The Beast speaks on competing at Evo and the state of Street Fighter V.
With sponsorship deals with Red Bull, Twitch, Hyper X, and Cygames, a book about his history and fighting game philosophy (The Will to Keep Winning), and a recently-translated manga that tells the stories of his rise to prominence in the Japanese arcade scene (Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers!), Daigo Umehara is very embodiment of the professional fighting gamer. His fame precedes him, even while his competitive success had somewhat waned in Street Fighter V Season 2 (though the Abuget Cup 2017 results now suggest otherwise, see below).
I managed to get some time at Evo 2017 to ask some questions of The Beast — with the assistance of a translator — shortly before Street Fighter V‘s top 8 battled at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Replies have been edited for clarity.
Zavian “mushin_Z” Sildra: OK, so this is Street Fighter V‘s second year at Evo; how would you say the competition has changed this year, as compared to the previous year?
Daigo “The Beast” Umehara: Hm. Well, I think it’s clear that the latest changes are character changes, and those characters that have been upgraded — made stronger — are the ones that are doing well in competitions.
mushin_Z: What has been your main focus in training to compete at Evo this year?
Daigo: I knew that there would be more Americans — out of all the nationalities, Americans would be the highest number among the competitors at Evo, so I chose characters that are commonly played by Americans, and focused on the match-up against them.
mushin_Z: You’ve seen more success playing Guile this year, after your switch from playing Ryu; do you feel Guile suits your own approach, your own style, in this game?
Daigo: To be honest, yes: I would like to see Ryu improved. And that’s not the case… But, I do like the playstyle I can showcase with Guile, so I’ve been enjoying playing Guile quite a bit.
mushin_Z: Excellent. So, you were knocked into losers bracket by Haitani. What are your thoughts on that particular match?
Daigo: [pauses to consider] I don’t know if I could have played differently. I don’t recall making any notable mistakes against Haitani in that match… but if I really think hard, maybe Haitani was aware of my tendencies and playstyle, so he knew how I was going to play.
mushin_Z: Now, Justin Wong took you out of the tournament entirely; same question: thoughts on that match?
Daigo: In Street Fighter V, we haven’t really played against each other, so most of the time I felt we were trying to “feel each other out”… And as a result, we had a great match, an exciting match — but this time, I didn’t succeed. Justin was ahead of my game. [Umehara ultimately made it to 17th in the final Evo 2017 SFV standings.]
Hx.CYG BST|Daigo Umehara vs. Echo Fox|Justin Wong in the top 32 of SFV at Evo 2017.
mushin_Z: Compared to last year, MOV is the only player in last year’s SFV top eight that is also in this year’s top eight. What does that say to you about the current state of competition in Street Fighter V?
Daigo: The climate of competition gets largely affected by character balance, rather than the playstyle or characteristics of the players. The faces of the top players we see in competition changes all the time, and it’s exciting to see new faces at the top, but I would like to see something different.
mushin_Z: Would you say that the changes between Season 1 and Season 2 were too drastic, and brought this about?
mushin_Z: So, what is number one on your Street Fighter V “wish list”? If you could change one thing about the game to suit your personal style, what would it be?
Daigo: Hm… It’s very difficult to pick one! The overall impression I get from this game: every competition, every match, tends to finish in the same style — no matter who is playing; whether they’re a veteran or a newcomer, skilled player or not, there’s no variation. And that’s, you know, not exciting. As a player it’s not fun, and I’m not sure if it’s fun for viewers either; so, what I would like to see — if I could request anything — then I would like to see something to allow a wider range of strategy, more choices which players are allowed to make, so each player’s characteristics could shine in the game.
mushin_Z: What’s your next stop on the Capcom Pro Tour?
Daigo: Earliest option I heard of — in two weeks I might go to Indonesia [Abuget Cup] at the end of July, or I’ll go to the Germany in the beginning of August [Fight Club NRW]. [Umehara indeed competed at Abuget Cup, and took his first #1 spot at a Capcom Pro Tour event this year!]
mushin_Z: Do you feel you have a strong chance to make it to #1 at Capcom Cup this year?
Daigo: Well, before I can speak about Capcom Cup, I need to qualify! I have a long way to get there. But my skill set is improving, and my game is getting better… I feel more confident than before. So, I’m looking forward to it — I would like to see myself up there, too.
mushin_Z: Any words about the English debut of the Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers! manga?
Daigo: This manga covers my story, my arcade days, in my teens… day in, day out, I went to arcades. So, I’m curious to see how much of that — the atmosphere, the experiences we had at arcades, will be conveyed to the American audience, understanding that arcades were not as common as they were to Japanese players back then. I would like to see the passion we shared among ourselves back then conveyed to the new audience; that’s my wish.
mushin_Z: Very cool. In your own words, what does competing at Evo mean to you?
Daigo: Of course, Evo has evolved into the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, and has a long history of supporting players — and all that considered, I think most folks come here to compete because it’s big, and has that history. They think “I need to win at Evo,” even more than the CPT in general, I’ve seen so many like that around me.
But for me, Evo is different, and much more significant. It gave me a chance to be a pro gamer. Through my experiences fighting and competing at Evo, I was able to express myself to the audience outside of Japan, and people got to know me. So, Evo has a special place in my heart. Even if Evo hadn’t grown to this size and significance to fighting games, I would still come to Evo, no matter what. That’s how much Evo means to me.
mushin_Z: That’s awesome. Is there anything else you’d like to express to SRK readers about Street Fighter V or Evo?
Daigo: My loss yesterday makes me really feel the desire to make it into the top eight at Evo next year! For sure — I want to make it.