Although the Killer Instinct reboot has only been around for a couple of years, few players have dominated its competitive landscape as much as Jonathan “Rico Suave” De Leon. Since its release, De Leon has never placed outside of top eight at a high-level Killer Instinct event, showing a mastery of the rebooted title’s mechanics and titles that surpasses many of his peers.
This past weekend, De Leon cemented that reputation with a victory at the inaugural Killer Instinct World Cup, besting veterans and newcomers alike in his first major appearance since becoming Evo 2015 champion. We recently caught up with Mr. Suave to gather some of his thoughts on the event, where his future lies, and more.
Some of the answers below have been edited for clarity and brevity.
You’re fresh off your win at the inaugural Killer Instinct World Cup. Explain to me some of the emotions you felt at the time.
Rico Suave: It’s hard to explain. Coming off an Evo Championship, I felt like the pressure was gone. It’s great to have people still consider me a serious competitor in this game.
Has that worn off at all or are you still pretty stoked?
RS: Without a doubt, I’m still feeling the love and support! It’s a little overwhelming at times, having every social media page of mine blowing up.
Lots of folks may know you mainly as a Street Fighter guy. What prompted the transition to Killer Instinct?
RS: Street Fighter was my first love, it’s the first fighting game I took serious. When Killer Instinct dropped, I really liked the game’s mechanics and how every character has a unique playstyle. When the announcer shouts “FIGHT!” it’s a constant mind game and I love it. I really enjoy stimulating my mind.
Do you feel as if your experiences in one game affects how you play the other? In what way do they complement each other, if at all?
RS: In my honest opinion, I do think it’s good to play different fighting games. They all bring different elements, kind of like Street Fighter being a bible of fundamentals. The more you get to experiment, the better. You get to look at things differently, depending on how the game is built.
Shadow Jago was your character of choice all the way up to winners finals, where you went with Omen against Rebelo’s TJ Combo. What prompted the switch?
RS: Shadow Jago at this point is my favorite character to play. He’s the most fun, and I have the liberty to be very creative with him. The reason I switched to Omen against Rebelo is because TJ Combo is the only character I got no matchup experience against. I don’t necessarily think Omen counters TJ Combo, but I do think he stops him from doing random and wild things from mid-screen really well. That’s Rebelo’s playstyle, you can never be sure what he’s going to do.
That was also your closest match of the tournament. You must have been pretty confident in your Omen?
RS: I was very confident with Omen, but I hadn’t used him before the match against Rebelo, so I had to get in my groove.
In grand finals, you made another change by choosing Glacius against MyGod’s Sabrewulf. The commentators were of the opinion you did so to prove a point about the matchup. Mind expanding on that?
RS: I actually wanted to play Shadow Jago, but I had played him all day. I still believe Glacius has the upper hand against Sabrewulf. The Iceman will always be there, ready.
You’re relatively new to both Shadow Jago and Omen. Why do you think you were able to find success with them so soon?
RS: I was infatuated with Omen and Shadow Jago. I would always think of different things to try, no matter what I was doing. I would be at the gym and still be thinking about the possibilities with said characters.
You haven’t really participated in any major Killer Instinct events since Evo. Were you in the hyperbolic time chamber, taking time away from the game, or somewhere in the middle?
RS: After Evo, I really focused on enjoying some time off. I would play Killer Instinct every now and again. When time drew closer to the Killer Instinct World Cup, I spent time playing against certain character specialists.
Over the weekend, you had a chance to play around with some of the game’s upcoming content, most notably Kim Wu in the live exhibitions. Can you give us a short breakdown of her strengths and weakness from your perspective?
RS: Considering everything is subject to change, I will say in the build that we saw, she needs meter to have a real wakeup. It’s hard to build a level four ender without meter and her kick buttons don’t really have great range. On the other hand, her nunchaku have really good reach, her dragon ability is great for canceling unsafe moves, she has good pressure, and her jumping fierce punch has insane range. I really enjoyed playing Kim Wu, I can’t wait for Season 3.
With both the Killer Instinct World Cup and Evo championships under your belt, what’s your next goal?
RS: I want to keep improving. I want to stay consistent, I want to be the one who brought the game to a new level. With Street Fighter V around the corner, I want to stand out in that game as well. I want to be the greatest. Ever.
Killer Instinct’s third season will feature at least two guest characters. If you had to choose one fighter to make a surprise appearance, who would it be?
RS: I would love for Spawn to make an appearance in Killer Instinct. He looks a lot like me. He could use a little bit of coaching though.
Any parting words for the readers?
RS: I would like to thank everyone for their continued support, it means a lot to me. The Killer Instinct community may be small, but we have heart. Keep fighting.