Alright Super Turbo fans, today we have a very special interview because this particular SSF2T player is probably the most accomplished Shoto player in the entire west. Damien Dailidenas, better known as Damdai, has become the guy to watch for anyone who is looking to increase their skills with Ryu.
Damdai is constantly traveling and going to tournaments in search for the best fighters, which by coincidence is the quest of his main character. Today, we have a great interview that has very helpful answers and it shines a light on a few things that many players might not know about.
On with the interview.
1-First question is kind of a standard I want to set in these interviews. What are your top favorite games of all times in any console or arcade and also any genre; basically, which games have you replayed the most since you started playing video games?
I don’t think I’ve played enough games to have favorites. ST was the only game I played for most of my adult life. From what I do remember playing, I guess I would say FF Tactics, FF7, and Quake 3: Arena railgun only 1v1. I recently got PSVR and have been enjoying that, with my current favorites being Rez Infinite, Thumper, and Tethered. Very excited for the future of VR, as I think I need that next level of immersion to really enjoy video games again.
2-Let’s get to some background info on how it all began for you. How old were you when you first played Street Fighter II. Was it an arcade or a console?
I was around 11 or 12. It was at my local pizza spot which previously had Street Fighter 1 (which I had already fallen in love with). 2 just blew my mind. Didn’t play much on console, but I do remember the night my friend got an import of SF2 for SNES. That was probably the latest I had ever stayed out in my life up to that point. My mom was not pleased.
Once I turned 13 or 14 and moved away for HS, that was pretty much the end of Street Fighter for me until a chance encounter in 2007 revealed to me the world of EVO and shoryuken.com.
3-What kind of stick do you prefer using for fighting games (Ball top, bat top, square gate) and which one are you using now?
I started with American style controls because that’s all we had, Happ P360’s and concave buttons. When I discovered the competitive scene in 2007, after some research I got myself a custom Happ Competition stick and buttons (which are smaller and convex compared to the more common larger concave buttons). After my first trip to Japan in 2008, where I couldn’t use my main characters (Zangief and Ryu) because I wasn’t at all comfortable on Japanese style controls, I vowed to make the switch and haven’t looked back.
4-Your main is O.Ryu now but you have obviously learned to use other characters. Did you learn how to use every character as much as possible before you jumped to a main, or do you feel like you have only learned to use a few characters efficiently?
There was no systematic approach to finding my main-character, just a series of random encounters and experiences, so I’ll just tell the whole story. My main-character timeline is as follows:
Ryu > Zangief > Ken > Ryu > S. Hawk > S. Ryu
I think I used Ryu the most during the early SF2 days when I was young. There was a small period between then and my competitive debut that I would sometimes play HF with a co-worker who owned an arcade cabinet. It was during this period that I experimented and fell in love with Zangief. Learning how to SPD correctly and consistently is among the most memorable accomplishments in my life. This is why Zangief was my first competitive main in ST. It was during my first trip to Japan that I met Mattsun, who was 100% the influence for me switching to Ken, who I mained for at least a year or 2. At this point I was really starting to understand the game and the character’s strengths and limitations, so I went back to Ryu with this new understanding. It wasn’t until a fated practice session with the DBT crew (Howard, John Rambo, DSP, Riz, Mars, Tecmo, TechnicalMonkey, etc.) that I decided to try Hawk after Howard was messing around with him. It wasn’t long until I fell in love all over again. Similar to Zangief, there’s something immensely satisfying about being able to do something easily that other’s find difficult. Eventually, Japan revealed to me the limitations of Hawk, and so I looked for a character that I could feel confident with in any matchup, and settled on S. Ryu.
5-Do you think deep knowledge of the general game mechanics helps you skip a lot of trial and error with matchups, or is it necessary for a player to spend a great deal of time studying every matchup?
The simple nature of ST (no ex moves, dashes, dive-kicks, meter-management, etc), makes it relatively easy to learn matchups on a conceptual/strategic level, letting you quickly focus on the fun part, the implementation and execution. So as far as the game mechanics go, attaining in-depth knowledge is easy. Most of the characters I picked up I was able to start at a pretty high level simply because I knew how those characters were supposed to be played by playing against them so much. You don’t have to study too much in this game as it’s easy to notice and understand your mistakes while playing.
6-Option selects seem to be quite common amongst top players that learn every possible way to get around a situation. Do you feel like option selects are substantially responsible for helping people win matches in ST at pro levels?
I don’t think they are required, and I’m sure many top players don’t use any, either due to character or personal style. They certainly help and increase your chances of victory when used correctly, though, and benefit some characters a lot more than others (see T. Hawk). But in general, OS’s in this game are relatively difficult to execute, and I can respect my opponent for doing them. This is something I feel is lost in the newer games.
7-You are known for having some of the most accurate reversal dragon punches with both Ryu and Ken. When you do reversals, do you always piano roll all 3 punches, or do you also add kicks to set up an OP in crossup situations?
I usually only piano mp and lp. If it is a cross-up situation, I will go for the dp/tatsu OS, using all 6 buttons.
8-If you had to use a single button to play an entire tournament with O.Ryu, which one would it be. You can do all the special moves that the button allows, but it has to be one button only.
That’s a pretty tough choice actually. Hk is nice, but it’s not worth losing dp and fireball. So I guess I’d go with mp, as I think it has the most utility out of all the punches.
9-Some say that people can learn to jump projectiles on reaction, but the window is just way too small for that to be a reaction process when fierce fireballs are used at mid to close range. You are great at reading fireballs and it almost seems like you can predict that they will be thrown. Is there anything about the animation of a character or the behavior and patterns of the opponent that will usually hint this to you or do you simply take your chances every single time?
One day a few years ago in Japan, I was playing Mattsun and it felt like I couldn’t throw a fireball without him jumping over it, so I asked him if he was doing it on reaction or not, and he said he was. I didn’t really believe him at the time, but I didn’t think he was lying either. Now I understand that there is more to it than guessing. A combination of reaction and anticipation, with the anticipation fueled by pattern recognition.
10-I have always felt that charge characters are too limited by the need to restrain their movement in order to gain access to their specials. I enjoy using Boxer, but my main character is N.Ryu. Motion characters feel unrestrained and this is why I like them more. Do you feel that motion characters allow for a more flexible style or do you simply prefer motion characters because they feel right to you?
I think motion characters are definitely more flexible, and that’s the main reason I never use charge characters. I don’t like planning ahead. I like reacting to the moment.
Damdai Vs Afro Legends
11-We know that some people like to keep certain secrets to themselves about their strategies and their general knowledge about their characters, but if you could share something truly useful about reaching a higher level of gameplay, it would be a great way to encourage more new players to become highly skilled in this difficult and unapologetic fighting game. The question would be, what is the one strategy or technique that you learned that really helped you understand the game at a whole other level? What is related to your character? Was it related to spacing and understanding complex frame data and hit boxes? Was it a combination of all of them?
This really depends on character, but for Ryu, I would say it’s understanding how fireballs are more effective the closer you are to your opponent. Many players throw less fireballs the closer they get because they are afraid of the risk, but with this risk comes a reward. Close range fireballs are much harder for your opponent to react to, whereas long range fireballs can be avoided easily. There is, of course, important hitbox knowledge as well, like using correctly spaced meaty cr. mp on opponent’s wakeup in the mirror match, which they must block as it avoids dps.
12-If you could say one thing about ST that no other fighting game has been able to provide to the genre, what would that be?
Good gameplay! I’ve never played another fighting game that handled as well. The game speed, round timer, push back, hitbox/hurtbox configuration, special move properties, and overall wheel of options all come together to make a game that is easy to pick up and play, doesn’t require weeks of training mode, and never feels like work.
Damdai Vs Nuki
13-Final question, but I really want this to be another question that sets a standard for our interview from now on. I will give you the name of every single character in the ST roster except for your main. All you need to do is type the one move that you consider to be the most dangerous move against Ryu. The move that can get you in trouble the most when using Ryu. It could also be a couple of moves or a specific scenario.
- Ken= lp dp, knee bash
- Chun Li= stored super
- Honda= hp hhs
- Dhalsim= anti-air slide
- Blanka= bite
- Guile= anti-air cr. hp
- Zangief= mk
- Cammy= mk, hooligan
- T.Hawk= sako tick
- Fei Long= hp rekka
- Deejay= cross-up mk
- Boxer= low rush
- Claw= wall dive, cr. hk
- Sagat= tiger
- Dictator= cross-up mk
Damdai VS Komoda
Once again a big thanks to Damien for taking the time to do this interview with us.