PG|Rayniel “RayRay” Hidalgo is no stranger to the biggest stages of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Having twice made the game’s top 8 at Evo, his highest finish was runner-up to Kane Blueriver at Evo 2015.
While last year saw him focus on Street Fighter V, the quest to be the final champion of UMvC3 at Evo has driven him back into the title. He has shown that he is serious in his efforts, winning 1st place at Naptown Clutch 6. While at the Indianapolis tournament, I talked to him about his sponsorship with Panda Global, as well as his plans for Marvel this year.
Corey “Missing Person” Lanier: Ray, how has your training in Street Fighter V been going? Are you ready for this season of Capcom Pro Tour?
Rayniel “RayRay” Hidalgo: I honestly have stopped playing the game almost entirely. It’s not for any specific reason, but it’s just something where I just lost interest in the game.
Missing Person: Do you feel like the Chun-Li changes in Season 2 added to the disinterest?
RayRay: I don’t think that’s it. I feel like overall, Chun-Li is still fine and will continue to be a strong character in the meta. It’s mainly that they added a lot of things to the game that I didn’t like. They nerfed a lot of the defensive options that characters had, including universal ones like the V-Reversal. They also gave a few more characters legitimate mix-ups, which makes having defensive options all the more important. In Season 1 it was a bare-bones game, but it did allow for more mind games and truly allowed individual player strength to shine through. Now, the game feels more about set plays and doesn’t allow for that to happen.
Missing Person: Has the shift from Street Fighter V allowed your focus on Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 re-emerge?
RayRay: Definitely. After Marvel won the Evo Player’s Choice donation drive, my focus has increased on the game.
Missing Person: You’ve been known for playing a relatively standard team of Magneto, Doctor Doom, and Sentinel. How do you keep it fresh when you know players know the matchups against all of these characters, as well as combined as a team?
RayRay: It’s a little more standard, but the game still allows for creativity to flow, especially in the neutral game. I feel like Marvel 3 is a game where you can play the majority of the cast and still excel just by understanding the core mechanics and the flow of the game. Especially when you break it down to playing just the top 15 players, you can just get by simply on knowing how the game works and executing properly.
Missing Person: With Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite on the way, what are your initial reactions to what has been revealed so far?
RayRay: I hate the fact that there are no assist calls in the game. I feel like that assist calls are the most creative things within the fighting game genre, and by not implementing them, they have ruined the Marvel series. We’ll see how the game shapes up, though. I’m forcing myself to remain optimistic. I’m going to play it either way. There’s no reason to be angry with their design choices.
Missing Person: Are there any characters that you have on your wish list for Infinite?
RayRay: I want to play Star Lord [from Guardians of the Galaxy]. Other than that, I’d be happy with anybody on my team in Marvel 3.
Missing Person: If there is a deep divide in player preferences based on the differences in mechanics between Marvel 3 and Marvel Infinite, do you believe that Marvel 3 still has some life left in it?
RayRay: People will still play Marvel 3 no matter what. It’s in the same boat as when Marvel 3 released and players were still playing Marvel 2. However, the top players will move on. I think the lack of high-level competition will take me away from taking Marvel 3 seriously. However, the sandbox approach of the game will still be loved by fans and make it hard not to keep playing.
Missing Person: How has your sponsorship been with Panda Global in the year that you’ve been with the team?
RayRay: It’s going great. I’ve been able to travel a lot because of them. I was also able to do well in Street Fighter V since Evo.
Missing Person: Do you feel like the diversity in the fighting game roster of Panda Global encourages you to pick up more games?
RayRay: Coach Steve in particular really drives me. He’s from my area, and he plays every fighting game known to man. He makes me want to pick up more games.
Missing Person: What games are piquing your interest?
RayRay: I might try Injustice 2, but I almost feel like I’m lying even as I say that. The NetherRealm Studios titles tend to feel too stiff for my tastes.
Missing Person: How do feel with the lead up to Evo in Marvel? Are you optimistic of your chances to make top 8, and possibly win?
RayRay: After the donation drive, not only did my interest become rekindled, but so did everyone else’s. The last few months of Marvel are not at all indicative of what we’re going to see at Evo. Everyone else is going to be at their highest levels in July, so it’s really anyone’s guess how it’s going to shape up.
Missing Person: Having played as many tournaments as you’ve had, are there any specific demons you have in competitive play?
RayRay: Actually, one of my biggest demons is Flocker. I have actually never beaten him. In 2012 to 2014, there were what people were calling the Five Gods of Marvel. I beat every one of them except for Flocker.
Missing Person: What does Flocker do that gives you the most trouble?
RayRay: I would have to say that his Vergil causes a lot of problems for me. He is able to open me up with him and get a lot of hits in with Vergil. The ironic thing is that most people believe that his Vergil is bad, and even Flocker himself says the same thing. I don’t understand what specifically about his Vergil gets to me, but it does.
Missing Person: Do you feel like it’s his Vergil alone that is the problem, or is it Vergil in general that causes you problems?
RayRay: I feel like it’s Vergil in general. I like to move around a lot and use normals that cover the whole screen. Vergil is very good at preventing me from playing that way.
Missing Person: Have you been making any adjustments to counter Vergil?
RayRay: I’ve actually been taking pages out of Filipino Champ’s strategies. I’ve been staying in flight mode near the top of the screen. I usually stay around normal jump height, which is not where Magneto is strong. I learned to play the game like that, and it became habit. Thus, I haven’t used flight as much as other Magneto players have. However, I’m working to add some more defensive styles to my game, and hopefully that will work better against Vergil.
[Feature image by Corey Lanier]