15 Minutes with the Super Street Fighter IV World Champion

The guys over at Mad Catz kindly extended us an invite to go head down to Super vs Battle 2010 and interview Daigo Umehara, Super Street Fighter IV World Champion and key member of ‘Team Mad Catz’. As a fighting game fan myself, I could hardly pass up this opporunity, and so headed down to see what was going on at what is now the UK’s largest fighting game tournament.

Super vs Battle itself was very impressive, attracting hundreds of players from around Europe and even further afield to play games including Super Street Fighter IV, Tekken 6, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core and BlazBlue Continuum Shift. Sponsored by the guys at Capcom and Mad Catz as well as some other companies, even Marvel vs Capcom 3 was in attendance for fans to get their hands on.

It was all organized by the team at Neo Empire in their own time and from their own pockets, and those guys deserve huge Kudos for what they’re doing for the the fighting game community in Europe with what they hope can one day become the ‘European EVO.

Daigo was out at the event competing and also promoting Mad Catz, who sponsor him. He was rocking the new limited-run Chun Li fightstick there, and would later be presented with a special prize when he’d find that Mad Catz had organised for him to be presented with a Guiness World Record for the ‘Most Consecutive Tournament Wins’. With all that said, I know you all want to hear what Daigo had to say for himself, so here’s our fifteen minutes with the man himself!

Daigo takes on all comers and attracts a crowd at SVB.

I suppose it’s best to begin with the reason you’re out here at this tournament – the Mad Catz deal. It’s a huge thing for you of course, but I’d like to know how you felt when you were approached for a sponsorship by this American company when the stick manufacturers in the past have been Hori and other Japanese companies?
The sticks weren’t much of a shock or surprise to me, as I had been using American style sticks at American tournaments. I never used to bring a stick with me – I’d go to foreign countries for tournaments, and borrowing off others at foreign tournaments meant that by the time I signed with Mad Catz it wasn’t a big change from what I was already used to! They’re great quality sticks, so I am at ease using them.

Mad Catz have done a few different versions of the high-end sticks – the Tournament Edition, The Round 2, the S. Do you have any particular preference between the different models? Do you find one shape better to use?
Stick-wise, I already know this kind of shape [indicates the regular Tournament Edition stick shape]. There are upgraded versions, but this is the one I’m used to and the one I’m most comfortable with.

Playing the same game over and over could perhaps get a little stressful or tiring. Have you ever taken an extended break from the scene?
Yeah, so, there was a time where fans didn’t really see much of me. At that point, I felt that I’d done enough – that I could retire and be happy with my gaming career. At the time, there was no game I was particularly fond of to dedicate the time to, either. It was also a very busy part of my personal life – so all those things together caused me to disappear from the scene somewhat.

So you mention there not being a game you could enjoy – from this can we take away that Street Fighter IV was the catalyst for your return?
When I first played Street Fighter IV, it reminded me why I play games in the first place. I still played new games while I was on my break at home, but Street Fighter IV reminded me of many of the older games that were great to play competitively, so it did play a part in my return and is still a huge part of my life now.

Alright, let’s talk about Current Events in the world of Street Fighter. We’ve got these new characters coming – we don’t know if it’s two, or six, or seven as the rumours have said, but I’m wondering if there’s any characters you’d like to see added to the game?
Yun, Yun would be good.

And Yang?
Yang… Yang is very similar to Fei Long, so it would be an overlap. But Yun, I really like. [Long pause, thinking] Also Rolento. Rolento and Yun.

You’re famed for Ryu, but you’ve been seen to use others as well. Outside of Ryu, do you have any favourites? Do you have a particular preference of character styles – quarter-circle characters over charge characters or grapplers, for example?
My preference is mainly characters who have the tools but aren’t overly powerful. Control style doesn’t matter too much, as long as a character has good basics, there’s a lot to play with. I’m not really a fan of ‘big’ characters. For grapplers and such I don’t really care if it’s a sub-character for fun, but it’s not very likely I’d ever play as a ‘big’ character in a tournament!

There’s a big problem for a lot of budding pro gamers – most are young, and their parents don’t think much of it. Justin Wong recently said on the ‘ultimate gamer’ TV show he’s competing in that when he goes to tournaments he tells his parents he’s going to stay over with a buddy in another city to avoid explaining! So, what do your parents make of all this?
Before, when I was younger, I’d go to tournaments and they wouldn’t really say ‘No you can’t’ or ‘Go for it,’ they’d just really let me do what I wanted. Nowadays, in Japan I get into the newspapers and stuff. They’re not really like ‘Great job, son!’ but they’re approving.

He may be in newspapers in Japan, but later that day Daigo was declared a Record Breaker. Here he is celebrating with the Mad Catz team, including two of the gents who helped design the sticks he uses.

They like that you’re doing well for yourself, but don’t think it’s really a ‘proper’ job?
[laughs] Yeah, exactly.

You said earlier that you still played other games while you were gone from the fighting game scene. What else are you into? Shooters, RPGs, Racers… what?
When I was younger I used to play a lot of RPGs, as young people often do. These days, outside of fighting games I don’t have much time to touch other things.

Do you have a definitive favourite game – or maybe a top three – of all time?
Right now, because I made my comeback on Street Fighter IV, that and Super Street Fighter IV are a very important part of my life right now. Overall, Super Street Fighter II Turbo X and Alpha 3 are very important to me. I played a lot of Super II when I was younger, and I’m a big fan of the way Alpha 3 plays. So probably those three.

What’s your preferred practice method? Do you like practicing online, or do you feel it’s a far better help to play with your opponent next to you at an arcade or tournament?
With Super Street Fighter IV, I haven’t had much choice. It’s had to be online as Super is a completely different game and isn’t in the arcades yet, of course. Until then, it has to be online, but that may change when the arcade release comes about.

Do you feel a stick is absolutely necessary to get to a top level? We’ve seen some amazing pad players like Vangief on a regular pad and Shizza with the Mad Catz FightPad at Evo – but do you feel, as many do, that a stick is just superior?
In Japan, it’s a very different culture – it’s all about arcades – and I will never change, I am far too used to it. But, there are a lot of people in Europe and America who use the consoles, and there are many great players already out there who have made a name for themselves on the control pad. It’s definitely possible, but we’ll have to wait and see if even more pad players reach championship level in the future.

Last, cheesy finisher – do you have any advice for any up-and-coming fighting game enthusiasts?
Obviously, the main thing to do is to have fun – after all, these are all games in the end. However, if you actually want to level up and be competitor in world games, you must always consider in your mind what you have to do to become a better player – always think about that while you play, and change your style of playing to fit what you have to do.

Thank you very much! Good luck in the rest of the tournament!
Thank you!

That’s it! Be sure to check out our official verdict of the Mad Catz Tournament Edition S FightStick that Daigo used at Evo 2010 as well as our review of the MadCatz FightPad if you want to get better without shelling out the full cost of a stick. Both are available to purchase over on the official MadCatz Website.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Quakeulf says:

    Colonthree! :3

    (Aka. “mysterious graffiti in SFIV”)

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