News: Daigo Umehara Interview About SSF4 Arcade Edition.
Famitsu.com did a write up with Daigo Umehara, collecting his thoughts on the changes in Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition. Extremely lengthy, but also very insightful
Thanks to samjkim for translating this interview.
NOTE: This is an extremely lenthy interview. Make sure you have the time to read it. Very insightful for Street Fighter fans. Some very interesting notes from The Beast Diago. Images added by me (Cinderkin) to make the interview a little easier on the eyes.
Toyoizumi: You got to play some AE. What are your first impressions?
Umehara: Impressions… Basically that it’s over for projectile characters (laughs). All the non-projectile characters have gotten buffed, whereas I think Deejay is the only projectile character that has really gotten buffed. Sagat has gotten better, but Ryu, Akuma, Guile, Dhalsim, and I suppose Chun, they’ve all gotten nerfed. And grapplers have also gotten buffed. Projectile characters were strongest in Vanilla, but it’s the other way around now in AE. But I plan to use Yun so it’s not a big deal for me. I guess that’s my impression of AE.
Toyoizumi: It seems there are some people that say that Ken is now the best shoto.
Umehara: Well Ken was originally somewhere halfway between a projectile and non-projectile character. And I wonder just how far he can really get against the top tiers. He loses to Zangief, so…
Toyoizumi: Is Zangief really that good in AE?
Umehara: I think he just happens to have good match ups against AE’s best characters. In Vanilla, the top tiers, Sagat and Akuma, happened to be bad match ups for Zangief. But now the best characters, C. Viper, Yun, Yang, etc. are weak against Zangief. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a lot more Zangief players in AE. So I mean if Ken can’t beat Zangief, and he’s really neither here nor there versus the rest of the cast, I don’t really see the point of using him. It’s much better to go with a different character.
Toyoizumi: So you picked Yun?
Umehara: Yeah I’ll probably go with Yun. He’s really good (laughs).
Toyoizumi: Just how good is he?
Umehara: First, Genei Jin is the most powerful super in the game, and you have a lot of opportunities to land it. Furthermore, after Genei Jin, you can immediately go for a tricky front/back mixup. Then there’s his dive kick. It’s really fast and has a good angle. You can basically get in on your opponent whenever you want. And finally I think his Ultra is pretty good, too.
Toyoizumi: You can connect Ultra after EX Lunge Punch (Zesshou Hohou), right?
Umehara: Right. I think his only weakness is his low health. He’s just really solid overall. It’s just that his match up against Zangief seems a little bad. But against the rest of the cast, he’s very solid. You have a large window to cancel far medium punch into Shoulder (Tetsuzan Kou), then hit confirm into Genei Jin.
Toyoizumi: Do you think his meter will only be used for Genei Jin?
Umehara: No, it definitely depends on the situation. For example, you want to use EX Up Kicks (Nishou Kyaku) as an anti-air. And you want to use EX Lunge Punch to combo into Ultra. But his meter fills up before you know it. And in AE, none of the Supers are that powerful, but with Yun, you definitely want to respect that flashing Super meter. That’s what makes him so scary.
Toyoizumi: He built meter very quickly in Third Strike, too.
Umehara: Yeah. That’s a major point for Yun. He can wait until he has meter to really go in on the opponent. So time is in his favor–the more time that passes, the closer he is to getting full meter, and the more the opponent is at a disadvantage. I haven’t really touched Yang so I can’t say for sure, but his Seiei Enbu is not really that powerful of a Super to begin with. I think that’s what really sets the Twins apart.
Toyoizumi: How are your impressions of Yang so far, despite not really having used him?
Umehara: He can Focus Cancel out of EX Up Kicks, and he can chip away[?] with Mantis Slashes, so I think he has an advantage against Zangief. I haven’t really looked into it, but it seems Yun doesn’t have any tools besides Shoulder to work with against Zangief. But even then, Zangief can most likely punish it on block. Furthermore, Yun’s dive kicks are almost useless in that matchup. He’ll just end up getting 50/50′d himself, and that’s a bad situation considering the health difference. In any case, it looks like Fei Long, Yun, and Yang are the top tier at the moment.
Toyoizumi: Fei Long is still good?
Umehara: Definitely. He may have lost invincibility on roundhouse Chicken Wing, but his normals got slightly buffed, and his Rekkas are as solid as ever. On top of that, he has a command grab and strong combo capabilities. His only bad match ups in SSF4 were Chun Li, E. Honda, and Boxer… I think? But those three have all been nerfed, so he’s now relatively stronger. Come to think of it, out of the non-new AE characters, Fei Long is probably the strongest. C. Viper is also very good, but I wonder if she can compare to Yun.
Toyoizumi: In SSF4, Cammy and Boxer were considered fairly high up. What about in AE?
Umehara: Boxer still seems to be in the upper tier, but he’s been nerfed, so he’s not top tier. Cammy didn’t really have any good pressure tools besides tiger knee Cannon Strikes, so it’s going to tough for her now. Then there’s T.Hawk and Hakan… If you ask me, it’s basically hopeless for them (laughs). T. Hawk is definitely an annoying opponent, but I think that’s about it. He’s gotten buffed, but that doesn’t mean much considering how weak he was to begin with.
Toyoizumi: And what about Akuma? He was one of the top tiers in Vanilla.
Umehara: Hmm.. I think Ken is now a better shoto than Akuma. I think both Ryu and Akuma are in the upper tier, but they’ll have a hard time against Yun, Yang, and Fei Long. So that’s why I don’t think I’ll be using Ryu. It’s fine if you have a few bad match ups, but when it’s against most of the cast… Also, Makoto seems to be a lot stronger than I thought she’d be. I like how good her crouching light kick is. And her rushdown seems really strong. Her Ultra 2 (Abare Tosanami) has gotten buffed so you can’t throw fireballs. And when you can’t zone her out, she’s in the advantage. She might be a solid upper tier character. Though she doesn’t stand a chance against Yun and Yang (laughs). But she’s solid overall.
Toyoizumi: Wow so Yun and Yang are that good?
Umehara: Haha, yeah it’s almost like… “Wow, really? Is it OK for them to make them this good?”
Toyoizumi: Ono did say in an interview that he wanted a super tier character like Vanilla’s Sagat. I guess Yun and Yang are it?
Umehara: I’m going to main Yun so it’s all good for me (laughs).
Toyoizumi: OK, now how about your console character, Guile? It seems that the startup time of his air throw has been nerfed…
Umehara: It’s unfortunate that it got nerfed. It’s one of his signature moves. I can understand nerfing Flash Kick and Spinning Back Knuckle, but the air throw? It’s almost like they’re saying, “Guile? I guess you can use him… if you really want…[?]” But he can still hold his own, and I think he’ll be upper-mid tier. It was hard for him before to deal with E. Honda’s jump-ins, but since that’s also been nerfed, it should now be a little easier for Guile. But for me, I’ll probably use him a little bit as an alternate.
Toyoizumi: It seems that once Yun and Yang get in on Guile, it’s over for him.
Umehara: Right. It’s just a bad match up for him, so that’s about it for Guile.
Toyoizumi: It seems that it’s always been Ryu for you… Why Yun?
Umehara: I’ve always liked Yun, but he wasn’t really in a lot of other games. I wasn’t really into Street Fighter 3, so I never really considered learning him. And he might as well not have been in CvS2 at all (laughs). But he’s really good in AE, so I finally thought I’d really give it a go. But I might not if Zangief really ends up being top tier.
Toyoizumi: Do you not like using Zangief?
Umehara: Personally, I think he’s a bit boring. He’s good, sure, but as for gameplay, he basically has to stay patient forever until he somehow scores a knockdown, then start doing mixups. That’s it. I think I’d get bored of it pretty quickly.
Toyoizumi: So it seems you like characters with a lot of versatility. Like Yun, who has a lot of ways of getting at the opponent.
Umehara: Yeah, he has a ton. It’s a good thing that he has low health, considering how good he is. People might figure out how to play against him eventually, but I think Genei Jin’s potential will still overcome that. I’m sure we can get more damage out of it than what the current max combo does.
Toyoizumi: Both his Super and Ultra are good, so I’m sure he’ll get better with more research. If Evo’11 is AE, do you think you’ll use Yun?
Umehara: Yes. Yun and… probably another character to use against Zangief. Maybe Guile… or Sagat, even though I haven’t really used him.
Toyoizumi: Does Sagat beat Zangief in AE?
Umehara: I think so. EX Green Hand doesn’t knockdown even on hit, so it seems like it’s going to be a tough match against Sagat. Mixups after knocking down with Green Hand has been one of Zangief’s main strategies, so it’s a major nerf to have him be at just a little frame advantage on hit. They haven’t made him more powerful, and even if his SPD range has been increased, it doesn’t make a difference in a match up against Sagat. In any case, if I use an alternate, it would be a balanced character who can also beat Zangief.
Toyoizumi: How about Dhalsim against Zangief? It seems to be in Dhalsim’s favor as well.
Umehara: I think so, too. But it’s too scary to think that once Zangief gets in, it’s basically over.
Toyoizumi: Yeah that’s definitely true. And Sagat obviously has higher health.
Umehara: Dhalsim’s damage output was upped in Super, but that’s gone back down. I think Dhalsim players aren’t going to like the adjustments. His standing [back] light kick has gotten a tiny bit slower, too, so I think that’s going to make a huge difference.
Toyoizumi: Where do you think Sagat stands in the rankings?
Umehara: Lower high tier, I think. Zangief is a powerhouse, so it’s a huge boost if he can beat Zangief. But I don’t know how he’ll fare against Yun and Yang yet.
Toyoizumi: So you think Zangief is in competition with Yun and Yang for top tier?
Umehara: Yeah. I think there will be a lot of Yun and Yang players. [translator's note: I had trouble translating this next part] There are characters that, because they have powerful combos, don’t have good anti airs, or don’t have invincible moves, so they rely heavily on rushdown. But both Yun and Yang have a good, balanced set of tools.
Toyoizumi: Among the characters from Street Fighter 3, it looks like Yun and Yang are the only ones to have non-EX moves with invincibility. Dudley’s Jet Upper and Ibuki’s uppercut both require EX for invincibility, and Makoto’s Fukiage doesn’t even hit opponents on the ground.
Umehara: Now that you mention it, yeah. Even though neither of the twins are Shoryuken characters. I’m guessing they did that because all of the new characters thus far have been very weak. But even then, I think they overdid it (laughs). Ah, but I think Boxer might beat Yun and Yang.
Toyoizumi: How so?
Umehara: Neither of them have a good answer for Boxer’s Dash Straight, and his crouching roundhouse is just too good. Then there’s EX Dash Straight, which can take care of dive kicks… so I think he’ll be pretty decent against them. And he’s not bad against Fei Long and C. Viper either, so he seems pretty solid.
Toyoizumi: But Boxer has a hard time against Zangief.
Umehara: I think it’s much better this time around, though. And he can take care of Zangief’s jump-ins [?].
Toyoizumi: So it looks like the top tiers are: Yun, Yang, Fei Long. Then Zangief and Boxer after?
Umehara: Yeah. And C. Viper, too. She was already pretty good in Super, and they haven’t touched her too much. Deejay’s been buffed, but in the end, I don’t think he can cut it. Maybe if he was just a little faster… [walking speed?]
Toyoizumi: So out of Super’s new characters, are the ones you mentioned above the only ones you think are good?
Umehara: I think all of them have gotten better, and considering that projectile characters have gotten nerfed, I think it might be fun to mess around with Makoto and Hakan now.
Toyoizumi: What about Juri?
Umehara: I don’t think Juri will make it very far… (laughs).
Toyoizumi: Ibuki was thought to be very good when Super first came out. What about her?
Umehara: Hmm… she’s gotten weaker so I don’t know. Just the fact that her damage has been nerfed makes things tough. And she’ll have a hard time against Yun and Yang. Yeah… It looks like we’re already getting a picture of how AE is going to play (laughs). Yun, Yang, Fei Long, C. Viper are going to be in the top, and everyone else will be working to beat one of those [A little shaky on translating the last line].
Toyoizumi: You visited Kuwait recently. Was it for a SFIV tournament?
Umehara: It was for exhibition matches with their tournament winners as well as other players from nearby.
Toyoizumi: So you were like a special guest at their tournament?
Umehara: Right. It was like I was part of the main event, so my face was printed on the ticket and everything (laughs). I was playing the entire time. Oh yeah, and there was an entry fee for about 15 Kuwait Dinars, I think?
Toyoizumi: How much is that in yen?
Umehara: Maybe about 4,500 yen?
Toyoizumi: That’s expensive (laughs).
Umehara: Yeah it is. And they were also selling tickets to play me once for 5 Kuwait Dinars. And most people played me three times [?]. I think there was maybe a total of 100 people there. And considering that it’s a country of only 3 million people, that seems like a pretty big turnout. Ah, and there were also people from Dubai, too.
Toyoizumi: How were the challengers?
Umehara: There was a fair share of beginners, but people were a lot better than I expected. There were some really good Guy, Gouken, and E. Honda players. I shouldn’t be careless in what I say [?], but I think they were the best Guy and Gouken players I’ve played so far.
Toyoizumi: Better than players online with really high PP?
Umehara: I thought so. The Guy player was especially outstanding, though I didn’t get to see a whole lot of his matches.
Toyoizumi: Better than known Japanese Guy players?
Umehara: Yeah, he was definitely that good. He might have been the best player in Kuwait. The person who won the tournament was actually a Chun Li and Abel player, but because I had a lot of experience against those characters here, I didn’t have much trouble against him. It could be that the Guy and Gouken players stood out because I had just never seen really good Guys and Goukens before. They said they were going to have an even bigger event next year, so I’m looking forward to that.
Toyoizumi: This isn’t related to Street Fighter, but what kind of place is Kuwait? With all the oil there, did it seem like there were a lot of wealthy people?
Umehara: Hmm, there were definitely a lot of luxury cars on the road.
Toyoizumi: (Laughs). You showed me pictures of the hotel you stayed at and it seemed very high class.
Umehara: Did it? The actual room I stayed in wasn’t as posh. But the lounge area was huge. The event organizer seemed to be pretty wealthy so…
Toyoizumi: An oil tycoon!?
Umehara: Hm, not sure about that. But he was definitely wealthy. I saw his house, and it was huge… Really huge.
Toyoizumi: Like you have to walk forever to get from the front gate to the actual house huge?
Umehara: Not that big. But it was the biggest house I’d seen personally.
Toyoizumi: I was wondering, does everyone there wear turbans?
Umehara: No, it differs from person to person. And it doesn’t seem like it’s a law or anything. The Gouken player I mentioned wore a turban and a traditional white outfit to the tournament. But then on the second day he was wearing western clothes. I realized then that it wasn’t required. It seems more like formal wear.
Toyoizumi: I see. Just plain jeans and T-shirt.
Umehara: Yeah. The casual western clothes we all know. And the embassador who came to watch said that because videogames were very popular in the Middle East, he’d like to have this kind of event again.
Toyoizumi: Oh really? Videogames are popular there, huh?
Umehara: Yeah it appears so. Like in very cold countries, you can’t really go out in the winter, so videogames get popular there. It’s the same in very hot countries. It’s hard to go out during the summer so I think people end up playing a lot of games. So videogames are popular in very hot and cold countries.
Toyoizumi: Are fighting games their main game?
Umehara: No, actually I think FPS’s are the most popular. But it seems there are also a lot of fighting game fans as well in the Middle East.
Toyoizumi: I’ve heard that you enjoy trying foods. How did you like the food in Kuwait?
Umehara: Well… When I first got there we had amazing Italian food at this huge touristy shopping mall. It was the kind of Italian that you can’t get in Japan. So I asked them if they eat this well all the time, and the organizer said, “Don’t tell me you’re satisfied already!” So he really got my hopes up. But we had Kuwaiti food later that night and it was really bad (laughs).
Umehara: They asked, “How is it, isn’t it great?” and I thought to myself, “I think we just have different tastes…” (laughs). I ate it, saying “It’s delicious, delicious,” but I don’t think it fits the Japanese palette.
Toyoizumi: That’s too bad.
Umehara: I was thinking, “Hm… I’m going to have to stick to that Italian place at the mall from now on.” (laughs).
Toyoizumi: (Laughs). Moving on, what are your plans from here on?
Umehara: I don’t think I’ll be going overseas much once Arcade Edition comes out. The main tournament season overseas is between spring and fall, so it’s mostly smaller events from now until then. Plus they play mostly console over there, and very few of the tournaments before the major season are worth sacrificing Arcade Edition time for. So I’m going to stay here mostly and dig my hands into AE. Then in February, I want to really get into MvC3. Marvel gets at least 3, 4 years of play overseas, so I have to play it.
Toyoizumi: So you’re thinking internationally as well as several years into the future.
Umehara: Yeah. It might not catch on in Japan, but my battlefield is in the US, so it wouldn’t make sense not to play what might become the most popular game there. Although I’m sure I won’t be able to win at first.
Toyoizumi: Things will get really hype if there’s a Justin vs Daigo MvC3 match.
Umehara: Hmm… I wonder though, how long it’ll take to get to his level.
Toyoizumi: You might be one step ahead of him in SF4, but is there really that big of a gap when it comes to Marvel?
Umehara: Yeah. But now we have XBL/PSN. So even if there aren’t a lot of people playing it here, I think we can create the necessary environment to take on the US. I tried playing online in America before, and the lag is really horrible there. So the top players in the US don’t have a choice but to get together and play in person. So in that respect, I think Japan has an advantage. There may be a large gap now, but I have confidence that we can catch up eventually.
Toyoizumi: I had the idea that the internet connection in America was really advanced, but I guess that’s not the case.
Umehara: It’s bad at the moment. But even if Japan has good internet connection, it won’t mean much if a proper competetive community isn’t established.
Toyoizumi: There aren’t plans for an arcade release of MvC3 in Japan at the moment. There’s no way to know just how well the game will do.
Umehara: Maybe there’ll still be people who really get into it. I’m sure there are people who feel that they just can’t win in SF4 if they start now. I want to play against those people, people who drifted from SF4. Their play level might be a little lower at first, but I think they’ll be more than able to create strategies.
Toyoizumi: It’s like how Darkstalkers was when it came out.
Umehara: Right, right. “I can’t beat people in SFII, so I’ll get good at a different game.” I hope MvC3 will attract those kinds of people. SF4 is definitely my main game, but I’d like to get into MvC3 with the hope that I’ll be able to win in one or two years. Street Fighter X Tekken is still a ways off, and we don’t know if it’ll catch on. So it’s better to learn a game that is sure to be popular. In fact, I’m actually hoping to hold a MvC3 tournament myself.
Toyoizumi: There might be other players who decide to devote themselves to it if you show you’re serious.
Umehara: Maybe just a very tiny few (laughs). Maybe 30 players?
Toyoizumi: No, no. I’m sure there’ll be more. By the way, have you played much of the Versus games in the past?
Umehara: No, and that’s why I think I really have to go hard with MvC3. I don’t even know the basic theory. So I’m going to give a lot of thought to it beginning with character selection.
Toyoizumi: It seems it’ll be played for a long time in the US, so you probably have a lot of time.
Umehara: Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be around for at least 3 years. There are people there who played only MvC2 all this time. They still get like 100 people in MvC2 tournaments.
Toyoizumi: Speaking of tournaments, I heard there’s going to be an tournament on December 25th for a new SSFIV AE title.
Umehara: Huh? Where? Singles?
Toyoizumi: Shinjuku Club Sega Nishiguchi. 3on3.
Umehara: Oh really? I want to enter. But aren’t they giving out too many titles? It would have had more value if they only gave it to, like, national champions. But I guess there are a lot of people who want it, so maybe it’s best to give out a lot. But December 25th…? I don’t think there’s going to be many participants (laughs).
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