Interview with Stephen “Krost” Nichols

Alright Super Turbo fans and FGC in general. Today we have a very cool interview with a great shoto player. We thank Stephen for taking the time to give us his input and thoughts on ST, his favorite characters, and his views regarding other popular Street Fighter titles.

1-First question is the 101 at F101 for all players we interview. What are your top favorite games of all times in any console/arcade and any genre?

My favorite fighting game is obviously Super Turbo, and it is the only one that I play competitively at the moment. I enjoy and have previously competed in Guilty Gear, Melty Blood, Third Strike and Street Fighter EX2+ tournaments. I pretty much enjoy watching any fighting game being played at a competitive level.

As for other genres, I play a lot of the rhythm games Beatmania IIDX and pop’n music at a decent level. I generally enjoy retro/arcade gaming as well. Castlevania and Mega Man are among my favorite franchises.

2-Give us some background information in your Street Fighter and general fighting game history. Which game was it that introduced you to the genre and when did you consider the idea of becoming a tournament player?

I grew up playing SNES SF2 here and there like most kids my age, but I did not take it very seriously. Around 13 years old I found out there was a tournament scene for fighting games. I watched several 3rd Strike and MVC2 videos and became drawn to it immediately and started practicing these two games. MVC2 ended up being too brutal for me to start with, so I stuck with Third Strike and also started picking up GGXX.

I started playing at local tournaments and after a year or two of trying these games and not doing very well, I was urged to try ST since I was advised it could improve my fundamentals. I started out picking Guile and Chun Li for a little while, until I watched Pony’s Zangief rampage and was blown away. I mained Zangief for a while but started trying shotos to figure out how to beat them. I ended up loving how they played instead!

Pony’s Zangief

3-Tell me your weapon of choice for fighting games. Stick, pad, bat top, ball top, etc?

Starting out I used a MAS stick (HAPP stick+buttons), but I switched to Japanese parts to enter tournaments on h2h cabinets around 2010. I prefer the Seimitsu LS-32 w/ Sanwa buttons, and used a modded HRAP3  with this setup for years, but I currently use a stock Qanba Obsidian.

4-Most people know you as an O.Ken player in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. What made you choose to switch to NKen lately?

Although I have used him in the past and in HDR, I started using N.Ken again in 2017 to mess around, but I started finding myself having the most fun with the game I’ve had in a long time. I started using him in tournaments again at NEC 2017’s Jamma City event, mainly because I thought his offense would help me in the one game 2v2 format.

I find myself using N.Ken the most these days, but depending on the matchup (especially in tournament) I mix up each of the 4 shotos.

5-ORyu, OKen, NRyu, NKen are the 4 shotos available in SSF2T. Could you give me a briefing on each one? The best qualities that each shoto brings to a match and their biggest flaws.

As a disclaimer, I do not consider myself to be a true expert on any of these characters, nor do I feel truly qualified to answer this. I will give it a shot anyway.

O.Ken – Strengths: Fast invincible shoryukens, amazing jab shoryuken, 1f faster jump, tricky fireball game, unblockable tatsu that can combo into sweep, great normals

Weaknesses: Cannot tech throws, better zoning than N.Ken but still cannot knock down with Hadoukens or Tatsu.

O.Ryu – Strengths: Very fast and low recovery hadoukens, invincible shoryukens, 1f faster jump, unblockable tatsu, great normals

Weaknesses:  Cannot tech throws, not as many tools as N.Ryu (fwd FP, j.MP, overhead), no Super

Ken – Strengths: Knee bash, momentum shifts, decent hadoukens and shoryukens, one of the easiest hit confirms into super, lots of interesting offensive tools

Weaknesses: Worst hadoukens of the 4 shotos, and I feel has the worst normals.

Ryu – Strengths: One of the best supers, great zoning, Juggles with J.MP, overhead, insane damage with comboing into super

Weaknesses: need excellent timing to use his shoryukens as they are the least invincible of the 4 shotos. Normals not as strong as the old shotos. Requires the most execution skill of the 4 shotos

Strongest to weakest: N.Ryu, O.Ryu, O.Ken, N.Ken

6-Now that 30th anniversary is out; I feel that Hyper Fighting is a very close second favorite of mine in the Street Fighter series. I find it to be the most balanced and fair version of the game. One that relies on footsies and reflexes more than shenanigans and constant 50/50’s. What are your thoughts on Hyper Fighting?

I have played very little Hyper Fighting besides messing around with it on SNES, and now with this release of 30th anniversary. I am having fun with it from occasionally and very much enjoy Ryu’s fireball recovery :D. I have not spent much time with it, and so far I feel like I enjoy Super Turbo more. The CPS1 sound effects/soundtrack are amazing however!

7-Do you make use of option selects with O and N ken? If so, which option selects do you consider most useful with those two characters?

I sometimes use the shoryuken install ( with all shotos, and with shotos besides N.Ken I use the low short into DP/throw OS. (6236 HK~LP)

My execution is not the greatest and I am usually playing lame, but if I end up in a situation where I can use them easily (example: blocked o.ken/o.ryu crossup into crouch LK xx 6236 HK~LP), I have them in my arsenal.

8-Being a tournament player, please share your 3 favorite fights that you’ve had in Super Turbo over the years and a brief description of each one.

EVO 2014 – vs Hyphenated, Mattsun

Vs Hyphenated

Vs Mattsun

EVO 2014 was a very special tournament for me. Even though I could not qualify for ToL2 normally, I wanted to go to EVO to 1) hopefully last chance qualify, and 2) get some good experience with the some of the best in the world. I ended up meeting the first goal with a tough set vs. Hyphenated in the grand finals of a last chance qualifier. Then in the first round of the ToL2 bracket, I narrowly beat Mattsun after entering the match with low expectations. It was an extremely close match, but certainly one I will never forget. I hope we can play this match again at ToL3.

EVO 2014 ToL2 – vs Alex Valle

Also during EVO 2014, I played Alex Valle for the first and only time. Although this match was a loss, and one I doubt Valle even remembers playing, it was an important one to me for sure. After all the crazy feelings from those prior matches, I lost to Balcork Fei Long to be placed into losers, and then had to fight Alex Valle. I was actually winning the first 2 games, but he came back to beat me 3-2. He adapted to my strategy and I just felt stuck. Normally I would recognize how he was adapting, but his comeback also racked my tournament nerves. It was very humbling, but I learned the importance of adaptation and staying cool under pressure from this loss.

Jamma City @ NEC 2017 – vs Marsgattai, Comeback

As I mentioned before, this was a character locked 2v2 tournament and I went with N.Ken for the first time in years. My teammate (Jollies) and I made it to grand finals to play Marsgattai and Comeback. Jollies, Marsgattai and I all play together offline about once a month and are very good friends of mine, and I feel we always have fun and exciting matches where any of us can lose. I feel like that was shown here, and I managed to make a crazy comeback to get the victory. I remember playing that last round purely on adrenaline.. it was a crazy feeling!

Even though these are the 3 tournament matches I consider the most memorable, all of the awesome people I have met and the sessions I have had with my friends over the years is what is truly the most memorable for me and is a huge part of why I have stuck with this game for so long. This game has a very awesome community :).

9-Give me a list of the 3 characters you consider most difficult with NKen and what makes them difficult to beat.

O.Sagat – This one is pretty self explanatory. His fireball has much better speed and recovery and can make you pay dearly for jumping over them. His jump HK is great for jumping Hadoukens, and if it lands flush? 9 times out of 10 you are eating a dizzy combo. He also has a great footsie game vs Ken. If I can get O.Sagat into a corner I feel like I have a better chance of winning, but the neutral is very difficult to navigate.

Vega/Claw – Although Ken/O.Ken do better than most characters against Claw, his normals/wall dives/walk and jump speed are still a nightmare to deal with.

Dhalsim – The knee bash loop + a sharp offense can be effective, but I feel like Dhalsim dominates this matchup otherwise at a high level. With a good grasp on his zoning and normals, baiting and punishing dragon punches/hadoukens, and a strong corner lockdown, Dhalsim can make this match feel hopeless at times.

10-Another question that has become a 101 in our interviews is the single button question. I know this would never actually happen, but it helps players learn about the best button for a character. If you had to use a single button for a tournament using NKen, which on would you use? I’m willing to bet it would be the medium (forward) kick, but let’s see.

Although losing the knee bash would suck, I would probably stick with MP. I can use hadouken, shoryuken, throw, a good set of normal attacks.

11-Reacting to the opponent is a very important thing in fighting games. I feel that this is the reason why motion characters are much better for me. I like charge characters like Balrog, but I feel that you do more planning with charge characters and less reacting. Do you feel this has been an influence in your choice for motion characters over charge characters?

100%! I feel like my best skill is my ability to Shoryuken on reaction with high accuracy. I do enjoy playing Chun Li occasionally, but having a strong anti air special attack to use at any time is one of my favorite things about this game.

12-What do you think of Street Fighter V being that you are very competitive in ST?

I was excited for this game at launch and did have fun trying out S1 Nash, but the game did not keep my interest. I just simply do not enjoy the gameplay and even the artwork/music enough to personally keep up with the patches/seasons. I do watch major tournaments occasionally and have nothing but respect for a lot of the top players, especially the younger crowd that is making waves like Punk, Smug and MenaRD. I am glad to see the FGC not only has a lot of new young talent, but that they are champions and major threats in top 8s as well!

13-Street Fighter 30th anniversary has been an excellent release. Aside from the issue of not being able to see player connections in ranked, and the buggy lobbies, it feels like the perfect fan service for those of us who love the old school. A patch is in the works so those issues are probably being fixed. What are your thoughts on the game?

Besides the current bugs, the game is everything I was hoping Capcom would give the ST community–A next gen port that is at least close to arcade perfect. I also think it is great that many other classics were ported as well! I do wish we could play GMC/2x, however.

I believe CPS2 tournaments will still exist, but I also think PS4 30A tournaments should be ran as well. It would be tremendous for growing the scene and gives an easy way for major tournaments to run the game.

I think there will be players who refuse to enter, and with good reason.. there is no better feeling than how CPS2 ST plays. However, a CPS2 setup is very expensive and tournament players usually enjoy feeling well practiced for an event. I truly believe a lot of players want to play ST and enjoy spectating it, but without access to CPS2 they do not have the desire to enter the game at tournaments.

This 30A release gets rid of the barrier to entry on ST and has the potential to bring tournament entry numbers back to how they were during HDR. I personally would be willing to tolerate the input lag to give our scene some growth, but I can’t say I speak on behalf of our community. I am interested to hear how more players feel about this game and if we choose to use it at majors in the future.

Some of the best ST players in this group photo

14-If you had to write an elevator pitch for SSF2T to a new generation of players, what would you say?

As cliche as it may sound, this game is truly easy to pick up but hard to master. If one aspect of your fundamentals is lacking, an experienced player can rip you apart quickly. There are no patches, so you are forced to deal with your bad matchups and the tools your character has. This may not sound like fun for everybody, but if you enjoy a challenge that will benefit your overall fighting game skills, there is no better game to play.

End of Interview

Once again big thanks to Krost for his input on the game and for taking the time with detailed answers!