Why did you decide to pick up ken and what is the reason behind your name Banana Ken?
My reason to name myself Banana Ken is not very interesting or profound, it just sounded like a fun name to use at the time when entering a local tournament with my Austin friends in Arcade UFO. Something about using a silly name that would regardless strike fear in people’s hearts sounded amusing to me, I guess. In retrospect, it might be a little confusing when I don’t play Ken or play other games, but I guess it’s too late to reconsider, haha.
I decided to pick up Ken because he always seemed like a fun character. However, my first character choice in SF4 Vanilla was actually Ryu, and given how strong of a character he was I didn’t find much reason to switch. Once SSf4 came out, I decided to switch my main to Ken since he felt like a character that I could play more freely, whereas Ryu you play more “by the book” and is very focused on fundamentals and footsies.
What is your opinion on the changes for AE 2012 and will you still be sticking with Ken or moving onto another character? If you will be switching,
who will be your new main?
I think the changes in 2012 make for a more balanced game overall, and this is what most people have been looking for all this time. This will definitely extend the game’s replayability and its presence as one of the main games featured in fighting game tournaments. I will still be using Ken as I feel he is just as strong as before, if not stronger. Using a secondary character in tournaments is a possibility, but for the time being I am sticking with him. His changes made him more of a footsie oriented character, where his combos into untechable knockdown were nerfed, but some of his normals got buffed in return.
Are there any matchups you fear with Ken as extremely bad matchups and if so, can you describe why you feel it’s hard to win that matchup?
I think Ken doesn’t have extremely bad matchups since overall he’s a complete character, but he definitely has a couple of 6-4′s which he has to be wary of. In general, any matchup in which Ken can’t jump at the opponent easily is tough. Characters with good keepaway can also give Ken a hard time. Among these characters are Guile, Seth, Dhalsim, Yun, Yang, Fei (although the last 3 got nerfed significantly). Ken is more effective rushing down than turtling, so this makes characters like Zangief tricky as well. Overall Ken players should practice very hard against these characters, since just outplaying them slightly may not be enough to net you a victory.
In contrast, are there any matchups with ken you feel very confidentally in?
I feel very confident against C.Viper and Akuma. I’ve also taken a liking to the Zangief matchup, even though Ken has to work pretty hard there. I think the changes have worked in Ken’s favor for these matches as well.
Sometimes, players have that opponent that they can just never beat. Is there a particular player for you that you just can’t find yourself to beat?
I’ve hit a brick wall against Filipino Champ and Arturo. While I feel this is partly my fault for not practicing against Dhalsim often, my past tournament performances against these two players have been discouraging. Although I normally feel confident in this matchup, there were simply times where a link was dropped or a jump was mistimed, and that gets you thrown away and you’re back to the opposite side of the screen with a life disadvantage, a very bad position. I think I’ve improved considerably in being patient and having the correct mindset, but I have not practiced the Dhalsim matchup enough to the point where I will stop giving them openings to exploit and force them to find them on their own, in which case I feel I will win.
What fighting games did you play prior to the SF4 series and how long have you been playing SF in general?
Before SF4, I played 3rd strike and Tekken 5 competitively. People knew me as frodo/frodo-san back then. I’ve been playing fighting games since I was a little kid, playing classics such as KOF96, Killer Instinct, but only casually. I do remember I started to win local tournaments in 3rd Strike when I was around 14.
How do you feel about the American SF scene as opposed to the Japanese scene since you have experienced both during your trip to Japan?
There’s tradeoffs between the two. I think the Japanese arcade scene shows a lot of life when it’s close to big tournaments like SBO, but word of mouth is that they’re not doing too well otherwise. We seem to share similar problems with arcades not being as popular as before, although this is certainly more pronounced in the US. However, I believe from a grassroots standpoint the US is more developed than Japan; I’m talking about majors and other events inevitably built outside arcades. This seems to be a natural consequence of having to look for an alternative for that which we are passionate about, being faced with arcades wittling away and struggling to survive. Japan on the other hand seems to be much stronger when it comes to public transit and placement of arcades in major cities like Tokyo. If I was working a 9-to-5 or something similar in Japan, a major arcade with very strong players are usually just a cheap train ride away with a few minutes of walking. This ability to just casually walk in whenever you’d like with very little investment is something that’s rare to find in the US even when arcades were in their prime. This makes it incredibly easy for top players to get constant practice against a wide variety of characters, playstyles and skill levels.
There was always a bit of a debate on who the better shoto was between Ken and Ryu, Infiltration recently ranked Ryu slightly ahead of Ken if not even.
Who do you feel is the better shoto and why?
I think in AE2012 Ryu is probably the better character overall, even though their styles are different. Ryu’s “by the book” play is slightly more defensive and reaction based, and defensive play is generally more rewarding in SF4. Ken’s main strength lies in pressuring the opponent from a closer range constantly and provoke mistakes as a result, but the pressure is also on you to not mess up, since any mistake when you are in close range can be very costly. I still think that Ken is competent enough to win in tournaments, especially now that Yun/Yang/Fei got nerfed, which I thought were his 3 worst matchups.
Will you be playing UMvC3 or are you going to stick to just AE?
Although I play many fighting games, I don’t plan on playing UMvC3 for the time being. It’s exciting to watch, but I just don’t feel motivated to play the game.
Any advice you have for aspiring Ken players such as yourself?
There’s no shortcut to being good, just practice. Ken is deceptively hard to use, but try to focus on his strengths rather than his weaknesses. He has the potential to exceed the limits of his moves by kara-cancelling. There’s an use for every normal, find it and get used to it. Kara-focus attack, Kara-DP, Kara-Super, Kara-Ultra, Kara-Fireball, they’re all useful, and also often neglected by Ken players, don’t make this mistake! It requires practice, but it sounds much harder than it actually is. Don’t forget to work on your footsies, since in 2012 he will be a more footsie oriented character!
Last but not least, any shoutouts?
Shoutouts to TFA, we hope to achieve big things in the future. Shoutouts to Latif for getting sponsored by Razer, he deserves it! Shoutouts to the FGC and shoutouts to eSports! xD
Thanks for your time…