Interview with Ken “DGV” Olaku

Today we bring you an interview with one of the best Ryu players in the US. DGV is definitely a player that brings a more aggressive approach to shoto play and has been quite an inspiration to many ST players who want to use characters like Ryu with a more dynamic approach.

1-Ok, so here is the 101 at F101 for every player we interview. What are your top 5 favorite games of all time in any console/arcade and any genre?

-Mike Tyson’s Punch Out (greatest boxing and one of the best video games of all time  -addicting and challenging at the same time)  Mr Sandman is actually harder than Tyson lol

-Mega Man 2 (The defacto Mega Man game – amazing soundtrack and game design…only knock is the game is quite easy.

-Super Street Fighter 2 (Snes Version) First version SF2 that I really studied and learned.

-EA NHL Hockey Games  (PC Versions) More specifically, the even year releases (’98, ‘2000….’97 and ’99  were horrible.  Season long stats, engaging play by play commentary, and the ability to deliver legit cross checks = gold!

-Legend of Zelda (NES) So many fond memories playing this gem.

2-Please share some background information about your Street Fighter and general fighting game trajectory. Which fighting game did you start with and when did you consider the idea of becoming a tournament player?

Incoming story time =)

Like many other players, I also started off with World Warrior. I didn’t actually play much WW  during the peak of its arcade popularity due to the fact that I couldn’t play with joysticks at all. I just merely observed people playing until the console release on SNES. That console release was a huge deal for my brother and I since we were strictly pad players. When the game came out, we used to have endless practice sessions perfecting each move. The basic goal at the time was to beat all of our friends. The thought of tournament play, was unheard of within my social circle/group of friends as we were all just casual players. 

Everything changed when I heard about Xband, a modem device for consoles (snes & genesis) that allowed players to play people across the country. This, to my brother and I, felt like an opportunity to showcase that pad players could play SF2. During the early 90s, the general acknowledgement by most during the arcade era was if you’re not utilizing a stick you have no real skill. We aimed to break that stigma. The game that was supported for Xband was SSF2 (NC). Before I used to just play SF2, but with the impending release of the modem, I actually began to “train.”

It’s crazy when I think about it now, but I used to wake up at 6am each day and just play VS mode perfecting combos and srk timing.  Xband was  a revelation as it was the first time I was exposed to a variety of competition and highly skilled players (Dream Theater, Jumpsuit Jesse,  Afro Cole, Shirts, etc).  Once the service ended after 2-3 years, I pretty much stopped playing SF as I headed to college.

By random coincidence, a guy in one of my psych courses introduced me into the Norcal arcade scene. He was one of the top Tekken players in the country at the time and told me that SF was still being played and there were tournaments. Eventually I found about the Battle of the Bay and I observed the B5 (I think I might be in the crowd on those old B5 vhs tapes ha!) Fast forward about 5 years later, started the transition to learning how to play on stick which coincided with learning ST as well.  First tourney I entered was Evo 2010 for HD Remix.

3-What does DGV stand for?

Dark Gaiden (myself) and Vintage (brother). Just both names merged. Brother doesn’t really play anymore, but still have to rep his name!

4-Ok let’s talk weapon of choice. What is your favorite arcade stick for fighting games and why – Bat top, ball top, square gate, circular gate, etc?

Preferably, I pefer to play on something stable (arcade stand/cab).  Playing on a chair and /or playing with a stick on my lap feels uncomfortable + plus the stick slides too much on my lap.  Used to play John Choi style aka on the floor, but my legs loose circulation after 3 minutes sitting Indian style (I blame old age)

LS-32 with ball top and square gate.  A lot of the ST tourneys years ago on cabs seemed to favor the LS-32, so I adapted to it.

5-There is one thing about your style in Super Turbo that is extremely unique. We all know that Ryu is a character that is meant to be played with zoning in mind, and most tournament level players use both n.ryu and o.ryu in a very fundamental way that is mainly based on zoning. Your n.ryu is very flashy and aggressive. Do you feel like a flashy and aggressive ryu is always in disadvantage to a conservative ryu? On paper, it seems to be the case 99% of the time.

The “flashy” gameplay moments is primarily exclusive to ST. In SSF2, I was the opposite (complete zoner)  Both games are completely different styles.  To be honest, going for flashy moments is what initially led to my changing opinion of ST back in the day (Mid 2000s.) I used to dislike ST in the past (SSF2 was the definitive version of SF2 in my book). However, being able to get creative with Ryu Ied me to really enjoy the game.   There would be moments I would literally go in to the training mode and practice crazy block strings or setups.  At the request of my brother I would then test these crazy things out online (GGPO, XBL) haha.

I wouldn’t necessarily say an aggressive ryu is at an a disadvantage. It really depends on the character and opponent you’re facing. There are certain matchups that at a particular range or section, zoning will be your best option (example, vs N. Blanka, N. DJ, etc). However, in the flow of a match, being aggressive can sometimes be the deciding factor in wining against a difficult opponent/matchup.

Case in point, against a really good Sim, a good strategy is to find an opening that will lead to a knock down of Sim. Once you knock him down, you can then cycle through the various knockdown options (crossup, overhead, fake overhead and attack low etc).  To create that initial opening against a quality Sim, you will have to create  or force a scenario that will make the Sim player hesitate slightly or become semi-predictable.  Being able to apply pressure at that key moment is extremely critical.

6-You are responsible for giving all of us the challenge of mastering the infamous DGV special (shortx3 to super). How did you come to discover this combo?

I actually first saw AfroLegends do this combo on AfroCole or Shirts at a casual session hosted by Valle leading up to Evo 2007? (The year Capcom Classics 2 was used). Thought the combo looked really cool and decided to add it to my combo list!

F101: We have a tutorial for those who want to learn the 3 shorts to super!

7-I know you main Ryu and I have seen you also use Dhalsim. Being a Shoto player myself, Dhalsim is probably the last character I would pickup in this game, but I was wondering why Dhalsim seemed like a good secondary character for you?

If you saw a Dhalsim playing under my tag, it was my brother Vintage playing. He’s a fan of SSF2 sim. I think he picked up the character after playing some random  guy on Xband using the character. Sim’s mixture of zoning and reactionary gamplay is probably what my brother likes most about that character.

8-Shotos are by far my favorite characters in this game, but as I mentioned earlier, their competitive game plan is mainly zoning based and I prefer a more aggressive approach. My other two favorite characters are Boxer and Dictator, but they are charger characters, so I enjoy shotos much more. I feel that motion characters are much better for proper footsies and reaction, while charge characters are more about planning ahead. I would say that that motion characters give you more freedom, would you agree?

I actually enjoy using charge characters (on pad) . The transition to joystick unfortunately never worked out well for using charge characters.  I think in a sense you are correct about charge characters having to plan ahead. Characters like Chun although charge based have extremely good footsies when not charged. I do have a preference for motion characters mainly because I like having the option to utilize special  moves in between lateral movement within the context of footsies.

9-Could you give me your personal list of the top N.Ryu players in the world? and maybe one reason as to why you feel each player made it to the list.

I have to admit I’m pretty bad when it comes to the names of other players (especially the Japanese ST scene) as I don’t watch much ST footage.  From, those I have played offline and online:

Futachan:  Played him recently on XBL for over 3hrs in Classic Mode.  His build meter and rush down play was something else. I have not had that much fun playing Ryu mirrors in years!

Valle:  No other Ryu is so unpredictable…cue the random juice kick!  The funny/crazy thing is he’s even better on American P360 sticks. Granted I think that’s an OG (Watson, Choi) thing .

10-ST is extremely difficult to master in terms of execution and this goes against everything that the modern FGC wants. They want simple execution that is very forgiving and they also prefer games with long combos and endless oki situations. With that said, which modern fighting games do you like, if any, and why?

I have always wondered about this …is ST really that difficult? Moreso, the SF2 franchise in general. I have always thought that SF2 was the ideal balance of easy to play difficult to master approach.  The actual moves of the characters are quite easy. Even from the days of WW in the arcades I saw 4th graders doing the moves fairly consistently. I could do the fireball and dp motion as a 6th grader and I never considered myself as a “prodigy.”

I get some of the advanced setups (Thawk loop) and combo into super for some characters, but the general gameplay of ST is extremely accessible.  I understand that some players are frustrated that they cannot DP or do a move at 100% execution rate on day one or within month. But, isn’t that the fun part of learning a game? Learning and seeing your progression each time you play; even it’s only a minimal improvement, it’s still something.  Maybe I’m from a lost generation…end of the old man rant!

I don’t really play any modern fighting games consistently. I’ve dabbled in Persona 4 Arena (worked with Atlus on several business projects so it would have been poor taste to not play their game). SF4 I never made it past the trial modes and I’ve spent a few hours on SFV.

11-Could you share 3 videos of what you consider to be your best performances in ST.  Anything ranging from EVO to money matches and perhaps a quick description of what made them memorable.

I would n’t say best performances, but most memorable 3 would be:

1-Playing against Daigo:

2-Socal Regionals 2018 (Hadn’t played in quite sometime):

3-Playing Valle on American Sticks!:

12-What do you think is the main element that separates the struggling enthusiast from the pro players in any fighting game? What is it that it takes to get to that highest level?

Enjoyment and dedication. First you have to generally enjoy the game you’re playing even before you begin to dedicate more time to learn and master the nuances of a game.  By dedication, I’m referring to studying the game. This can range from training mode combo and execution practice to playing the cpu to learning counters/timing/ranges as well as online (Fightcade, etc). To reach a higher level, you will have to analyze you matches (especially your defeats).

Try to understand why you lost or what your opponent was doing to defeat/pressure you.  If you’re already thinking about a matchup or a scenario on your leisure time…congratulations, you’re making strides towards reaching your goal of being a proficient player. Most high level players have a fairly good level of execution so you will obviously have to spend some time to reach or maintain that proficiency level.

13-This one I also a classic question at this point, one that might seem pointless, but it gives readers an idea of which button is considered to be the strongest for any character. If you had to use only one button during a match with n.ryu, which one would it be? You are of course allowed to use every move that can be done with the button.

Medium Punch.  Mid type speed for fireballs and Mid level range on the DP. On a side note, it’s a rather useful tool on fireball mixup traps.

14-If Capcom hired you to write an elevator pitch to attract new players to ST, what would it say?

Fast Paced, easy to play with rewarding challenges.

Big thanks to Ken for taking the time for the interview!