After debuting on the world stage with a dominating performance in Super Street Fighter IV, Bruce “GamerBee” Hsiang has made a name for himself as one of the world’s best Street Fighter players. After picking up a sponsorship from AVerMedia in 2012, Hsiang has consistently earned top placings at numerous tournaments, including top eight at Evolution 2012 and 2013. He most recently finished second at South East Asia Major 2014 in Singapore.
In this interview, we asked the legendary Adon main about his thoughts on Ultra Street Fighter IV, Evo 2014, and the state of competitive games in general.
Jason Moses: What have you been up to leading up to EVO this year?
Bruce Hsiang: Ever since Ultra came out, I’ve been thinking about how I need more than one character for tournaments because of how bad some of Adon’s match-ups have become. So I’ve been practicing Evil Ryu and Yun for tournament.
JM: Yeah, I saw you talking on twitter about how bad the Zangief and T. Hawk match-ups are now for Adon. Is it mostly that Adon got nerfed, or is it more a result of the buffs Zangief and T. Hawk got in Ultra?
BH: It’s really simple. In previous versions, when I would do a really low air Jaguar Kick, I’d be plus on block, but now even if I do the lowest possible air Jaguar Kick, if they block it I’m -2. That means Zangief and T. Hawk get free command grabs on me.
There’s no special move I can use to build meter in that match-up. All I can do is press stand roundhouse, but that’s not enough to beat those two characters. Zangief can use stand medium punch to whiff punish it, T. Hawk can use stand roundhouse. So Adon can’t really beat those two characters.
JM: Are there any other match-ups that used to be good for Adon but have gotten really bad in Ultra?
BH: Fei Long has a really good 3 frame light punch, so if I do air Jaguar Kick he gets a free light punch into rekka combo on me. I can’t jump, I can’t backdash, he has an option select for both options, so I can’t do anything. Characters like that are worse than usual for Adon in Ultra.
On the other hand, there are matches where I don’t need air Jaguar Kick, like against Ryu or Sagat. They don’t have any easy to use 3-frame normal moves, which means I can push them into the corner, and once I’m there the 2-hit Rising Jaguar they gave Adon can kill people really easily. Basically, as long as they don’t have a way of punishing air Jaguar Kick now that it’s minus on block, it’s not bad.
JM: So are you planning to switch back and forth during EVO or will you be sticking with Adon for the most part?
BH: I’m still going to play Adon as my main, but if I run into any bad match-ups I’m switching. I still want to use Adon as much as I can, but for tournaments I have to prepare something more.
JM: Do you have any sense of what the development team was thinking when they made those changes to Adon? Are you upset at all?
BH: I can understand to some degree. It’s really hard to balance that many characters. I’m also trying to think of the game as being more like an eSport. From that perspective, having characters with really good and really bad match-ups is a good thing because it forces pro gamers to study the game and play a lot of characters, and ultimately give the better players more options.
JM: So when you see Infiltration break out pocket Hakan or Chun-Li in certain match-ups…
BH: I’m pretty sure he’s thinking the same thing, but… the characters he’s choosing for those match-ups aren’t even really counter picks — Akuma is usually better than the other characters he picks.
JM: So do you think he’s just styling or trolling people when he does that?
BH: No, I think he’s just bored! He’s just so bored of using Akuma, Akuma, Akuma. If I was him I’d get bored too!
JM: You’re bored of playing Adon, then?
BH: Of course! I’ve been playing Adon for like 3 years already, I keep doing the same thing already. Jaguar Kick, Jaguar Kick, rushdown, safe jump, cross up. That’s it!
JM: So when you play Yun or Evil Ryu now, it must be a breath of fresh air, yeah?
BH: Yeah! (laughs) When I play Evil Ryu I actually feel really happy, because the combos are so fancy and hard, it gives me a bunch of new things to study and improve. It makes me feel like I’m getting more fun out of the game.
JM: On that note, you’ve been playing SFIV for four years now. Was there a point in time in the past when you thought “this is the best version of SFIV”?
BH: “Best version,” huh… (laughs)
JM: Was it Super?
BH: Super was pretty good! (laughs) Adon was so good! But it’s okay. Yeah, I got a huge nerf, but… Vanilla was good, Super was good, 2012 was good, and Ultra is pretty good. But AE was really bad! (laughs)
JM: But wait, right now we have another version of the game like AE where Yun gets to stomp on everyone. I don’t know if you read that long 4Gamer roundtable with a bunch of top Japanese players, but do you agree that Yun just obliterates everyone else in Ultra?
BH: He has the most potential. For Yun, there’s no match-up he can’t win. I can make you do anything I want with him. Because I have a command throw, I have combos, I have a dive kick, you have to guess what I’m going to do. I can force my opponent to guess, and if they guess wrong, they’re dead.
So it doesn’t matter which character he fights, and some of his match-ups are so easy. I mean, he doesn’t get to beat every character for free, but he has the most potential because he builds meter fast and has powerful easy combos. He’s also not affected by delayed wakeup as much because of his dive kick.
JM: Is there anyone you’re particularly worried about running into during the tournament?
BH: PR Rog’s really dangerous, Smug’s pretty dangerous, and I think Justin’s a threat too, of course. He’s really smart, and the way he plays Rufus… he’s not a complicated character, but Justin understands his opponents really well and makes it work. I’m not 100% confident about facing those players.
Because of the way Evo separates all the famous players out to different brackets, I don’t know anyone in my initial pool. But if I make it out I think I’m going to end up near Jayce the Ace, Fuudo, and other really good players.
JM: Do you feel like EVO itself has changed in a significant way over the past 4 years? Has the competition changed, gotten better?
BH: I think Evo’s gotten a lot better. I remember my first Evo in 2010 the pools were 64-players, so we had to play for 8 hours straight. That was really tough. Even though they’ve made the brackets smaller since then, though, the difficulty hasn’t really changed. It might have even gotten more difficult, because if you make it out of pools that’s when the real tournament starts. Every player is a pro from there on out. Every match is tough from top 32 to top 16 to top 8.
JM: Do you have a particular goal for EVO?
BH: Just to make it into Top 8. That’s my goal for now.
JM: On Twitter you were joking that you were “Mr. 2nd Place” after your performances at SEAM and Dreamhack. Does that bother you at all or make you want to try harder?
BH: I don’t know, for me I think Akuma’s probably my worst match-up. Not necessarily because of the character, but because of the way I play personally. The way I play might just not be good against Akuma, but it might be good against other people. The real question might just be whether or not someone else knocks out Infiltration or Tokido so I don’t have to deal with that!
Some people will be happy because Infiltration knocked me out, they’d prefer to play Akuma more than me, but that’s just a tournament thing. All the top players have good match-ups and bad match-ups, sometimes it just comes down to luck and who you run into during tournament.
There are times when I lose during tournament where it stresses me out and I feel bad. Like “was all that hard work useless?” But there are so many tournaments now that you just have to keep moving. Keep looking to the next tournament, keep hoping to beat the player you really want to beat. That’s enough for us. If we don’t have tournaments, there’s no dream.
JM: Is there anything you want Capcom to do with Street Fighter from here on out?
BH: This answer’s really important. I don’t mind that they nerf characters. It’s okay that they nerfed Adon. But I want them to make the game fit an eSports model or mindset more.
JM: In what way?
BH: First of all, I think they should make the game completely about the PC version. The tournaments should be based around a LAN party setting. That way you can play via LAN cable and have everyone under the same roof playing the same game. No distinction between other games at tournaments like Dreamhack.
We all know why eSports have been so successful during this generation, but it doesn’t make sense why Street Fighter still has such a small scene and so little prize money. It should be better. It definitely can be better.