Eurogamer just posted one of the most epic interviews ever with Street Fighter superstar Daigo Umehara, so if you missed it, check that thing out.
To put it together, they enlisted the help of our own bi-lingual Shino, who also happens to be a friend of Daigo. In addition to the questions from Eurogamer, I asked Shino to include a few extra questions about his recent meeting with US SFIV champ Justin Wong.
In the interview below, in addition to her chatting about Daigo’s background, the core of the piece is a breakdown on their championship match, where Justin switched to Fei Long, with the idea that Daigo (as an arcade player) would not have experience against the console characters.
Daigo: First off, there was one thing concerned me at last EVO. In Japan, the arcade is the mainstream while the home console is the core in the US. As a matter of fact, I haven’t played much of it, and I had never played against home console characters before. So I was not prepared for console characters at all.
Daigo talks about what he thought of Justin’s switch, and more importantly, how he was able to play the match against a great player using an unfamiliar character. Great stuff!
Thanks of course to Daigo, to Shino, and to Eurogamer for kicking off the whole conversation!
Hit the jump for the full interview!
Congratulations on your victory at Season’s Beatings. Wow it was so exciting.
Compared to EVO, it was a much smaller event, and the physical setting was also so much different. You know, it was held in countryside. It was the first time ever for me to go to Ohio. I had no idea what it was like. But you know, even the first EVO I participated was held at CSU Cal Poly, at their gym. So I imagined the Season’s Beatings too would have the ambiance like that – a laid-back feel. EVO has been through so many incredible upgrades ever since and is now in Las Vegas, so everything about this event made me feel nostalgic.
How was your condition?
It took me something like 24 hours to get to Ohio from Tokyo! I had to wait for 4 hours to transfer in Houston, TX because my first flight from Tokyo was delayed and missed my connection there. So I was pretty beat by the time I got to Ohio. But I didn’t have much to do when I arrived, so I just slept. After enough sleep, I felt pretty good. I would say my physical condition was pretty good. Mentally too, I was at a very good place. I used to get nervous and could not sleep even when I am exhausted. But now because I’ve gotten so used to tournaments (in particular those held in the states), and the fact that Season’s Beatings was a very comfortable size event, I didn’t feel nervous at all, and I could put all myself out there.
EVO 2004 was your famous 3rd Strike year, right?
EVO was even not “Evolution” when I first participated at Cal Poly. It was something like B…… B… something. I can’t remember. But anyway, it got renamed to Evolution. I think it was probably 3rd year of Evolution at that time. It was 2003, and I went back in 2004.
Yes, so it was my second year at EVO. I went back again and didn’t do very well, and then missed a few years—I didn’t make it anywhere else either, and this was during the time I was not playing much of games. So I took a break for a year and went back again this year. This year marks my fourth year at EVO. So in total, I’m proud to say I have been part of about half of the EVO history.
Does that mean you will be participating in more and more overseas tournaments?
Well…I can’t tell. You know what though? I’ve been getting so many of invites from all over the world, like I don’t even know what to do with them. I wonder if they are all in some sort of agreement to trouble me by inviting me in unison. I get some of them through my site, and some through my friend’s friends’ friends. For instance, Season’s Beatings this time too, I got informed by an acquaintance I made at EVO a while back. He emailed me the information. I don’t directly receive those invitations, and sources are varied.
Where have you been for game tournaments other than the US? Did you mostly go to the US?
Yes, mostly the US. Other countries have been one-time visit so far. Not too many countries though, just France, UK, and Taiwan. It’s because the tournaments in other countries tend to be rather small, so I have to turn them down.
What came across your minds during the final match against Justin?
First off, there was one thing concerned me at last EVO. In Japan, the arcade is the mainstream while the home console is the core in the US. As a matter of fact, I haven’t played much of it, and I had never played against home console characters before. So I was not prepared for console characters at all.
Luckily at EVO this summer, I didn’t run into any of the console characters. I was pretty lucky in that regard. But this time at Season’s Beatings, I met up with 3 players with console characters including Justin. I had had not played against any of the characters, so it was pretty challenging. I had to go about trying to get the feel of them while guessing their moves.
One thing helped me was that being a long-time Capcom gamer, I did remember how those characters had been in the past. I assumed they cannot be that different, like a boxer can’t turn into a kick-boxer. I guessed that, and I was also praying, like “please don’t be different!” (LOL) And as I hoped, the two characters I fought against during prelim didn’t differ that much except for only details. The overall feel was the same.
But for the winner’s final, which was first-three-win system, I had given up on it before it started. My plan was to see and learn how Justin’s Fei Long moves, his features and strength. It was absolutely a never-heard of plan for matches in Japan since it’s only one game, single-elimination system.
Playing through the winner’s final round, I started get some sense of what Fei Long is about though I lost the round and came back for rematch. I had an idea that I might have a chance at a rematch because I knew I would have another 4 rounds in the grand final, in addition to the three rounds in the winner’s bracket finals match which I was going to play as a test run. So I did have enough play time. Furthermore, I knew that Justin himself would not be able to play at his best using his non-usual character he picked only because he felt that it would be my Achilles’ heel. As I foresaw, when I started adjust myself to his Fei Long’s move, his unfamiliarity and lack of proficiency of the new character started to surface. And the latter half of the match became so much easier for me, and I was able to win!
How do feel about the match now? Did you think Justin’s move was cheap or reasonable?
The day before our final, Justin and I had had an exhibition match of first-10-victory system, and I swept the match at 10 to 2. He didn’t use a home console character during the match, but he came up to me after the exhibition match and did tell me in person that he would use one against me if we meet though he chose not to then since he thought it was not fair. So I was able to mentally prepare for that. I was also able to physically prepare on site that day afterwards though it was just a bit. After the grand final next day, Justin came to me and apologized for using the console character.
But you know, personally I thought it was an understandable move by Justin to use Fei Long. At the exhibition match, he was completely defeated at the score of 10 to 2. Logically, he would almost have no chance of winning if he did exactly the same. His pride would have been saved by the spirit, putting all himself out there, but think about it, receiving all the hope and support from the fans in America, he could not do that as a US Champion. Fans rooted for him and believed in him as the “only guy” who could defeat the player from Japan. I’m sure some of the fans too felt that using a console character against me was not fair, but at the same time, they must have been feeling disappointed and frustrated by a Japanese guy always sweeping the victory from them. So I’m sure Justin too felt some sort of responsibility as the only guy and felt, “I HAVE TO win” not only for himself, but also as the US Champ for the US fans. Furthermore, the Japanese, in my opinion, enjoy a much better fighting game environment with enriched arcade culture to begin with. In other words, the Japanese have an advantage in fighting games in general. On the unfair battle ground, the Americans have been doing their best and have been recording successes. So if there’s any chance that they can take advantage over Japanese players, I think they should take that. In that sense, I felt that Justin’s move was reasonable.
But…. I have to say, I knew I was in trouble!!! (LOL). I didn’t think I could win, so I was very pleased, and I am happy with my victory. Justin himself is a very good player, and that Justin having brought out a new console character made me sweat. In fact, I did quickly lose the winners final… but as we moved on, I realized that Fei Long didn’t have the unknown abilities I was afraid of, he was not drastically different from SFII, and started to feel confident that I may make it with the style I’d been playing. And I did! I was pretty happy about that.
Do you like music?
I don’t go out of my way to check it out, but I do like listening to music. I don’t have some particular songs I download and listen to, but I do enjoy music. When they sound good, I stay tuned to them. But it’s not like I have a particular artist I follow and I don’t buy any specific songs any more.
I suppose you don’t go Karaoke then?
No (LOL)! I never go, and I refuse to go even if someone invites me.
Do you like movies? Do you have a favorite actor or TV star?
I do like movies, both Japanese and foreign movies. I sometime go to the theater, but mostly on DVD at home. I check out Sci-Fi and action movies at a theater to enjoy the scale and sound effects. Dramas and others, I watch them at home. I can’t think of any particular actors. There are some I like, but it’s not like I love them so much that I can’t resist but following.
Do you have siblings? What are their names? Authentic like yours?
One older sister. Her name is not authentic but unusual. Hoyumi (ç©‚å¼“). My sister doesn’t really play games much. With the scale of me being 10, she is 1 (LOL). I got introduced to videogames through her though. She was the one who wanted to play videogames. We used to play action games and RPGs together. She hardly ever went to arcades and trailed away from the game scene in general. But I think she still plays home console games sometimes. She probably likes games more than the average Japanese.
So you played other game genres, like shooters and actions? Do you still do that?
I played Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and other popular games when I was a kid like every one else did at the time. I have a general, mild interest in games other than fighting games. I used to play non-fighting games, too, but I hardly ever do that anymore.