Graphic by SB | Kendrick
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is known for its turbulent metagame, and nowhere is this more evident than in Japan. The old guard can struggle to place as well as they used to, and new faces can spring up out of nowhere. Or in this case, Spring Jump. In the space of a year, KEN managed to revolutionize Sonic's playstyle and become the uncontested best player in all of Japan. Now, he's looking to achieve prominence in the national scene at tournaments like 2GGC: Nairo Saga, CEO 2017, and Evo 2017.
I recently got hold of KEN via his Twitter to talk about his meteoric rise to the top of Japan's rankings, as well as his strategy to retain that position going forward.
So I'm wondering: how did you got your start in competitive Smash? I saw your name in the Sunrise Tournament bracket, so I assume you started with Super Smash Bros. Brawl. But it also seems like you really got stronger with Smash Wii U.
I have never participated in a Brawl tournament, so it's not me! It's a mistake. I started with Smash Wii U.
Oh, my bad. That's even more impressive to be honest. How important was Wi-Fi in your rise to prominence? I ask because you started doing well at offline tournaments almost right away.
It was very important! Do you know the website named "Sumamate?" I practiced every day there!
I'm definitely familiar with Sumamate, although I'm not up-to-date on the rankings right now. Was there any point where you had a "breakthrough" or was it just gradual improvement?
It was just gradual improvement I think.
Who have been your most challenging opponents so far? And how do you manage to overcome them as a solo Sonic main?
Kirihara is my hardest opponent. My score against him is 0-7 right now. I don't have clear counter-plan for him, but I'll beat him in tourney in the near future.
I was kind of expecting you to say Kirihara. Anyway, with large tournaments like 2GGC: Nairo Saga and Evo coming up, does your practice strategy change at all? Or is it usually the same?
It's the same!
OK, one more question. Have you ever considered picking up other characters, or would you prefer to use Sonic for everything? How viable is solo Sonic? By the way, good luck at Nairo Saga!
I have used my secondary a couple of times, but it never works well. So I prefer to use Sonic for everything. I would say it's possible to win a major with solo Sonic. Thank you very much!
---After conducting this interview, I made sure to catch KEN's performances at 2GGC: Nairo Saga and the subsequent 100th installment of Mega Smash Mondays. At Nairo Saga, KEN finished in an admirable 9th place, losing to eventual grand finalists Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios and Saleem "Salem" Young. At MSM 100, KEN managed to take the entire tournament with wins over Leonardo "MkLeo" Perez and several top-level Japanese Smashers.
KEN shows no signs of slowing down, and looks poised for dominance in the coming weeks. He's currently competing at CEO 2017; you can catch the action live via VGBootCamp. Also, stay tuned to Smashboards for more player interviews in the coming weeks!
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Japanese Sonic Main KEN on his Rise to Prominence