It seems like every time Shoryuken bumps into Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi, he wins. In 2016, we sat down with him in Seoul, South Korea to discuss his victory alongside Mago and Momochi at Street Fighter Crash. Fast forward one year, and the Murderface has dominated his way to an Evo title in Street Fighter V, capturing his first Evo title in ten years over Victor “Punk” Woodley, who had previously shown himself absolutely dominant in nearly every event he entered.
After the confetti fell and while the stage was being torn down, we caught up with Tokido to discuss his huge win at Evo 2017.
Corey “Missing Person” Lanier: One of the things you said on stage with Gootecks after you won was that you learned how to control your opponents. So I want to go back to grand finals with Punk. Before the reset, you gave up one round in game one, then took that game. Then in game two, you dropped the entire game. The rest of the set, and even past the reset, you looked completely in control. Were those rounds and games you dropped a part of establishing control, and seeing what Punk was capable of?
Tokido: Yes, at first we had played a lot of casuals. I knew his strategy, and I’m pretty sure he knew mine as well. Usually we have great sets together, and I feel like the Akuma/Karin matchup is rather even. So with Punk, usually we are just trading rounds. But today, I felt as though he was nervous or something. Until Evo, he was winning a lot. He had never really been in a pinch. I felt like this time, he felt like he was in a big pinch.
So when I was playing him, because of this, he was playing far more defensive than he usually does and was making way more mistakes than usual. I can tell this because I have a lot of tournament experience. From there, I was able to control him easily.
Missing Person: The last time I talked to you, we were in Korea and you were a free agent. Today, you have Echo Fox and an Evo title. How much can you attribute this win to your team, compared to when you were having to self-support yourself to go to events?
Tokido: I’m very happy to win this tournament for Echo Fox. I think in fighting games, winning is most important. However, I feel like I also have other things to show. I succeeded in both at Evo. I won and showed what I wanted to in fighting games. I hope this is a big contribution to the scene.
Missing Person: In Evo 2013, you got second to Xian, and you hadn’t won an event at Evo since 2007. To be fair, you were also playing multiple titles at the same time and constantly getting top 8 in multiple events in one year. Now, you are clearly focused solely on Street Fighter V. How much can you attribute stepping back from all these games to this win?
Tokido: Because of that, I can practice a lot and think a lot. I was always searching for something to win. Actually, the old school players taught me a lot about what I should do. It’s a little complicated, so it’s hard to put it into few words. I was able to learn from older players about how to deal with various situations. Actually, because this is a Street Fighter title, I was able to take a lot from Super Street Fighter II Turbo players and apply what they gave me here.
Missing Person: So your conditioning strategy worked very well in the top 8 of Evo. Now, what happens if you were in a team tournament? Like go back to Street Fighter Crash, where you, Mago, and Momochi had one game each. How do you adjust yourself to that?
Tokido: It’s almost the same for me. However, due to it only being one match, I have to decide more about what I want to do over how to control my opponent. It becomes a different dynamic. You don’t fully know your opponent in one match, but you know your teammates. So I can give advice to them, and they can also do the same to me. It’s much more relaxed. In team tournaments, you train in a different way than if it were singles.
Missing Person: With Street Fighter V, the game has become global, and it’s much more difficult for any country to truly dominate the game. I heard that there will be a Korea vs. China 5-on-5 exhibition at a salty suite after Evo. Who do you think would win, and if Japan was represented, do you think they would win?
Tokido: At the highest levels, I think Japan is the best.
Missing Person: So do you think you could take a team in to best them?
Tokido: I think so, but it would depend on the opponents. Who are they?
Missing Person: Xiao Hai is leading the Chinese team, and Verloren and XYZZY are leading the Korean team.
Tokido: And it’s tonight?
Missing Person: Yes.
Tokido: It would depend on how tired I am after I eat. If I don’t sleep. In normal conditions, I believe Japan would win. But with it being night, everyone is probably tired. Still, I think Japan would win. We have Daigo, Fuudo, Nemo, and Bonchan. They have different philosophies in fighting games.
[While the exhibition was scheduled, the plan ultimately fell through when Xiao Hai couldn’t find enough Chinese players willing to play.]
Missing Person: You obviously don’t have to worry about Capcom Cup points. It’s a long way away, but are you thinking about Capcom Cup at all yet?
Tokido: You’re right, I still have five months left. I’ll still be playing and practicing. I need to seek out more, not only about playing the game, but generally about how to prepare. It will take some time as well as trial and error.
Missing Person: I saw your sister and brother-in-law on the floor congratulating you after your win. Is this the first time you’ve had family at any of your events?
Tokido: No, they’re here every year. They live in Las Vegas.
Missing Person: No kidding! So do you stay with them while you’re here?
Tokido: Actually, I don’t. I prefer to stay at the hotel.
Missing Person: How amazing was it for you to win in front of your family?
Tokido: Actually last year, we watched top 8 together in the audience. I was able to tell them things like, “Infiltration is a really good player from Korea,” as well as general information about fighting games. But this year, it was me on stage. I was able to perform for them. It was an amazing feeling.
[Feature image courtesy of Shane Shrestha]