If you were to have a favorite in any event at Evo, Tekken 7 was likely the one. And without fail, the clear favorite over the field — Echo Fox’s Hyun-jin “JDCR” Kim — proved to be dominant with his Heihachi and Dragunov play, besting the likes of former Evo champions Saint and Nobi on his way to his Evo 2017 championship.
After the tournament, I sat down with JDCR to talk about his road to the championship.
Corey “Missing Person” Lanier: Congratulations, JDCR, on your win at Evolution 2017. How does it feel to win on that big stage at Mandalay Bay?
Hyun-jin “JDCR” Kim: I still can’t believe that I won. I made the top 8 on day 1, and I was really happy. Today, I honestly have no idea what to say. I think that I could die.
Missing Person: Did you feel any nerves on stage?
JDCR: I think I was a bit nervous. As you know, Evo is the biggest tournament on the circuit. Plus, you could probably tell that during my first match in top 8 against Jeondding, we were both nervous. We both made a few mistakes.
Missing Person: So do you have a lot of experience against Jeondding?
JDCR: Yes, we practice together quite a bit.
Missing Person: So were you thrown off at all when he used Eddy instead of Lucky Chloe?
JDCR: Eddy definitely has an advantage on Heihachi, so that’s why I struggled at first.
Missing Person: Does it throw you off any when having to play console-only characters, when you have so much experience against the arcade characters?
JDCR: Not really, but out of the console-only characters, I feel like Eddy is the best.
Missing Person: Do you still mostly play in the arcades?
JDCR: Not anymore. I mostly play on console.
Missing Person: So, do you have a lot of experience against the console characters now?
JDCR: Not too much, but I’ve particularly had very little experience against Eliza. She was a pre-order only character, and no one uses her in Korea.
Missing Person: So outside of Saint, who you always tend to go back and forth with, who would you view as the biggest threat to winning this tournament?
JDCR: Today it was Jeondding. Neither one of us warmed up before we played. We actually both played very uncharacteristic for us against each other today.
Missing Person: There were some technical issues reported in other games on PS4 at Evo this year. Did you experience any of this in Tekken?
JDCR: Not really, the only thing that threw me off was the lag that was in the current build of Tekken for consoles. Those frames of lag really matter a lot competitively. I have to say that this is something I don’t like about Tekken on consoles.
Missing Person: Thankfully that will get fixed soon. But also, they will be releasing the console characters in the arcades. Does this mean you’ll be travelling back to Green Arcade for practice any time soon?
JDCR: I don’t think so. People always play at home. Nobody wants to pay each time they lose at an arcade. People just wake up, turn on the PS4, and poof, they’re playing.
Missing Person: So you do you think the arcade culture in Korea is dying out?
JDCR: I’m sure it is.
Missing Person: Even in the world-famous Green Arcade?
Missing Person: So in Echo Fox, you have one of the best owners imaginable in Rick Fox. Is he very hands-on as a team owner, giving you guys pointers from an athlete’s perspective?
JDCR: To tell the truth, I’ve only met Rick Fox once. Actually, while everyone else was at Foxcon, Saint and I were in the Philippines for a tournament. It was part of the Tekken Pro Tour, so we had to miss Foxcon. But I always talk with the players, and the team staff is very supportive of us and help us out a lot. I want to say how much I love them and how proud I am of being on this team.
Missing Person: So do you feel like Echo Fox is becoming a family now?
JDCR: Yes, of course.
Missing Person: So I guess it goes without saying when Street Fighter V finals happen, we know who you’re cheering for.
JDCR: Definitely Tokido. I’ll be back in the floor seating because I have to watch him.
Missing Person: Speaking about the Philippines, you had to play Knee for the title. How do you feel about his play in Tekken 7?
JDCR: His play is really solid.
Missing Person: So on day 1, who was your biggest challenge?
JDCR: I believe it was Nobi. I knew that I would have to play him on Friday, so I was thinking about him all day. But the thing is, I know the match-up well, so I wasn’t too worried.
Missing Person: One thing that was apparent during top 8 for me was that there are major differences between Korean and Japanese styles of play in Tekken. What would you view as the key differences between the two styles?
JDCR: Koreans are more apt to use more movement and use the entire screen and space. Japanese tend to like to be closer to neutral space all the time and just push buttons. So let’s say there’s a mix-up. In that situation, Koreans are more apt to use movement to get out of it. Japanese will try to push buttons to counter it.
Missing Person: And how do you view the American style of play?
JDCR: Americans play very similar to the Japanese.
Missing Person: I know at Evo that to get out of pools, you have to play a lot of unknown players. Some of these guys are really new to the game. Recently, you had an interview with Gerald Lee from Core-A Gaming where you discussed what new players should learn about the game. But seeing some of the newer players here, what do you think are some of the biggest mistakes they are making?
JDCR: I feel like most of them are coming from 2D fighters. They forget that Tekken is a 3D fighter. This makes a huge difference. In 2D fighters, you only have to worry about your movement being forwards, backwards, and jumping. Plus your attacks only range from high, mid, and low. In Tekken there’s far more dynamics. So now you have to worry about sidestepping in your movement, and also using sweeping and tracking moves to counter sidestepping.
Missing Person: Another I personally noticed was new players tend to not understand how to wake up from being knocked down. Is there any advice you can give them on reading how to wake up?
JDCR: For new players, I think you should start by just simply back rolling on wake up. It’s the safest option, and gets you out of most pressure that will happen if you just quick rise or even side roll. Until you fully understand the system, you should choose the safest option.
Missing Person: Do you feel like new players have difficulty playing the wall in Tekken?
JDCR: That may be the most similar thing to Street Fighter though. But the thing is with Tekken, you have to be able to see which axis the wall is on, and when you are going to hit it to optimize your combos for it. Even for me, this is very difficult, so for new players, I wouldn’t worry too much about the wall.
Missing Person: So having played Tekken for over a decade, which Tekken would you call your favorite?
JDCR: My favorite game was Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion. However now, I feel like Tekken 7: Fated Retribution is the best Tekken. This game is so balanced. There are far more situations to experience than in other versions of Tekken. The characters have more moves, and I feel like every time I play I find something new. In Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I felt like movement was most important. In this game, you have to have a comprehensive understanding of the entire engine to be good at it.
Missing Person: So movement takes less emphasis in this game as opposed to 6?
JDCR: I mean, movement is still important. In Tekken 6, we could just mindlessly move, and that allowed us to play it safe. But in Tekken 7, you have to know the situations where you should move. That’s actually why I like Tekken 7.
Missing Person: So with Tekken 7, do you feel like Rage Drives and Rage Arts were a good inclusion to the mechanics?
JDCR: Very good.
Missing Person: I don’t know about in Asia, but when they were first announced in the west, there were a lot of fear that this would be a bad comeback mechanic, where people were already complaining about it in Street Fighter IV with Ultra Combos.
JDCR: To tell the truth, I don’t like seeing new systems in any game. I was worried that maybe they would be overpowered at first. But regardless, winners still win. Losers still lose. Also, they look so cool!
Missing Person: So where can we see you next?
JDCR: I’m hoping to attend all the Pro Tour events for Tekken, so if there’s one that you’re attending, look for me there.
Missing Person: Definitely looking to build up those points, right?
JDCR: Actually I’m already qualified due to this win. But of course, I always want to play more and learn more.
Missing Person: So basically it’s part experience, and part making people prove they’re ready to face you in Japan?
JDCR: [laughs] Yeah, kind of.
Special thanks to Kevin “BurnoutFighter” Kim for being on standby for translation, despite JDCR’s strong English skills.
[Featured image courtesy of Shane Shrestha.]