Ryan "Prodigal Son" Hart is one of the world's best and most decorated tournament players. Check out his player profile on this site [click here to view] to see just a short list of his many accomplishments over the years. Last year, Ryan won 1st place at Final Round 17 and took part in last year's Capcom Cup tournament. In this interview, we discuss his experience at Capcom Cup 2014, talk top tier characters in Ultra Street Fighter 4, discuss Capcom Pro Tour 2015 and how that impacts his tournament plans, and finally look back at Final Round 17.
Capcom Cup 2014
Looking back, what was your personal favorite moment?
My personal favourite moment was dragon punching the tip of Momochi’s step kick in my clutch comeback to beat him in Winners. I was happy to be able to entertain the live audience and viewers at home alike.
Are there any other moments that really stand out to you?
I also liked PR Rog’s matches vs both Daigo and Fuudo, they were very entertaining to watch. Momochi’s comeback set vs me was also brilliant as well, not only for his comeback but for all the awesome stuff we both did throughout the set. It was definitely high in entertainment value! 😀
The Capcom Pro Tour 2015 now has a $500,000 prize pool. Has this had any influence on how you approach this year’s tournament season?
Yes, it definitely has, I am more geared towards maining a different character instead of using Sagat as main which I have done for 3 years now. I was happy to use Sagat even though there were arguably better characters before in AE 2012 as I felt I could be the difference maker. However due to the nerfs in Ultra, I just don’t feel confident that I can go all the way with him. Perhaps other players can but I'm just saying he may not be best suited for me at the moment. I think I will still keep him for particular matchups though as I have a lot of experience with him. I will try using someone else for a period of time to see what I can do especially as I have a lot more SF4 knowledge in general now.
Ultra Street Fighter 4
Lets discuss top tier characters then. We won’t ask you for a complete tier list or anything, but in your experience which characters do you think are currently top tier in Ultra Street Fighter 4?
I don’t know who the best characters are yet, I just have some ideas but I still feel like this is all being ironed out daily. The Japanese say that E.Ryu, Akuma and Ken are top 3 but I think these results are based on their player base and we don’t have that here. I feel like although that may well be true, characters like Cammy, Yang, Poison, Decapre, Yun, Rose, Ibuki, Seth, Bison, Juri, Fei Long, Elena, Viper, Rolento, Adon and many others are all really strong characters that we don’t quite know where to rank yet so no ranking list at the moment. It’s really hard to learn these things with such a small community of high level players in Europe. We only cover a little over half the cast between us at high level in the whole continent so even less in each country. The rest of the cast are not represented at all which leaves gaping holes in our matchup knowledge and experience.
Are there any new characters in Ultra Street Fighter 4 that really stand out to you?
I think Decapre has great potential at the moment; her ultra buffs make her a much stronger character than before. I also enjoy using Rolento as he’s really fun too.
Street Fighter Tournaments
Are you going to attend any more events than you normally would or change which events you normally attend?
I will try to attend as many events as possible, I really want to improve my level with each opportunity and I would very much like a shot at the Capcom Cup title this year also. I have played around with a few characters recently and really broadened my character knowledge. I’m hoping my future character choices will change things for the better and I will work hard with whoever I decide to use to bring out the best results I can.
The number of players who will be able to qualify for the Capcom Cup in 2015, either by winning Premier Events or by earning enough Ranking Points, has increased from 16 to 32. How do you think that this, along with the increased prize pool, will impact Street Fighter tournaments this year?
This will hopefully make players feel more motivated to get involved with pro tour events, train harder, and make the events even more hype overall. I can’t wait to see how everything pans out.
Final Round 17. It's the Grand Finals. PR Balrog was coming out of the loser’s bracket, so he had to win 2 straight sets to win the tournament and this Grand Finals was definitely a tale of two sets. In the first set, PR Balrog seemed totally in control. Can you remember what you were thinking at this time?
In the first set I had decided to play an organised and sensible strategy with minimal risk where I could help it. PR Balrog was very comfortable with me playing this way and I simply couldn't muster enough momentum to control his mind and limit his movements. With every round that passed you could see the vigor increase in his play and diminish in my play. He started getting tight clutches, and won all the important toss-up scenarios. He took the set 3-0 as a result.
After the set you took a long pause. You are well known in the fighting game community for your composure no matter the circumstance. Mind sharing what you were thinking? At last year’s Final Round you were in the exact same position, with Infiltration coming out of the loser’s bracket. Did that at any point enter your mind?
Well fortunately, on fighting games, to lose a set your opponent has to show you the contents of his/her mind and depending on how good your memory is, you can use this against your opponent. I took note of how I lost and spent some time in-between sets devising a strategy to counter his in all the scenarios where I lost health. It's always important on any game to look at exactly what is taking your life; is it chip? Is it from the air? Is it from garm-grabbing throws or toe-clipping lows? What? Taking note of these things is crucial but very mentally challenging under pressure. This is why you should never disturb players in between matches, these few seconds are crucial for that full-proof 'Shikamaru' strategy formation.
To take advantage of this however, knowledge is essential. Unless you hold all the keys of wisdom to create the strategy you want it won't work anyway since not all the angles can be covered with a shortage of information. It's always worth trying to make one though because having a strategy whether full proof or not is much better than not having one. An average player with a strategy can easily beat a top player without one. The Infiltration set is a good example of me playing without a strategy and possibly not having enough knowledge of the matchup too. My run up to grand finals clearly shows I deserved to be there but my shortcomings in the finals showed a lack of knowledge against Akuma bad matchup or not.
After this epic Grand Finals with its back and forth drama, you came away victorious. How did you feel and how did this win rank in your tournament career?
I was thoroughly exhilarated! I felt my hard work with Sagat had finally paid off and it is a memory I will forever treasure especially as I beat Infiltration on my way to the top as well to seal my revenge for the previous year. It's hard to say where this tournament ranks since I've been playing for so long and the beginning of SF4 kind of reset my career and sliced it into two halves. I feel my accolades previously (1996-2008) fall under a different umbrella since games like KOF 94-98, Virtua Fighter 3-4 Evo, Tekken 2-Tekken DR are totally different and more complex than SF4.
I'd say winning on SF4 appears to require a separate set of tools in the box to be victorious. However will all that said winning Final Round 17 was definitely my happiest moment since the release of the SF4 series. You should have seen the massive smile on my face while I was getting bodied by Decapre. Hahahaha
Are you planning on going to Final Round this year?
I won’t be going to Final Round this year as I still have not found my feet on the game yet in terms of character(s). I also want to put some time into other things so I guess I have to miss something. However I want to wish everyone attending the very best of luck, and I look forward to watching the stream.
Huge thanks to Ryan for the interview!