Daigo “The Beast” Umehara sat down with SRK at Evo 2018 to discuss his recent victory at VSFighting, SFV’s Cammy menace, and his own struggles with achieving success in Street Fighter’s newest iteration.
The Evolution Championship Series always marks a pivotal point in the competitive season, and this year’s Evo was no different. Coming fresh from a win at the UK’s VSFighting tournament, Daigo “The Beast” Umehara had his first Premier victory of 2018 under his belt, and headed into Evo with a wave of momentum and some sage advice for newer competitors.
Victory at VSFighting
Daigo’s competitive journey at VSFighting pitted him against one of the world’s best Ibuki players — and one of his current rivals. FUDOH|Fujimura had bested Daigo in two previous tournaments, both in the CPT Premier at Stunfest France and TBS’s ELEAGUE. After taking two sound beatings in the same match-up, and with Fujimura in Winners’ side of VSFighting, Daigo knew he had to make a change or risk a third loss against Japan’s finest Ibuki. Daigo was noted by host and commentator F-Word as studying their previous matches on his smartphone just before the two faced off again, and his homework paid off: Daigo managed to best Fujimura twice, sending him into Losers’ and taking Grand Finals without letting his opponent reset the bracket.
— Daigo Umehara (@daigothebeast) July 22, 2018
VSFighting marked Daigo’s first Premier victory of 2018, and his third Premier win since Street Fighter V’s release. When asked about this development, Daigo was humble yet determined, stating that much like his preparation strategy for long sets, he has now downloaded the information needed to take him further in the game. “I see myself as a slow learner compared to the other top players,” he admitted. “While others quickly mastered the game of SFV, having learned the game mechanics and set up their own strategies, in the first and second year I was mostly exploring how the game was going to play out for me. Now, I have laid out the groundwork. I know how to play and what works for me. My focus now is how to showcase what I have acquired.”
Daigo had similar feelings in regards to Fujimura. “He is one of the strongest players at the moment, so it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen against him,” he stated of their potential meeting in the Evo brackets. “What I’m trying to do is to bring out my best skill set against him, and go from there. What drives me is that I’ve had the experience of beating him in tournament. That alone was really exciting. I take that with pride. It excites me to know that I can turn the tournament around.”
Much like other Street Fighter titles, Ibuki is a standout among the rest of SFV’s cast. With a variety of tools and tricky mix-ups, Ibuki is a definite threat to other characters, and high-level players like Razer|Xian and Fujimura further amplify her abilities. However, she isn’t the game’s only menace by a long shot; currently, characters like the dreaded Cammy and Akuma control the game’s competitive sphere, with much of the fanbase bemoaning their near-constant buffs in each patch. While Daigo agreed that Cammy is a problem, he likewise knows that she isn’t unbeatable — and the same goes for Akuma. “The track record shows that Guile has had a good chance of winning against Akuma and Cammy,” he stated. “My Guile is good enough to go after them. Because those particular top tier characters are so strong, I’ve spent enough time learning how to beat them.”
Currently, Cammy is the fifth most used character in SFV, with Akuma sitting at second place under Ryu. Since players are likely to see these match-ups so often, it is no wonder that Daigo has a winning strategy prepared for them. In fact, in one of SFV’s most famous sets, Daigo took a first-to-ten over Echo Fox|Tokido’s Akuma 5-10 at Kemonomichi 2. However, with Tokido as last year’s Evolution Champion (and this year’s runner-up), and with traditional Street Fighter matches being a first to two or three, a victory over Tokido isn’t certain for Daigo within the Capcom Pro Tour. “It’s hard to predict what will happen,” he conceded. “But what I can do is be agile, be responsive to his moves, and think on my feet. Coming to Evo, I knew there was a good chance I’d have a match against him. So, I prepared myself well. I am confident that I can do well if I face him.”
Changing strategies for changing times
Since Tokido’s victory last year, Japan — and Asia as a whole — has given another strong showing in Street Fighter V. Players like Fujimura, who currently sits in the top spot in the CPT, and FAV|Sako, who has made top 8 in multiple tournaments this year, are just a taste of Asia’s talent. Asia wasn’t always the strongest in SFV, however, and Daigo explained that the region’s development dealt with adaptation outside the game. “If you look at Season One and Season Two, Japanese players didn’t do well because the game wasn’t available in the arcades,” he answered. “We are strongly rooted in the arcade scene. To fill that void, we started to get together as a group. We decided to come together and learn from each other, and we created a new, arcade-esque environment, where we meet two to three times a week. Because the country is so small, it’s easier for us to get together and play.”
Fighting games are a constant matter of evolution for both professional players and newcomers alike, and Japan’s SFV scene is exemplary of this fact. With Evolution being the largest fighting game tournament in the world, it is also the first stop on many newcomers’ major tournament experiences. Just as he has adapted to the newest version of Street Fighter, Daigo encourages new players to take their time rather than rush to find new strategies, and learn at their own pace over emulating others.
“As I said earlier, I’m a slow learner, so it takes a long time for myself to get to the level I want to be at,” Daigo reiterated. “Beginners and even top players are eager to get there, but the speed doesn’t matter. How fast you get better isn’t the goal. The most important thing is how strong you can become. The advice I have for newcomers would be, ‘Don’t forget the fact that you need to get to where you want to go, not how fast you can get there.’ From my own experience, I can tell you that if you try to pace yourself at other players’ speed, you’ll never find what works for yourself. It’s gonna take a long time, maybe a few years, that’s what I experienced myself. Don’t give up, be patient, and be kind to yourself. Believe in yourself and learn at your own pace.”
Hx.Twitch.CYG BST|Daigo Umehara’s Evo journey landed him just short of a top 8 placement. After being knocked into Losers’ by Cool Kid’s Abigail, he faced RISE|Caba in a Guile mirror, ultimately losing the set 2-1 to Caba’s well-timed booms and solid punishes. Daigo now stands at fifth place in the CPT rankings; with TWFighter Major coming up this month, and SCR following in September, Daigo’s SFV excursion is far from over. Fans can bet that his experiences from this Evolution will send him even further throughout the rest of the season, and with two new characters in the mix, things are about to get even more interesting.
[Team/player images courtesy of Cygames Beast]