James Chen: “Having to make a decision to come down with eight games is a lose/lose situation”

With the recent announcement of the EVO 2017 lineup and some distance from the initial release of Season 2 for Street Fighter V, it was a good time to sit down with commentator  James “Jchensor” Chen to get his thoughts on the current state of Street Fighter. 

(This interview was originally posted on January 25th, 2017 on PVPLive)

Do you think Season 2 has helped bring new blood to the game?

Not really, no. I don’t think there was anything really added to entice people, especially since all their pitfalls are continuing, in particular lack of communication. We still know zero about the five other characters. There’s no word on CPT yet (and that wouldn’t do much to bring in new people anyhow). They haven’t said anything about a potential Arcade Mode. So I don’t think there been any temptation for new people to jump in, unfortunately, especially with how grumpy the pro players in the FGC have sounded about S2 on social media.

So, then, do you agree with pros like Daigo that the SF community, especially from a professional angle, is in danger of dying out?

No. Street Fighter V is being dominated largely by younger players right now. NuckleDu, Phenom, Punk, Takeuchi, etc. are all great signs that there are lots of young players getting into and becoming strong in SFV. Even guys like Chris T, Filipinoman, Alex Meyers, etc. are pretty young (early 20’s).

It may be different in Japan. Maybe Takeuchi is an exception given that Momochi and Chocoblanka are trying to promote esports to younger kids. But at the same time, I’m sure their efforts could contribute to younger players, even in Japan, growing in numbers.

Maybe I’m a bit biased because in 2008 before SFIV, we could REALLY legitimately talk about no younger players showing up in the scene. Right now, we’re in a WAY better position than we were then.

Is the US getting better or does this have to do with Japan having less Pro Tour events?

I honestly think it had a lot to do with the game not being in Japanese arcades and getting a worldwide release date. With all past SFs, Japan always got them in arcades earlier than we’d get our home releases. Having the same amount of time to play SFV as well as Japan having a much different environment for it (no arcade access) has definitely evened the playing field.

But do you think Capcom should put more Pro Tour events in Japan or is that a separate issue?

That’s definitely a separate issue. It might be good to have at least two (last year was only the one, no?), but that certainly isn’t hurt the Japan scene, in my opinion. It definitely hurts finding more unknowns, like a Takeuchi (who was discovered from a non CPT event and then allowed travel thanks to r/kappa), though.

What are your thoughts on the nerfs to Nash? Do you think they were too much all at once?

It felt like they balanced him based on Evo results. He was still top tier then but was proven to have weaknesses as time went on. He got considerably weaker. Honestly, he should have probably barely been changed. He’s really a shell of his former self now in S2.

What is your general opinion of the current tier list of SFV post S2?

So currently, in Season 2, there are definitely five characters ruling the roost.

There is the chaotic trio: Laura, Balrog, and Urien. These characters are very strong with the potential to just steamroll you once they get their V-Trigger activated in the right moment. But even without them, they are pretty strong, but have flaws.

Then there is the stable duo: Cammy and Guile. These characters are super good. They won’t steamroll you with any gimmicks or crazy mix ups like the other three can, but they will beat you because they just have very few holes in their games, if any. They’re super dominant in the right hands so far.

Many of the other characters are still up for grabs, though. People talk of Rashid, for example. Japan thinks Zangief is super good now. And so on and so forth. So it’s really hard to say how the other characters stand.

The only other probably universally accepted tier positions are the sadness pair: Nash and FANG. Though Nash might not be as bad as people think, his nerfs were just really severe so that anyone who used him in Season 1 will have a really difficult time trying to keep playing him in Season 2. FANG is just a character who wasn’t strong in Season 1 and most people feel he was largely nerfed in Season 2, and people are super confused by that.

Switching gears, what are your thoughts on the 2017 EVO lineup?

I don’t envy the Evo Staff at all. Having to make a decision to come down with 8 games (and the Player’s Choice 9th game) is a lose/lose situation, I swear. No matter the choice they made, there are going to be groups of angry people.

I am happy that they put two anime games in there with BlazBlue Central Fiction and Guilty Gear Xrd Rev. 2, though. But I am surprised by KOF’s inclusion. I really hope that having it at Evo gives the KOF XIV community a shot in the arm that it needs, but I actually personally would have liked to see UMvC3 come back one more year. I may have just liked to have had that be the 9th game, but that excludes KI and Skullgirls, which both deserve spots as well. So maybe making it a vote is, in fact, the fairest way to go about it.

I agree with you when it comes to UMvC3. It’ll be sad that it may miss out on the last year before Infinite comes out. But, I think last year’s final was a good send off.

It definitely was, especially with Chris G finally winning one. But man, with every champion only winning once, it would be awesome to see a mad dash to become the only repeat UMvC3 champion.

Closing out: what do you think your favorite EVO moment has been so far?

Of all time? Probably the Daigo Parry. As corny as that may sound, it was such a game changer, and the first moment in my life where it actually felt like the FGC could actually maybe become a real spectator sport type thing.

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