Reviving Super Street Fighter II Turbo With Bob “Kuroppi” Painter

By on June 23, 2014 at 6:08 pm
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Bob “Kuroppi” Painter’s Street Fighter career is old enough to drink. One of only a handful of remaining competitors from the earliest days of Southern California Street Fighter II tournaments, Painter has been fighting it out with the likes of Kuni Funada, Mike Watson, and Alex Valle since the mid-1990s.

More than two decades later, Painter has a family and a full-time job, but he also finds time to organize and support events for the Super Street Fighter II Turbo scene across the United States. Evolution 2014 will be Painter’s biggest undertaking yet, as he along with the other members of Super Turbo Revival present Tournament of Legends 2 and the first-ever X-MANIA USA in Las Vegas. I recently had a chance to talk to Bob over email—I don’t think he has time for anything else—about Evo 2014, his organizing efforts and why ST keeps coming back for more.

Painter (center) with Chris Li (left) and James Chen (right) at Evo 2011
Painter (center) with Chris Li (left) and James Chen (right) at Evo 2011

Paul Dziuba: February 23, 2014, was the 20th anniversary of the release of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Why are you and others still playing the game two decades later?

Bob Painter: I think the simple answer is that the game is just fun. Yeah, there are many broken things in the game, but that also make the game fun and challenging; trying to figure out ways to beat the cheapness or just countering it with your own cheapness! And I think for most players, while it’s tough to master, it’s relatively easy to get good at and it doesn’t require you to “go into the lab” and grind in training rooms every day. You get better at the game by playing it.

PD: You’re something of a historian in fighting games, as your website, kuroppi.com, has collected the results from many old tournaments. Super Turbo Revival started as a spin-off from that site and has continued in that vein with interviews of Super Turbo players past and present. Why does ST need its own website? Does it need a revival?

BP: Yeah, the idea behind kuroppi.com was mainly collecting tournament results and having a central place you could go to to find all that data, as well as links to all sorts of stuff related to the game, interviews, a tournament calendar, etc. But I’m not a programmer and I couldn’t find an easy way to implement exactly how I wanted the tournament results section to be. If you look at the rankings feature now on SRK, that’s really more what I was going for and I think that was really well done.

Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll have an improved results/ranking section for the STR site. A fellow player, Yogaboy, is currently helping me out with some things on the programming side that should improve that section greatly.

PD: How much time do you spend working on Super Turbo Revival and with players across the country to coordinate events?

BP: I get very little time to work on the website, and you may have noticed that I haven’t had time to update the tournament results area since last Evo because we’ve been working so hard planning out X-MANIA USA/ToL II, recruiting Japanese invites, and everything that goes along with it with all the qualifiers.

The bulk of the work with X-MANIA/ToL II went into planning and we started that process back in September. However, it still gets hectic with qualifiers happening every week or two and it requires constant promotion, updates, etc. And yes, it requires a lot of communication with all the other TOs involved.

PD: The first Tournament of Legends was a success, but you went in a different direction last year at Evo with the ST Games. Why is ToL returning this year?

BP: We couldn’t get ST on the [main] stage last year and so we opted not to do ToL II and instead went with something different with ST Games. It turned out to be a great event, but I already knew at that point, back in December of 2012, that I wanted to do something big in 2014 for the 20th anniversary so this was in the works for more than a year. After Evo last year, we approached Wizard again about doing an ST event on stage and he told us to come up with something BIG, so how much bigger can a ST weekend get with X-MANIA USA and ToL II? 🙂

PD: Tournament of Legends featured an amazing bracket of some of the best Super Turbo players from all over the world. Which players are you excited to see in ToL2? How hard is it to get some of the Japanese players to attend?

BP: This year’s bracket is going to be even crazier with it really being international! (8 Japanese, 1 French, 1 UK and 1 Canadian). But we also have players from Germany, Mexico, Australia, and more players from Canada, UK, and France coming to try to qualify for the top 32!

It’s going to be exciting to see how so many of the players will do: MAO, just because of how deadly he is and because he is the defending champion; then you have Kurahashi, who is considered by some to be the best player in Japan; Noguchi, just like Kurahashi, is a really high level player with multiple characters, who is capable of beating anyone; Mattsun, because high level N. Ken play like his doesn’t really exist here; Nakamura because I think a lot of people aren’t expecting much out of him because he plays Cammy, but I think people are going to be surprised at the level at which he can use Cammy; TMF because he’s such an unknown with a low tier Zangief. Nuki, Daigo, and Tokido will be competing as a team for X-MANIA USA so that will be very exciting to see as well!

Will Justin Wong be able to “tiger” his way to victory over some of the Japanese players, who aren’t very familiar fighting against O. Sagat? Shotosallday because he is so gifted and can beat anyone and yet hasn’t really competed at Evo yet. Obviously, AfroLegends and Damdai as they have been the top players in the U.S. for a while now.

PD: There has never before been an X-MANIA in the U.S., so why now in 2014? Is it just in honor of the anniversary or was something else holding it back in previous years?

BP: I wasn’t involved with it, but I know the idea of doing an X-MANIA USA has been discussed for a couple of years now, mainly by the East Coast crew, and I think it came close to happening but in the end it didn’t work out.

We really wanted to do something special for the 20th anniversary and get ST back on the Evo stage, since ToL 1 was such an amazing event and received really well. So we talked to Damdai and he was able to get us in touch with Mattsun and once we were able to agree on a plan, we pitched it to Mr. Wizard and it just all fell into place from there.

PD: Many times in the U.S. team tournaments are seen as extra-curricular activity and not taken too seriously, but X-MANIA has always been a main event. What makes X-MANIA different?

BP: Yes, this is so true. In Japan, team tournaments are a popular format, especially with Super Turbo. I think American players have more difficulty with the team tournament concept because we view everything more individually compared to Japan where the attitude is a little different.

But I think team tournaments are really great for a game like Super Turbo. While you can just build a brute force team of top tier characters, you can also construct some very interesting combinations of characters to cover up weaknesses and that’s great for lower tier characters like Cammy, Zangief, etc. Those low tier characters are going to struggle in American-style tournaments like ToL where you have to win three out of five, rather than just one game against a top tier character. Also, Japan has so many character specialists since their tournaments are typically character lock, and team tournaments really give those players a chance to shine.

PD: Will you be playing in the ToL2 qualifiers and X-MANIA USA at Evo, or will you be too busy running the events?

BP: I will definitely be very busy making sure things run smoothly as possible so I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to focus on playing well, but I definitely won’t miss an opportunity to play in this!

Painter (right) with the United States' Super Battle Opera 2011 team
Painter (right) with the United States’ Super Battle Opera team in 2003

PD: Switching gears, there have seemingly been three major generations of Super Turbo players: original arcade players, the Shoryuken generation (characterized by those participating in the “Super Street Fighting II Turbo, in the house” thread and others), and the HDR generation that slowly returned to the arcade original. Why does ST’s popularity seem to come in cycles?

BP: When GGPO launched and took off, ST got a big resurgence. And though it was HDR and not ST, a lot of new players got introduced to HDR/ST. While most of the new players were online warriors only, it still did bring in a lot of new blood into the tournament scene. A lot of the players now that are a part of the scene probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for HDR.

I think with a game this old, it takes new or big things to spark up new interest. For example, I was told that there was a huge influx of new ST players in France after a lot of people saw ToL and the wonderful French documentary by Real Myop. That was pretty cool to hear!

PD: In previous years it was easy to blame Super Turbo’s sometimes waning popularity on the lack of an arcade-perfect console version of the game, but the game is seeing another resurgence even though that remains a problem. What has changed for players?

BP: It’s a shame that an arcade perfect port of the game never came out so players are forced to split up playing GGPO, Supercade, HDR or HDR Classic on PS3 and 360, etc. But players still love the game and they’ll find the best way to play based on their situation.

However, one really great thing for players these days is the invention of the Undamned UD-CPS2 Supergun, which was released last year and was used at last year’s EVO ST Games and at most ToL II qualifiers this year. The UD-CPS2 allows you to use pretty much any PS3/360 stick or pad to play on the arcade board. Though it’s expensive, if it’s too much for one person individually, players can pool up money and they can have a great arcade perfect version to play offline with their group of local players.

Undamned also has something new this year, “USB converters” which we will be using at Evo this year for X-Mania and ToL II. These converters act pretty much like the UD-CPS2 and you can connect them to an arcade cabinet or use them to build your own Supergun and are a fraction of the cost of a UD-CPS2. So there are a few great options out there now for players to play arcade perfect ST.

PD: Speaking back to cycles, it seems that every few years new strategies and techniques are discovered in Super Turbo, the most recent of which are option selects used by characters like T. Hawk and Ken. How are people still finding new things in this game?

BP: All these things are coming out of the Japanese ST scene, where players still play the game hardcore and keep trying new things and just keep finding out new stuff about the game.

There’s a funny story on this subject though. At ToL 1, when a bunch of us were playing casuals with MAO, he saw Damdai do the unblockable Ryu air tatsu and when we told him it was unblockable, he couldn’t believe it. It was a surprise to us that someone of his caliber and his experience had never seen that before.

PD: Super Turbo is the last link to a fighting game scene that has moved away from the arcade and toward the home consoles. What does having ST at tournaments represent for the new generations of players?

BP: Without a competitive scene for a game, the game just seems to die. Look at HDR; once it got dropped from Evo, that’s exactly what happened.

As long as the game is still played competitively at tournaments, the game will continue to survive.

Painter (center) at Super Arcade
Painter (center) at Super Arcade

PD: After several attempts at a suitable console replacement, Evo has renewed its dedication to the original Super Turbo in the last several years. What does that mean to you? How important to you is it that ST is still represented at Evo?

BP: We’re pretty fortunate that not only Evo but pretty much every TO has a place in their heart for Super Turbo. Having Super Turbo represented in some way at Evo is definitely great for the game. If you see how dedicated the players are to the game they love, you wouldn’t think that it’s just a “side tournament” and not an official game.

PD: You’ve been playing Super Turbo for 20 years; is there a point at which you can see yourself retiring from games for good? Or will you still be playing when the next generation is old enough to compete?

BP: Well, I’ve already decided that this year I’m retiring from organizing tournaments, mainly to spend more time with my family, as organizing these tournaments takes up too much of my free time. Though I have enjoyed what we have accomplished, it’s something that I never wanted or planned on doing, but rather just something that I fell into. Organizing ToL was extremely time-consuming and draining for me and I was going to stop after that, but because of how incredible the tournament was and how everyone was so excited for ST again, I didn’t want to let that momentum die. But I think this is the perfect time for me to step down and hopefully let someone else take the reins.

As far as playing, I’m not sure yet if I’ll keep competing in tournaments. I still enjoy playing the game very much but I don’t have much time to practice so it can be frustrating at times. But I’m sure I’ll at least hop online now and then when I get a chance to get some games in because ST is still such a blast to play.

PD: Wrapping up, are there any players or fellow organizers you’d like to thank for helping keep Super Turbo strong in the United States?

BP: There are so many people to thank and I always make a thorough list after Evo is over so stay tuned for that as I’m sure I’ll miss some that need thanking here.

The great thing about the FGC is that it’s just made up of a bunch of guys who love fighting games and they all are willing to help out just for the love of the game and not wanting anything in return.

Obviously, we have to start with Mr. Wizard and the rest of the Evo crew, Tom and Tony Cannon, Chris Li for supporting our tournaments. And all the other great TOs out there both here in the U.S. and internationally running majors that allow us to be a part of their lineup.

As for as organizing X-MANIA USA and ToL II, there are so many people helping out with the organizing: Damdai, Chris Hatala, Papasi, Undamned, Bernie, eltrouble, Sergjiev, Zaspacer, and MuffinMan just to name a few. And we cannot forget Mattsun from Japan for working with us to get X-MANIA here at Evo.

But a huge thanks goes out to the ST community out there who donated to our donation drive earlier in the year. Without their support, we wouldn’t have been able to raise the money to get eight grandmasters from Japan to come over for Evo, as well as all the other expenses associated with the tournament.

One final special thank you to Seth Killian and Markman. Seth got us in touch with Markman and Mark has generously donated three sticks to us that we will be giving away as special X-MANIA prizes to the winner of X-MANIA USA.

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For more information on Tournament of Legends II and X-MANIA USA, be sure to visit Super Turbo Revival.