fun-fact: I’m the last bred ST player from Chinatown Fair.

Going against Mattsun in casuals.

STR: You’ve played in Japan at SBO. How was your experience there? How did SBO compare to tournaments here in the US?

Riz0ne: Japan is an excellent training ground for anyone. It’s really an eye-opener. The unknown casual Ryus were able to jump strong every un-safe Headpress, react SRK Hawk’s dive, and react Hurricane over Sonic Booms. Most of them played Ryu with identical styles. And one Gouki, lol. (We were worried for our lives any time he walked into the ‘cades.) For the known players in casuals, there was always this feeling that they were ahead by a beat or two. Much like the experience for us vs. MAO or Kusumondo at ToL. Now as far as the actual tournament goes, yeah it’s all glitz and glamour, but the format really sucks for foreigners. Not only is it unforgiving (not that I’m complaining), but it’s something we’re really not prepared for. You look at a game like ST where one risk can make or break a match, and a format like SBO’s where you only need to do it twice to take a full game, it takes a LOT of strength to be able to play your A Game. The ones who are best prepared in the moment are the ones that can win this tournament. In the States, often times we have to play side by side and we get auditorial and visual cues from the opponent making it easier to react in some situations. It’s not a big deal, but it’s definitely not microscopic. In order for a foreigner to win in Japan, he must train in the Japanese format, especially for a game like Super Turbo. Simply put, WE SHOULD ALWAYS PLAY H2H and not S2S. On the other hand in the States, we play strong in our 3/5 format because of three reasons. 1. Counterpicking: The easy choice. 2. Strategizing: Basically don’t reveal all of your tricks in one game. Save them and bait your opponent into swapping play style or character and then mutilate them. 3. Adaptability: There’s always new tech in tournaments, or a particular habit your opponent has. It’s up to you to take advantage of that. It’s also interesting that playing sets have become of the norm even in Japan for the SFIV series. So counterpicking has become an accepted thing.

Keishin, Hiroyan, Shin, KKY, VIPER, simi (the host), Aoki Cyclone, Damdai, XSPR, NKI, Naoki, 853 (@ggpo), Mr. Bob aka CharcoalBuddy, Riz0ne.

STR: Any other interesting stories from Japan?

Riz0ne: There are so many cool stories from Japan, but I’ll talk about just one. The day before we were leaving, my buddy ‘simi’ worked hard at making reservations for dinner at a very traditional sushi spot. The plans were shaky throughout the day. We were going from GameSpot Versus to Mikado to HEY just recruiting people, changing schedules, and venues. Because of the lack of organization, we thought nobody would show. To our surprise, a whole bunch of guys showed up. Keishin, Shiro, KKY, Kikai, VIPER, Shin, Hiroyan, Aoki Cyclone, NKI, Mr. Bob, XSPR, 853 (GGPO player), and the GGPO buddy of course. All of us took the train together, ate, laughed, and took pictures. Some had drinks. The coolest thing was when my buddy gave a toast. It was like being the guest of honor. NH2 sat next to me, translating as he spoke. He said that this event was only made possible because of a friendship created from playing ST on-line, and how besides games we talk about real-life stuff. It might sound lame, but I’ve made a lot of great friends from this game and it was an honor to meet him and everyone else in Japan. When we left the restaurant, we took some more pics and started saying our goodbyes. I couldn’t believe how much emotion the Japanese guys were showing. Damdai said in his first trip to SBO, they hardly showed feelings. We really built friendships from hanging out pretty much everyday for two weeks. Anyway, the funniest part was when we got to Shin. A tall, thin man dressed like T-Hawk. His eyes were nearly tearing like he lost his puppy, he stuck out his hand and said “….friend?” It looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie, lol. But yeah…good times. Fun-fact: Not long after SBO, Kikai and KKY moved to Osaka. 853 also lives in Osaka. He ended up beating KKY’s Dhalsim in a team tournament.

STR: How did you start to get more serious about ST? How did you train to get better?

Riz0ne: During my college years, I’d come home, and jump on GGPO. But every Friday night there’d be at least 3-5 guys rotating on ST at CTF so I got a lot of training there. Watching videos improved my gameplay of course. Eventually, John Rambo invited me to play with the guys in Connecticut. That’s when I really studied things in depth.

STR: You seem to really study top Japanese players, even those who do not play Dictator. How do you feel this has impacted you as a player? Does this increase your appreciation for the game and players?

Riz0ne: It helps to know that even when you’re at a life deficit and the clock is running out, sitting in one place might be the best course of action. It’s like that one Komoda comeback vs. Tokido. You have to ask yourself “What was he thinking?” Another thing I always think about is how does YuuVega know when to Scissor Kick or Head Press? It’s really uncanny how he manages to score full screen Scissor Kick knockdowns vs. Honda and shotos. Whether he has a life lead or not, YuuVega will usually choose the right time to do it in stalemate-like situations. When you watch these guys and play them yourself, slowly you just absorb the data, and when you do it for yourself, the knowledge becomes rewarding. From studying their techniques and asking the top players personally, it definitely increases my appreciation for the game and the players who put in the work to really excel and develop their niche. As a player, I’ve grown by miles and feel confident enough to discuss my opinions thoroughly on the game. When Keishin asked me how I felt about Chun vs. Dictator, it was a great feeling to give my input. I told him that it’s not too bad for Dictator. He was shocked: “But Chun can throw him all day”. My response was “when you consider how bad some of Dictator’s other match-ups are, this one is pretty decent. He has ways of getting in on her.” Keishin then agreed because I was giving Dictator’s psychology on the match and not just Chun would do to him.

STR: What drew you to playing Dictator? Are there any other characters you like to play?

Riz0ne: I have this philosophy that players use characters who best resemble them. NH2 uses Blanka because his history is as mysterious as Jimmy’s. Damdai is a programmer, so his method of style is very zeroes-and-ones (you fireball, I jump. you jump, I shoryuken. I safe jump and install OS). So I use Dictator because (besides being a crime boss) nothing he does is safe and everything is improvisation. For example, often times the trajectory of the devil’s reverse is unpredictable. Once initiated you have to commit to what you’ll do in a very short period of time. Empty devil’s reverse into super, empty DR -> C. MK xx Scissors, DR -> retreat because of Jump in or FIreball, etc. Maybe that’s what my life is like–spontaneous commitment by means of making very quick decisions. Otherwise, I like to play Ryu, Guile, Hawk, Sagat, and Ken. And I’ll play almost any character vs. Guile

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

Riz0ne: The maximum I used to play was like 3-6 hours a night on GGPO. Nowadays, we’ll have sessions typically on Friday evenings at Tecmo’s.

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

Riz0ne: Once a week, H2H/Supergun, Dictator only, no bullsh*tting, and tons of videos.

STR: A couple of fun questions, what’s your favorite movie or TV show?

Riz0ne: Movie: The Terminator & Terminator 2: Judgment Day TV: The Twilight Zone* *Watch ONLY the Rod Serling ones and nothing more. No HD reboot and no episode remakes. I even heard they gave one of the aliens a fake fireball.

STR: Favorite book?

Riz0ne: This one is easily The Holy Qur’an. If we’re talking about non-scripture, there’s a ton of books that are a good read. Misery, Fahrenheit 451, The Bomb and the General, Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics series, short stories by Haruki Murakami, children’s books from Roald Dahl, etc.

STR: Favorite food?

Riz0ne: Very few restaurants get this right, but iskender is amazing! If you’re in the NY area, go to Taci’s Beyti and have some. Then walk over and get pizza from Di Fara’s, also in Brooklyn. DOGLIKE COMBO!


STR: Back to ST, why do you think it has had such longevity and popularity?

Riz0ne: ST is an easy game to get into. The cast isn’t huge (though it is diverse), and there aren’t a ton of special moves and no parry-ex-activate-cross-alpha-focus-attack-dash-cancels to worry about. There’s a whole lot of cheap stuff that beginners can abuse, and they can drop it easily when going into more advanced play. The community is also like 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon or less. This guy from West Coast has beaten this guy from Japan, who’s friends with this guy from UK, who lost to this guy from the East Coast, who has a rivalry with a guy from Canada, who travels to Japan once every 6 months. We all know each other. Everything is already out in the open, so it’s pretty easy to pick up ST, get affiliated with the right players and video content, and level up.

STR: What do you think about HD Remix? Street Fighter IV?

Riz0ne: HDR: I first had a very lengthy answer filled with allegorical Terminator references, but it’s actually more simple than that. I never played HD Remix at a high level so I can’t judge the game’s balance issues. What I can say is it cannot be compared to Super Turbo in any form whatsoever. It’s like comparing Nicholson’s and Ledger’s Jokers (the only difference being both Jokers were excellent, lol). Okay not the best example. In a nutshell HD Remix is a waste of Capcom’s resources and hard drive space. SFIV: SFIV is similar to ST with its lopsided match-ups and all, but the playstyle is completely different. Besides spacing, SFIV revolves around “opening up” your opponent via frame/tech traps and ambiguous vortex setups. These things exist in ST but there are just more guessing games in SFIV. It’s harder for top players to be consistent IMO. On the other hand, it’s an exciting time for SF because of the rivalries and high level play throughout the world. For the first time in SF, Japan is not the best–that is if you count Infiltration as a whole country.

STR: What are your thoughts on playing the different versions of ST (HDR Classic, GGPO, etc.)?

Riz0ne: This depends ultimately on the goal of the player and the availability of true Super Turbo. If your goal as a player is to be a casuals kind of guy or an on-line warrior, then by all means play on GGPO, HDR Classic or any mode you can to satisfy your heart’s content. But, if you want to play on the highest possible level, start off on these platforms and quickly abandon them when their surplus value has expired. Basically it’s a good beginning point to get experience in match-ups and variety of styles. If it’s what you rely on, it will hurt more than it helps. The reason being in the highest levels, something as minute as 1-frame differences can make or break a matchup. Things like walk -> block Sonic Boom are already hard enough offline. Jumping Honda’s headbutt on reaction is impossible with the net. Offline I consider it a feasible thing to do. Reversal throws which Dictator NEEDS are always guesses on-line. Mashing out of Boxer’s grab on one hit is also hard to do on emulation. And when you do shake out on one hit, Dictator can almost ALWAYS reversal throw Boxer’s walk under meaty set-up. When we play HDR, emu, or any of the other Frankenstein setups, success rates drop, and ultimately match-ups & tier lists are effected. Let’s not forget how the stun meter changes from JP to US port. It makes the difference between a successful ToD or a Daigo-like comeback. In some cases, there are communities who understand that the arcade setup is the way to go. But because it’s not available to them, they need to stick it out with GGPO and play real Grand Master Challenge in tournament. That’s understandable, as it is unfortunate. There are pockets of communities in the US that have access to H2H setups and superguns. For those communities who don’t, get more hungry. Starve yourself until a couple of guys can get together and invest in the proper setup. If you look at what’s happened in the last year or two for ST, there has become an international standard. Whether the tournament is to take place in Japan, USA, or Europe, all setups* will be played on the correct hardware with the Grand Master Challenge port. The ST fanatics have re-shaped the standard into what it is now and should be the ONLY way to play GMC. *25th Anniversary doesn’t count.

STR: Who are the top 3 (US and Japanese) ST players in your opinion?

Riz0ne: This question requires that the criteria of a “top player” is described in detail at least for American players. The reason being is we don’t have enough events where ALL of our players enter and a ton of great players are pretty much inactive. I think we need to have team-based tournaments and Star Cups in which everyone is encouraged to enter, and then the best player can be determined through those results. USA: NH2 – When I started on ST, he was really innovating high level play and keeping me sharp on what to look out for. Without his blog, I don’t think a lot of people would’ve had their “firmware” up to date. Back in ’07 he was doing unblockable tatsu with Old Ryu as well as the OS Throw/DP mixup. (The ideas of OS resurfaced when Daigo was pulling off OS EX Shoryu vs. Messiah kicks in SFIV.) Anyway, NH2 Blanka was tearing it up in Japan. Toutanki gotta hold that L. Damdai – People can talk all they want about who’s the best and who’s not, but Damdai’s like Kurt Angle when he had 3 Championship belts–the European, Intercontinental and Hardcore titles, lol. The guy’s entered just about every tournament and won most. I also respect Valle, Cole, and Snake Eyez for traveling around and placing high. Mike Watson – Recent footage of Watson is scarce, but in those really early Super Turbo videos, Watson pulled off some amazing techniques that are still relevant in today’s match-ups. If he played consistently and in tournaments, I think there would be very few people who could pose a threat to him (same can be said now actually). Actually, the Watson from the 90’s would still smoke most of the guys today. The same goes for John Choi who imo has the best crossups and fireballs in the US. Chris Gamble – “Honda Master” as MAO called him. Chris Gamble does what I feel all players outside of Japan need to do to step up our game. He models his game around Kusumondo and clearly it shows. I feel bad in tournament when he has to fight someone side to side because they can hear his inputs. Another issue is going from fake ST setups to cabs. It makes a huge difference with Honda’s inputs (like Kusumondo at EVO a few years back). I noticed at EVO Chris Gamble was either taking mental notes of his hero’s gameplay or discussing strats, matchups, etc. with fellow ST players. Even if he’s not the most winningest player, I think he has the right attitude and potential to be a dominant fighter. JAPAN (no particular order): Hakase – Excellent execution, reaction, reversal throw timing, and technique (ie; pokes and air-defense). He definitely went beyond Gian after he slowly became less active. It’s pretty interesting that even though he’s one of the highest up there, Hakase has lost to Muteki, Taira, and Baby Nine in tournament. Just goes to show that the scale of match-ups don’t always dictate the result of the fight. YuuVega – His mental strength is limitless. At the last X-Mania he destroyed everyone he played except for Sasori in the Grand Finals. You can count on it that 95% of the time, YuuVega will OCV. That’s really impressive. Otochun, Aniken – They’re easily on the Grand Master status. Aniken’s ability to walk and sweep (especially vs. Chun) is the best in the business. Mattsun – There are a handful of guys that really don’t care about how a match is supposed to look. Mattsun is one of them. While what he does looks random, Mattsun understands the fights in more depths than most players. His one flowchart for Juice Kick (whiff) -> Sweep (blocked) -> Shoryuken is excellent. Basically if the juice kick whiffs and the opponent tries to poke or throw, the sweep will beat the throw. If the opponent blocks the sweep and then tries to put Mattsun in block stun, he’ll just jab shoryu it. Well, it worked on me but he’s done it on plenty others. This list can be a lot longer when you highlight the player and what his main strengths are in comparison to everybody else. (ie; Kikai’s reversal throw ability, Shiki’s C. Fierce usage, Kurahashi’s textbook-ness, Sashishi’s ADD, Inomata Otooto’s brilliant execution, Tsuji vs. Ryu, Futachan vs. Claw, etc.)

STR: Who would you consider your toughest opponent or rival throughout the years?

Riz0ne: My rivalries are mostly episodic, and all of them are tough. In CTF, NH2 was my biggest rival. In the DBT crew, it was John Rambo. On-line and off-line, many rivals were Guile players incidentally (Mr_Cash, n-trade, MarsGattai, and TecmoSuperBowl). But in Japan, my rival was VIPER. He watched me beat all the Hawks I got my hands on and sill insisted that Dictator doesn’t win the fight. In our first 10 game set, he won 8-2 probably. And at ToL, I pestered MAO for hours trying to figure out the Claw fight. I promised both MAO and VIPER that we’d meet again, and I’d be better prepared. There’s no one toughest. They’ve all kicked my ass.

STR: What is your involvement with the ST scene (local and overall) these days?

Riz0ne: Entering tournaments was never really a big thing for me. So nowadays I act as a pseudo-consultant for ST–exchanging emails with a handful of people on strategies, concepts, and look for the latest “tech” from GameSpot/Danisen/Tournament videos. Otherwise, just grinding it out at Tecmo’s spot with the team.

Defeating Marsgatti at MWC SBO Qualifers to advance to Japan!

STR: What is your favorite ST moment?

Riz0ne: Kurahashi getting that walk-up throw on Toutanki at SBO. Why? Well, shortly after, Muteki hit Kurahashi with the infamous AYE-AYE-AYEEE combo. And after that Daigo did that floating air tatsu to shinkuu comeback vs. Muteki with their post-round priceless reactions. That’s just one example of a series of amazing things happening in a major ST tournament. There’s no REAL one favorite moment that I can narrow it down to. What it all comes down to is at high levels, most match-ups turn out to be really exciting. (See YuuVega’s performance at SBO 2011 and X-Mania XII, and Kusumondo vs. MAO @ EVO 2012.)

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

Riz0ne: Get lost! You can’t compare with my powers!

STR: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Riz!