Every EVO final has its fair share of new, unknown players and upsets that get the fighting game community hyped and talking. This year, fresh-faced Japanese competitor Shining Decopon rose from being relatively unknown outside of Japan to fighting his way out of the loser’s bracket to become the EVO 2012 Soulcalibur V World Champion.
How did he take the title? Smarts, skills, and a lot of devotion to mastering a game inside out. We had a chance to interview the champ, and some the answers he gave to our questions made his victory all the more impressive.
Your play at EVO this year looked like that of someone who truly knows Soulcalibur. How long have you been playing the Soulcalibur series?
I actually started playing the series with Soulcalibur IV. I must have spent four or five thousand hours playing that game.
Why play this over something more recognized, like Street Fighter?
Well, it was actually my friend who got me into Soulcalibur. He suggested I try out Soulcalibur IV. It was actually the first fighting game I really played… and I fell in love with it. I think that’s why I didn’t even bother looking at the other games out there!
How did you decide on Tira as the character you wanted to use?
When I played SCIV… well, Tira was pretty weak in that game, actually. But I think that because I was playing a weaker character, it helped me hone my skills.
Most fighting games in Japan are still played in arcades. Are console-only fighting games like SCV less popular as a result?
Indeed, they really aren’t quite as popular. However, the arcade fighting game scene here in Japan isn’t quite as healthy as you might think, either. The hardcore fighting game player base has been shrinking in Japan for a while, and many arcades have been disappearing. But conversely, the console fighting game player population has actually been increasing. So perhaps that signals a shift that will herald changes in the near future.
When you play on consoles, how do you prefer to fight – online, or together with friends?
Almost all online. In Japan, the internet is really, really good! Connections of around 100mb/s aren’t at all uncommon. As a result, it’s very nice and quite convenient to play online within the country, since the lag isn’t as big of a factor.
With this sort of experience in mind, what differences have you perceived in playing someone online versus playing someone in person?
That’s a tough question… Well, online, you can play in a setting that you can adjust to your maximum comfort level. Everything there is a constant. When you play offline in a new location, you might run into various issues like monitor lag or a controller you don’t like. It can be difficult to adjust to.
What was it that compelled you to “take your skills public” and come all the way to the US for EVO 2012, then?
Oh! Well, this is actually my first time travelling to the US. Everything here is so different. – not just the way people play, but the whole environment. Totally different! But when it comes strictly to playing… when I concentrate and focus, the differences becoming meaningless.
The crowds here in the US are known for getting really excited about the competitions. Do you let the crowd cheering and getting excited give you an ego boost, or do you just decide to tune it out entirely?
To be honest, most of my experience is playing online. When I play, I tend to focus on practicing and honing my skills. I think because I’ve done that so much, the crowd doesn’t really have much of an impact on me. I’m just so used to that sort of intense concentration!
Japanese tournaments tend be to be single-elimination. Do you prefer those or the Western-style double elimination tournaments?
Double elimination, easily! In high-level play, you have to learn how to read your opponent and correctly anticipate their strategy. In a single-elimination tournament, you sometimes don’t have the opportunity to fully analyze the other player and come up with an effective counter strategy. In that regard, double elimination allows you the time needed to formulate such a counter-measure.
Have you ever been in a major face-to-face competition like this before?
Actually, this is my first major tournament.
Since this is your first major tournament, is this also your first time playing competition from outside of Japan?
No, actually. Sometimes we’ll have players from outside of Japan who come over to get some games in. There are a lot of Korean and Taiwanese players, too, and the net connection to those countries is almost as good as within Japan itself.
Is there any country that you’ve noticed producing particularly strong Soulcalibur players?
France has always been very strong in SC, and Keev is a particularly noteworthy player. Korea has a player named Kura that’s also really good. Shen Yuan and Shen Ou from Singapore are fighters to make note of, too.
Now that you’ve entered and won your first major tournament, do you have any advice for people looking to enter a competition like this?
Practice hella hard! *laughs* If you really practice seriously, you’ll be able to put everything you learn there into competition.