He’s also got plenty to say about the state of Akuma in Tekken 7!
We sat down and interviewed Hoa ‘Anakin’ Luu, a Red Bull athlete and one of the leading Tekken players in the FGC. After finishing in the top 8 at Evo 2019, Anakin has continued his excellent year and is representing the FGC on both a national and international level through Red Bull Conquest and other upcoming events, including DreamHack Atlanta and the Tekken World Tour Finals in Bangkok.
DaFeetLee: Hey Anakin, first of all, I want to congratulate you on winning the Orlando Tekken 7 qualifier for Red Bull Conquest 2019. What did you think of the Tekken 7 competition in Orlando?
Anakin: I am actually very familiar with the competition in Orlando. Back in 2007, my dad used to drive me down 5-6 hours to Jacksonville, Florida for tournaments. The entry fee for the tournaments in Jacksonville was higher than usual so it was pretty cool winning ~$1000 as a 15-16-year-old kid and making my dad proud.
I am considered an honorary member of the Florida scene and I knew the players and competition very well. At the same time, I also knew that I would win the qualifier.
DaFeetLee: This is the second year that Red Bull has done Red Bull Conquest. Looking at the teams from last year, I didn’t see your name on any of the teams. What happened last year and what changed this year?
Anakin: Last year was the first tour for Red Bull Conquest. It was a nightmare to qualify in Atlanta. I lost in the Grand Finals to Spero Gin from Tennessee. I just couldn’t beat him that weekend, losing 2-3 while I was in winners and losing 2-3 again after the bracket reset.
I tried again at the Last Chance Qualifiers in Washington D.C. and lost to two players that I should not have lost to. Those losses really weighed on my mind this year and this year, I sought my revenge. I ended up qualifying my first try in the Orlando qualifiers.
DaFeetLee: What do you like about the Conquest format?
Anakin: I like how this tournament was designed to crown the best region in the FGC. If you have been competing in the FGC for a while, beef/disputes between regions have always been a thing in the American FGC. We have East and West rivalries, North and South rivalries, etc.
Also, I like how the tournament is not about highlighting one winner; it’s highlighting an entire region. Another thing I like is that the finals are a format that we have never seen before. All of the games are going to factor into the results.
DaFeetLee: Is there anything you would like to see added to the Conquest format?
Anakin: I am actually interested in the current format we have now. I like the idea that all of the games matter: Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, and Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]. Bringing a territorial element to the format motivates me because I am from Atlanta, which is a very prideful city. The entire tour is about representing your region and I really like that.
DaFeetLee: What are some underrepresented regions that you would like to see represented in a future Red Bull Conquest?
Anakin: It would be interesting to see Red Bull Conquest go global, with challengers from all over the world. This year, Conquest did a good job exploring cities like Minneapolis, Seattle, Houston, etc. We would not have known much about the scenes in those cities without Conquest.
They are actually the dark horses of the tournament. No team in Conquest should be taken lightly. All team tournaments are unpredictable because there is always a big dramatic moment that turns the tides during the tournament. I am expecting that to happen this weekend as well.
As for underrepresented regions, I would love to see regions like Pakistan, Vietnam, etc. Any new region would be a cool addition. It’s always cool to see underdogs represent and Conquest helps highlight those underdogs.
DaFeetLee: There are a lot of new fighting games coming out next year. Are you excited about any of them? Which one of them would you like to see added to Conquest?
Anakin: I have always been a Tekken nerd and I don’t really play other fighting games. Even at Conquest, it has taken over as the premier game. For most of 2019, we have seen Tekken 7‘s numbers beating out Street Fighter V. This game for many years has been under-appreciated and now, everyone is talking about it.
However, I am always interested to see new games come out. I like to be more of a fan of new games and I like to follow their lifespans. Whenever a new Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, etc. comes out, I am always in the background following them. I also don’t really have a preference for any of them because, at the end of the day, Tekken is my main focus.
DaFeetLee: Moving on to the Tekken World Tour, you’ve had an amazing year so far. You are currently #1 in the America rankings and #2 in the Global rankings for the 2019 Tekken World Tour, which is incredibly impressive. You also placed 3rd at Evo 2019. What do you think about your chances at the 2019 TWT Finals?
Anakin: Yes, I have had a really good year. If there was a year for me to win the Tekken World Tour title, it would be this year. I surprised myself this year. I spent a lot of time away from the game to participate in Red Bull’s High-Performance Center.
I spent a lot of time working on my mental and physical well-being with trainers and scientists. It wasn’t just about grinding the game 8-12 hours; I went in this year with a new mindset and a clear mentality.
I combined my training at the Red Bull High-Performance Center and traditional methods of practice (long hours of sessions), which was a perfect balance to maintain as a competitor. Recently, I picked up a big win at Dreamhack Atlanta and I hope to pick up the win at Red Bull Conquest Finals.
My momentum going into Thailand is strong and I feel very confident. If I take care of my body and play my game, everything will be fine. I’m very excited.
DaFeetLee: Is there a player, if anyone, that you really want to beat in a tournament? In the same vein, do you have any demons that you want to beat?
Anakin: If it weren’t for Knee this year, this year would have been perfect. Two of my losses this year were to Knee. I also lost to Arslan Ash at Evo. This year has been about avenging my losses from last year.
This year is my revenge tour and I have beaten all the guys that I lost to last year. Knee and Arslan Ash are two of the best Tekken 7 players in the world and it would be satisfying to beat them this year.
DaFeetLee: The current controversy in Tekken 7 seems to be Akuma. There was a recent patch that nerfed him slightly. What are your thoughts on Akuma? Do you think the nerf was enough? Do you have any suggestions for other nerfs?
Anakin: If you look at what everyone is talking about on Twitter, when there are discussions about a character being too strong or underpowered, everyone looks to tournament results to find out how good a character is. To the untrained eye, it might seem like Akuma is overpowered. However, everyone is blowing it out of proportion.
There was a period in the past where Akuma was doing very well and the natural reaction was complaining. If you talk to some of the other pros, they will say that Tekken 7 is balanced. Akuma does add a lot of things that people are not used to in terms of Tekken (i.e., jumping and shooting fireballs).
This forces a player to prepare differently for Akuma compared to a typical Tekken character, which can be frustrating for newer players. If you’re a competitor, Akuma is just another part of the game. I believe it’s an overreaction to Akuma succeeding in the tournament. Tekken has never been that kind of game. We should give credit to the players using Akuma.
Also, with all of this attention on Akuma, there should be no excuses going into the world finals. With all of this talk, everyone better come with their A-game. Everyone who qualified for the world finals earned their spots by winning. Champions don’t complain and make excuses. I don’t expect any of the finalists to come unprepared and everyone will come ready to go.
DaFeetLee: Do you have any last words?
Anakin: Everyone should check out Red Bull Conquest this weekend. It is a celebration of a year-long tour that has brought together talent scattered across the country. All of the guys from the eight qualifiers will be here and it will be a very interesting tournament format. History will go down and Orlando will be the champs!